2.6 Ambushed Partner Candidate
Alus is greeted with the strange gazes of his classmates upon stepping out of the problematic examination hall. He avoids them by leaning back against wall near Tesfia and crossing his arms. She herself is squatted down with her katana leaning against the wall.
A sense of emptiness passes through him at no one being on his right. Alice has already gone to her examination hall, but Tesfia hasn’t been called yet.
Tesfia says, “What was that?”
Suspicion fills Tesfia’s face at the blatant lie. The equipment did explode, but that was because of Alus’s magic. With skeptical eyes, she looks up at him and with a sharp tone, says, “Liar.”
Alus’s eyes flash with annoyance as he gives a sound rebuttal. “Are you going to pry?” Magicians must maintain a minimal level of etiquette towards each other.
Tesfia, picking up on the context, snaps her head back to looking frontward. “……Fump!” She then mumbles to herself, “I’ll probably get a chance to see it once we’re in actual combat.”
Then, as her name is called, she adds with a flat voice, “I’ll catch up soon.”
Alus doesn’t catch her expression, but feels resolution in her tone.
She gives her body a light stretch, holds her katana firm at her side, and walks to her examination zone with a steady gait.
Alice comes out in Tesfia’s place, but asks the same thing as her. Yet, since the conversation Alus has with her flows differently than the one he had with Tesfia, he finds himself going mad trying to keep information from slipping off his tongue.
The morning examinations finish around lunch time. As a result, lunch is a bit late. For something to be labeled late, it means time was not spent as planned. This isn’t my fault.
Each student has a lunch upon returning to their classroom. Some got theirs by heading towards the school cafeteria while others bought light meals from a stand. Alus sits down at his desk the same way as everyone else. Only one detail differs; his hands are empty.
“I forgot.” The reason is the same for carelessly not sleeping the night before. He isn’t in the habit of preparing one for himself.
Alus lets his body drop against his desk. He might be tired, but this is much more troublesome. Both of those places are bound to be crowded by this point in time. Either way, it’s too late now.
The sound of bags rubbing against each other interrupt his sleep. “Can you open this?”
Alus, telling himself that lifting his head is too much work, peaks his eyes open. A new bag that appears to have just been bought rests before him.
Alice’s voice carries over from the other side. She sounds like a mermaid playing a koto. Her voice lulls him deeper into sleep as she says, “You don’t look like you’ve brought anything?”
From her tone, the question isn’t one that can be ignored either. It was asked purely out of good intentions. Alus lifts his head and sees that chairs have been setup at his sides. Desks are also being arranged next to him.
Tesfia says, “Here, this one.”
Alus would have immediately expressed his gratitude if Alice where the one who handed the bag to him, but with Tesfia, he feels a need to confirm first. “For me?”
“It’s no big deal. I bought it from a stand.”
Alus can’t help but doubt something is wrong. As such, he restrains himself. “……Sorry.”
“It’s seriously not that big of a deal.”
Isn’t that just lip service?
The situation creates a spicy topic for an enjoyable lunch… or it should have.
“Then, just don’t eat.”
The bag is plundered away before Alus’s eyes. He can’t even think of a single way to get it back. “——Ah!” Using flattery or revealing juicy gossip are skills beyond his capabilities. The issue isn’t that he gets tongue tied, but that his sensibilities are estranged from those of his generation.
Alus regains the lunch after muffling out a sincere apology. In his hand is a sandwich. Even though it comes from a stand, it’s from the stand of a prestigious school for aristocrats. The sandwich is made from the finest of ingredients. Tesfia and Alice also eat something similar. He says, “A simulation fight is next.”
The hands of Tesfia and Alice stop midway to their mouths. ““……!!””
Tesfia says, “Where did you learn that information? Who’s the source?”
While telling Tesfia and Alice what he knows about the test isn’t cheating per say, he can’t tell them he heard it from the Director. Smoke would certainly billow if he did. Still, what he says isn’t so exaggerated as to be called a lie. Freshmen must have never undergone a proper rank measurement.
For him, it’s something he has experienced many times in the military. Once the purpose of an examination is known, the way it’s conducted shouldn’t have much variation. Therefore, he says, “It’s nothing more than a method for accurately measuring a magician’s rank. In this case, the procedure is partnering against someone of a higher rank.”
Since no one ranks higher than Alus who stands as number 1, he usually isn’t measured through a simulation battle. In truth, the magicians deployed for combat don’t care that much about being measured. Accurate measurements of their ranks are pointless since their standings are in a constant flux. While getting measured once a year is mandatory, very few take the exam seriously.
Alus’s face then twitches as he realizes that what’s he’s about to say imitates the Director’s method of speaking. “Considering the number of people, you’ll probably be partnered with senior students.”
Tesfia and Alice, consider their abilities, and anticipate that they might be partnered up against third year seniors or even teachers.
Tesfia says, “No way…”
Alice says, “Can I even win?”
Alus says, “You won’t know if you can win without trying first. Also, your rank won’t drop from losing. Your objective isn’t victory, it’s accurately having your ranks measured.” While the morning practical allows for the racking up of points, the afternoon simulation match injects a downward adjustment of those points.
Once the ranks of Tesfia and Alice are taken into consideration, that a certain other rank within the academy will be uncovered is hard to imagine.
Since the examinee’s opponent is a grade higher, they open the match with an aggressive offense. There are even manuals for this too. First the examinee will be on the defense. Then, after a while, they’ll be able to turn things around and show off their true merit and combat ability. A lower ranked opponent would never be able to let an examinee fight to the fullest.
Tesfia raises her fighting spirit. “I’ll fight with the mindset that anyone can win!”
Alus, having just been in a dispute with her, keeps his mouth shut tight.
Once lunch ends, everyone in the class heads back to the training grounds. The second examination will take longer than the first. The other classes are also clustered within the training grounds. Just like during the morning examination, magic is being used to isolate ten zones. The sounds of combat can be heard from all over.
The various students of the other classes gather around Tesfia and Alice. Alus, meanwhile, is in the corner leaning back against the wall. “As you’d expect from the popular.”
Someone speaks to Tesfia and Alice. “Fia, Alice, did you hear?”
The two tilt their heads as Tesfia says, “What?”
“It seems like you’ll be facing Beis-senpai in fourth examination hall.”
The third year student, Delca Beis, is a celebrity known by everyone within the school. That person is a four digit magician with the rank of 1000. Even in the military, officials have already decided which unit that person will be deploying with to the outside world.
Even as underclassmen, their aristocratic upbringing of sticking their noses into other people’s business as a show of good will doesn’t change.
Tesfia isn’t bothered. “I see.”
Alice exaggerates her true feelings. “That’s not good.”
Neither of them feel much surprise over their opponent’s name. After all, both are acquainted with the three digits magician, Ferinella and are receiving lessons from the singles magician, Alus.
“…Aren’t those two acting a bit weird?”
This is Tesfia and Alice showing their respect. They might still be far away from reaching that level, but it right now isn’t something they have time to worry about.
Kusuri says, “Didn’t Fia have a habit of asking about the rankings within the school?”
Tesfia shakes her hands before herself as she says, “Che, don’t bother me with something like that.”
Alice adds to the topic. “I’m positive Fia used to do something like that.”
Tesfia is being teased, but she doesn’t notice. Their words instead stir a memory and evoke a smile. She is no longer as concerned with those rankings. Only two people know the reason for that change.
For a moment, her gaze falls upon a black haired youth. A knowing smile plays at the edge of her lips and amazement laces her tone. “Well, look at that.”
Alice smiles as she says, “You’re right.”
From the way his head hangs downward atop of his neck, he appears to have fallen asleep. Even his light breathing seems audible to them despite the distance.
Someone says, “What is it? Tell us.”
A relaxed mood sets in as the conversation continues. Once the turn to the training ground switches to Alus’s class, Tesfia and Alice break away from the students of the other classes while waving their hands.
Alus is once more the first to have his name called out. Alice gently wakes him from his nap and helps him dispel his drowsiness.
Tesfia watches Alus’s back as he walks away and says, “Just who could his opponent even be?”
Alice says, “Maybe the Director?”
A strong premonition passes through the two of them, but they can only respond with bitter smiles. Regardless, the word, “match,” stirs a memory that wells up an unbearable sense of curiosity. Them wanting to watch the top magician battle is only natural since Tesfia herself wasn’t able to display her abilities against him.
As a result, they try to sneak towards his examination area with the intention of slipping inside, but end up getting scolded by the teacher directing everyone.
Spying is an action that needs to be avoided. Anyone attempting it during the examination will inevitably be suspected of cheating. While Tesfia and Alice didn’t cross that line, a shadow of disillusionment still passes over their faces. Getting caught was regrettable.
Alus steps into the examination hall and finds the Director waiting as expected. However, unlike in the morning, a girl a bit more petite than Tesfia has joined her.
She has silver hair. From the way it reflects the light, one is given the illusion that silver thread grows down from her head. Its shape as it reaches her chin is enchanting.  Underneath her bangs glitter clear, sky blue, eyes that hint at of being azure.
Also, while she is dressed in a training uniform, it isn’t the one designated by the academy. She wears the familiar garments Alus used while in the military. However, what stands out more than that is her expression. It is neither happy nor sad. What he senses is a limited more abstract sentiment. She’s just like a doll. Anyone who sees those graceful features would agree.
Alus speaks first. He looks at the silver haired girl and says, “She’s the one who’s been monitoring me.” The identity of the gaze he felt during his first simulation match is finally before him.
The silver haired girl’s shoulders tremble at Alus’s comment.
The Director scratches her cheek. An awkward smile cross her face as she says, “So you noticed after all.”
“Is this place a deposit for the military’s troops?”
The silver haired girl steps forward and kneels. She keeps her head down and speaks with an indifferent tone. “It’s a pleasure to meet you for the first time, Alus-sama. I, more than being tasked by the governor-general to monitor you, was dispatched to be your partner. I am called Loki Rechbehell. My rank is 1034…… my detection rank is 58.”
Detection is a peculiar magic meant for uncovering mamono. Magicians specializing in that field of magic have the ability to investigate the core, or in other words, the life force, of mamono. Yet, since it is a rare ability, those magicians will, at most, only be partnered with double digit magicians.
Alus, however, has no need for such a magician due to the peculiar nature of his mana. “I don’t need you.”
She continues to keep her head down. Her beautiful high voice rolls out like a soothing instrument. “I expected as much.”
The Director continues in her place. “Loki lacks experience as a partner. I’d like for you to teach her as well.”
Alus does not want to take on any more burdens that will waste his time. As such, he confronts the one responsible for wasting his time. “I believe the implication of her monitoring me is stronger. As I said, I don’t need her. Besides, I thought you were more than capable of monitoring me on your own?”
The Director’s eyes spin. Monitoring him is not one of her original duties. “I’m busy…”
“In that case, I’ll directly negotiate with the governor-general for the withdrawal. Magicians able to use detection are too precious to be allowed to idle around.”
The silver haired girl’s shoulders tremble again upon hearing she isn’t needed.
Eventually, a stock phrase is uttered. “Loki is an excellent magician…”
Alus doesn’t even bother arguing against it. “How many more are you planning to impose on me?”
“Now, now, there’s no need to make a hasty conclusion. You still need to face this girl in a simulation battle… remember?”
The purpose of the examination has developed into something considerably overbearing that moves beyond what’s considered normal class work. Regardless, Alus hesitates on opposing the Director. Even if he does have a match against Loki, it won’t affect his opinion over her capabilities. As such, he says, “Understood.”
The main reason Alus accepts is because he feels a sense of familiarity with the girl called Loki. It mostly stems from her wearing a military uniform despite being at an age where calling her a girl is more appropriate.
A peculiar type of tension fills Loki’s face as she lifts her head. There is a glimpse that she has the determination to stake her life on this match. “Thank you very much.”
The simulation battle begins at once. The Director stands between the Alus and Loki as they make their final preparations. Loki in particular needs to steel her heart.
Loki, just like Alus, doesn’t hold anything in her hands. He must be thinking that she’s looking down on him.
Concealing weapons in matches against humans can provide an advantage. In other words, Loki has experience facing humans. What need is there for having something like that as part of the military’s training menu?
Just before the match begins, Loki gathers mana into her arm.
It is nothing more than a skill belonging to a magician approaching three digits, but from Alus’s perspective, her technique is quite sloppy. Even when compared to Tesfia and Alice, it’s far from being a threat to him.
Loki says, “Alus-sama, will you allow me to stay as your partner if I land a strike on you?”
Alus’s interest is peeped by the suggested condition. From Loki’s expression, she doesn’t want him to pull any punches. She wants a fair match despite knowing he’s number 1. As a result, Alus raises a finger and signals for her to attack in order to let her know he isn’t brushing her request off as a joke. He says, “That’s if you can.”
Loki gives a deep bow with her head. Her vast combat experience glints through her petite frame.
Alus eventually feels the familiar electric like tension of battle and lets out a nonchalant grin. Once his expression returns to being serious, Loki readies herself for battle.
The Director sees that both sides are prepared and gives the signal to start.
T/N: Please remember to thank M4L4DD1CT10N for this release~
We finally meet Loki! It’s been a long time coming, but she’s finally here. Actually, I don’t have anything to say here. Nothing other than some shameless advertising anyway.
I’ve been writing some side stories called “An Angel’s Thesis” and would appreciate feedback on them. They’re short stories with no real over reaching plot to them. At most, you could consider them windows into specific scenes of a person’s life.
Thanks for reading,
 Literally, it translates as: Not having anything in his right hand feels lonely. Considering the context, I’m assuming that that is what he actually means.
 A 13 stringed instrument
 Those short ones are always so tricky: 「はいこれ」
 もちろんリップサービス？ だ。
 This is who I think is speaking according to the context. Yes, this is the first time she’s been mentioned. If you have a better translation for her name, it’s クスリ