TL/N: There has been some discussions on discord regarding this, but I would like to put it to the general readership to decide. Basically, would you like me to finish all the chapters of the side story first? OR proceed to vol 7 first and come back to wrap up the remaining side story (this vote would only affect one side story, the one about parent visitation day, already present in the manga) between vol 7 and 8 instead? Vote here: http://www.strawpoll.me/14925651
“Ugh… Seriously! The nerves of that guy!”
On this day, Sistine seemed particularly enraged.
With her beautiful visage twisted by anger, Sistine paced back and forth in the empty hallways of Alzano Magic Academy’s main building as her whole body trembled uncontrollably. Her loud stomping unleashed her rage on the hapless floor beneath, where a curious shine reflected the extent of its abuse.
“Try to calm down, Sisti.”
Rumia followed closely behind, trying her best to calm the fuming Sistine. In contrast to Sistine, Rumia appeared surprisingly calm.
“How could I possibly calm down?!”
Sistine pressed her hand against the nearby window and gave Rumia a menacing glare.
“What the heck was ‘it’s getting dull, so let us call it a day’ supposed to mean? There was another whole twenty minutes till the end of class! What does that moron of a teacher take his job for?!”
Unsurprisingly, the cause of Sistine’s anguish was none other than a certain new teacher at the Alzano Imperial Magic Academy – Glenn Radars.
“However, wasn’t he able to cover all the material? Not to mention, the quality of his lecture was excellent. So, Sistine-…”
“That’s not the problem! The problem is with his attitude and irresponsibility!”
Exactly as Sistine said, Glenn was notorious around the academy for his poor behavior. The criticism levied toward him were endless, among which included not performing laboratory experiments, not conducting research, skipping staff meetings, avoiding cleanups, teaching students inappropriate spells, playing pranks on others, demonstrating a clear disrespect toward magic, and, last but not least, displaying excessive laziness. Understandably, most of the teachers at the academy held Glenn in a terribly low regard.
Incidentally, Glenn tended to remain serious during class, and his classes were well-known for their quality. As such, Glenn was able to retain his position despite constant protest, although it was hard to say for how long.
“Seriously… I warned him day after day to shape up, but he never listens!”
Being polar opposites, the honor student Sistine and the apathetic Glenn were like oil and water. Whenever Glenn was nearby, Sistine would unabashedly chastise him like a mother scolding a child. Even now, Sistine had just came out from a quarrel with Glenn and was clearly still agitated by the encounter.
“Rumia, you too… You are being way too soft on him! He wouldn’t behave like this if you had also admonished his appalling behavior from time to time!”
Met with the anger of her best friend, Rumia simply revealed a calming smile.
“Hehehe~ I bet Sistine is just worried about our teacher, right?”
Taken aback by Rumia’s sudden remark, Sistine froze completely as her face started to cramp up.
“You know… Worried if our teacher keeps on acting that way, he would one day be fired…”
“W-wait! Rumia, y-you are definitely m-mistaken about something! Y-yes… D-definitely mistaken!!” Sistine hastily refuted Rumia with a bright red face, “W-why should I care if h-he gets fired or not?!”
“Huh? Do you hate our teacher?”
“Probably… n-not.” Sistine murmured under her breath as she turned her eyes away to evade Rumia’s curious glance.
Sistine did not hate Glenn. Even if Glenn was a lackadaisical and worthless bastard, Sistine could not bring herself to hate him from the bottom of her heart. This was because Sistine has come to know the ‘real’ Glenn through a certain incident the previous month.
“I know Sistine scold our teacher out of care, but hasn’t it been a bit over the top as of late?”
“O-over the top? Me?”
Rumia gave a light nod to Sistine in affirmation.
“You already know what Glenn is like, so it doesn’t hurt to cut him some slack from time to time. After all, you may end up becoming hated if you criticize him whenever you two meet.”
With Rumia’s response, Sistine settled down and reflected her actions in the recent days.
Rumia’s words had a certain truth to them. Typically, Sistine would just let out a long sigh whenever Glenn did something out of the ordinary, but recently, she seemed to be particularly less tolerant in her encounters.
“…To tell you the truth, I had quite a few misfortunes as of late.”
“My new notebook was completely painted black, my hair got mysteriously stained with ink during laboratory class, and the snacks I was saving for later suddenly disappeared… So, I guess I have gotten slightly tense.”
“Ahaha… But still, it’s wrong to redirect your anger on our teacher.”
Sistine could only passively accept Rumia’s criticisms.
“Why not go apologize to him? Just to mention, our next class is the magic combat practicum, so let us head over now or we may end up late for class!”
With that said, Rumia began to walk down the hallways, before urging Sistine on with a smile.
Seriously, I can’t win against her logic…
On top of her discerning eyes, Rumia was able to remain composed regardless of the circumstances. As such, Sistine had always looked up to Rumia.
With a sigh, Sistine decided to follow after Rumia.
What she said was certainly true. Despite our teacher’s hatred of magic, he nevertheless gave us excellent lectures, so it doesn’t hurt to be a bit more forgiving of his actions from time to time. I guess I should try to be more like Rumia and carry myself with patience…
◇ ◇ ◇
“T-to heck with patience…!!”
Sistine’s voice echoed in the academy courtyard, the location of their magic combat practicum.
It was a warm and comfortable day, with clear blue skies stretching all the way to the horizons. In short, it was the perfect day for an outdoor class.
“Hey, y-you! W-what is that?!”
Faced with Sistine’s sudden outburst, Glenn turned around with a baffled expression.
“Is something wrong? White Cat, don’t just start shouting at random. Try not to be so jumpy every time~”
Just to mention, Glenn seemed to call Sistine ‘White Cat’ for some reason, but no one seemed to particularly know why.
“H-haven’t I told you to stop calling me a cat-… No, now’s not the time for that! W-what is that t-thing coiled around your body?!”
Glenn blankly looked at himself. At a glance, it looked like a thick rope, but the ‘rope’ seemed to have a triangular head, two bright eyes, and a forked tongue that would come in and out of his mouth. It wasn’t hard for anyone to identify the ‘rope’ around Glenn.
“Of course I know that! What I really want to know is why do you have a huge snake here?!”
“It’s for today’s class.” Glenn calmly replied.
Ahh… Not again.
Sistine knitted her brows from a brewing headache.
Glenn had always acted in strange and inexplicable ways, usually with an uncharacteristic calm.
“T-teacher… I-isn’t that snake dangerous?” Rumia asked as she approached Glenn out of fear for his health.
Certainly, among the members of the class, Rumia was one of the few known for her fearlessness. The rest of her classmates, including Sistine, stood as far away as possible from the snake.
“If that snake is poisonous-…”
“Don’t worry, Rumia.” Glenn declared with a face full of confidence, “This here is called the Ranaudo snake. It is one of the snakes reared by the academy, and it has been defanged. Not to mention, this type of snake is naturally docile, so it won’t bite.”
“Umm…” Rumia seemed somewhat reluctant to interject, “It is currently biting your head.”
Glenn stood there in a peculiar silence for a few moments.
“Kiyaaa! It huuurts!!”
Having been bitten by the snake, Glenn rolled fervently on the grass while unleashing a painful howl.
“Y-you bastard! How dare you bite me?! That big mouth of yours is going to get someone killed! Stop joking around! P-please stop! I beg you… P-please let go of my head!!”
The students looked at the pitiful Glenn with blank stares as he pleaded with the snake to release its grip.
“Ugh… B-bastard… b-bondage p-play is against… t-the rules…”
The snake used its massive body to tightly bind Glenn, through which dreadful creaks could be heard as Glenn writhed underneath the crushing force.
“Haa… You are really beyond help…” Sistine sighed as she raised her hand to recite a spell.
◇ ◇ ◇
“U-ugh… I a-almost died there! D-darn it, Celica… What was that about it being docile? It is a natural born disaster!”
Glenn feebly stood up after tossing aside the snake paralyzed by Sistine’s spell, Black Magic [Shock•Volt].
“Umm… Could we end the silliness and get back to class?”
Sistine tried her best to remain calm and forgiving. After all, Glenn’s antics were nothing new, so there was no reason to get angry. However, despite her best efforts, she could not stop the veins on her forehead from betraying her inner thought.
“Ah… That’s right! Today’s topic was ‘the art of poison in magic combat, its use and defense’.”
With the snake knocked out, Glenn finally got back on topic, and the students huddled closer to listen.
From the corner of the courtyard, Glenn brought over a blackboard and propped it on a tripod. Taking out a piece of chalk, Glenn wrote down the title of their lesson on the blackboard.
“If I am not wrong, in your minds, combat between magicians, that is, magic combat, is a fast-paced battle of wit and knowledge. A battle where both sides rely on offensive spells, conjuring up fire, lightning, and ice as they try to outmaneuver their opponent and, at the same time, try to protect themselves with appropriate defensive spells. Am I right?”
Glenn jotted down the keywords in his explanation before turning to the students.
“While this isn’t particularly wrong, it is largely a romanticized version of magic combat that does not reflect the realities in the field. Instead, I will teach you about the true key to victory, the use of ‘poison’.”
“Hmph! Isn’t getting poisoned just means one lacked vigilance?” Gibul, one of the students in Glenn’s class sporting a pair of glasses, scoffed at Glenn’s words, “Poisons are largely confined to dispersive magic, so a simple Black Magic [Air•Screen] would be able to block any attempts. Not to mention, even if one did get poisoned, there is always White Magic [Blood•Clearance] for detoxification. It is hard for me to see how ‘poison’ could be as you described.”
“Mmn… Gibul is absolutely correct. Artificial poisons are limited to dispersive spells, so unless the user had overwhelming magic or the opponent was completely negligent, it could not count as an effective way to victory.”
Yet, despite Gibul’s comments, Glenn revealed a confident smile.
“Then, what about natural poisons?”
“For example, venomous serpents or insects. Creatures that come with a natural poison would require a matching antidote in addition to detoxification magic. Wouldn’t that prove much difficult to overcome?”
“Of course not! How could anyone possibly inflict a natural poison on their opponent during magic combat? Certainly, they wouldn’t stuff the poison in a syringe and throw it at their enemy!” Gibul replied as he shrugged his shoulders.
However, having seen through Gibul’s response, Glenn smiled as he tapped on something with the tip of his shoes.
“Then… How about this?”
The students curiously swarmed around to take a look. At the tip of his feet was a small glass box, and inside was a tiny serpent. As everyone’s attention was focused on the large snake earlier, no one had noticed the tiny one on the ground.
“This little fellow is a Cucina snake, a truly venomous serpent. Although it is tiny, this serpent has a ferocious bite and long fangs, where even the soles of some thinner shoes could easily be pierced. I won’t be able to let it out, since it is quite dangerous.”
Some of the students took a step back after hearing the words ‘truly venomous’.
“Think about it, if I made this tiny serpent into a familiar and, when we entered combat, secretly have it released to bite my opponent in the foot. How do you think it will end?”
With Glenn’s words, Gibul face seemed to turn rigid, likely brainstorming a possible counter.
“B-but, as long as the opponent is properly prepared, I am certain it is possible to prepare the antidote beforehand…”
“Really? Have you forgotten that the antidote must match with the natural poisons? Are you planning to bring every possible antidote with you to the battlefield? Considering the weight, are you willing to forgo magic tools? At the same time, when will you have time to take the antidote? Certainly not when you are busy chanting offensive spells, right?”
“Not to mention, a simple paint on the serpent will make it difficult to distinguish the type, thus turning your preparations moot. Lastly, if the serpent was a modified species using white magic and alchemy, how would you know if your antidotes even work?”
“Ugh… H-however, everyone should be able to detect a serpent creeping up to them…”
“Huh? Remind me again, who was it that was focused on the large snake and completely neglected the existence of the tiny one?”
Gibul was left utterly speechless.
Other students also quickly checked their legs out of fear that a snake would slither up.
“Either way, these are the mere basics. Certainly, a professional mage would not stoop to such tactics. However, for magician assassins, they generally have a wide repertoire of poison. Doesn’t sound really honorable, right? For the mighty magician to be taken out by a single drop of poison. Yet, I assure you, such occurrences are far from rare.”
Glenn then turned his attention to the rest of the students.
“Either way, familiarizing yourselves with the use of poison in magic combat and its appropriate counters are very important. For those who wish to work in civil services, this knowledge isn’t absolutely necessary. However, for those oddballs who wish to enter ‘Imperial Court Mage Corps’ or something similar, such knowledge may save your life one day.”
As expected of Glenn.
Sistine could not help but be impressed with Glenn’s lecture. In just a few short minutes, Glenn had made the students painfully aware the importance of poison during magic combat. If it were any other instructor, they would have certainly dismissed natural poison as something unethical and dishonorable for a magician. Yet, for Glenn, his lectures have always been grounded in reality, and Sistine was thankful for it.
“I see…” Sistine muttered under her breath as she let out a sigh, “Is that why teacher bought the large snake today? To teach us the importance of poison?”
“Huh? Of course not.” Glenn immediately refuted Sistine’s conclusion, “Honestly, I doubt I had to go to such lengths if it were only to teach you guys the dangers of natural poison.”
Sistine was taken aback by Glenn’s statement.
“Also, didn’t I mention it earlier? That fellow was reared by the school and has already been defanged. How could a useless snake like this possibly be of any worth to our lecture?”
Glenn picked the large snake up from the ground and turned it to Sistine.
Sistine took a step back to Glenn’s confrontation attitude.
“T-then why did teacher bring such a large snake to class?”
“Huh… Isn’t it obvious?” Glenn said with a puffed chest, “To see the looks on young maidens’ faces as they scream in horror~”
“I can’t imagine a worse reason!” Sistine lamented with her hands gripping her head.
“Before you two arrived, both Lynn and Wendy were crying splendidly… I almost dare say that it could awaken a new fetish~”
Glenn revealed a disgusting smile.
“Shut up, y-you pervert! P-pervert!!” Sistine shouted as her entire body quivered in anger.
Ah… Here it comes again…
The entire class seemed to let out a sigh in agreement.
“I have had enough! Do you not have a single ounce of pride as a teacher of the Alzano Imperial Magic Academy?! Listen carefully, your lackadaisical attitude will damage public confidence in the academy-…”
“H-how annoying! Why must you always drone on and on? Just leave me alone, idiot!”
Faced with this anticipated development, the students winced at one another. Yet, the scene felt slightly different from the usual.
Unlike before, where Sistine would march right up to Glenn and unleash a torrent of words, Sistine seemed to be keeping her distance today. While her words were as harsh as expected, they seemed to lack the usual fervor.
Glenn seemed to have also caught on to Sistine’s curious behavior as he glared at her with suspicion.
“W-what are you staring at?”
Her jabs also seemed to lack their usual sharpness.
Glenn remained silent, seemingly deep in thought. He looked down at the large snake in his hand and then to Sistine before reaching an epiphany.
“Oh? Could you be…?”
Glenn smirked as he brought the large snake closer to Sistine.
Almost instantaneously, Sistine’s zeal evaporated as she drew back with a pale face.
“What a splendid response, certainly better than anyone else in class. White Cat, are you really that afraid of snakes?”
“W-what? O-of course I am n-not afraid!” Sistine retorted as she evaded Glenn’s gaze.
Having discovered an unexpected weakness of Sistine, Glenn revealed a devious smile.
“Yes, you are absolutely correct… I have definitely gone too far, and I will reflect my actions.”
Glenn slowly approached Sistine, with the large snake in hand.
Sistine reflexively drew further back, but her feet refused to budge from the sheer fear. As she tried to get her feet to listen, Glenn crept closer and closer.
“You have always thought to advise me, but I foolishly ignored your words… Oh, what shame I brought to the most noble of professions!”
“I know it might be late, but will you forgive me?”
Glenn reached his hand out with the snake coiled around his arm.
“As long as you will forgive me and accept my handshake, I will vow to correct my foolish behavior!”
Glenn revealed a bright but obviously deceptive smile.
“Uuu… S-snake… D-do not… C-close…”
Glenn peered closer with the snake in hand.
“I am saddened… When I clearly wish to make amends, why do you reject me?”
“D-didn’t I say… s-snake?”
“Huh? Could you repeat that? I didn’t quite catch it~”
Glenn turned his ear to Sistine.
“P-please, d-don’t come over here…”
“Huh? That’s odd… Could there be something wrong with my hearing?”
Glenn continued to push closer.
Something seemed to have slowly cracked within Sistine’s mind.
“Huh? What? I didn’t…”
“I told you to stay away!!”
Sistine finally couldn’t bear with it anymore, and immediately raised her left hand toward the approaching Glenn.
“‹Great spirit of the wind›…!”
Without a single hesitation, Sistine chanted her spell.
There wasn’t any time for Glenn to prepare a defensive spell as a powerful burst of wind smacked right into Glenn’s face.
Glenn let out a girlish scream as he was blown away into the air, before tumbling back down onto the ground, only to come to a stop when he smacked into the trunk of a nearby tree.
“Y-you… Why did you suddenly chant that spell? Isn’t it a bit of overkill? Was that really necessary?”
Glenn seemed to be unable to stand up from the severity of the injury. He simply laid flat on the gravel road with a slight twitch from time to time.
“S-shut up! It’s all his fault!”
Sistine dashed over with tears at the corner of her eyes.
Rumia was unsure how to comfort her best friend and followed closely behind.
“W-what a distasteful prank! Y-you definitely deserves to get f-fired!”
Despite blasting Glenn with magic, Sistine remained furious. In her rage, Sistine reflexively raised her foot to kick a small pebble nearby.
Rumia was too late as Sistine had already thrown out her foot.
Her foot seemed to have shattered something with the kick.
When they remembered their lesson, the students quickly realized the only object that could possibly shatter.
“Ahhh! S-snake! The snake is set loose!!”
The first students to realize began to scramble from the courtyard.
With a face as pale as a sheet, Sistine nervously turned to look near her foot. She saw the tiny serpent exit through a small crack in the glass enclosure.
At that moment, Sistine was completely paralyzed with fear.
“Sisti, it’s dangerous! Get away!”
Rumia’s warning was to no avail.
The serpent immediately sank its fangs into Sistine’s foot, and, as the fangs pierced through the thin shoes, Sistine felt an intense jolt of pain.
The poison was quick to act. A burning sensation coursed through her veins and enveloped her whole body. Sistine’s heart began to race uncontrollably, and her consciousness slowly gave way to darkness. With a slight wobble, Sistine felt a certain litheness to her body as the ground quickly rose up to meet her body.
“S-Sisti! W-wake up!”
Barely cognizant on the ground, Sistine heard the frantic cries of her best friend.
“I-idiot! H-hey, wake up!”
Soon, Sistine heard a second, restless voice as she felt herself being lifted up.
◇ ◇ ◇
In the academy’s infirmary.
Professor Celica Arfonia watched helplessly over to the comatose Sistine on the infirmary bed.
“I-is it… impossible?”
Celica gave a nod to the anxious Glenn standing nearby.
“H-hey, don’t joke like that! Are you not the great seventh-ranked magician on the continent? I’m certain you would have a remedy! Please!”
Glenn gripped Celica’s shoulders with a pained face and pushed her against the glass cabinet, desperate for a cure.
“Although we seventh-ranked magicians are close to monsters, we are not gods. Even we could not revive the dead.” Celica said as she meekly shook her head.
After releasing Celica, Glenn turned to punch the nearby wall out of frustration.
“There may be a way to save her.” Celica divulged.
The sudden ray of hope made Glenn quickly turn to Celica. However, Celica remained stern.
“What is the way? Celica, tell me!”
Glenn was taken aback by Celica’s answer.
“To call upon miracles require equal sacrifice. Glenn, are you willing to give your life for hers?”
Celica’s question made Glenn pause for a moment, before turning to the comatose Sistine.
“She… still has a future.”
“Yes. If it is for the sake of her future, take my life as you will!”
Glenn faced Celica with a resolute look on his face.
“I… wanted to hear that…”
Touched by Glenn’s determination, Celica wiped away the tears at the corner of her eyes.
“Could you not just kill me off like this?!”
At that moment, Sistine leapt up from the bed and protested.
“S-Sisti, don’t get up! Hurry, lie back down!”
Rumia tried to push Sistine back down on the bed, but was completely overwhelmed by Sistine.
“Professor Celica, why did you also partake in the prank?”
“Ah… I guess it’s for the ‘boldness of youth’?”
Sistine felt slightly faint from Celica’s words.
“I always wanted to use the phrase ‘take my life as you will’ at least once~”
“…Mmn. I wholeheartedly agree… It is quite romantic.”
“S-stop, you problematic pair of mentor and pupil!”
Celica served as a professor of magic arts at the academy and Glenn’s mentor. Having come in contact with Celica through Glenn, Rumia and Sistine had realized the rumors of her being a ‘cool beauty’ was completely unjustified. Rather, the mentor and pupil were cut from the same cloth.
“Ugh… It’s hurting again…”
Perhaps from the sudden burst of excitement, Sistine’s previously stable condition relapsed as she felt a wave of nausea wash over her.
“Do not worry. While the tiny snake may be venomous, it wasn’t a fatal poison. Regrettably, the academy ran out of the specific antidote.”
“Without the antidote, you will suffer from fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, and peripheral numbness for the better part of a week. Granted, there is always risk of the conditions suddenly taking a turn for the worse – even death, but they are largely limited to patients with poor constitution. So, sleep easy and just take the week off.”
“Huh? D-death?! Umm… Is there no antidote available in the town?” Rumia worriedly asked Celica.
“It would prove hard. The antidote for Cucina snake’s poison is the ‘Roulade Flower’, but the flower is currently out of season.”
“Alternatively, a few tend to bloom in the ‘Lost Forest’ on the north side of campus, but they are generally quite rare and only come into bloom at night, thus not really worth the trouble. Personally, I haven’t received any reports of recent sightings, so my suggestion is for you to simply sleep it off.”
With that said, Celica left the infirmary.
“Ugh… I-it’s hot… It hurts… N-nausea… c-can’t breathe…”
“Sisti… H-hold on!”
With a sad look in her eyes, Rumia tried her best to comfort the suffering Sistine.
“…Mmn. Either way, White Cat, get some rest for the week.”
Glenn slightly shrugged his shoulders and gave a seemingly irresponsible advice.
“S-seriously, whose fault was it… that I turned out this way…”
“Of course it is your own. Weren’t you the one who broke the glass box?”
Glenn took his leave, with his robe draped over his arm.
“Heh… It should be nice to have a week without your nagging.”
“Ugh… H-how could you say something like that…? R-remember this…”
“Hahaha! I already have forgotten it.”
After leaving those words, Glenn left the infirmary.
◇ ◇ ◇
In the evening, Rumia secretly snuck out the dormitory in her school uniform and headed to the Lost Forest.
Even while knowing that ‘the Lost Forest contain many dangerous monsters’, that ‘It’s forbidden for students to enter’, and that ‘It may be a fruitless endeavor’, Rumia nevertheless decided to venture forth in search for the Roulade Flower. She could not simply stand by and watch her best friend suffer. Contrary to her reserved appearance, Rumia was quite the brave soul inside.
Rumia quietly made her way to the north side of campus and reached the entrance of the dense Lost Forest.
“Uuu… As expected, it’s scary.”
In the darkness, the ancient trees of the forest swaying in the wind gave way to the sight of dancing monsters, stretching all the way into the depth of the abyss. The chilling winds consistently reminded Rumia of the stillness of the night, only to be punctuated by the harrowing cries of owls. Even the fragrance of the aging woods gave Rumia an incredible sense of unease as she peered into the otherworldly scene.
“Everything will definitely be fine.” Rumia softly encouraged herself as took her first steps on the damp soil and made her way into the forest.
I am a magician, and a magician could definitely overcome such trifles.
Rumia constantly reminded herself to be brave as she began to explore the vast forest with a small light at her fingertips.
◇ ◇ ◇
However, her biggest mistake was assuming the dangers of the forest to be mere ‘trifles’.
Rumia leaned on a nearby tree, lacking even the strength to scream. She has been completely backed into a corner.
Rumia attentively gazed into the pitch darkness before her. Having confirmed ‘its’ existence, a crushing fear gripped her heart and made her hair stood on end. Faced with certain death, Rumia trembled and sweated uncontrollably as her breath became erratic.
Accompanied by a low growl, ‘it’ stared with a pair of glowing eyes as it slowly approached from between the trees. Its razor sharp teeth and claws glimmered in the dim light.
It was a shadow wolf, a ferocious monster known to lurk in the deep recesses of the forest, and far beyond the abilities of Rumia to handle.
Aah… W-what to do?!
When Rumia first encountered the shadow wolf, she calmly chased it away with an offensive spell, but that in itself was a mistake. Although Rumia was skilled with white magic, she was weak with black magic. For the cunning and wizened wolf, her attack had fully revealed her inability to defend herself. As such, the wolf reevaluated her as a ‘prey’ rather than a mere ‘observational target’, and continued to chase after her.
“‹T-thunder sprites•Pay heed and strike•With your electric shock›…!” Rumia chanted the Black Magic [Shock•Bolt] in its three phrase form.
From Rumia’s fingertip, a weak bolt of purple lightning shot out toward the pair of eyes. However, the wolf simply dodged the bolt with a single leap and continued to approach. The futile struggle repeated for a few times.
Ahh… I-it’s no use… I am o-out of mana…
With continued use of spells, Rumia was soon beset by mana deficiency.
Likely sensing an opportunity, the shadow wolf pounced on Rumia. Faced with certain death, Rumia impulsively closed her eyes and turned her face away.
Moments before its sharp teeth and claws made contact with Rumia’s soft skin, a single voice ran out in the silence.
“‹Ferocious thunder emperor, pay heed•Brilliant lance of light•Pierce›…!”
When the three phrase chant was complete, a streak of light drew a line across the darkness. It pierced through the wolf before Rumia, killing it instantly.
The light was from Black Magic [Lightning•Pierce], a spell used to penetrate through heavily armored foes.
“…Rumia, are you alright?”
From far in the darkness, a single silhouette appeared with a lit fingertip.
Having been utterly terrified by her experiences in the forest, Rumia ran toward her savior with tear-filled eyes.
“T-teacher! T-thank you! It’s all thanks-…”
Instead of her desired hug, Rumia was flicked on the forehead by Glenn.
“O-ouch…” Rumia cried as she rubbed the red mark on her forehead.
“You idiot! Why did you come out here in the middle of the night?” Glenn angrily lectured Rumia, “Don’t you know the rules? Students are not supposed to come to this forest! Seriously, if I haven’t made it in time, you would’ve been eaten by that mutt…”
“B-but… I have to help Sisti! Ignoring Sisti’s plight is too painful for me, not to mention the risk of the condition suddenly taking a turn for the worse. I couldn’t simply sit by and let her suffer!”
“So you also came out to find the antidote? Still, you should know better. How do you think White Cat will feel if something were to happen to you?!”
Rumia could not think of any arguments to refute Glenn’s logic. However, something else caught her attention.
Speaking of which, why is Glenn out here?
Rumia could not hide her curiosity at Glenn’s inadvertent slip of tongue.
“Teacher… What do you mean by ‘also’?”
Glenn was clearly reluctant at providing an answer. His eyes dodged Rumia’s as he mumbled under his breath.
“Could it be that teacher is also worried about Sisti and came out here to find the antidote?”
“O-of course not! Why should I c-care what happens to White Cat?” Glenn nervously replied.
At this obvious deception, Rumia could not help but laugh.
“I-I’m here b-because… Umm… A s-stroll! Yes, I am out here for a stroll!”
“In the middle of the night?”
“In a place like this?”
Glenn remained obstinate with his excuse.
“N-not to mention, if I get lucky and find that antidote… I am certain it could be sold for a high price! A n-nice little side income, t-that is all!”
After Glenn one-sidedly gave his justification, he turned around and briskly walked into the forest.
“More importantly! Rumia, are you here to find the antidote? I will be worried if you went alone, so I will let you tag along with me! Let’s hope we will chance upon the antidote during my completely normal stroll.” Glenn said as he appeared to take a large step forward.
“Really… Can’t you be a bit more honest…?”
The childish Glenn gave off the air of reliability and silliness at the same time. At his suggestion, Rumia decided to follow closely behind.
◇ ◇ ◇
Since then, the pair continued to search the forest for the antidote – although Glenn insisted that it was a stroll. In the process, they were attacked a few times by monsters, but Glenn easily chased them away with military-grade spells. Granted, Glenn’s shortest spells still required three phrases, demonstrating a clear lack of talent. However, Glenn had excellent tactical judgment to compensate, skills expected for a veteran of countless battles.
No… Teacher is actually…
Everyone knew about Glenn’s intense hatred of magic. As such, between Glenn’s colorful past and his skillful use of magic to defeat his enemies, Rumia could not help but feel slightly conflicted inside.
“Hey, are you tired?”
At that moment, Glenn noticed the odd behavior of Rumia and stopped to check up on her.
Glenn stared blankly at Rumia’s nervous headshake.
“Let us take a break.” Glenn suddenly declared.
“Although that is the case, nights in Fejite are notoriously cold regardless of the season, just standing in place will quickly rob us of our heat. While the uniforms do come with basic heating enhancements, there are still limits to its ability. It may be annoying, but let’s start a campfire.”
“T-teacher, wait a moment!” Rumia called out to Glenn as he began to search for kindling nearby.
“I-I am fine! So please don’t worry about me.”
“Idiot, I am the one tired and in need for a break.”
Glenn’s words may sound cold and heartless, but everyone could tell it was a lie. Even the densest of people could realize that Glenn simply wanted Rumia to get some rest.
Despite the awkwardness, Rumia was very happy for the care Glenn had shown her. Rumia knew that while Glenn may act silly and difficult on the surface, he was actually a gentle soul underneath.
“…In that case, let me help with the fire.”
Rumia revealed a bright smile, and followed after Glenn to collect the kindling. Before long, the pair piled the kindling together, and lit the campfire with magic.
As the small ember dispersed the curtain of darkness, Rumia mused how this light provided a refuge in an almost alien landscape. While they rested, the flickering light casted long shadows on the nearby trees, giving the appearance of dancing silhouettes in the distant.
“To think you wore so little coming into the woods at night. Idiot, it’s no longer a matter of being cold or not…”
Rumia stared blankly at the flame as she sat near the fire place under the cover of Glenn’s overcoat. In the frozen night, Rumia felt an incredible warmth wash over her.
◇ ◇ ◇
Strangely, Rumia felt a rhythmic shake, as if she was sleeping in a cradle.
At that moment, Rumia noticed a slight discrepancy. She felt a pleasant warmth, but the flames were nowhere to be seen.
“…Have you awoken, Rumia? Sorry about it, but it will be dawn if we keep staying there.”
“I… fell asleep? Huh?”
Rumia slowly recovered her consciousness and had regained awareness of her surroundings.
“Between your first trip into the woods and the being exhausted of mana, you were probably more tired than you think. Not much of a surprise, considering the sheltered life you have been living…”
“T-teacher?!” Rumia suddenly let out a piercing cry that echoed through the woods.
Rumia was shocked at her current predicament. Having fallen asleep, Rumia didn’t realize that she was being carried on Glenn’s back. Glenn seemed undisturbed by the sudden outburst and continued to walk through the woods.
On the other hand, Rumia was beet red from her proximity with Glenn. She became even more flustered when she recalled that the earlier heat was from Glenn’s back.
“Umm… T-teacher, please let me down! I am better now!”
Partly troubled and partly embarrassed, Rumia pleaded with Glenn to be let down.
“Don’t force yourself. How could you be fine after using all that magic? You were only inches away from full blown mana deficiency.”
“The symptoms should manifest after a while. If my assumptions are correct, you should not have the strength to walk, so just rest.”
Disregarding her racing heart and nervous thoughts, Rumia was able to confirm her own state. Glenn was absolutely correct. If she wasn’t distracted by the fact that she was ‘being carried by Glenn’, Rumia would have noticed that her whole body felt as heavy as lead.
Undeniably, it was caused by her excessive mana use, in which the symptoms were consistent with that of early stage mana deficiency. Even if Glenn did let her down, she would certainly be unable to walk.
“I-I understand… Then… I will trouble Teacher for a bit…”
This can’t be helped…
Rumia constantly reminded herself, but her face remained warm, although less than the scorching sensation from before. As her maiden heart raced in her chest, Rumia anxiously brainstormed possible excuses for when Glenn notices.
Despite her worries, Rumia still unconsciously hugged Glenn tightly. From behind, she felt Glenn’s shoulders were amazingly wide.
“Seriously, you always cause trouble for me… Are you doing it on purpose?” Glenn muttered, without any consideration to Rumia’s feelings.
“S-sorry. T-teacher, are we continuing today’s stroll?” Rumia asked with her head turned away in embarrassment.
“Mmn… I suddenly feel like trekking a new trail!”
“In the middle of the night?”
“In a place like this?”
Glenn continued to walk deeper into the forest.
“Umm… T-teacher, since you are probably tired as well, why not call it a day?”
“What are you talking about? How could I cut short my chance to carry a cute female student on my back? No matter how you feel, I won’t let you go so easily~”
Glenn revealed a sinister smile to Rumia.
Seeing through Glenn’s obvious lie, Rumia could only let out a stifled laughter. She knew very well that Glenn weren’t the type of man to take advantage of her.
Rumia knew that while Glenn tended to act silly and difficult, he had always been the same Glenn as during her ‘crisis’. Sadly, the rest of the students, unfamiliar with Glenn’s past, continued to treat him with disdain. Yet, precisely because of Glenn’s kindness, a certain feeling of guilt washed over Rumia.
Sisti, I’m sorry. Just for this moment, forgive me…
Rumia tightly hugged Glenn from behind and rested her head upon his as they continued to walk.
◇ ◇ ◇
After a while, Rumia finally recovered enough stamina to walk on her own two feet. Her two eyes scoured the surrounding for the antidote.
“Ah, Teacher! I have found it!”
Not sure how long they had searched, but the skies were slowly dyed with a murky light. In the darkness, the gentle glow of the flower revealed itself between the roots of the tree, almost hidden from view.
Although the flower was somewhat damaged, it would suffice as antidote.
Glenn carefully removed the flower before turning to Rumia.
“Hmph… To only find a single one after a whole night of searching, and a damaged one at that… I doubt I can sell it on the market. It can’t be helped, although it is a waste, let’s use it on White Cat… W-what?”
Rumia’s profound smile made Glenn somewhat troubled.
“…Either way, let’s head back. It’s regrettable I wasn’t able to finish my new trail.”
While Glenn was walking away, Rumia called out to him.
“I am not sure what you mean.”
Glenn stopped to turn and looked at Rumia with a blank stare. Rumia simply couldn’t help but confront the dishonest Glenn.
“Teacher definitely deserves the happiness of being with someone, so there is no reason to act cold.”
Glenn suddenly froze at Rumia’s words, as if an arrow shot through his knee.
“Although teacher tends to be childish from time to time, teacher nevertheless worked extremely hard for my sake… T-therefore…”
“E-even if the whole world is against teacher… I-I will definitely be by teacher’s side…”
Hearing Rumia’s confession, Glenn could not help but let out a pained laughter.
“Idiot, don’t suddenly blurt out such an embarrassing speech. Hehehe… By tomorrow, I bet you will be wallowing in shame.”
“I-is that so…?”
“Either way, let’s head back. You must be tired too, right?”
Glenn turned around and slowly led them toward the exit of the woods.
For a moment, Rumia felt as if she had heard a slight whisper from Glenn.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Rejoice! White Cat!”
In the morning, Glenn threw open the door to the infirmary with a bang.
“Rumia and I have found an antidote, so we brought it over! Ahaha… Best be gratef-… huh?”
Glenn went silent as he noticed Sistine was nowhere in sight.
“Huh? Where is Sisti? I was pretty sure that she should be sleeping in the infirmary.”
Unlike the surprised Rumia, Glenn was focused on the object laid out on Sistine’s infirmary bed.
Flowers. Glenn reached out to the bouquet of flowers.
“T-teacher…! T-this is?”
“Hey, is this supposed to be a joke?”
Even for Glenn, with his meager knowledge of botany, the symbolism of white flowers was not lost on him. They were flowers meant for the recently deceased.
A gentle wind blew through the open window, as the curtains fluttered in the wind.
“There is always risk of the conditions suddenly taking a turn for the worse – even death.”
Glenn suddenly recalled Celica’s words from earlier.
How could this be?
Yet, Glenn could not unequivocally deny that it wasn’t the case.
…I wasn’t able to make it on time.
Glenn froze still for a few moments.
“…Idiot!!” Glenn shouted as he sunk his fist into the bed, “How could you die without my permission? D-don’t be silly!”
“Y-you…! Don’t you have a whole future ahead of you?! How could you pass away for such a lousy reason?!”
“Umm… Teacher? I-…”
“D-darn it… W-when I thought about the future stolen from you, I couldn’t help but…”
“Again, teacher… Please stop-…”
“Darn it… It’s all my fault… If I…”
“Hey, what’s the deal, stop bothering me! I don’t have time-…”
Glenn angrily turned to the annoying and disrespectful person behind him.
“Kiyaaa!! Z-zombie!” Glenn let out a scream as he leapt toward the nearby wall.
“W-who are you calling a zombie?!”
Before him was a perfectly well Sistine.
“Huh? What’s all the ruckus?”
At that moment, Celica arrived at the infirmary.
“Hehehe… I see, looks like it’s a small misunderstanding.”
Celica’s mouth curved into a crescent as she joined Rumia on the side.
“While I did mention the school is out of stock, I never mentioned anything about my own personal stash. Although it made me go all the way back home, I was able to finish Sistine’s treatment, so rest easy.”
“I-I see… Then, what are those flowers for?”
“Ah. It seemed Kash made a mistake with the bouquet when he came for a visit. Seriously, to think he could make such a silly mistake.”
On the other hand, the beet red Sistine faced Glenn as she trembled uncontrollably.
“Umm… Teacher? L-looks like I made you unnecessary worried… D-despite the misunderstanding, t-teacher still went out of your way to search for the a-antidote. S-seeing how pained you were, I-…”
…am thankful. was what Sistine wanted to say, but she was unable to finish her thought.
“Sorry! It’s my fault! I shouldn’t have taken revenge by painting your new notebook black! I shouldn’t have accidentally gotten ink on your hair during class! I shouldn’t have munched on your snack! I am really sorry! P-please, do not haunt me and r-rest in peace!!”
“Y-… You idiot!!”
The shout of a maiden, followed by the scream of a male echoed through the academy.
It was simply another normal day, and all was well within the Alzano Imperial Magic Academy.