༺ The First Letter (64) ༻
The day of the hunting festival had the academy buzzing with festivities.
Students had been busy setting up their stalls since the crack of dawn, and the ingredients that had been flown in from all over the world for the occasion were already making an appearance, ready to spread a delicious aroma as they were cooked into scrumptious meals.
This was the same even in front of the forest, which was the center of the hunting festival. The results of the hunting festival weren’t available until the evening, but strangely enough, the forest south of the Academy was already teeming with people on the day of the hunt with barely any room to move about.
People arrived in the early hours to cheer on their favored participant, followed by the stalls that catered to them, and then finally the faculty and students who were interested in the hunt itself.
Although the results of the hunt would come later on in the evening, there were still some unexpected sights while standing in front of the forest.
There were hunters dropping out from injuries, and there were even some who forfeited after determining that they wouldn’t be able to catch more game in the remaining time.
Since it would be tedious to endure several hours for the results, the Academy’s student council organized a separate event.
They wanted to provide some entertainment for those waiting, and it also doubled as a chance for the clubs that had practiced tirelessly for the hunt to show off their skills in front of everyone.
It wasn’t just students who gathered in the clearing.
Professors from the Academy, high-ranking officials from various countries, and even the Emperor of the Empire would sometimes stop by to watch to keep an eye out for unique talents.
The rules of the event were simple: “hunt the demonic beasts,” and the team who hunted the strongest beast would win. This straightforward form of competition was also the best indicator of a team’s skill.
The aura level, mana capacity, and the number of circles around their hearts all potentially represented the strength of an individual, but it all meant nothing if they couldn’t be used practically.
After all, the best way to test someone’s skills was to put them to the test on the field, and this hunt was one of the few times the academy allowed students to participate in such a large-scale competition.
That was why there was always a steady stream of participants. Despite the looming risk of death, hundreds of participants flocked to the festival every year like moths to a flame.
The demonic beasts didn’t care who you were or where you came from. This was a stage where only your skill mattered. This was why commoners often participated in the festival… So that they could be noticed by the empire’s highest officials.
It was an important event watched by millions of spectators, attended by dignitaries from all over the world, and for some, their entire lives depended on their performance.
Today, I was standing in the middle of that fierce competition. The goal was to win, to beat out hundreds of other contestants who were all looking to make a name for themselves.
Not long ago, I couldn’t have even imagined taking part. Yet, here I was because of some love letter from the future.
It was funny how a single letter could change my life so drastically in such a short period of time.
Winning the hunt guaranteed that I would get a stamp of approval from the highest authorities in my country. It would radically affect the offers I would receive after graduation.
No, at this point, I shouldn’t even worry about the foreseeable future. According to the letter, my future self would become a hero who saves the world.
I couldn’t help but snort with laughter at the thought. To be honest, even though I participated in the hunting festival because of the love letter, the reality of that decision hadn’t really sunk in yet.
There was only one problem in front of me now.
I could never let someone fall before my eyes like Emma had again. That was my only desire, my only goal.
People who were currently chatting with boisterous laughter, people who were nervously checking their weapons, anyone could be a victim, and I wanted to prevent that.
I could only face the wall and repeatedly chew my lips in frustration in front of Emma’s hospital room and in front of the elderly man who was nothing more than an herbalist.
A single memory filled with guilt and regret was enough, so I was prepared for the process to be anything but comfortable.
The woman who stood before me now was proof of that conviction. She was a beautiful woman with golden hair and bloodshot eyes, an intense contrast against her pale skin.
Delphine Yurdina, the rightful heir to House Yurdina.
As soon as she appeared, Seria’s body went rigid. The emotion in her eyes was unmistakable: fear. Seria had the eyes of a herbivore… It was as though she was standing in the face of an enemy she dared not face.
Senior Elsie’s pupils shifted slightly, and as soon as she saw Delphine, she immediately jumped up like an angry cat. Her previously blank stare was quickly replaced with hostility.
Elsie blamed Delphine for all the humiliation she had suffered last time, and she had every right to.
Although it was actually my fault, sometimes the human mind jumped to convenient conclusions. The mere sight of my hatchet made her tremble in fear, and since she couldn’t take her anger out on me, she had focused on Delphine.
I also had a connection with Senior Delphine. I didn’t know if it was a coincidence or just bad luck, but out of the four of us, only Celine didn’t have a direct connection to her.
Even then, Celine was glaring at Delphine with a fierce look in her eyes. It was filled with hostility, and it was clear that she was bothered by the rumors of my relationship with Senior Delphine.
Pure hostility was aimed at her, but there was no way Senior Delphine would care. She merely smirked and crossed her arms.
“Well, I planned on ambushing you, but you managed to block it, huh.”
“……You weren’t being serious anyways.”
If she was, she wouldn’t have used a dagger. Delphine’s true power shone when she used a sword.
It was rumored that the air would crackle with heat the moment her blade shone with a golden hue. That a single strike from her sword could prove fatal, and even holding it against one’s skin would cause it to blister from heat.
Such was the nature of her aura. Most blades would melt away in time and only specialized aura blades could withstand her aura. However, it was not a problem for Senior Delphine, the heir of House Yurdina.
The true horror of money shone when intertwined with power.
“I’ll be serious soon enough, so why would I give you a preview? By the way, Hatchet Lord, it’s been a long time since that day, hasn’t it? I’ve missed you a lot. What was that saying again… ‘You were constantly on my mind even within my dreams’?”
Celine’s eyebrows twitched at Senior Delphine’s coy voice and Seria mirrored her reaction.
Her eyes had suddenly calmed down, or rather, they had become so cold that her pupils had frozen over.
I broke out in a cold sweat, unable to discern Senior Delphine’s intentions, and I could only force out a stiff smile.
“I’ve been… trying hard to avoid you.”
“Really? Even after enjoying such a spectacular view?”
Senior Delphine’s words were barbed, causing me to momentarily shut my mouth. The easygoing warmth that usually radiated from her blood-red eyes vanished without a trace.
It must have been a humiliating experience to bare her naked body to a man. After all, she had even punched me.
However, I still felt like I was being treated unfairly. It wasn’t as if I forcefully stripped her. It was an accident, and she had even told me that I could look at her body to my heart’s content since it’s normal to appreciate a work of art.
But it was still a time when women were still under strict conventions of modesty. In the end, I was guilty of looking at a woman’s naked body, no matter the excuse.
It was truly an unjust world. I coughed and changed the subject.
“Is that why you came here? So you could take revenge?”
“I did come to see the Hatchet Lord, of course… but I noticed a few familiar faces in your group, so I thought I’d say hello.”
Senior Delphine’s gaze swept over Seria and Senior Elsie. For a moment, Seria’s eyes had lost their shade, and she shuddered as she realized what had happened.
Then, Seria lowered her head, her lashes fluttering as if she were guilty.
A hmph escaped Senior Delphine’s lips… As if greeting Seria.
“…You damned bitch!”
A shrill scream pierced my ears. The noise was loud enough to make me frown, and the source of the voice was undoubtedly Senior Elsie.
It was a voice that was uncharacteristic of her petite frame, and it seemed to have succeeded in attracting Delphine’s attention.
Senior Elsie scowled and stamped her foot, trying to appear intimidating, but she only managed to look cute.
“Y, you… do you have any idea how much I’ve suffered because of you? The humiliation that day, the training I had to do to get back at you… you’re really going to die today!”
Senior Elsie’s clenched her fists, but Senior Delphine simply smiled in response.
“Really? I’m very glad I’ve caused you so much trouble, Elsie.”
“D-don’t laugh! Today will be the last day you can smile like that! I’ll stomp you so thoroughly…….”
All sorts of profanity began to flow from Senior Elsie’s mouth while Senior Delphine just stared blankly at her as if she was listening to a dog bark.
Senior Elsie’s outburst seemed to have had some effect as Senior Delphine’s eyes cooled off with boredom visibly apparent again.
With a click of her tongue, Delphine turned away and faced Seria.
Seria immediately stiffened and responded.
“Ye… yes, ughhhh… yes, sis.”
Seria accidentally chewed on her tongue in nervousness, but Delphine simply acted as though it was a familiar sight, her blood-red eyes, emotionless as she looked at Seria.
They were like the eyes of an appraiser evaluating an object. Before walking away, Senior Delphine left one last statement.
“Just do what you always do.”
It was difficult to discern whether it was meant to be an encouraging message or an invitation to lose. However, both Seria and I, who had gained insight into her mind, knew that it was the latter. Seria lowered her gaze, not daring to make eye contact with Delphine.
Senior Delphine started walking away with a look of satisfaction. Hurriedly, I called out to her.
“Senior Delphine, you left your dagger behind…”
“Keep it as a reward for thwarting that ambush, Hatchet Lord.”
I picked up the dagger from where it had fallen and swallowed my laughter at the absurdity of the statement.
“Hatchet Lord.” How absurd. Did she even know my name? I wanted to retort but there were only a few images that came to mind. Mainly those of her naked body.
I clicked my tongue and examined the dagger.
It looked expensive. I didn’t want to turn it down, so I stored the dagger.
Senior Delphine was as unpredictable as the wind, but the aftermath of her presence was always clear.
Seria was chewing her lip in frustration, and Senior Elsie was shaking with rage. Even Celine seemed offended.
But this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There was no better motivator than animosity.
Now all she had to do was pull herself together and perform how we trained. With that in mind, I began regaining my composure.
Out of nowhere, a shadow enveloped me. I spun around and saw three men and women, with the tallest and most muscular standing directly in front of me.
He had dark skin and no hair. Maintaining your hair, especially in battles, was no easy task, so some men chose to shave it off completely. Up until this point, I didn’t care for the man in front of me.
But when I belatedly noticed the axes in both hands, my eyes lit up with questions.
I looked up at the six-foot-tall man, but he remained silent. Senior Elsie shuffled to my side and whispered,
“Delphine… It’s that bitch’s servant… she probably formed a team, huh?”
“……Who is this?”
“Olmar! Olmar the twin ‘Hatchet’. He’s quite famous in the fourth year Knight Division. He’s a mercenary, so he’s also got plenty of battle experience.”
A question briefly flashed through my mind, but I decided to let it go.
The Knight Division taught all kinds of melee weapons. It wasn’t unusual for a student’s primary weapon to be a hatchet. However, what caught my attention was that he was holding two hatchets, one in each hand, instead of a battleaxe.
He was a guy that Senior Delphine dragged around. It was clear that he was skilled. I stared at him for a moment and when he still didn’t respond, I turned to Senior Elsie and asked in a low voice.
“So, what is this senior doing……?”
At that moment, Olmar raised both his hatchets into the air without warning.
As I stared at the hatchets, he skillfully threw them between his hands with flair.
It was a juggling act of sorts. As I stood there with no idea what he was doing, Senior Elsie whispered to me.
“I guess he’s feeling a little competitive against you……?”
Apparently, he was annoyed that our nicknames overlapped.
Confused, I seriously pondered for a moment.
‘Should I just attack him?’
Like a flash of lightning, I pulled out my hatchet.
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