༺ Assignment (1) ༻
…Or at least, that’s what Vera thought.
Vera couldn’t help but say so. Didn’t they start this to fix his distorted perception? Wasn’t it so that they would know the uncertain factors that they would face in their future plans?
But what started for that purpose had only resulted in adding to his own shameful past, and he was in a position where he would be teased for it. If that wasn’t unreasonable, then what was?
“In the end, what gives you a lifeline…”
At a small flower garden in the Academy.
In the middle of the lush landscape, with the flowers gently peeking out, Renee suddenly spoke.
“…is shrewdness and wickedness.”
In her unique innocent voice accompanied by a faint smile, she sang those words, which were one of the embarrassing things Vera had said the day before.
Vera dropped his head. There was a hint of resentment in his words.
“Those are some good words, huh?”
“Why? Is it because it sounds so cool? It was very impressive and sounded like you had years of experience… bwah, uhm, ehem!”
Renee burst into laughter in the middle of her sentence, then she coughed.
Vera felt like hanging himself.
How did she become someone who enjoys tormenting others like this? How did she become someone who takes pleasure in the flaws of others?
He could not help but feel resentful.
It was resentment towards Renee for not disregarding all of his embarrassing past despite having overlooked hers.
He wanted to fire back. He thought about it, but did not act on it. Vera was smart enough to know that it was the worst solution.
He let out a sigh.
There was shame written all over his face.
“…I was immature at the time.”
“Of course, everyone had those moments. I get it.”
“Please forget about it.”
“I wanted to, but unfortunately, I have a very good memory. You know that too, right, Vera? I could not forget something that I heard once. Phew, if I had grown up like everyone else, I would have been a scholar.”
Vera narrowed his eyes, as if he was glaring at Renee.
Renee, who was being talkative, had an expression of obvious delight on her face.
So, Vera said something to teach Renee, which was very rare.
“…It’s not nice to poke at other people’s faults.”
“We’re not strangers, are we? Don’t you know, Vera? I will become yours.”
It didn’t work on her.
A shiver ran down Vera’s spine, and his face became flushed for a different reason than moments before. There was an ‘ugh’ coming out of his mouth.
It was one setback after another.
He tried to avoid embarrassment but ended up being in a more awkward situation.
Vera shut his eyes tight, as he felt like he was being stabbed by a dagger of a skilled assassin.
On the terrace of the library.
Levin, a history student at the Academy and the team leader of Renee and Vera’s group project, thought.
‘Did I make the wrong choice?’
I think I picked the wrong team members.
Levin’s green eyes scanned the two people sitting across from him.
A smiling Renee was fiddling with Vera’s fingers as he squirmed, unable to do anything.
The scene was familiar to Levin.
It was a familiar scene…in a bad way.
He was teamed up before with a couple who had tormented him horribly throughout his time at the Academy.
Whenever they were assigned to the same group for a project, they would ignore their grades and focus on flirting with each other.
Levin regretted it.
Did those ancient species walk away with my credits?
How did I end up being teammates with these people who do not care about their grades?
His teeth chattered. It was an unbearable sight.
At this point, Levin forgot that the two were the second highest-ranked personnel in the continent, and started to curse under his breath.
‘I hope you trip on the road and die.’
I thought it was sugar, but it was salt.
I thought it was water, but it was hard liquor.
Levin, a timid 20-year old who had never dated a woman in his entire life, hated it when men and women were being flirty in front of him.
A weird temperature difference divided the table.
Vera, who had enough of Renee’s antics, broke the mood.
“…Should we talk about the project now? We’re not concerned about the result, but that’s not the case for Levin, right? I know that the least we could do is not cause trouble.”
He kept going. In order to avoid Renee’s affectionate advances without offending her, he meticulously explained his reasons, and Renee nodded in agreement.
Suddenly, Levin’s gaze turned to Vera.
He looked touched.
‘Of course! An Apostle wouldn’t be like them!’
He wouldn’t turn a blind eye to a team member struggling as they flirted around.
Forgetting that he had just cursed them a moment ago, Levin opened his mouth with a brightened expression.
“Then, should we get started?”
“Sure, how can we help you?”
“Well, I’ve brought all my research materials! I’ve organized all the books, and any publications related to that time! Could you tell me the differences between what you’ve experienced from the data I’ve gathered?”
“That should be fine, but… aren’t you doing too much on your own? We feel really sorry about it.”
“It… It’s alright! I’m used to working alone…!”
While he was talking, Levin had an odd experience where his heart sank at what he had just said.
Tears threatened to fall, but he held it in.
Whatever that was, it’s nice to have cooperative teammates!
Renee tilted her head at Levin as his voice started shaking, then she nodded before turning to Vera.
“Read it to me, Vera.”
Vera picked up the paper that Levin handed over and read it.
The presentation material, spanning about four pages, was organized as Levin had explained, with a focus on the center of Alaysia’s reign in the Age of Gods.
Vera read the materials and silently exclaimed to himself.
It’s quite in-depth.
It was also something that Vera could not overlook.
The reason was none other than the conversation he had overheard within the grimoire between Miller and Renee during the first round.
The rampaging ancient species. And in the midst of it, Alaysia, who was aiming for the Empire.
It would have been nice if it ended in the last round, but Alaysia was on the move again.
A clone has already been made and sent to the Empire.
While her purpose was still unknown, it wouldn’t end as easily if they were to encounter another clone like they had the day before. Therefore, it would be good for Vera to learn more about her.
About ten minutes after reading the summary, Vera looked at Levin in surprise.
“Did you do this all by yourself?”
“It… It’s something I’ve always been interested in…”
Levin scratched the back of his head and made a bashful face, then asked Vera.
“Wh…what do you think? Is there any error in the materials?”
He asked with twinkling eyes.
The one who answered him was Renee.
“Well, for starters, the part about the elves is incorrect.”
Renee organized the information she had heard in her head and gently explained it softly.
“The part about humans in the central region kidnapping the elves is wrong. First of all, ‘kidnapping’ is not the right word, and the reason you mentioned ‘physiognomy’ is also incorrect.”
“It was most likely not a kidnapping but an agreement, because they were seeing each other eye-to-eye.”
Levin tilted his head because there was something that he did not understand from what Renee had said.
“Aren’t the elves asexual?”
“They are, but they do associate with other species. I heard that they don’t differentiate genders when choosing their partner.”
“How do you know that…”
“Because I’ve met them.”
Renee told the story about her experience when she met Friede in the Great Woodlands.
…Of course, she did not bother to include the part where a family fell apart due to Friede’s entertainment.
Levin’s eyes blinked at Renee’s words. He stared at her blankly for a while, then after realizing what she meant, his mouth fell open.
“You… you’ve been to the Great Woodlands? For real? Real elves? No, then Aedrin…!”
“Have I met her? She was just a very large tree. I can’t explain what she looks like because I’m blind.”
She said it like it was no big deal.
Levin felt his heart pounding at the seemingly indifferent remark.
“Are…are there others…”
Have you seen any other ancient species or the likes?
He tried to ask that, but he was too stunned and the words would not come out.
His reaction was a mixture of excitement and impatience.
Fortunately, his intentions were conveyed to Renee, and she answered with a grin on her face.
“Uhm, I don’t know if this would be helpful, but I’ve met the Followers of the Night and the Dragonians. There’s also Orgus…”
Levin leapt to his feet, gripping the table.
There was a glow on his face.
He thought that he could ace the group project.
He thought that if he did well, very well, he might even catch the attention of Professor Miller.
Aspiring to become a graduate student at the Academy, Levin felt a shiver run down his spine with the luck he could not even dream of.
In the early evening, during sunset.
After returning to the dormitory, having completed their group project preparations, Renee spoke.
“It was fun, right?”
Vera, who was sipping his tea, looked up and asked back.
“Are you talking about the group project?”
“Yes, the history thing. It was kind of fun to pick it apart one by one and compare it to what we’ve experienced, right? I suddenly thought of that while we were doing it. I realized that what we were doing could be something big in the future. I thought that it would be fun to see it in the future.”
“It would be possible, because you’re the Saint.”
Vera responded in agreement with a small smile at Renee’s endless chatter.
He quietly thought.
‘I’m glad that she’s having fun.’
He was relieved to see Renee enjoying life at the Academy.
It was refreshing to see her be happy about such trivial things like other girls her age. Even though she had a bit of a… nasty personality, it was a part of her charm.
Vera felt a surge of joy inside him as he realized that the light he wanted to protect was right in front of him.
“Ah, the part about Alaysia was a little unexpected. I thought she was a very smart queen, but when you look closely, she actually wasn’t, right? I was surprised to learn that the reason she went to war with Maleus was because she wanted to use the Death Knights for farming.”
“I’m guessing that wasn’t the only reason. Still, doesn’t she have the moniker of ‘Smallest World’?”
“Hmm… I guess so? I still feel like the image I had of her was shattering.”
“…It’s still too early to tell. The corpse that I saw in the Empire… just by looking at the clones, you can tell that she’s simply not a mindless person.”
“Just by looking at what she’s doing, she’s clearly a crazy woman.”
“That may be more dangerous. Isn’t it the crazy ones who would use any means to get what they want?”
As Renee continued to talk, something about what Vera said caught her attention, then she blurted out in a playful manner.
“As expected of the King of the Slums…! It seems you have some familiarity with craziness, huh?”
His head whirled towards Renee. His skin was very flushed, and his thoughts were all over the place.
“…Why are you doing this to me?”
His voice was trembling pitifully with a sense of injustice.
Renee tried to hold back the laughter that was about to burst out, and silently answered inwardly.
‘Because it’s fun.’
I can’t help it since you react this way.
It was the mindset of a vicious tormentor who showed no understanding or empathy for the victim’s feelings.
When Vera was at the dormitory that night, he could not hold back his anger and broke his bed. It was something that Renee would never know about for the rest of her life.