After showing her guild card as identification, Paula Nohra entered the town of Scholarzard. It was still early morning, only two hours past daybreak.
Their carriage got delayed, only managing to reach the neighboring town by yesterday. After finding out that departure would be at noon the next day to give the horse time to rest, Lavia suggested they walk and that they would leave at dawn.
Paula had no say in the matter. Throughout their trip, Lavia chose the carriage, inn, restaurant, and even the food.
Was she always this terrifying? Paula wondered.
Back when Paula saw her in Pond — where she was introduced as Hikaru’s partner and thought to be a boy —– she looked to be the quiet type. But Paula was proven wrong.
Lavia didn’t talk much, but she spoke clearly, and while their journey was wrought with worry as they were only two young girls, she always maintained a clear mind.
Incidentally, Lavia shouldered all the expenses. Paula didn’t bring much with her as she expected a big reward from the monster hunt in Un el Portan.
「Let’s buy some food.」
Lavia’s words brought Paula back to her senses. The town of Scholarzard was orderly, but there weren’t a lot of people. It felt like a typical suburban town.
Compared to the towns in Ponsonia, houses here were bigger, with plenty of space between blocks.
They bought bread, cheese, sandwiches, and roasted meat.
「You’re not going to cook?」Paula asked.
The food they bought were all takeaway. When Paula was still with Pia and Priscilla, they would borrow a place to cook and make their own food. By sharing ingredients with other adventurers, they could save on food expenses.
But during her time with Lavia, they never did that. She thought maybe because they were in a hurry. But they were now in Scholarzard where Lavia and Hikaru stayed. The fact that Lavia still bought takeout food meant that they didn’t really cook in the first place.
「Sometimes when we’re together, but I guess we’re both not really interested in cooking.」
「But you love eating.」
From Paula’s perspective, Lavia was extremely picky about food. She often frowned after eating a mouthful of food at restaurants. It would’ve been adorable if her only comment was “It’s too salty”, but she complained about specific things — “they didn’t eliminate the smell of the meat enough”, “the veggies lost their flavor due to preboiling” were a few of her observations.
There was one place that satisfied Lavia. For Paula, the food there was too good. And too expensive. And spicy.
Paula felt terrified when Lavia said Hikaru was much more picky than her.
「You can cook if you want to.」Lavia said.
「I, uhh…」Paula hesitated. Lavia seemed to have realized why.
「Are you worried about money?」
「It’s fine. Hikaru’s rich.」
「But I feel uncomfortable about relying on him for expenses…」
「Then you should polish your healing skills so you don’t feel too bad. I’m sure you can use advanced healing right now.」
Paula was surprised to find out that they lived right next to the academy. They should’ve paid a lot for this. She was led to the highest level of the three-story building, in a spacious room with a balcony.
The place was tidy, bearing only a few furniture. But they all looked to be of fine quality — from the tablecloth, the tableware on the shelves, to the sofa.
Must be nice…
The kind of place Paula dreamt of having — planned to have once she had enough money — was right before her eyes. But the tableware here was good for two. The chairs on the table as well. When she realized this was Lavia and Hikaru’s home, she felt depressed. She didn’t have a place here.
「Let’s eat.」Lavia said.
Paula was starving. They only had a few fruits along the way. Lavia placed the food they bought on the table and offered Paula a chair.
「We have to talk about the future.」
Hikaru told her to devote her life to him. But he already had a girlfriend, and an incredibly lovely one at that. What does the future have in store for Paula?
「In a way, I’m glad Hikaru isn’t around. I can be straightforward with you.」
What are we going to talk about? Paula braced herself.
「I’ll get straight to the point. How do you feel about Hikaru? I mean, as a member of the opposite sex.」
「It’s about time, Lord League.」
Wearing elegant clothes—the kind he would never have worn in the academy—League “Green Ogre” Rumania stepped out of his room and made his way to the mansion’s hall. His father appeared at the other end of the hallway. As always, he had a hard look on his face, though it felt just a bit softer today.
「Let’s go, League.」
They both left the residence together. A coach waited for them by the entrance, and as soon as they got in, it started moving. Following behind them were carriages carrying the butlers and servants.
It wasn’t just League’s residence, but it was happening everywhere else as well—distinguished families in Rumania heading to the Foundation Anniversary. Naturally, League’s family’s convoy was the grandest of them all.
「That was close.」League’s father said.
Only League and his father were in the coach.
「What was close?」
「The monsters’ activity in Un el Portan. They seemed to have made it to Borderzard, but they were successfully driven back. If the people failed, the event would have been cancelled.」
「Word is even a dragon appeared. They probably just made that up, though. If a dragon showed up, the army would have been deployed. It’s not something adventurers can handle.」
League was silent.
「You seemed to believe that the monster hunt would go well. Why is that?」
「It’s a yearly event. There could be a few blunders, but they wouldn’t be that big.」League answered, trying to be as calm as possible.
He couldn’t possibly say that he believed his friend would kill the dragon. League learned about Hikaru’s status through a letter from Claude. Hailing from Kirihal’s Zahad family, Claude’s letter would be too conspicuous. League would’ve preferred it if he didn’t send one at all, but Claude had a matter he had to tell him about—whether or not he succeeded in persuading Jarazack. Hikaru’s status was added as a postscript.
League was worried. Hikaru might be strong, but he was only human. He couldn’t possibly fight a dragon. But Claude’s letter mentioned that Hikaru was brimming with confidence, so League thought he had some sort of a plan.
Hikaru might have some special connections. Maybe he has friends who are C, B… or even A-ranked adventurers.
Either way, Hikaru said he was going to deal with the monster, so he would do just that for sure. League only had one thing to do: go to the event as planned.
「By the way, I heard something strange is going on in the academy.」his father said.
「Apparently a youngster from Kirihal’s Zahad family fought Alexei of Jarazack.」
「That is… indeed strange.」
League almost slipped. His father already knew about it. That meant he had a spy in Jarazack.
「Do you know anything?」
「I’m sorry, but I didn’t hear of it in the academy. Can you please tell me the details? Something might come to mind.」
「Let’s see… I heard this youngster challenged Alexei to a one-on-one duel and won.」
「Do you know why he challenged Alexei?」
League felt relief. Claude’s letter said “Lots of spectators, victory. He said he’ll keep his word.” The fact that his father didn’t know what was at stake meant his spy wasn’t in the center of Jarazack.
「Next year’s event will be your official debut.」
League’s eyes widened. His father had told him to quit the academy before winter next year. The debut was probably in preparation for that.
「Don’t worry. You will have a capable assistant. Look.」
His father opened the window. League could see the towns drifting by. He was surprised to see the person riding on horseback beside their coach. A familiar blonde hair—Roy “Yellow Tiger” Rumania.
The Yellow Tiger clan had a close relationship with League’s family. But Roy was the black sheep of the family.
How did he end up as my assistant? Wait, it can’t be…
League could guess his father’s motive. Billion hired Roy to watch him. Roy wouldn’t be able to find success in life in Rumania if he stayed with his family. He wouldn’t be able to refuse if he was asked to help League, his friend, and a member of Rumania’s head family.
Noticing League, Roy gave a triumphant smile. The young man didn’t realize he was being used. League knew that his father wouldn’t offer a youth a good position just to help their career.
Somewhere, someday… My father will urge Roy to tell him my secret.
It was certainly possible. His father didn’t trust his own son, after all. A chill went down his spine. Right now it didn’t seem like Roy said anything yet. League could only pray that his father wouldn’t have the opportunity to interrogate Roy, at least not before the event ended. If his father found out about the student alliance and the mass wedding now, he’d thwart it right away.
A few more days…
League couldn’t tell Roy about this. He might not even believe that he was being used. It would be risky as well if his attitude suddenly changed. His father might fire him quickly, but not after he learned of League’s secret. Roy wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut. Billion might know about three or four of Roy’s soft spots.
The Foundation Anniversary was fast approaching. Everything was ready, and they secured four of the seven votes. But to League, it felt like the path to success was an extremely narrow one.