Hikaru finally met League the day before Claude’s departure to Jarazack – eleven days before the Foundation Anniversary.
「Hikaru, please read this before the ceremony begins.」
League showed up at his house alone early in the morning and handed him a bunch of papers.
「The bylaws of the student alliance. I think I covered almost everything, but it’s my first time drafting something like this, so I might’ve missed something.」
「This is right up Catherine’s alley.」
「I know. It’d be great if you went over it with her.」
「I see. Better not to get in touch with her directly.」
「Yes. I apologize if I offended you, but I don’t think of you as a mere messenger. I want you to read it as well.」
「I’m just an amateur.」Hikaru shrugged.
「But you have a way of seeing things that we don’t.」
「You’re giving me too much credit.」
「I always knew you were special from the start. By the way, I heard the news about Zubura, Kirihal, and Kotobi. It seems you put in quite the effort.」
That was indeed true for Kirihal and Kotobi. Since then, the Alchemy King kept sending a bunch of letters, and Hikaru had to answer every single one of them. He could give information about the relics in Zubura, but most of the questions were about magic items. Roland’s knowledge was limited as well. He couldn’t confidently say he was contributing to their research.
「How’s Claude doing?」League’s expression turned serious.
「He can win five out of ten fights against Professor Mikhail.」
「He’s now almost as strong as Professor Mikhail.」
The day after Claude defeated the Ludancia professors, he and Mikhail fought each other several times a day. Claude made remarkable progress. At first he was way behind in terms of power and speed, but as of yesterday they were almost evenly matched. Hikaru did casually put points on his Strength and Power Burst, however.
「That means we’ll have a chance with Jarazack’s boss.」
League looked relieved. Out of the four votes they were trying to get, Jarazack’s was the most uncertain. Kirihal’s vote – persuading the queen – was just as uncertain, but Hikaru managed to settle that one early.
Claude was departing for Jarazack tomorrow. He would talk to the boss and the latter would probably agree to a one-on-one fight. Hikaru most likely wouldn’t know the results until the actual ceremony, which Alexis himself was going to attend. So Claude trained until the last minute, at least just in time before the boss left Jarazack.
「How are things on your end?」Hikaru asked.「I was thinking of letting you play your part during the meeting.」
「There’s much pressure on me, but I somehow manage. I just have to bear with it until the event. I’m leaving Scholarzard today and going home to Rumania.」
「Sounds like you’re busy.」
「Yeah. I need to be prepared since I’m going with my father. So what is it you want me to do?」
「I need you to speak up during the meeting.」
「What should I talk about?」
「Rumania will object to the creation of the student alliance. Strongly.」
Hikaru’s plan was as follows: The moment Zubura made the proposal, League would object before anyone else could. He would make it look like he was really against it. Then Silvester would refute him. Basically they would argue back and forth and as much as possible, without anyone else butting in.
「If you draw the argument long enough until it’s time to vote, we win. But we don’t know what Ludancia and Euroba will do. They could mention something that can overturn Kirihal and Kotobi’s decision.」
According to Catherine, outrageous dissenting opinions in the past had lasting effects. There had been plenty of matters brought up that were rejected. Hikaru wasn’t aware of this, but it served as proof of his worries.
「So you want me to control the flow of the discussion so nothing devastating happens.」
「You’re smart, all right.」
「Very well. I’ll do it.」
Hikaru thought League was the only one who could do something like that. As Rumania’s next leader, if he stated his opinion, most people wouldn’t say a word.
「Thank you, Hikaru.」
「You knew I couldn’t do much for the alliance right now, so you prepared the biggest stage for me.」
「I have no idea what you mean.」
「You really don’t want other people giving you credit, huh? I will never forget this.」
「Say that after the alliance is actually established.」
「Okay, then. I’ll wait until then.」
Then League left.
「I guess it’s too obvious, huh? Well, he’s a smart guy.」
While the student alliance was League’s idea, he couldn’t really make a move. And that weighed heavy on the young man’s mind. Unfortunately, if he did something, it might draw the attention of his nation and soon enough they would find out about the alliance. If that happened, the alliance could be shut down even before the ceremony.
The students had to make sure that the formation of this organization would be a surprise. They would then get four votes. Until then no one else could know about any of this. It was their only path to success.
「I’m sure League can handle it.」
Hikaru arrived in front of Building C where Claude and Mikhail trained. They would draw attention at the actual training grounds, so they mostly fought here, a place that the academy practically abandoned.
「Are you nervous?」Hikaru asked Claude.
Claude was the only one around today. Ivan was busy getting ready for the trip back to Jarazack with Claude and Luka. Bringing Luka would involve the risk of drawing Ludancia’s attention, but Ivan insisted that to convince the boss, they had to bring her with them.
「Not really, strangely enough. I never thought I’d get this strong. I always wished to get stronger, you know.」
「You must be happy.」
「Hmm, I suppose. I’m happy not for myself, but because I can protect Luka now.」Claude gave a smile.
「Bragging about your love life?」
「Hahaha. Luka’s the best. Thanks, Hikaru.」
「I thought getting married to Luka was impossible unless we left Forestia. But it’s not like we hate this place.」
Hikaru heaved an exasperated sigh. Here we go again, thanking me before we even succeeded.
「Please stop saying that. You can thank me when everything’s over, okay? You’re setting up a flag.」
「A flag?」Claude asked, when Mikhail arrived at an incredible speed.
「Claude! Oh, Hikaru! You’re here too! Perfect timing.」
The professor wore an unusual look that Hikaru couldn’t even joke around with him.
「Sorry, but we’re cancelling today’s fight.」
Something bad must’ve happened, Hikaru thought.
「I told you about the monster hunt, right?」
「Yeah. The one where adventurers set out to the border.」
「Apparently the team that went there suffered a catastrophic blow.」
「Catastrophic… Did they fail?」
「Simply put, yes. An emergency request has been issued requesting skilled adventurers to head to the site.」
Mikhail paused to moisten his lips.
「The place is overflowing with monsters. At this rate, Forestia could be on high alert soon. Damn it. There’s only ten days before the ceremony. It might even get cancelled.」
Cancel the ceremony. That meant the meeting would be cancelled, and the subsequent postponement of the proposal to create a student alliance until after winter – the season of politics, when no one knew what would happen.
Claude simply stood there, staring blankly.
「Please tell me more, Professor.」Hikaru said.