༺ Luce (3) ༻
It was a very refreshing morning.
I hadn’t slept this well since the day I defeated Garzia the Hermit.
My fever quickly subsided. It seemed that the influence of Luce’s healing magic was great.
My body felt light, so I left Doris Hall, the dorm for inferior students, while I suppressed the urge to run.
Even though the interior facilities of Doris Hall were inferior and outdated compared to the other dormitories, the surrounding garden with lush greenery and Corinthian pillars combined with the design to create a beautiful atmosphere.
I headed for the dorm gate with light steps. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of the male students leaving the dorm gates, they all had strange looks on their faces. They were Doris Hall male students who, like me, were leaving to attend the academy.
They were passing by the corner outside the entrance, sneaking glances and side-eyeing.
‘What could everyone be blushing about?’
It’s understandable if it’s Dorothy Heartnova.
Thinking that as a joke, I walked out the door.
I glanced in the direction of the male students’ gazes. Then, for a moment, my eyes were dazzled, like the halo effect that occurs when you see a handsome or pretty celebrity. It was that kind of feeling.
A female student was standing there with her bag in both her hands. Her long, straight, rose-gold hair was adorned with morpho butterfly-coloured braids on either side of her head – a typical example of a noble lady. The bright sunlight beating down on her made her beauty stand out even more.
The moment her blue, oceanic eyes turned to me, I swallowed my breath.
It was her. Luce Eltania.
She greeted me with a bright smile and waved her right hand at me.
The gazes of the male students passing by turned to me this time.
“The weather is nice today, isn’t it?”
I stared at Luce in disbelief as she blurted out a cliché comment that sounded like it had been rehearsed many times before.
I should have been more cautious in this situation, but I suddenly ended up casting an AOE aggro and was caught off guard.
“What’s wrong with your expression? Is the weather bad?”
This girl… The weather in my heart is what’s bad.
It was obvious why I didn’t want the students to see me with Kaya.
I was still a Class D commoner.
If Kaya, a Class A noble from the Ducal House of Astrean, was seen eating or hanging out with someone like me, it would naturally draw the attention of other students. This would be very suitable as a topic of conversation among first-year students.
And such rumors carried the risk of reaching Alice Carroll’s ears.
There was no need to consider the case of Alice simply passing by and overhearing something. She was too busy as the Student Council President, so she didn’t go to the student cafeteria, and instead relaxed by getting drunk by herself.
What I had to be most wary of was Alice’s subordinate, who was among my classmates. That person was a prospective member of the Student Council recruited by Alice, and reported all the trends of the first-year students they had learned to Alice.
It was not just the student council. In addition to the student council, Märchen Academy also had a student faction called the “Four Constellations.”
If we were to compare it to the Korean political system, members of the Four Constellations who became part of the Student Council could be seen as the ruling party, while the remaining members of the Four Constellations would become part of the opposing party or other political parties. Of course, the details were different.
There were also first-year prospective members who had already been recruited into the Four Constellations in advance. These first-year students gathered information and relayed it to their own factions. They were spies of sorts.
This was done for two reasons. First, to gather information about the students they wanted to recruit into their own faction. Second, to identify potential candidates who could be useful for other factions.
Their ultimate goal was to produce a Student Council President from within their own faction, and if they succeeded, they would be able to wield enormous power within the academy.
Alice would probably use this as justification to find the troublemaker and stop him.
Perhaps the fact that I used 5-star magic during the dueling evaluation has reached her ears already. However, because there were other students who were more impressive, that information was most likely buried.
“Let’s eat together, Isaac.”
It was while eating lunch in the student cafeteria of the Magic Department. Suddenly, Luce came up to me and put down her tray, and sat down in the seat across from me.
The gazes of the students around me stung. They all looked surprised. Some looked so flustered that orange juice was dripping from their mouths.
“Luce Eltania is eating with Isaac…?”
“This is the first time I’ve seen the top seat smile.”
“What kind of pairing is this…?”
Of course, the occasional meal with Amy or Mateo’s gang never received such attention.
However, Luce was the first-year head of the Magic Department at the prestigious Märchen Academy. She was the object of envy for many students.
Moreover, she was famous for always being cold and indifferent.
Her dramatic mood reversal, where she only showed her bright side to me, was bound to be noticed by the students.
‘It feels like having a meal with a celebrity.’
I wondered if this was the right time to use the phrase ‘I can’t tell if my food is going through my mouth or nose,’ but that was exactly how I felt right now.
“How was class?”
Luce smiled as she made another cliché comment.
“I remembered something I have to do. I’ll go first.”
I hurriedly got up with my tray and ran away quickly.
Luce reached out her arm towards me, as if telling me not to go, but I couldn’t bring myself to give in.
Orphin Hall, Class D classroom.
The students’ eyes were all drawn to me. The same went for Ian, who had a band-aid on his cheek after fighting his familiar, Rex, yesterday.
No wonder, because right next to me sat the top seat with rose-gold hair staring at me. She rested her arms on the desk and leaned her cheeks against it, while the original owner of the seat was standing in the back, unable to speak and fidgeting.
“Luce, the class is about to start. Shouldn’t you go back…?”
“I’ll go when class starts.”
This was the Class D classroom. Meanwhile, Luce belonged to Class A, where only the top 5 students could enter, and she was even the top student among them.
Just her presence in this classroom made the air feel incredibly heavy.
“What’s the relationship between the top seat and Isaac?”
“Isn’t there that feeling? Wanting to be close to the person you like…”
“The top seat?”
“Is that even a question?”
I could hear the whispers of the students. Seriously… it’s really making me feel restless.
A choice I had made while I was relieved that she hadn’t recognized me as Greung had led to such devastating consequences.
“Luce, I told you not to do this because you stand out a lot…”
“But I want to stay close to you…”
I spoke in a quiet voice, but the students with good ears seemed to understand what I was saying, and their eyes widened.
“Did you hear that? Isaac is pressing the top seat to leave…!”
“Rather, the top seat is the one begging?”
“Are you kidding me?”
I was at a loss for words here.
Just then, Professor Fernando Frost walked into the classroom.
“Let’s start class now… hmm?”
Professor Fernando, who was standing in front of the podium, was about to speak but hesitated when he saw me and Luce.
“You are Class A’s Luce Eltania. What are you doing here?”
Luce’s eyes snapped toward Professor Fernando. It was a cold glare, like a murderous threat.
And for a brief moment, all of the students in the room could feel a strong flow of mana. I didn’t need [Psychological Insight] to know that they were all scared.
It gave me chills and made my whole body trembled…
Luce had a habit of taking a defensive posture like this when others spoke to her. Even if the other person was a professor.
Professor Fernando, who was in charge of grading the Magic Department’s first-year performance evaluations and exams, had to be familiar with Luce’s personality. Maybe that’s why he only slightly narrowed his eyes and didn’t react.
“I’m leaving. See you later, Isaac.”
That’s why you have no friends, you idiot.
Of course, I didn’t say that and just waved my hand and sent her off. Because I was scared.
The owner of the seat where Luce had sat at finally got his seat back and let out a sigh of relief.
He looked like he was going to argue with me, but then he went as quiet as a dead mouse. He must have realized that touching me would mean touching Luce.
Professor Fernando cleared his throat with a ‘Hmmmm” and began to speak in earnest.
“Before we start the lecture, I’d like to announce the next performance evaluation.”
It was the last performance evaluation before the end of the semester.
“We are going to evaluate your magic craft skills. As I had mentioned in our last lecture, magic crafting boasts a very high efficiency as a way to train mana control.”
The act of using mana to create crafting items was known as magic crafting.
Although it was referred to as craftsmanship, it was more of an art that sought ‘fleeting beauty’ rather than practical utility as a commodity. The level of difficulty varied greatly depending on the design, and it was primarily used in places such as performances.
In addition, mana efficiency and control were greatly involved in shaping elemental mana into its desired form. Together, these two abilities were known as mana mastery.
By the way, the higher the magic efficiency, the less mana was required in order to cast a spell.
As mana control ability increased, it became possible for one to more intricately shape the form of magic according to one’s will. That meant I could make the shoddy ice ladder I built to flee from Charles Hall look a lot better.
In addition, it had the advantage of speeding up the casting speed of magic. In my case, it should be possible to shorten the preparation time required to activate [Frost Explosion].
‘In the game, it was just a dialogue, but here it’s real.’
Well, I could think of it as part of my training.
“The theme is ‘Elemental Flower’. If you have an ice or rock attribute, it will be a level 3 challenge. For other attribute types, it will be a level 2 challenge.”
It was only natural.
For the ice or rock attributes, once the elemental flower was created, there was nothing left to do beyond the final carving.
For attributes such as fire, water, lightning, and wind, it was necessary to continuously maintain the form of the elemental flower, requiring a higher level of mana mastery.
“For example, refer to the textbook. It would be more effective to practice elemental flowers in pairs, with two people helping one another. The performance evaluation will be in three days, and it will be during this time. Practice thoroughly. That’s all. Let’s start the lecture.”
When one student asked, “Professor, what if I don’t have friends?!” Professor Fernando gave a cold response, “Then do it on your own.”
I was still inexperienced in using magic. It might be a good opportunity to focus on developing my mana mastery for three days.
“Is the lecture over?”
As soon as class was over, Luce greeted me at the doorway of the classroom as if she had been waiting.
A shiver ran down my spine for a moment, but I took a deep breath and tried to keep my composure.
To my knowledge, this was the first time Luce had ever made a friend. She had always lived with her heart closed off to others, so she didn’t know how to gauge emotional distance, which was why she was clinging to me to the point of it being burdensome. Her lack of common sense also contributed to this.
‘Really, what should I do?’
In ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, Luce didn’t make any friends at all. The only reason she even slightly broke out of her loner status was due to her romance with the protagonist.
Therefore, being friends with Luce was an area where my knowledge of games didn’t apply. As I said before, I naturally assumed that it would be a casual friendship like Amy and Mateo’s gang, but that was a mistake.
I let out a sigh.
In the end, I left school with Luce.
While walking around the academy grounds, the Magic Department students’ attention was drawn to me; their eyes filled with envy, resentment, and doubt were directed at me in unison.
It was only natural, no matter how many times I said it. Luce was the top seat of the Magic Department’s first year, and an official heroine in the game, and she ranked in the top five for her beauty in the whole academy, and yet she was showing me a smile she had never shown anyone else. Not to mention the fact that she was following me around.
These kids are really causing my heart to be in bittersweet agony…
Under normal circumstances, I would’ve felt smug, but considering my position, I just felt helpless.
‘What the hell.’
It wasn’t that I hated Luce, but I couldn’t have her sticking to me like a piece of chewing gum.
“Luce, I have somewhere to go…”
“Can’t you stay with me a little longer?”
Luce kept her head down, as if she knew what I was going to say.
“I know you have to train, but even for a little bit, I’ve had a lot of fun today…”
Oh, don’t stimulate my emotions. It’s heartbreaking.
Judging by Luce’s reaction, parting ways from her right now might have the opposite effect.
Her feelings of wanting to hang out with her friend would fuel her, meaning, tomorrow could be even worse than today. And if she follows her feelings and kidnaps and imprisons the protagonist, it’s Extra Bad End N.13.
This was an urgent mission. I needed to reduce the time I spend with Luce. Just to the level of my current friends.
So, today, I’d better honor Luce’s wishes and spend some more time together and then have a serious talk.
I just so happened to have the perfect excuse; something that would benefit me, and something that would appeal to Luce’s desire to spend more time with me.
“I’m going to practice my elemental flower crafting from now on. Doesn’t Class A have the same topic for the performance evaluation?”
“Yeah, do you want me to help you?”
Her first response was not “Do you want to do it together?” but “Do you want me to help you?”. For Luce, it seemed like crafting elemental flowers was a piece of cake.
Anyway, if someone with excellent mana control like Luce helped me, I’d be more than happy.
“I’ll be in your care then.”
A gentle smile spread across Luce’s face.
Luce and I returned to Orphin Hall and found an empty classroom.
The door to the small classroom was open. We went inside and sat across from each other at a single table. I took off my coat and hung it on the back of the walnut chair next to me.
Evening. The sunset’s light was seeping through the windows into the classroom. However, it was not yet the time to light a luminous lamp.
“First of all, the elemental flower asked of me is a level 3 challenge, right? And since you are a water attribute user, it’s level 2 for you.”
“Isaac, do you know how to do it?”
“I can manage up to level 2, but level 3 feels a little daunting.”
I took out the textbook and flipped to the magic craft section to look at an example of the level 3 elemental flower.
It had a picture of a hydrangea model, and it looked quite intimidating.
“Let’s start by warming up.”
I rolled up my shirt sleeves and began to channel mana with both hands on the desk to create ice crafts.
Firstly, I started with an easy-to-make model of a baby hippo and a cannon.
“What is this? It looks cute.”
“It’s a baby hippo. Whoever touches it is fucked.”
“Oh, so there’s such a thing… Then what about this? I’ve never seen one.”
“Neo Armstrong Cyclone Jet Armstrong Cannon.”
“I don’t know what it is, but it looks highly complete.”
Okay, I can do this.
Next, I managed to pull off level 1. A simple elemental flower with a few petals, and a slightly more difficult level 2 elemental flower. Luce quietly clapped her hands and exclaimed, “Wow, great job.”
Excited, I went on to challenge level 3, the ice hydrangea.
“I’ll try too,” said Luce as she began to create her own elemental flower by channeling water mana from her seat.
My head was about to explode trying to pay attention to the design of each petal. It was incredibly difficult to control mana in such a delicate way.
In the end, what I made was just a block of ice that looked like granite with holes here and there. Level 3 was just too much for me…
On the other hand, what emerged on Luce’s side was a very sophisticated and detailed hydrangea model. The water attribute maintained the shape of a hydrangea, boasting an incredibly fast and complex flow of water. It was as if a new law of physics had been established within that flower.
With the best and worst results in front of us, Luce and I fell silent.
It was my praise that broke the silence first. It was truly astonishing perfection…
It did, however, bruise my pride a bit.
If I could get help from Luce, who was this good, I could improve my magic crafting skills much faster than if I did it by myself.
“I’ll help you, Isaac.”
Suddenly, Luce put her hands on the backs of mine.
I was startled by the sudden physical contact, but I quickly composed myself as Luce started pouring out mana to create a mold made of water. I began pouring my ice mana into the mold.
“Don’t elementalize your mana; instead, let it flow freely for the time being. And remember this sensation.”
Luce’s intimate tone tickled my eardrums.
Her pale, slender hands were soft and warm to the touch. Her water mana flowed gently through the back of my hand.
The light blue ice mana that had yet to be elementalized was becoming an elaborate hydrangea. My mana was fitting into the mold that Luce had created with her water mana.
It was similar to pouring a drink into a specific mold and freezing it to form a popsicle.
Even the water that Luce created was flowing so fast, that I couldn’t see any signs of it freezing under the influence of my ice mana.
How can something so difficult become so easy? A hydrangea model so elaborate that it was hard to believe it was made with my mana was about to be completed…
“I’m going to release it now.”
When Luce suddenly tried to release her own mana, I hurriedly stopped her. The reason why I hadn’t turned my mana into ice yet was because I wanted to create a higher quality ice hydrangea.
Luce, on the other hand, had already removed the flower mold before I could even say anything.
But as soon as she heard my voice, she tried to re-elementalize the mana that had been released, but it was too late.
In the end, my mana, which wasn’t in an elemental state yet, and Luce’s mana clashed and caused an elemental reaction.
The mana force field was to blame. It was the force that repels mana away from one another. It happens when mana that hasn’t yet been elementalized collides; a phenomenon that only appears between the mana of living beings.
That was why I couldn’t use the trick of activating [Ice Generation] inside the enemy’s body.
Eventually, the unstable water element and my ice mana spread like a watering can in all directions.
The light blue ice mana scattered in the air, while the water made of Luce’s mana splattered all over our bodies.
Before we knew it, we were like mice soaked in water.
Water dripped, drop by drop, from my damp hair. Luce glared at me, her face dripping with water.
The silence lasted for a while as we stared into each other’s eyes, when…
…Luce burst out laughing.
…What are you laughing at, girl?
Luce laughed, even as she wiped the tears from her eyes. It was like watching a gag that suited your taste on a comedy show, and you start laughing out loud.
To be honest, I found the whole situation hilarious as well.
The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and the more I started laughing out loud. It was probably influenced by Luce’s laughter.
“Oh, that’s so funny…! My stomach hurts…”
Come to think of it, it was the first time I had ever seen Luce burst into laughter so happily. In ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, she always wore a stoic face, only occasionally displaying a gentle smile.
It was a strange feeling.
“…I got hit right in the face.”
When I said something ridiculous, Luce burst out laughing again.
I burst out laughing as well, and we both happily laughed for a while.
“Oh, I’ll wipe it off you.”
Soon after, Luce took out her handkerchief from the school uniform jacket hanging on the chair next to her and stood up, she leaned towards me with her upper body resting on the desk.
“You could just ‘evaporate’, you know.”
“You can’t get rid of water magic that has seeped into your clothes.”
Luce responded while wiping my face with her handkerchief.
‘Evaporate’ was similar to my Defrost. It was to undo one’s own water magic.
Come to think of it, even in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, after using water magic and evaporate, the wet clothes did not dry. It was the same when they got dirt on their clothes. They could only get rid of the stagnant water.
As I thought about it, I raised my eyes and gasped for breath at the ecstasy that spread across my vision.
Luce’s assertive chest was right in front of my nose.
Her black underwear peered through her water-soaked white shirt. My eyes darted to the side, then back to the mesmerizing view, then back to the side again.
“Where are you looking at?”
Like a scene from a thriller, my heart sank.
I lifted my head in remorse and saw Luce’s face peering down at me.
Her face lit up with amusement, her cheeks flushing with a rosy hue. A mischievous grin spread across her youthful face, damp with sweat, as it glistened in the warm glow of the sunset.
“Isaac, you pervert.”
Luce’s intimate voice tickled my ears like a feather.
That brief moment felt like an eternity to me.
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