༺ The First Letter (53) ༻
On a pleasant afternoon such as this, most students could be found on campus having fun with their friends, leisurely enjoying the slight autumn breeze and mellow sunshine while discussing mundane topics such as the following evening’s dinner.
If not for the special business I had today, I would be among them, peacefully enjoying my afternoon. Feeling a bit of disappointment, I decided to take a slight detour away from the noisy main street.
Finally arriving at my destination, a brown-haired little girl stood before me. Hidden behind one of our lecture halls, the vacant lot was empty save for the two of us.
Still stubbornly wearing an oversized mage’s hat, the girl’s sapphire-colored eyes were trembling in fear. The girl, her eyes darting back and forth for a possible exit, quickly shifted her gaze downwards the moment I glanced towards her.
As she gripped her mage hat and shook, it was evident she was afraid of me. Due to the girl’s innocent appearance, it made this seem like I was a villain, having come to threaten his victim.
It was a ridiculous thought. The girl trembling in front of me was Elsie Rinella, the magic genius from the Rinella Duchy.
She was a remarkable talent among the top grades of the academy, famous for her brutal nature that contrasted her doll-like appearance. Just a few moments ago, I had to stop her from bullying another student.
Although she now trembled just at the sight of my hatchet, her pride was still present as she refused to go with me. She desperately shouted, ‘No!’ but surrendered as soon as I approached her.
It didn’t take more than a second to get her to follow me. The student who was being threatened by Elsie left safely, and the two muscular men who accompanied Elsie were left behind with awkward expressions on their faces.
It was a strange situation. Elsie’s confidence in beating that skinny student could be applied to me as well. If we had a rematch, I would probably lose 80-90% of the time.
When we last fought, I had succeeded in overpowering her with a surprise attack. Now, Elsie would have the upper hand if we faced each other one on one. Even with the rapid growth of my skills recently, I was still no match for Elsie, a genius mage even among the 4th years.
However, the trauma of that day was so deeply embedded into Elsie’s memory that she had completely lost the ability to resist me.
Elsie looked at me with a distraught expression, her tearful eyes infinitely close to immediately bursting into streams of tears.
Those who were bullied by Elsie may feel happy at her current state, but for me, it felt a little bittersweet.
She was still my senior, and I wasn’t a violent person. Recently, I’ve had the tendency to rely on my hatchet, but normally, I rarely used force except to protect myself and those around me.
The last fight against Delphine was an exception. The results of my violence were so blatantly obvious that I felt bad.
Of course, that didn’t mean I regretted it. Elsie had threatened me, and I delivered to her the consequences she deserved.
I called out to Elsie in a voice tinged with regret.
She trembled in shock, looking up at me with fear in her eyes.
This was a problematic situation. I had come to ask her for her help by taking advantage of her fear, but this amount of fear was unreasonable.
Because of this fear, I couldn’t ask her to join me. Simply standing next to me made her tremble, and I didn’t want to team up with someone who was this terrified.
Not only would she desperately try to reject my offer, in battle, trust and coordination between comrades was of utmost importance; forcing her to be our companion would be useless.
Unfortunately, Leto’s advice didn’t account for this complex situation. His advice was simple.
“If she’s uncooperative, take out your hatchet.”
It was an easy solution. It had worked thus far, but for her, I had to think of something different.
I thought for a moment, holding my chin as I swallowed my saliva. Senior Elsie’s body flinched and began trembling again. To her, even small gestures were potential threats.
In hindsight, I had been doing all of the talking so far. Senior Elsie was so nervous she couldn’t even respond properly. Wouldn’t she be less nervous if we had a normal conversation?
So I spoke to her gently.
“Senior Elsie, please don’t be too scared and answer…….”
“……uh, al, alright!”
As soon as she heard the word “answer,” she cried out as her body stiffened. It was like a soldier’s warning cry. I unconsciously facepalmed.
Senior Elsie’s face began to redden, showing her embarrassment. It must have been difficult for her to show such a response to her junior.
“No… Th, that’s… Ok, okay! Wh, What’s your question?!”
She tried to sound confident, but there was a discernible fear in her voice. Senior Elsie seemed to want to cover up her previously shameful reaction.
I didn’t point that out to spare her feelings. If I did that, she would probably break into many more pieces.
“Do you know the reason why I asked to talk to you alone?”
Senior Elsie’s movements stopped, her face turning white, a hint of anguish visible in her eyes.
It seemed that there were too many problems. She quickly pressed on her hat and avoided my gaze, stuttering.
“I, I don’t know… Why did you want to see me….?”
Her blue pupils flitted around, as her voice weakened to the point of being inaudible.
My hearing was sensitive enough to understand her no matter how much she stammered, but I unintentionally stepped forward, perhaps due to an old habit.
It was to hear her better. However, Senior Elsie took it differently.
She shrieked and crouched down, reciting her apologies endlessly.
“I, I’m sorry! I won’t mess with you again. I won’t call you a bastard, I won’t say I would win if we fought again, hic, and…….”
I stopped for a moment. The scars I had left on Elsie’s mind seemed to be quite severe. I never imagined that she would be so afraid just from my approach.
It was probably the first time in her life she had experienced such shame, for her to have to beg for her life.
Not only that, Senior Elsie who already had a bad reputation. As she had already had many enemies, I could roughly predict how great her hardships would have been.
The memories of the day her life was threatened, the shame she was publicly subjected to, and the vicious rumors and slander that had likely followed her for days.
It must have left a deep scar on her emotional state. Otherwise, she would not have such a fearful reaction.
I was in more trouble than I thought.
I wanted to free Senior Elsie if I could. To put it bluntly, it was none of my business whether she was bullying anyone or acting like a ‘loli gangster’. I would stop her if I witnessed it myself, but any more than that was beyond my ability.
It was confusing to me that she was so broken. I could cut off my relationship with her, and pray that time would heal her wounds.
But the problem was that I was desperate as well.
The hunting festival was approaching, and whether it be for the world, or for Seria, I would have to hunt a named beast and win. What Senior Elsie could offer would be invaluable.
I had to recruit her no matter what.
As I was lost in thought, Elsie’s apologies continued.
“I didn’t think I would have to go this far… Th, that’s right! You can call me a piss baby! I won’t say anything so… sob, please stop.….”
I let out a deep sigh. There was no perfect solution I could think of at this moment, meaning there was only one thing I could do.
I began walking towards her again without hesitation. Elsie, who felt me approaching, curled up even more as she trembled.
Tears began to form in her eyes. Now, the words coming out of her mouth resembled a fervent prayer.
“Wh, why are you doing this… Why are you doing this to me? I apologized! I told you I was sorry! I said you could even call me a piss baby! Go away! Please spare my life, please! Hiiiiii!”
My hand, which was inching closer towards Senior Elsie caused her to scream out and close her eyes, her tremors a sign of how nervous she was.
And in that next moment.
My hand fell on Senior Elsie’s oversized mage’s hat, and I started stroking Elsie’s head. My hand was over her hat, so to be honest, I didn’t feel much.
Nevertheless, it was enough to prove that I had no intention of hurting her. Elsie’s trembling gradually subsided, and her brilliant sapphire eyes stared at me blankly.
I smiled bitterly.
With my utmost sympathy, I spoke to her.
“You must have had a hard time.”
It was a little funny that I was the one who had to console her, but there was no other way. I had to first appease her so we could talk.
Senior Elsie’s watery eyes were staring at me for a very long time.
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