༺ The First Letter (74) ༻
“S-stop… It’s my fault.”
Swallowing her pride, Senior Delphine quietly submitted. For one such as her, it probably took immense willpower to admit defeat.
Even so, I was still left unsatisfied and the frown on my face remained. Senior Delphine became even more desperate after reading my unchanging expression.
“Today’s matter was my mistake. I’ll also overlook everything that happened afterwards……”
Her voice was filled with deep humiliation as she roughly bit down on her lip. It seemed as if blood would start falling if I were to leave her in that state. I even sensed her holding back tears while listening to her choked voice.
Delphine’s body trembled from a sense of shame that seemed to overpower her fear of death in her current situation.
It was the fall of a proud noble lady.
A long sigh escaped from my mouth as I watched the pathetic scene before me.
“……Alright. That’s a relief.”
Senior Delphine remained silent. Only her trembling shoulders betrayed the Lioness’ wounded heart.
Begging for your life could be an immensely painful task. For some, their pride was more precious than their lives.
Knowing that, I spoke with a sigh.
“In that case, let’s finish this quickly. This last one is for Seria.”
Senior Delphine’s eyes opened wide as her pupils darted towards me once more.
The shadow of a man holding a hatchet up loomed high over her, filling up her sight.
My head throbbed and my whole body ached. Mana ran rampant and overloaded my blood vessel.
I desperately wanted to rest. With that in mind, I put all of my strength into my hatchet, and with a twitch of my arm, the hatchet fell.
The blade of the hatchet left a flash in its path with Senior Delphine as its sole target.
Instinctively, Senior Delphine clutched her head and shrieked.
“W-wait. I-I apologi… S-Stop! Eeeeeeek?!”
Senior Delphine let out an uncharacteristically cute scream. And at that moment…
Those soft-spoken words forced my hatchet to a stop.
I turned my attention towards the source of the voice. A beautiful girl with grey hair was facing me with sadness evident in her eyes.
However, I was unable to relax my arm. It was as if an inexplicable obsession had dug its fingers and grasped hold of my brain.
I had no intention of killing Senior Delphine, but I at least wanted to have her suffer a little more so that she wouldn’t ever think of baring her teeth at my precious people again.
Knowing Seria wasn’t fully aware of my intentions, I quietly trailed off while feeling a little sorry. Seria silently shook her head in response.
As I continued to hesitate, a scream suddenly burst out.
“Ian-oppa, are you out of your mind?!”
A girl hurried over with unsteady steps while clutching her bloodied shoulder.
Despite the agony she must have been in, the girl didn’t reveal even a hint of it in her eyes.
She merely ran towards me, staggering the whole way.
My puzzled gaze focused on the girl with dark hair.
However, she didn’t even pause to meet my gaze. As soon as she reached me, she hit my back with a loud slap.
“Ow?! Hey, Celine! Haven’t I told you before that that hurts……”
I instinctively showed an annoyed reaction, but Celine immediately grabbed me by the collar.
Her hazel eyes glistened with slight traces of tears. Her voice sounded choked up, evident of how startled she was.
“Killing a n-n-noble, have you actually gone mad?! Stop it now, apologize! You’re going to end up in huge trouble!”
My mind seemed to return the moment I faced Celine’s tearful eyes.
It was a strange sensation. It felt as if I was waking back up to reality right from a dream––the hazy and blurry world suddenly became clear.
It felt as if a clogged vessel had opened up and cold water had cooled my overheated head. The previous obsessions that had been dominating me up until now were swept away one by one along with the torrent.
I blankly looked down at Senior Delphine.
She was looking up at me with eyes full of fear. Her trembling arms were wrapped around her head and tears filled her eyes.
The proud and arrogant “New Sun” of the Yurdina family was nowhere to be seen. Even she was just an ordinary girl when faced with death.
As soon as I realized this, all of the lingering hostility vanished and all the built-up stress in my body eased up at once.
I grit my teeth and threw the hatchet away with every ounce of strength I had.
The sound of the hatchet burying itself into something rang out.
It had landed right next to Senior Delphine.
She screamed before staring at the hatchet in bewilderment then shifting her blood-red eyes towards me.
“Senior Delphine, you were the one who said that the winner takes everything.”
There was no answer from Senior Delphine, who was still trying to control her heavy breathing. I bent over and whispered into her ear.
So be careful…
If you cause any trouble, I just might come to take your life.”
Once again, there was no response from her. However, her trembling eyes and ragged breath made it clear that my words had struck deep into her mind. All that remained was to hope that she would uphold the aristocratic honor.
I heaved a sigh and turned around. I had to pick up my sword and the hatchet that was lodged in the beast’s neck.
However, the only things awaiting me as I turned around were Celine’s tear-filled eyes.
“I-I was worried! I, Ian-oppa… Hik… I thought you had lost your mind…….”
Did I really act that strangely? I thought back on my actions, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong no matter how many times I ran my past actions through my head.
It was possible that I wasn’t back to my normal self yet. In the meantime, I continued talking to Celine while gently patting her head.
“What are you saying? I only got a bit riled up.”
Even so, Celine continued to shed tears.
Seeing how Seria was holding her breath, she seemed to have been feeling uneasy as well. She finally let out a sigh of relief once she saw me calmly speaking with Celine, then turned her gaze to her half-sister with a sorrowful expression.
She seemed to pity Senior Delphine since they were still family. I had been considering letting Seria have the final blow even up until I raised the hatchet, but now that I thought about it, that was an extremely cruel thought process. How did I even come up with that idea?
Puzzled, I tilted my head before heading to pick up my weapons. At that moment, I heard someone’s voice in the distance.
“Eeeeeeeeek! Good job, good job!”
I was able to easily identify the small figure skipping towards me while bouncing up and down in excitement.
It was Senior Elsie. She looked down at Senior Delphine with a cheery smile.
“Why don’t you do a little more while we’re at it? We’ve got to smash her down good to the point she won’t be able to look at us! Hm, what would be a good way to do that? Let’s see… Should we electrocute her and make her flop around like a fish on a pike?”
Contrary to her angelic appearance, the words that poured out of Senior Elsie’s mouth were incredibly cruel. As she rambled on, Seria’s expression gradually became darker and darker while Senior Delphine continued to cover her head and tremble like a leaf.
I felt the need to take drastic measures to stop her from running her mouth.
“Or maybe imprinting electrical signals in her brain that make her pee whenever she sees us? Hehehe, I’m looking forward to it… Eeeeek?! I-I’m sorry!”
The second I showed her the hatchet I picked up, Senior Elsie immediately shut her mouth and pulled on her hat to cover her face as her body trembled in fear.
I let out a deep sigh. Senior Elsie’s cruel disposition was a problem.
After shaking my head for a bit, I put my hand on Senior Elsie’s head.
It was my way of calming her down. I gently stroked Senior Elsie’s hair.
“Peeing is your thing, Senior Elsie. Don’t give it up so easily.”
“…….N-no it’s not!! W-well whatever. Just keep stroking my head.”
Senior Elsie, who had been rebelling just moments before, soon wore a happy smile with a hazy look. Her response to my head strokes was gradually improving.
If she had a tail, I was sure that it would have been wagging back and forth right now. Granted, I didn’t voice my thoughts to preserve her pride.
Although many things happened, I thought that all the problems were nicely resolved.
Now, the only thing left to do was to transport the demonic beast’s body.
President Delemore, an old wizard with a white beard reaching down to his waist, adjusted his monocle.
A large number of people were gathered in front of the forest south of the academy.
The hunting festival was being held in that forest, and the event planned by the student council was also nearing its end.
The sky began to turn red. The sun was soon to set and darkness would follow, signaling the end of this year’s hunting festival.
Most of the hunting groups had already returned by this point, and there were even a few groups that returned with especially surprising catches. There were two high-ranking beasts, and if nothing unexpected happened, it was likely for one of them to win the festival.
If it were like last year, President Delemore would have been engaging in friendly conversations with prominent figures from various countries. The VIP area he was currently presiding in was filled with renowned personages from across the continent.
No matter how wide the forest was, the number of huntable prey was limited. There was no guarantee that groups would be able to hunt stronger prey even if they stayed longer.
In other words, it meant that most of the prize winners were basically decided by the evening, near the end of the festival.
And once the outcome was determined, there would inevitably be empty praises followed by intricate political maneuvering.
Despite all this, an unnatural silence hung over the VIP area. There was only one reason for such silence.
This year’s leading candidate had not yet returned.
Delphine Yurdina, the heiress to the Yurdina family of the North.
Until now, there had never been an heir of the Yurdina family who had entered the academy and failed to win the hunting festival. Whenever the Yurdina’s successor started their 4th year, it was normal for that year’s hunting festival championship to belong to the Yurdina family.
History always repeated itself. Therefore, the belief that this year’s championship would belong to Delphine Yurdina was rampant along with the high expectations of the important dignitaries.
Just how great of a beast would she bring back?
If she failed to bring a worthy beast, it was possible that they would bear witness to the Yurdina’s first failure. Whatever the result, both outcomes were spectacles that many were eager to see.
Time ticked away and it was nearing the end. President Delemore took a nervous glance at the forest entrance.
She still hadn’t returned.
There was nothing he could do in the meantime. The rules needed to be upheld and the academy, which pretended to treat everyone equally regardless of their status, couldn’t openly provide special treatment to the influential families of the empire.
It was when the old wizard was staring at the clock’s second hand that a commotion broke out at the forest entrance.
It seemed another group was returning. There was usually a commotion whenever groups came back, but the current disturbance was on another entire scale.
A buzz quickly spread through the crowd as it promptly overwhelmed the student council’s event as the focal point. Hundreds of eyes turned towards the forest entrance.
‘She’s finally here.’
A flicker of excitement flashed through President Delemore.
It was the same for all those seated in the VIP section. Some couldn’t overcome the anticipation and even jumped up from their seats to get a better look.
It was clear from all the fuss that a strong contender had returned.
However, the eyes that had sparkled with anticipation soon froze over, stupefied by the sight in front of them.
The sound of something scratching against the ground filled the air.
It was the sound of an enormous object being forcibly dragged across the ground. Big trees swayed back and forth while smaller trees either toppled over or became bent. Anyone with eyes and ears was able to tell that the hunted prey was monstrous.
It was then that the shape of the beast easily cutting through the forest as if it were a measly bush forced a bated silence upon the venue.
It was a wolf of monumental size.
No one had ever seen a wolf of such terrifying size in their lives. Everyone was initially taken aback by the size, but then quickly focused their attention on the massive horn on its forehead.
Mana crackled as it leaked out of the horn, proving that the beast was a formidable opponent capable of freely wielding mana. A high-rank beast? No, it was something beyond that.
It was a beast worthy of being named.
President Delemore, with his rich life experiences, knew this fact better than anyone else in the crowd. His hair stood on end as he wondered how they had managed to hunt the beast.
It was also important to note that there shouldn’t have been a named-level beast in the Southern forest in the first place. A beast of that scale was capable of causing casualties if not handled by the professors. Therefore, it was miraculous that a group of four students were able to hunt it.
‘She truly is the heiress of the Yurdina family.’
President Delemore couldn’t help but inwardly admire her skill. No matter how hard he thought, she was the only student he could think of that could defeat a named-level demonic beast.
Although he got goosebumps thinking of the casualties that could have been caused at such an important festival, he marveled at the skills of the student who brought such a beast down.
‘I’ve received grace from the Yurdina family this time around.’
He heaved a sigh of relief as he had such a thought.
It was then.
A name he had never heard before reached his ears.
President Delemore’s eyes instinctively followed the source of the voice. There, he saw the shadow of a man who was gritting his teeth as he dragged the corpse of the beast behind him.
‘Ian Percus. Was there someone like that in Delphine Yurdina’s group?’
President Delemore tilted his head. The dignitaries in the VIP seats were no different, whispering among themselves in confusion.
Due to them being seated far away from the forest, they were still unaware.
The reason why everyone had fallen into a chilling silence.
“I am the leader of the group, reporting back with our game.”
Silence settled across the venue as if the world itself was holding still.
Their bulging eyes showed their astonishment.
A named class beast was an enemy that people, even those from the academy, had to risk their lives to kill. It was an unbelievable achievement that a current student, not even a graduate, had achieved such a feat.
It remained true even for Delphine Yurdina, yet the name of the hunter, ‘Ian Percus’, was unfamiliar to all.
The mana that had been flowing gently in the VIP seating area suddenly started to oscillate. It was a sign that everyone was urgently raising mana to gain a better view.
They saw from afar. Black hair and golden eyes.
His appearance was as beautiful as a nobleman, but his blood-drenched clothes made a stark contrast to that impression. His body also appeared to be on the verge of collapse.
Even so, he made a statement with a faint smile, as if he was telling a light joke.
“Has there been another group with a better catch than us?”
It was the moment when the winner of the hunting festival was decided.
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