Damn that young man… he sure has gotten bold since we last met. Is it the confidence gained from his training regime and a physically fit body?
Still, I would never have expected the Nation to be so deeply involved.
As much as I’d like to immediately inspect our internal affairs, the Six Archmages is still under the Nation’s command. As long as I can’t get an audience with the War Demon Emperor, I’m not able to investigate anything.
If I’m going to try and slip through Ishtar’s watch and do things myself, then I’ll have to consider the effects on War Demon Emperor’s personal life…
“Sir Gaston? You don’t look well – is something the matter?”
Woken from my own sphere of thoughts, I realized that my apprentice, Fuyu, was standing in front of me, staring coldly.
As young as she is, she is a good girl with a well-ordered disposition. I was right to invite her over from the Pochisley Agency as early as I had.
A year ago, when I had first brought her here, the Magic Guardians doubted her ability to persist, but Fuyu’s flawless handling of their routine management had changed their opinions greatly. But of course, she still has plenty of room for improvement – then again, she’s at the age to start working on that in the Magic Guardians.
“No, nothing at all. Is it time already, Fuyu?”
“Yes. Everyone is waiting to receive their training. Oh, please do oversee my training afterwards as well.”
“Hmph, only if I feel like it.”
“You ended up ‘feeling like it’ every time, so please stop saying that.”
Hmph, also unnecessarily witty, it seems. Troublesome in all the strangest aspects, just like the little flaws in an otherwise perfect crystal.
She would always be waiting at the courtyard by the time the Magic Guardians’ training was over – that I knew full well, but the issue was that she would wait indefinitely if I were to not go.
Fuyu’s personality was technically not bad, however, and the same went for the Natsu lass.
If only she’d stop imitating the young man, I would have a far easier time teaching her, but alas…
“Rise, A-rise! Venom Fire!”
“I already told you that the chanting isn’t necessary…”
“But doing it like this makes it easier to draw Circles and get the magic out, sir – it’s like rhythmic lifting, if that can explain it.”
I fear to know what Ishtar would say in the face of such a casual magic invocation form by a member of the Magic Guardians, what with the group being so formal and bureaucratic.
I won’t deny that the spell invocation itself was smoother than average, however.
Ngh- that is indeed one aspect of it that I ought to respect… but then again, I mustn’t be so – no, wait…
Bah. Damn that young man.
Ugh, I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.
First he just came back so suddenly, and now there’s a Devil King resurrection coming up?
The information may be beneficial, sure, but it came damn too late! If he’d only said something two years ago, I could have gotten some things ready on my end, in my own way.
Gah, how annoying.
Hmph, just when I thought he’d finally become a decent man, it turned out he was still completely the same inside.
“Did something good happen, Miss Irene?”
“Hyah-!? What the – Trace!?”
“Whatever are you screaming for? You realize that it is unbefitting for a public face of the Magic University, yes?”
“I-I know that! You just took me by surprise, that’s all!”
As things stand now, the Duodecad Conference in nowhere near ready for the Devil King’s resurrection.
I may have gotten too used to peaceful times, if I say so myself. I must admit that if the Devil King were to return now, the likes of me and Gaston wouldn’t be in the shape to take him on.
Not even all the Six Braves working together would change that either.
For the record, there had been only three instances of an SS-ranked monster being defeated within this century.
An Ogre King from two years ago…
A MOTHER that Ishtar of the Black and Lloyd of the White had defeated seven years ago…
And a Damascus Dragon, felled by the collaborative efforts of Argent’s Silver General, Tangalán, and Charlie more than two decades ago.
My first combat experience against one had been nothing short of hair-raising. If we had to do that again, we ought to be ready to suffer a degree of loss in one way or another. During the bout with the Ogre King, more than fifty adventurers had lost their lives. If not for Asley taking it down with the water dragon, that number would have been even higher… or rather, we might have even been wiped out.
Which reminds me, I think Asley said that he’d defeated a Chaos Lizard alongside Pochi? I wonder how much and what kind of training he had gone through to be able to fight and SS-ranked monster with just himself and his Familiar.
Under the guidance of Tūs, the Philosopher of the Far East… was that the name?
I’d never expected to find myself in this troublesome situation as a lecturer. The next long break from school I get, I should… well, no, I’m still stuck with the scheduled Duodecad Conference assembly, so… ugh, I know it’s not the time to be worrying about that – and that makes it all the more annoying.
“What is it, Trace?”
“The look on your face… suggests that you would like to take some time off. Is that right?”
“…You scare me with your mind reading sometimes, you know that?”
“How long do you wish to leave for, ma’am?”
“Half a… no, I’ll take a whole month.”
“Understood. We are at the time in which entrance examinations are held often, but another lecturer and I will fill in as the examiners. Please keep in mind that, if you accept, you will have to oversee all examinations during the latter half of the Second Month.”
“A-are you sure I can go?”
Trace insisted that I could… by saying nothing.
Oh, for the love of… I knew my junior was efficient. I already had my course of action plotted out, so I might as well strike while the iron is hot. First, I’ll have to get things ready and head to Regalia.
Luckily, there’s already a transport Spell Circle to Regalia at the ready, so I can just call Hawk out after I’m there… all right!
Just you wait, Asley!
Curses! No matter how much I trained, that guy would always elevate to a far higher level!
What is it that I lack? In which aspect of me do I need to improve?
I thought I had closed the gap that had been between us two years ago, but as it turned out, it had widened far more than I had ever imagined.
To be honest, it was as if a lightning bolt had… bolted through my body when I’d heard of that incident two years ago – he had participated in a large-scale effort to subjugate an SS-ranked monster.
Rumor had it that he’d been the one to actually defeat it, but I hadn’t been able to believe it at first. No one else did, of course, but then Professor Irene’s grin that one time had told the story as clearly as it could have.
And then, during the friendly match, he had constricted Baladd’s movements using exclusively intermediate-level spells. Not to mention his abnormally swift invocation of magic spells. The moment I had seen that one grin from Professor Irene was the moment the rumors became the truth.
Then there was that other incident, concerning the Colorful Food District. I’d come to realize the full extent of his efforts from Haruhana’s explanations.
It was only a natural development of events that Sir Bruce – though that had been by default – and then Sir Blazer and Miss Betty had cooperated with him.
And when that had turned into the cause of his arrest, I had learned that the one who had invented the Teleportation spell was none other than him.
…I honestly thought for some time that, as a mage, he was unwinnable. But then I had come to realize that none of that mattered. Nothing dictated that I couldn’t do all those things he had done. With that in mind, I had put myself through crazy training and studying, and raised my adventurer rank to A, the same as his.
We were even now… I had thought that, even though that couldn’t have possibly been the case. If I didn’t stop putting myself into battle so much, I thought I would start needing replacements for my body – and even then, that would never be enough.
That was why I had come this far with Midors and Idéa, and will most likely continue to do so.
But then again… what was the deal with that Split Invocation?
“Hey, Hornel. You’re doing all right there, man?”
“Bah, we never got to show off today.”
Laid down all around us were countless newly-dead bodies of Murder Tigers, the same monster we had much difficulty dealing with two years ago.
…I may have turned up the heat a bit too much.
“Sorry… I might’ve overdone it there.”
“Hey, I’m not complaining or anything…”
“It’s fine to be hyped up by the return of our dear classmate, but try not to let it get in the way of an actual battle, okay?”
Idéa, slightly exasperated, issued me a warning.
I knew that. Of course, I knew that, but… Well, no – I will not make excuses for letting my emotions throw me off, lest I shall be disqualified as an adventurer.
Sir Blazer had told me some time ago, too – that I ought to let a little more of my emotions show.
Moreover, Idéa’s frequent scolding were… huh?
“H-hey, you guys hear that?”
“Am I supposed to be hearing something?”
Midors and Idéa may have thought I was just hearing the wind, but I was sure that I heard some sort of a faint, weak cry.
Where is it?
“H-hey, Hornel, man… What’re you doing, searching under the Murder Tiger’s corpse – uh, huh?”
“Wait, isn’t that a-“
What I uncovered from the corpse of one particular Murder Tiger was… a recently-born Murder Tiger cub.
It still posed a threat despite its small size, but then again, nowhere nearly as its parent had been – this little guy was weak and scared.
I was at a loss on whichever way to proceed when I heard the two behind me telling me to get away.
“Careful, man – it’s small, but it’s still a Rank D!”
“Hornel, hurry and get away from… !”
And right then, I had an idea – no clue now how I had even sparked that up, but it was some idea indeed.
In the future, after reflecting on this choice, I most likely will attribute it to seeing the little guy cling so desperately to life, and in turn, thinking that it was “not quite the time for me to be on equal ground with ‘that guy’ yet”.
This little guy had met us under unforeseen circumstances.
He might have become a serious threat in the future if things had gone naturally, true, but right now he hasn’t done anything.
Perhaps it was naive of me for thinking so… right, just like ‘that guy’.
Still, just leaving him where he is may end up being dangerous in one way or another.
“Hey, what’re you doing there?”
“…I choose him.”
When I had first reached my third school year, Professor Irene had taught all of us junior students a certain spell.
Everyone had been uneasy when it came to putting that spell into practical use, but after half a year, success with it could be seen among more and more of us.
However, I had been too busy to actually try using it.
Lina, on the other hand… she had done it successfully during her freshman year.
“This Spell Circle…”
“Wait, Hornel… Are you serious about this? Professor Irene said it wouldn’t be too difficult as long as it’s not a baby monster, but this… ugh, of course he’s not listening.”
“All right, don’t move away now, little guy…”
Before the Spell Circle in the air was the Murder Tiger cub.
Before I knew it, his threatening attitude already subsided. Did he understand by instinct my lack of intention to kill him?
“Now then… ‘I proposeth this contracteth to thee. Doth thou gage thy loyalty as the Familiar of me?'”
The momentary silence dragged on. I hoped I hadn’t messed the words up.
The contract spell was already in operation. The contents of the contract were being transmitted directly into the mind of the Murder Tiger cub, enabling him to understand its every meaning.
If he were to move away even a single step, the contracting process would be voided.
And in the case that happened, what is it that I ought to do? Kill him? Or let him escape?
As I pondered that over, time passed, and the silence dragged on longer.
I looked at the little guy, and he looked back at me right in the eyes. I felt that it was his way of evaluating me.
This was his choice that would decide his future. Upon realizing that, I ended up showing him my self-deprecating grin – then I felt a disturbance in the surrounding air.
As I had taken it as a mere cub, I was surprised to hear his heavy roar, characteristic of a common Murder Tiger.
It was strong, as I would expect from an at-least-B-ranked archetype of monsters.
Moreover… was it just me, or when he roared, did he also sneak in a laugh?
At any rate, I now knew that he acknowledged me.
“Here, the contract between thee and I shalt be seal’d with a bond of steel. May this unbreakable bond of ages past bindeth the sworn loyalty of our present and persist to our future… Here, I invoke the Lord and Retainer Contract!”
“You’ve gone and done it, man…”
“Gah… I won’t help you when you have trouble taking care of your Familiar, you know.”
Thanks to Idéa’s remark, I remembered the one last thing I needed to do.
“All right – from this day on, your name is Maïga.”