~~Magic University, Fifteenth Day of the First Month, Ninety-Fourth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
The distant sun shone its light onto the surface of the planet, yet the thick snow piling on Beilanea, courtesy of last night’s snowstorm, did not budge.
The time was ten o’clock in the morning, the hour at which Lina performed her routine duties in the Student Council Office.
Perhaps since there was no one else in the room, after Lina wrapped up her paperwork, she held her writing brush with her mouth and pondered few things over. As the brush waved up and down, she was barely aware of the approaching footsteps from the outside of the office.
It was Irene, who then slid Student Council Office door open, and then looked on at Lina with an expression of suspicion.
“…Whatever are you doing?”
“You’re looking pretty sloppy… holding the brush with your mouth and all. “
Lina, face flushed upon realizing that she hadn’t fixed the habits she’d ought to have fixed ages ago, promptly corrected her conduct.
Irene found a suitable chair and seated herself, and crossed her legs. As per the usual, her feet did not reach the floor.
“You’ve finally gotten a free day, so why didn’t you take today off, at least? Or do you have to take care of something?”
“Ah, well, you see… Something’s come up for tonight, so I’m here today and will be taking tomorrow off instead.”
“Oh, I see. If I remember correctly, isn’t there supposed to be a Student Council assembly tomorrow, though? Is it a hunt you’ll be going on tonight?”
“Yes, a group of Elemental Reapers have been discovered in the region, so I’ll be on the hunt in a supporting role.”
“By Elemental Reapers, you mean the A-ranked gas-form monsters? Who will you be going with?”
Lina smiled and looked at Irene, practically reading Irene’s face having a message stating that “depending on the members, she may go along with her” written on it.
“I’ll be going with The Silver team… and a guest.”
“The Silver… this target is a bad match for warriors, though. Who’s this guest who’ll be going with you?”
To Lina’s troubled grumble of a reply, Irene reacted with a face of exasperation.
“Bah, you got yourself involved with that hype boy again? Dragan’s got to be really fed up himself if he’s sending the kid to the Adventurers’ Guild…”
“Ahaha… to be fair, he’s also being promoted to Rank A soon. This time we’re assigning him to hit-and-run, but he’s on the level to be regularly on the front line.”
“But this is the Elemental Reaper we’re talking about, you know? You’d be better off having the warriors stall for you to wrap things up. Which reminds me, isn’t this the first hunt you’ll be on after being promoted to Rank A?”
“It is, yes… I feel like I’m finally catching up to Sir Asley’s shadow… Well, no, maybe not.”
Lina enthusiastically referenced Asley’s name, but Irene seemed unamused to hear it, as apparent from her mouth tapering to a point.
“Seriously, how nice of him to break all contact with us. I could only get connected on the first time, but then he just said some gibberish and cut off – something about ‘having to fight the biceps brachii and triceps’? Gah, so irritating!”
“The communication got jammed every time I tried contacting him, too…”
“It’s because he made it so that we could only communicate with him through ‘that sheet,’ I’m willing to bet. So arbitrary.”
Lina took the roll of parchment that was on the table and opened it up. It was the sheet with nothing written on it, which Asley had sent to her two years ago.
“Applied with a magical formula that makes letters disappear a few days after they appear… What a troll, as always…”
“Ahahaha… this is called a ‘look at it from another perspective’, Professor Irene.”
Lina smiled as she said so, and Irene tilted her head to question what that meant.
“Which was why I’ve been secretly keeping in touch with Pochi instead.”
Lina proudly explained, showing clearly how much she had grown up in the span of two years. Her slim-fit robe caused her chest to jiggle subtly, prompting Irene’s face to twitch upon seeing that. Still, she was impressed by Lina’s idea and complimented it as such, and then she felt her own chest to ascertain its size, while also making sure that Lina would not notice.
Then she pulled the collars of her shirt ahead and looked inside. The manner of her looking at her own chest prompted Lina to be the one to tilt her head this time.
“Professor Irene… what are you doing?”
“…Fuh-? Ah, well, its – nothing.”
“I-if you say so…?”
Leaving the question hanging, and without even thinking of an answer, Irene stood up from her seat and left the Student Council office.
Lina tilted her head in doubt one last time. She waited until she could no longer hear Irene’s footsteps before leaning her back on the same chair that Warren had once sat in.
Then she picked the parchment up and spread it, holding it against the light of the sky and heaving a sigh of annoyance at the letter that would not resurface.
“Ngh- …Surface letters!”
But of course, the letters did not appear.
“…That’s not fair, Sir Asley…”
~~Beilanea Adventurers’ Guild~~
That night was yet another night of bustle and hustle in the Adventurers’ Guild.
The adventurers held their cups and mugs of ale, drinking to celebrate and to cure the fatigue accumulated from their adventures.
One among them was an adolescent girl sitting quietly by her lonesome.
The girl had her long black hair tied into a ponytail at the back of her head, and had a face that anyone would consider to be beautiful. She seemed to be a warrior, but perhaps due to some peculiar parts of her clothing, she gave off a slightly different impression compared to other adventurers.
She looked quite tired, gazing down into the cup of grapefruit juice in front of her.
“Oh, here alone, Haruhana? You’re not with Betty today~~?”
“Hello, Duncan. Everyone is on an A-ranked monster hunt. I am not yet powerful enough to join them, so I have gone on another hunt by myself and have just returned.”
“Ah~~ now that you reminded me… it’s going to get lonely tonight, eh? …Oh, but I think those guys should be back soon? I’ll send them your way if I see them♪”
Duncan winked and spun the tray in his hand, now empty since all the ale had been served, and then turned back to the counter.
Haruhana, not quite understanding what Duncan had meant, tilted her head in doubt just as Lina had done earlier today. Suddenly, Duncan’s voice echoed through the Guild, welcoming the return of a certain group of people.
The answer to Haruhana’s question lied in the ones being addressed, who had just come through the entrance.
“Hello there, Haruhana. Looks like you’ve some free time on your hands.”
Hornel, who had gotten an admirable and fearless countenance over these last two years, stood before Haruhana, resting the tip of his staff on the floor.
Haruhana smiled, and also greeted the two others standing behind him – Midors, who had grown quite brawny, and Idéa, who hadn’t changed much at all.
“Man, today wasn’t our lucky day, after all. We were so close to catching that Lizard General, too…”
“And whose fault was that? Well, we did fulfill our quota of Lizard Knights, so I’d say it’s all good, nonetheless.”
“Heh, Midors’ mistake was also within my calculations, of course.”
“Gah, sorry for messin’ up all the time, man.”
Done talking for now, Midors sat down in the seat opposite to Haruhana. Following him, Hornel sat down to the right of Haruhana, and Idéa to the left.
“Considering the direction it went, that Lizard General should be going all the way to the Thirsty Desert.”
“True to its name, it’ll quickly drain the water off your body if you stay there… so there shouldn’t be any problem, right?”
Idéa nodded, and at the same time Duncan came to serve the drinks that they had ordered at the entrance.
Idéa and Midors had ale, and Hornel had the same grapefruit juice as Haruhana. They toasted, and then gulped all the contents of their respective mugs down.
“So, Haruhana, Lina and Sir Blazer’s team are on that hunt tonight?”
“Yes. She said it would be dangerous to let the targets approach the town any closer.”
“I knew she’d say that… If she’d only invite us, we would have gone with her, too…”
“But their numbers aren’t that high this time, right? Just them should be enough.”
“Yeah, with Sir Blazer in team, I’m sure they’d have no problem at all.”
“I know, but… I have a bad feeling about this particular run. Would be nice if it’s just me being paranoid, though…”
Hornel seemed quite worried, in turn making Haruhana’s face cloud up as well. Idéa kicked Hornel’s leg under the table, prompting him to take action.
“Ah – but Egd is going as well, right? A bit hot-headed, but he’s actually pretty good. You can expect that from Sir Dragan’s pupil, at least. Besides, Lina’s gotten strong herself. And she’s got Baladd with her, so I’m sure everything will go fine.”
Perhaps because of his rapid-fire speaking, Hornel was further assaulted by Idéa and Midors’ cold stares. But then again, Haruhana smiled upon realizing that Hornel was trying to cheer her up. Hornel himself was relieved to see that, and Midors promptly brought up another topic, so as to prevent things from going in an awkward direction.
“By the way, Haruhana, isn’t it about time you’re promoted to Rank C? With your skill level now, you could enter Warrior University, too, but you’re not going to?”
“Yes, after much consideration, I decided that I would like to be with The Silver.”
“Right… Sir Blazer does have the power to naturally draw people to him. It was largely thanks to his influence that we have improved this much, too.”
“So it’s been two years, huh… A bit before Asley caused all that ruckus, if I’m remembering right.”
Haruhana chuckled at how nostalgic Idéa seemed as she recalled that particular story. The gesture confused Idéa, prompting her to ask whether something was wrong.
“Miss Idéa, our conversations always seem to end up being about Sir Asley in some form, yes?”
“Wha – n-no! That’s not what I mean!”
“Hmph, however large the gap between him and me initially, it must have shortened quite a bit over these past two years.”
“Hahahaha, looks like we’ve got another one worried about Asley over here.”
“Say whatever you want.”
Hornel stood up and headed toward the Guild’s entrance, prompting Idéa and Midors to ask whether he was going back home for the day.
“Sorry, I just can’t shake this feeling off… I’m heading out for a bit.”
Hornel walked past Duncan to open the door and leave, then Idéa and Midors stood up quietly.
Reddish tinges on the two of their faces started fading away as they were wrapped in a dim yellow light.
That had been done to lessen the effects of overexertion on their bodies.
“Oh, boy… what a reliable leader.”
“Kahahahah, you can say that again.”
“Be safe, everyone…”
Haruhana cast down her eyes. In response, Idéa smiled, and Midors answered with an energetic nod.
When the two were out of the Guild, the establishment’s host, Duncan, narrowed his eyes and grumbled.
“Very brave of them to dine and dash so casually…”
Feeling her spine practically freezing, Haruhana hurriedly brought out her wallet. Duncan had looked as if he was going to murder someone, but upon seeing that, he immediately went back to his tender, caring self.
“Uhuhuhu, mind covering their bill for now, Haruhana~♪?”
Haruhana sprang up to her feet and answered, and with that, Duncan went back to work with a smile.
[“Everyone… please be safe…!”]