༺ The First Letter (52) ༻
At noon, the academy was calm as usual.
As always, I purchased myself a drink at the coffee shop in the student center. Then, after finding myself a seat, I leaned back as I took a sip, enjoying the serene atmosphere of the cafe.
A fragrant aroma emanated. A refreshing sensation permeated my body. The scent rejuvenated my mind that faced exhaustion after extensive training and studying.
This was my daily routine. A persistent routine that I had never missed a day even after attending the academy for the past three years. On a peaceful day such as this, I would usually end up spending the afternoon alongside one of my two childhood friends.
Yes, it would either end up being Celine Haster or Leto Einstern.
Today was no different. Across from me sat a young man with a head of curly brown hair stared at me with a tired-looking pair of green eyes.
It was Leto, not only my childhood friend but also one of my closest friends. Today as well, he was giving me yet another dumbfounded look as I asked him for advice.
“So, what did Yurdina’s Bastard say after that?”
“Nothing. She just kept standing there with a blank stare, and didn’t even say a word until she left.
After hearing my explanation, an exhausted sigh leaked from Leto’s lips as he made an exaggerated facepalm motion. Looking at his reaction, I was able to roughly grasp the reasoning behind my current predicament.
It seems as though I’ve messed up once again. Unsurprisingly, a scathing remark soon came bursting out from the other side of the table.
“Hey, if you didn’t hurry up and reassure her after saying something like that…! Don’t complain when you get stabbed with a knife later on, alright?”
“……Was it really that bad?”
In response to my bewilderment, Leto bent over the table as if he was going to tell me some huge secret before whispering his advice to me.
“Never let a woman get too obsessed. You don’t know what kind of things a crazy woman is capable of.”
At the same time, Leto shivered as if he had suddenly recalled a terrible memory. Of course, it was a warning that had nothing to do with me.
That Seria Yurdina?
The last time I sparred with her, she had an opening as a result of her being adverse to violence. How crazy could somebody like that be?
I shook my head at the thought with a hollow laugh.
“Don’t worry, nothing like that is going to happen. Seria is a much nicer person than you think… you probably think of her like that since you’ve only met her once. Once she makes more friends she’ll get better.”
Despite my rebuttal, Leto continued to stare at me with a subtle gaze. After confirming that I’m being serious, he buried his head into his arms and groaned.
After pondering for a few moments while tilting his head back and forth, he finally opened his mouth in order to hesitantly mumble something to himself.
“Hey, you… Mhhm… alright. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Leto, after having cut off his own sentence, simply stared at me with a benevolent gaze, nodding to himself.
“After all, it’s best to learn your lesson through trial and error. I’m rooting for you, man.”
“I’m not quite sure what you mean by that, but alright.”
In the end, Leto and I enjoyed our afternoon peacefully while having a fruitful conversation as usual.
I feel as though things have been way too hectic recently. Ever since I lost my memory, I had gotten myself involved in some big event at least once or twice a week.
My only goal this entire time has been to quietly graduate from the academy, but before I knew it I had become a figure of infamy among the students.
All of these changes have been making me feel a bit strange. Even more than that, I felt exhausted. Recently, there have been so many challenges both mentally and physically for me that I feel as though I can’t keep up.
One such concern of mine, especially recently, was Celine.
Taking a break from my heavy thoughts, I stole a glance at Leto.
“Come to think of it, how has Celine been these days?”
At my question, Leto suddenly burst into a fit of laughter, looking at me with pride once calmed down.
“I guess you do pay some attention to her after all, huh?”
“That’s not it. I ended up running into her for a minute yesterday, but she acted as if I were a stranger.”
When I awkwardly confessed what had happened yesterday, Leto burst into another laughing fit… It seemed that the thought of me and Celine fighting was quite funny to him.
I waited for him to calm down with the patience of a mage, who had locked himself inside an isolated room, and simply let out a sigh.
Celine, whom I encountered on the street yesterday, was colder than ever. She only took a single glance in my direction before sticking out her tongue and blowing a raspberry.
That was it. After that, Celine just left me there with a pout.
Could this be how a tree felt when it was frozen over? I felt bitter as I was forced to recognize the fact that I was abandoned by a girl who has acted like a sister to me my entire life.
However, contrary to the complicated state my mind was in, Leto didn’t seem too worried.
He continued to laugh at my gloomy face before giving me a light shrug, placing his glass onto the table.
“Don’t worry, she’s just very pent up right now.”
“………Why would Celine be pent up?”
When I questioned his response in bewilderment, Leto simply clicked his tongue. He then pointed at me and said,
“It’s because you keep acting like that.”
In the end, I had no choice but to shrug. When I was young, I learned from my sister to move on from difficult questions like this. She was usually right because she was a talented merchant in her own right, so I decided to listen to her wise words.
Leto only shook his head in response as if he understood my silence. He was then lost in thought for a brief moment, and suddenly he seemed to have a question.
As I silently sipped my drink, he asked me that question. It was an normal one in nature.
“Come to think of it, I heard you’re going to participate in the hunting festival.”
“Huh? Oh, y-yeah. That’s right… I’m going to participate in it with Seria.”
I hesitated for a moment at the unexpected question, then answered with a nod. It wasn’t something that I felt a need to hide. Rather, I think I should actively seek Leto’s help for something like this.
Leto tilted his head as if he still didn’t understand my thought process.
“So, what are you going to do about the rest of the team?”
I peeped at Leto’s countenance. Like a ghost, Leto quickly caught on. There was no way he didn’t know the meaning behind my expression.
Leto’s brows furrowed at once. His eyebrows wiggled, as if to represent his discomfort.
“Don’t tell me… that one of the members is me, you crazy bastard, hmm?”
I responded by giving Leto an eager look. Confirming his fears, Leto began trembling as if he was experiencing a seizure. Regardless of his will, I continued to look at him with an expression of trust.
“……Remember our promise? That even if we were to die, we would at least die together. Let’s team up.”
Even so, Leto’s response, frankly, was not good. A harsh remark came out of his mouth immediately.
“You crazy bastard! I’m in the research department!”
“But what else am I supposed to do, you’re the only one I can trust with this kind of thing!”
As Leto so keenly noticed, the two remaining candidates for our team were both him and Celine.
Of course, I was still a bit worried about the tense relationship between Seria and Celine, but regardless, they were the only two people that I could ask in this situation.
Most of all, participating in the hunting festival meant that you would have to be willing to risk your life. It was already difficult enough for me to find people who would even be willing to follow me in battle, let alone ask them to join my team.
There was even a chance that we would be forced to hunt a named-class monster in the process. There was no shortage of risk to be found in this kind of event. In other words, what I needed right now were trusted comrades who are willing to follow my every command, even if the reasoning cannot be properly explained.
Leto refused to budge. He violently shook his head nonstop, as if he were having a seizure.
“No, no, no… This is impossible for me, even if it’s you who is asking the question.”
I smacked my lips at Leto’s desperate refusal. I didn’t expect the negotiations to fall apart this quickly. Changing the subject, I tried to talk to him once more with a more soothing tone.
“Even if you specialize in theory, you’re still able to cast spells as long as you have the time to prepare accordingly, right?”
“The problem is that the preparation takes way too fucking long, man! Do you even understand just how much preparation it would take for me to make even a single magic circle? Even if I had the time and materials, what use would that be on a battlefield where variables are changing every second? Why do you think they separated the practical course and the theoretical course in the first place, huh?”
Well, after all that, even I had no choice but to sigh at Leto’s words.
Truthfully speaking, even though Leto was capable of using magic, his actual combat ability was actually severely limited. The reason being that he is a certain kind of mage commonly known as a ‘Magic Scholar’.
They were a group of mages whose main focus is their research on magic spells and artifacts. Not only were they responsible for finding uses for magic in everyday life, Magic Scholars were the ones leading the Magical Engineering industry in the first place. There were also Magic Scholars with peculiar interests who get hired by the aristocracy as torture specialists.
However, it’s said that knowledge comes with a price. As a result of Magic Scholars focusing all of their efforts into their studies instead of trying to further their magical abilities, they became nearly useless on the battlefield.
It wasn’t as if they could simply stop in the middle of a fight and start drawing a magic circle at their leisure. Of course, if it were in a large-scale war, then the Magic Scholars could display their full potential from the backlines. However, ever since the Empire had taken control over a large portion of the continent after its Great Conquest, the number of wars at that level had diminished greatly.
As a result, a different kind of mage who specializes in combat started to become more popular, having become commonly referred to as ‘Combat Mages.’
They were mages trained in many kinds of diverse magic in order to respond to various situations. They soon became an asset that would be welcomed anywhere they went, not only for their diverse abilities but also because they sacrificed none of the enormous firepower that are unique to mages.
However, such high demand made them a rarity as well, making it much harder to find manpower.
Of course, I did try and ask some combat mages I knew beforehand, but seeing how they were only mere acquaintances at best, I quickly got rejected. That was why my final resort wasn’t trying to make Leto pity me by acting depressed from the constant rejections from before.
However, if he was going to be that stubborn in his refusal, then I guess I would have to give up. I might end up having to risk my life as a result, but I couldn’t just force a choice on him on the basis of our childhood friendship.
Dark clouds hung over my face, and a heavy lament flowed out of my mouth.
“W-what should I do? …We still need a mage.….”
Leto then, as if he felt a little sorry, made a dry cough and avoided my gaze. It was as if my melancholy was contagious.
For a moment, an awkward silence lingered between Leto and me. I was in the middle of reviewing the connections I had built in my head, when suddenly I heard Leto’s voice.
“……Hey, there is someone.”
My suspicious gaze turned to Leto. His eyes were already filled with expectation. That look usually meant that he came up with a wonderful idea.
He even seemed a little excited as he spoke to me, trying to restrain his laughter from leaking out.
“You, do as I say. Then I can get you a mage.”
Eventually, I decided to follow the advice of my best friend.
With a bang, I noticed a student being pushed against the wall in a corner. In front of him stood a little girl, accompanied by two big men waiting on both sides.
The student who was currently being pushed to the wall of the alley seemed to be scared out of his wits. I could tell from a glance just by looking at his trembling body that he wasn’t a swordsman, not being able to see any muscle on his skinny frame.
On the other hand, the little girl threatening him looked as if a doll had come to life, with her brown hair, blue sapphire eyes, and fair skin.
However, that lovely girl wore a cruel smile that didn’t match her appearance at all.
“Hey, do you think I’m easy or something?”
A low, threatening voice. Her lips might have seemed neutral, but her eyes clearly revealed her ill intentions.
Her eyes, shining with hostility, had a fierce light as if they were going to rip and kill the man in front of them in an instant.
The man began screaming and desperately clung to the wall even more after being asked with that much hostility. Seeing that, the lovely-looking girl burst into laughter as if she was told an amusing joke.
“All because of that little accident I had not too long ago, people all over have been asking the same thing: Is this Elsie Linella easy? You called me a piss baby? Let’s see just how far this piece of shit wants to go this time.”
The little girl seemed to be trying to speak calmly, but at some point in her speech she couldn’t stop herself from exploding in anger.
The girl’s body trembled. She clenched the man’s coller roughly and yanked it downwards to her eye level, making the man’s upper body bent into the shape of a fishing hook.
Elsie grit her teeth as she glared fiercely into the eyes of the frightened and trembling man.
“Do you think I’ve become trash just because I lost once? You don’t think you could ever lose, huh?!”
“If that’s your answer, then why the hell would you start spouting that garbage? You just want to get fucked, right? Ahaha… I’m going crazy, really.”
Then the girl massaged her temples with her hands. Her eyes were filled with indescribable fatigue and pain. The past few days seemed to have been a great ordeal for her.
With tired eyes looking as if she had finally given up, she concentrated an electric current in her hand.
The fear in the man’s eyes deepened. He tried to shake off the girl’s grip, but despite her small physique, the girl’s strength was beyond imagination.
Even if they were called mages who cast spells from the back, they were still those who were able to survive on the battlefield after risking their lives. Although their bodies are much weaker than those who study the path of the sword, they are still able to strengthen their bodies to an extent.
A talented little witch could easily overwhelm a weak adult man. Though, if she were to get caught by a swordsman on a level similar to hers, she would be destroyed in an instant.
Unfortunately, however, the skinny man was not a swordsman, so there was no way for him to escape from the girl’s grasp.
With an innocent grin, the girl smiled beautifully. It was a cute and lovely smile that would make a man feel like his heart was stabbed.
That is, if it weren’t for the harsh words that came spewing from her lips afterwards.
“After losing to that bastard once by chance, people like yourself start calling me a piss baby… Hey, do you think I’ll lose if I fight him again?”
The man shouted as if the question was his final lifeline. Then, the girl exhaled deeply.
“Really? You get it? In that case, try your best not to die, alright?”
In a daze, the man’s eyes turned towards the girl. The girl smiled again.
“From now on, I’m going to fuck up your nerves with this current. You know, all magicians have the power to control their mana, but I’m especially good at controlling tiny details like this. It’s going to fucking hurt, but don’t scream, OK?”
The man’s eyes were dyed with despair. He looked as if he were going to sink down to his knees, unable to even make the smallest shiver. In the end, however, he wasn’t even allowed even the smallest comfort of sitting down.
The girl pushed the man away using the hand that had been holding the man’s collar as if she was disgusted at the mere sight of him. The man almost collapsed just from that, but the two muscular men that had been waiting next to the girl grabbed his arms before he could do so.
“Just ten seconds. I know you’re going to feel so much pain that you’d rather die instead, but… don’t make a sound, okay? If you do end up making any noise before it’s over, though…….”
Slowly taking her time, the girl casually approached the man covered in tears. The electricity in her hand shone blue, accompanied by a crackle in the air.
“……We’re going to do it all over again from the beginning, understand? I always keep my word, you know.”
Even if the man screamed and struggled to the point where he felt he could die, there seemed to be no way out. A never ending stream of tears cascaded down his eyes. As she watched him struggle so desperately, the girl rolled up the corners of her lips as if she were happy to see it.
Yes, this is what’s natural when in front of me. Of course this is what you’re supposed to do when you see me.
Her eyes were reflecting that kind of idea. That irritated me, so I felt as though I had to step in.
At my low call, Elsie quickly looked back impatiently. She turned to me with fierce eyes and shouted to me.
“What kind of tactless trash, w… o…….”
And then froze on the spot. The blue charge on her hand soon dissipated. Her wide, emerald eyes clearly spoke to the astonishment she must have felt.
There was silence. The student, who was in the middle of being threatened by Elsie, looked puzzled, and the two big bodies that were holding him stiffened when they saw me.
I was lost in thought for a moment. What did Leto tell me to say again?
Without saying a word, my hand pointed to her waist. Elsie’s legs began to tremble. It was an instinctive reaction.
Soon, I found something that I could use.
Senior Elsie began to hiccup. Her eyes shook violently, and even her upper body trembled pitifully. It looked as if it would collapse immediately if left as it is.
Her eyes were filled with fear, and her face looked as if she would immediately burst into tears.
She looked even more afraid of me than I needed.
So to reassure her, I gave a sweet smile on purpose.
“Shall we talk?”
Senior Elsie’s face turned ever so paler.
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