༺ The First Letter (63) ༻
The hunting festival posed a great danger even though the letter from the future didn’t explicitly state as such. After all, the focus of the festival was to hunt demonic beasts.
The forest would be teeming with its native demonic beasts, and additionally, beasts captured on the outside would be brought back into the forest as well. Moreover, demons were creatures that considered humans to be their enemies.
Participants couldn’t expect any special treatment just because they were students of the academy. Injuries were commonplace and there were even casualties every few years.
Nevertheless, the festival was packed with participants each year. Hundreds of people in a vast forest may be tiny specks in comparison, but it was an immense amount considering they had to put their lives on the line.
What’s more is that students from the commerce and humanities departments were prohibited from participating since the majority of the participants were from combat-related departments.
This meant that even if you excluded about half of the Academy’s students, there would still be hundreds of participants each year. This was partly due to the lavishness of the prizes, but also because of the nature of the Academy.
The Academy was both an educational and training institution. Regardless of whether you were part of the knight division or the magic department, you would have to survive intense competition amongst other students, and more often than not, you would be sent out into the field as early as your third year.
Survival in intense competition and risking one’s life were necessary to graduate, and the hunting festival was one of the comparatively safer events since it was held on academy grounds under proper supervision.
Initially, I hadn’t expected it to be difficult to gather a group to participate in the festival. Seria was an excellent swordswoman, and I had friends I could trust with my life, like Celine and Leto. I could gather 4 people easily… Or at least that was what I thought.
What was supposed to be a simple task had turned into a series of hardships. I had managed to gather four people, but the chemistry between the four of us was off, to say the least.
To begin with, Celine and Seria weren’t even on speaking terms.
Celine, who was always quick to read the situation, promptly bowed to Seria.
“I’m sorry …….”
Seria looked at Celine with visible surprise on her face as Celine sighed heavily and bowed even lower.
“I’ve said some bad things about you in the past and it might have made my friends dislike you even more. It’s all my fault, I’m really sorry.”
The shame was enough to make Celine bite her lip. She was a proud woman who refused to bend, especially if it concerned high nobles.
She had a vibrant social life and was willing to respect high nobles to a certain extent, but she refused to ever bow her head. Yet, here she was, bowing to a member of House Yurdina.
I could only assume that Celine had determined that it was the best decision she could make, so I didn’t bother to stop her.
Forgiveness was the choice of the victim. I had no right to interfere. I merely looked at Seria, who was standing at the water’s edge.
Seria was silent for a while. She looked down at Celine who had her head bowed and let out a soft sigh.
Her eyes were still cold, but the words that came out of her mouth were in stark contrast.
Celine’s body flinched and shuddered. The words could have been easily misunderstood. Seria didn’t seem like she had any intention of forgiving Celine, but I was able to tell.
There was a faint warmth in her voice. I smiled bitterly and shook my head. No one else would have been able to notice.
It seemed like she still had a long way to go in fixing that habit of hers.
“I don’t mind. It’s always been this way. It’s not necessarily your fault either since I do tend to say things that can be misunderstood.”
Celine’s head lifted slightly, her tawny eyes reflecting a mixture of bewilderment and anticipation.
It was the kind of look that said, “What’s wrong with this Yurdina bastard?” But her current state was closer to the ‘real’ Seria.
She was not one to hold grudges over being wronged.
Being hated was a feeling familiar to her, so when Celine apologized to her, she was able to accept her apology without hesitation.
“I accept your apology, and from now on, as a teammate, we’ll… ha, work together.”
The last part was a bit awkward and caused Seria to blush slightly and turn her head away. Celine, who had been watching her in silence, let out a giggle.
Celine then straightened her hunched body and held out her hand towards Seria. It was a picture of reconciliation.
Yes, this was the Academy. Reconciliation, friendship. And youth!
I had been living under a tense atmosphere that had been too close to detonation. It was originally supposed to be like this… An academy where young people mingled together in harmony. However, cold words had been spoken, and swords had been drawn in places they shouldn’t have been.
When Celine held out her hand, Seria stared at her wide-eyed, as if she had never been asked to shake hands before. Still, Celine didn’t withdraw her hand.
“Take care of yourself, Seria. At least until the hunting festival.”
“The… ye, yes…….”
It was a heartwarming sight. As I watched Celine and Seria with warmth in my eyes, I suddenly felt a tug at my side.
I turned my head to the side and saw exactly whom I was expecting. Brown hair topped with a large brimmed hat, and blue eyes that sparkled like sapphires.
Elsie’s petite frame and delicate features made her look like a living doll and was beautiful enough to be called one.
If there were two beautiful flowers in the second year of the Knight Division, there were equally beautiful women in the fourth year who were just as famous. However, if there were something like a ‘poisonous flower,’ this girl would have claimed that title.
Elsie Rinella, the beloved daughter of the prestigious Rinella Duchy of the Empire.
A combat mage specializing in electrokinesis, she had already made a name for herself in the field. Whispers of her genius had spread throughout the field, with rumors suggesting that she had already reached the fifth circle of magic, putting her on par with some of the highest ranking mages despite still being a student.
Each of the magic circles surrounding her heart acted as a potent magic tool, enabling her to stack up to five formulas at once.
As these formulas overlapped and resonated with each other, their destructive potential increased exponentially, allowing Senior Elsie to unleash devastating attacks that even named demonic beasts would struggle to withstand.
In other words, she was my secret weapon. I had initially planned to bring Leto with me, but now that I thought about it, it was better to have Elsie in many ways.
As a mage, her primary role was to provide firepower while the rest of the team shielded her from harm. With Elsie by our side, we would be able to face even named beasts with confidence.
Looking at Elsie, I felt a surge of pride. However, the expression on her lovely face suddenly shifted into a chilling smile which took me aback. Before I could react, her lips parted to speak.
“Fuck you. Fuck you. Accusing me of harassment over some little talk, huh? I’ll just rip his head off and make sure he can’t show his face from tomorrow. I’d like to see them chased around and beaten up and then dumped in the corner of some vacant lot and beaten up.”
I was taken aback as I watched Elsie clicking her tongue at Celine and Seria’s behavior. The disparity between her adorable appearance and the harsh words coming out of her mouth was jarring. Even I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.
She didn’t stop there and even asked me to agree with her.
“Hey, don’t you think so too? Honestly, talking behind someone’s back isn’t something you should apologize for… Hiiiik?! I’m sorry!”
Without hesitation, I showed her the hatchet tucked into my waistband instead of answering.
I couldn’t stand the words flowing out of Elsie’s mouth anymore. It pained me to see her spouting harsh words with such an adorable face.
The effect was immediate. Senior Elsie immediately began to tremble and held her hat tightly against her head.
“Pl-Please… I, I won’t act out again…….”
Her voice was almost pathetically shaky. Hearing her speak, I sternly asked her to promise.
“……Can you promise?”
“Yes, yes… hi, hic!”
I wrapped my cloak around my waist and placed my hand on the brim of Elsie’s hat.
She stiffened for a moment but quickly relaxed as I gently stroked her hair. A faint blush appeared on her cheeks.
I leaned down slightly and whispered into Senior Elsie’s ear.
“Listen well from now on.”
Senior Elsie seemed to be embarrassed but didn’t pull away. Instead, she nuzzled her head further into my hand, as if seeking more affection.
With Senior Elsie pacified, my attention turned to Celine and Seria. They seemed to be engrossed in the bittersweet mood of reconciliation, but something felt amiss.
Celine seemed to have whispered something to Seria, causing Seria to suddenly turn cold during the time I had looked away.
Celine smirked provocatively, and although Seria still held her hand, the mood had turned frigid.
I stood there dumbfounded as I was unable to hear their whispers. Before long, Celine spoke up.
“Until then, let’s get along.”
“……Sure, my goal is to win the festival anyway.”
There was a chill in the air. It was troubling to me since I had hoped that Seria would gain a second friend through Celine.
‘Could it be that Celine and Seria were completely incompatible after all?’
I stopped petting Elsie and clicked my tongue in disappointment.
Elsie looked at my hand as though she was a pitiful puppy chasing a toy, but she was too prideful to take my hand. In the end, she coughed to try and get my attention.
When my eyes naturally turned to Elsie, she asked me with her cheeks still flushed red,
“By the way, do you have a plan?”
I retorted, confused, and Elsie stamped her foot in frustration.
“We have to train! The Festival is a competition, and if we want to win, we’ll have to work together to improve our chemistry! That Delphine bitch is going to be there with people she is already well acquainted with!”
I let out a small sigh. Senior Elsie definitely had a point there.
There was only a little more than a week to go for the hunting festival. It was imperative that we practiced together before the hunt, or we might as well not be there at all.
But it wasn’t as if I hadn’t thought about it at all. I turned to Elsie, reassuring her not to worry.
“That’s why I brought someone special with me. Don’t worry too much.”
“Someone special? Hmph, a lowly noble with no connections…….”
Senior Elsie merely snorted, and I was just about to show her the hatchet again due to her arrogance…
Suddenly, there was a thud as the ground shook with an explosion of sand.
Elsie shrieked and held onto me, building up an electric charge in her hand. It was definitely a scary experience.
Celine and Seria were also surprised. They lost their balance momentarily on the shaky ground but quickly regained their composure, ready to defend themselves at a moment’s notice. Their hands moved to their waists as their eyes peered warily into the rising sand.
I, on the other hand, remained calm. I was the one who had called for him, after all.
I hadn’t expected him to show up like this, but I wasn’t truly surprised about his method of arrival.
As the dust settled, an elderly man with bulging muscles appeared before us.
Celine and Seria recognized him immediately, their eyes widening in shock.
“So this is who Ian was talking about, the cocky bastards who want to follow in the footsteps of the demon hunters.”
His fiery red hair and beard, and his eyes that had not faded despite his long retirement…
Derek, the legendary demonic beast hunter.
As a professor of the Knight Division, I requested his assistance as a special favor. Fortunately, he was willing to help us train since he had been paying attention to me recently.
There was no better expert than Professor Derek when it came to training for demonic beasts.
Elsie, who was not familiar with Professor Derek’s reputation, stared in bewilderment at his flashy entrance while I bowed.
“Please take care of us. Professor Derek.”
“Hmm, very well. As a student who may become a demon hunter, I will specially make time for you.”
At the mention of ‘demon hunter’, Elsie immediately jumped to her feet in opposition.
“Demon hunter? That’s what you’re doing with your life? Do you think I, Elsie of the Rinella family… Hiii! I’ll do it, I’ll be a demon hunter, so please, please let me live!”
A glimpse of the hatchet was all that was needed to subdue her.
What followed was a week of hellish training.
So much so that even Seria looked at me with a look of resentment.
I didn’t think I’d be training with demon manure on my body either.
By the way, Senior Elsie, who had finally finished the training, looked like she had lost her mind. She looked like she’d rather be killed.
The morning of the hunting festival, the festivities were in full swing. Even at dawn, the crowds were bustling, and the air was thick with the warmth of people.
Silently, I checked my preparations. Beside me stood my companions for the hunt, one of whom, Senior Elsie, still looked as if her soul had left her body.
Leaving Elsie to sob and make lifeless noises, I turned to Seria and Celine.
“Are you guys ready to go?”
Celine replied in a weak voice, and Seria nodded wordlessly. They were both exhausted.
The week’s training had definitely taken its toll on us. I thought back and realized how horrible the drills were. I shuddered as I recalled some memories of the training.
However, it was better to train hard before facing a named beast. At the very least, it would increase our chances of survival.
I could still picture the looks on Celine and Seria’s faces when they saw me asking Professor Derek for more intense training.
It was as if they were looking at a madman.
Senior Elsie on the other hand, almost had a seizure. If I hadn’t drawn my hatchet from my waistband at that moment, it would have been a disaster.
The brilliant sunlight reflecting off the blade of the hatchet brought Senior Elsie back to her senses. She immediately crouched down and began to tremble.
She might have even peed herself. It was hard to tell from the smell of the horse’s manure, but Senior Elsie’s vehement denials were enough to make me assume that she had.
Those were the good old days. Professor Derek was so impressed with my determination that he took an even more active role in my training.
The fruits of that tearful labor were about to be borne today. I pulled myself together. Leto was supposed to meet us soon.
However, my body suddenly stiffened as a sharp sense of foreboding assaulted me.
My sharpened senses immediately drew an imaginary trajectory before my eyes as my hand shot to my waist.
‘Should I use my sword? No, I have to be quicker.’
I moved hastily as my hatchet shot straight up and drew a silver line through the air.
Metal clashed against metal.
It was a dagger, but the power behind it was overwhelming. I felt my hatchet recoil to the side as I struck the dagger aside. The dagger spun through the air and whizzed past me.
A golden aura enveloped the blade, and as soon as I saw it, I knew.
Who it was that had thrown this dagger.
My gaze traveled in the direction of the dagger’s origin.
Blinding golden hair and crimson eyes lost in boredom.
Pure white skin, a face that would make anyone swoon, and most importantly, armor that hugged every curve of her body with fierce confidence.
A woman who had labeled her own body a ‘work of art’. There was no reason why she couldn’t show off her curves even while donning armor.
The dazzling beauty smiled as soon as she met my eyes. It was a smile with intentions that I could not fathom.
“It’s been a while, Hatchet Lord.”
It was Delphine Yurdina.
You should check out the illustrations on our discord server: discord.com/invite/JnWsEfAGKc
You can rate this series here.