༺ The Lord Is With Us (15) ༻
Emma’s arms were filled with dozens of potions, and she seemed to want to give me every single one.
Apart from the obvious problems of transporting so many potions, they were also a valuable source of income for a commoner that I simply couldn’t take.
That was why I tried to dissuade her.
“Emma, don’t you think you’re being excessive?”
“Yeah, but the more prepared you are, the better, right?”
She posed a fair point with a tilt of her head.
Still, I needed to do something about it.
“I can’t even carry all this around, and you make your living selling potions.”
She carefully set the potions she was holding down on her desk.
Despite being a fairly large desk, the sheer amount of potions piling on top of it led to some of them rolling under the table, where I quickly picked them back up.
Emma, who had been reaching for the falling potions, flashed me a smile to thank me for being concerned about her.
Resting her hand on her chest, she spoke with a look of pride on her face.
“If I’m hungry, I can always go pick some mushrooms! I know a few mushroom colonies in the southern forest…….”
I cut her off firmly, making my intentions clear. She looked at me, bewildered by the firmness of my tone.
I shook my head vigorously with resolute eyes.
“Not a chance. Are you crazy? Don’t you remember how you were attacked by a demonic beast before?”
“B-But that was just because I was unlucky…….”
“I don’t care.”
Emma became a little dejected by my stern rejection. She was normally wise and intelligent, but it seemed like she was incapable of rational judgment when it came to her desire to help me.
And as grateful as I was, I had no choice but to decline.
There was no way I could have her skip proper meals for my sake. I wasn’t the kind of person who would sacrifice his friend’s livelihood for his own benefit. It also wouldn’t help me at all. If anything, it would make my stomach churn every time I chugged a potion.
Emma was my first commoner friend. One I had brought back from the brink of death. It had cost me tens of thousands of gold, but I didn’t regret it one bit.
Through my sacrifice, Emma and her father were both saved. A happy future for the father and daughter had only just begun, but here she was attempting to risk her life again.
A sigh escaped my lips as I continued to try and dissuade her.
“Emma, you promised me you’d be happy.”
“I’m happy being of help to Ian……..”
Her voice was sullen, and the way her emerald eyes peeked at me was enough to make any man weak in their knees.
As such, my voice automatically took on a more soothing tone.
“Emma, think about it from my perspective. How would you feel if I was eating mushrooms for meals?”
“……But mushrooms have been a staple food since I was a kid?”
Oops, that was insensitive to a commoner’s lifestyle.
If I had been the lord of a territory, my reputation amongst the people would have plummeted.
I broke out in a cold sweat and quickly tried to remedy the situation.
“It’s not that mushrooms are bad, it’s just that I don’t want you to take the risk of going into the woods. To me, your life is precious.”
Seeing her face flush red, my attempt to convey my sincerity seemed to have had an effect.
Her green eyes momentarily stared at me blankly. Then, with a soft giggle, she shyly averted her gaze.
Thankfully, she didn’t seem offended. She even seemed a little pleased, and although she didn’t directly meet my eyes, she nodded her head in agreement.
“I-I see. If I’m that important to you, I guess it can’t be helped…….”
It was a different side of Emma that I hadn’t seen before. She had always been calm and clear-headed, but now, she was looking somewhat bashful.
I wondered if it was a side effect from her previous encounter with the demonic wolf, but I had no way of knowing as of now.
I just shoved the suspicion away into the back of my mind and shook my head.
Also, now that the opportunity presented itself, I cut to the chase.
“And there are plenty of ways to help me that don’t involve potions.”
She tilted her head.
I lowered my voice.
“Do you remember our conversation from last time? About how it might be possible to receive a letter from the future?”
Emma tapped her lips for a short moment, lost in thought. Then, as if a realization had dawned upon her, she let out an affirming noise.
Her eyes regained their usual intelligence.
“We talked about Delphirem and the Seven Stars, right?”
“Yeah. Tell me a little more about him. And also, could a soul also travel back in time and not just letters?”
Her brows furrowed slightly. Pushing herself to her feet, she faced the corner of the workshop, and with a magical signal, a series of solid blue lines began to form in the air.
It was a celestial diagram that was renowned as a must-have for both mages and alchemists. It captured the locations of all the stars in the sky.
“As I said, it’s not impossible. Information faces less resistance because it has no physical form. If it were to take the form of a letter, at most a sheet of paper would be traveling, and the cost would be minimal. But the soul is different.”
With that, Emma waved her hand once. The center of the astronomical diagram expanded along her movement, and seven unusually bright stars filled my vision.
They symbolized the seven sins committed by Delphirem.
Those seven sins were the first crimes committed by mankind. It was said that the seven stars for each of the sins were located the closest to Arus’ Eye and under careful observation.
When the moon was at its peak, the seven stars would be positioned around it, and whenever the moon was at the center of the seven stars, that was also when the power of the Evil God Omeros was at its greatest.
With the seven stars under Arus’ constant surveillance, Arus would never permit anyone to covet the power of the stars.
Not humans, not demonic beasts, and not even the Evil God himself.
There was only one entity capable of calling upon the stars. The rightful owner of those seven stars.
Delphirem, the traitor to humanity.
I absentmindedly muttered the name to myself. It was the same name I’d repeatedly heard in my dreams.
“Even though information can leak through the timeline with less resistance, it would still place a considerable amount of burden on the world if a vast amount of it was being sent back. Not to even mention the exorbitant amount of mana necessary to do so. That being said, the cost would be unimaginable to send something like the soul since it contains countless information.”
“So, does that mean souls can’t return to the past?”
In response to my question, Emma shook her head.
“No, I’m just saying that there would be limitations. It’s not like sending a letter where it’s as simple as sending a piece of information and being done with it. For instance, a conditional limitation like the soul only being able to manifest itself during certain times of the day?”
As she expounded on her explanation, she shook her head with a wry smile as if dismissing an absurd hypothesis.
“But that would still only be possible with the power of the Seven Stars, and unless that condition is met, it’s impossible to travel into the past, whether by letter or soul. “
“…So there aren’t any other possibilities?”
“There are two exceptions.”
In other words, there was a possibility. Seeing the color return to my face, Emma spoke to me gently with a bitter smile.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Ian. They’re both absurd possibilities.”
“What could they be…….”
“The extermination of mankind-“
My jaw immediately dropped. Then, as if she had expected my reaction, she once again shook her head.
“Or the destruction of Delphirem. Either one of two must happen. The former would cause Arus to lose his power, and the latter would remove the need to hold onto the power of the Seven Stars.”
Emma seemed to consider both scenarios as impossibilities and for good reason.
The extinction of either humanity or a mythical being.
They were both unimaginable, but there was a line that came to mind as soon as I heard her theory.
It was the line scrawled onto the back of the first letter.
I remained silent, pondering the eerie future it hinted at.
I felt unsettled even when it came time to leave the lab. I grabbed a few potions that Emma had prepared for me and was about to leave the workshop when she suddenly shot a question.
“Ian, how is it? Don’t you think something about me changed?”
It was a perplexing question, and one that I couldn’t readily come up with an answer for with my head already spinning from the previous influx of information.
Seeing this, Emma softly giggled and revealed the answer with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Actually, I applied a perfume called ‘Love Potion’. It supposedly makes you more attractive to the opposite sex… So-“
Before she could finish, I brought my nose to her neck.
It had a peculiar scent. It was sweet and also tantalized my heart.
I nodded. It definitely had an effect befitting its name.
Slowly, I inched away from her.
But when I turned to face her, she was holding her breath, frozen stiff on the spot – Her flushed face was the only indication of life.
Then, I nodded and complimented her.
“It definitely seems effective. It’s pretty nice”
Emma stammered before averting her gaze and fanning her face.
Her emerald eyes darted back and forth, and in her embarrassment, she only managed to shyly murmur a single line.
“Y-yeah. I think it’s effective… on m-me too…….”
With that, I left her workshop. There was still one more person I had to meet.
Surprisingly, she was easy to find. Due to her tendency to drag her gang around, as soon as I asked for her whereabouts, I was immediately provided with sightings.
As usual, Senior Elsie was sitting in a secluded area she had claimed for herself. With a smug look on her face, she proudly boasted of her achievements to her group.
“Do you know what kind of face that bitch Delphine made back then? She was lying there looking like her world had fallen apart, that stupid bitch! I should have just turned her into minced meat right then and there…….”
One of her goons burst out laughing, even throwing a comment in response to her words.
“Come on, even for her, minced meat is too much.”
“It’s …… maybe you’re right. Anyway, that damn bitch-“
A sigh involuntarily leaked out as her words flowed into my ears.
Her manner of speech always contrasted with her doll-like appearance. The Rinella family was a prestigious noble family, yet here she was, spouting coarse words left and right.
I was tempted to reach for the hatchet at my waist, but I held myself back. After all, I was here today to ask for a favor.
Instead, I raised my hand and casually greeted her.
“She was begging for mer- Huh? What!”
Senior Elsie, who was still in the middle of her story, sprung up from her seat as soon as she heard my voice and came running over to me.
She looked way happier than I imagined, a huge smile lit up her face.
“You, you…! What’s going on? Why haven’t you been around lately?”
“Hi, it’s been a while, senior. I missed you.”
It was nothing but a greeting, but she seemed extremely pleased by it. Then, she crossed her arms with a haughty expression.
“Hehe, really? It’s been a while since you’ve said anything decent, you cheeky junior. As a reward, I’ll grant you the privilege to pet me.”
Her slightly expectant glance was somewhat adorable. I had wanted to tease her a little for being so smug as of late, but she looked so cute that I decided to let it slide for today.
She seemed to be pleased as I gently pet her head. Her face resembled that of a cat that had successfully gotten rid of an itch.
Thinking it was time to get to the point, I carefully opened my mouth.
“Senior Elsie, have you figured out what you were going to do for your next practicum?”
“……? No, I’m still thinking about it.”
“Then, would you like to come with me?”
With dazed eyes, a relaxed sigh leaked out from her mouth as she seemed to relish the feeling of having her head pet
Then with a snort, the corners of her mouth twisted into a smirk as she glanced at me with the cheeky grin decorating her face.
“Me? Why would I go with a weakling like yo- Hiik! I’ll go! I’ll go!”
Ultimately, I was unable to hold back and ended up moving my hand towards the hatchet at my waist. With that simple gesture, Senior Elsie was successfully persuaded.
Why did I bother using words when it was so simple?
I cursed my foolishness and placed my hand back on her head.
She was trembling with her hat tugged down, but with my hand back on her head, she seemed to settle down a bit.
“I really need your skills. As you know, it’s extremely difficult finding a mage as skilled as you…….”
“……T-that’s true! I am a pretty amazing mage!”
Realizing that she had no power to refuse, Senior Elsie desperately tried to find a reason to follow me. In a way, it was her attempt to save some face as she didn’t want to admit to being blackmailed by a junior.
Beyond that, she seemed to like my compliment as a smug expression crept back onto her face.
“I guess it can’t be helped! I’m the only senior you can trust, after all!”
I fell silent.
Was Senior Elsie someone I could trust? It was food for thought, but I didn’t intend on pointing that out.
Still, I felt I should at least give her a heads-up of the other members.
Knowing the strained relationship between her and Senior Delphine, I hesitated before speaking.
“No, there’s one more.”
“Heh, of course, you wouldn’t have anyone else but… Huh? What, there’s someone else?”
Her head tilted as though wondering how I could possibly know another fourth-year besides her.
While it was cute, it was still irritating, and so, I spat out my words somewhat brusquely.
“Yes, Senior Delphine is coming with us.”
The moment she heard that, Senior Elsie stiffened despite my hand stroking her head.
Her eyes widened in shock, and I noticed a sense of betrayal from within them.
Senior Elsie was on her feet, trembling as her blue sapphire eyes shone with anger.
This was the beginning of a competition that would last throughout the entire practicum.
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