30.1 The Black-Bellied Schemer
A magic tournament held with the purpose of letting those who worked hard to develop their skills compete. Those who wished to participate were required to submit an entry sheet in advance, and the teacher would organize a match based on it.
“The time of the tournament is drawing near. I hope Riol doesn’t have to fight me first before facing His Highness.”
“That won’t happen, so it’s alright.”
The tournament tables weren’t divided by grade or class. In the first round, a senior might end up facing a freshman.
“Eh? But it’s random, so it’s possible…”
“It’s not random, therefore it’s impossible.”
The tournament table was created without minding the grades or magical prowess of each student. That was because as long as the students shared the same ambitions, grades and ages didn’t matter—
—was what the academy said on the surface.
In reality, adjustments were made so that high-ranking students wouldn’t lose in the first round, or that a student whose house gave a lot of donations would win. Such were the priorities.
“Why is it not random? From what I heard at the entrance ceremony, it’s definitely random.”
“No, you heard right at the entrance ceremony. As of present and in the past, it’s indeed random. It’s just that the handling is different.”
Inside an empty classroom in the early morning.
Riol and Sharina were sitting beside each other while Tobias sat across from them, chatting about the upcoming magic tournament.
“Oh, I see, so that’s how it actually is. Then they should’ve just be upfront about it!”
“If they were upfront about it, they’d essentially be contradicting the academy’s values…”
Recently, the three often talked around that time in the morning.
Tobias, who learned that Sharina and Riol were going to school early in the morning, also went to school early to visit Riol’s classroom and went to Sharina’s classroom along with him.
“Well, the school’s policy itself is that all students are equal, when actually, that’s not the case.”
“Eh, even that is just a front!?”
“You only realize that now?”
Once, they had even asked Tobias—if it was alright for an attendant to stray far away from his lord? To which Tobias replied with a smile, “It’s alright! Because my lord has specifically told me to get along with you guys!”
They didn’t know what the full exchange was, but hoped it wasn’t sarcasm on Roland’s part.
Riol tried to guess, “Did he perhaps say to, ‘keep close to those two’…?” To which Tobias replied, “Indeed!”
They felt that the full exchange was truly different than Tobias interpreted, but decided to just pray that anyway—
—in fact, they could only pray.
“Let’s get back to the main topic. Why did you conclude that we won’t be facing each other?”
“Because in the first round, I’ll be facing His Highness Roland. Did you see the teacher’s fluster when I submitted the entry sheet? Our match must be of the utmost priority once they begin to compile the tournament table.”
As Sharina looked back a bit, the topic had returned to the magic tournament.
“If I lose in the very first round without facing His Highness Roland, he won’t be quelled.”
Riol explained, and Tobias nodded.
Soon after, Sharina said, “That’s very amazing of you, Riol! To be able to conclude all that from the very moment you decided to join the tournament!”
Following that was Tobias. “That’s right!”
That sort of exchange had already happened about 10th times. Instead of saying anything, Riol just rubbed his forehead with his hand.
“Is it Tobias’ first time participating in the tournament?”
“Yes. I’ve always wanted to participate, so I’m looking forward to it. Immediately after I enrolled in this academy, I had to accompany His Highness Roland in studying abroad. I was away for about a year or two.”
As they continued to chat, the number of people gradually increased in the classroom. They all glanced at Tobias, the attendant of the second prince. It seemed that they wanted to talk to him, but so far, no one had said anything.
“Time for me to head back. Let’s go, Riol.”
The number of people increased further, and about one-third of the classroom’s seats were filled.
Usually, around that time, Tobias would return with Riol.
“See you, Sharina.”
“See you again, Sharina.”
“Yes, see you.”
Sharina waved her hand, seeing off the two whom were leaving the classroom. The knight department and the written magic department may have been in the opposite directions, but the direction they were heading was the same.
“Good morning, Shari! I just passed Riol and Tobias. Looks like they’ve came again?”
“Good morning, Ange. Yes, they come almost every day, now.”
“Every day? They come that often?”
Every morning, Tobias would arrive with Riol in her classroom, and pass the time there until the other students arrived. The same went with their return—Tobias would go with Riol to the written magic department.
“Is the role of attendant supposed to be that free?”
“Actually, he’s a knight.”
Roland were trying to keep Sharina and Riol company so that they wouldn’t be harmed again, that noble-hearted knight.
“For lunch today, I have prepared three kinds of hamburger sandwiches, potato fries, and onion rings. There are also matcha cookies and iced juice, with a taste I adjusted.”
“The portion grows bigger every day, I see…”
“Too bad, that’s all I can do…”
Lunch break of that day.
Sharina took out the new handmade meal from her basket and laid it on a table in the courtyard.
By the way, the reason why they were in the courtyard instead of the usual backyard was because Tobias requested them to have lunch in a crowded place—just in case he couldn’t reach them.
“I hope this can improve your strength for the tournament! Astraea directly taught me this!”
When she asked Astraea, the chef of her family, if there was a dish that would improve someone’s condition after eating it, he told her to also use vegetables. Not only were they scrumptious, they were also easy to digest. The crispiness went along well with the hamburger sandwich—basically, it was a match made in heaven.
“Oh, wait, technically, it isn’t ‘direct’ because he taught me via letter… indirect, then? Gigan Eagle Tutorial Session?”
“No, there’s no need to clarify that.”
The letter also mentioned that Astraea was planning to publish a new recipe book soon. After all, he had plenty of new recipes at hand. Of course, Sharina made sure to reserve it immediately. Moreover, the first ten people would get his autograph.
“Anyway, your chef is amazing. Even his name is amazing.”
“Yes, it seems like he first held a kitchen knife when he was still 5-years-old. One after another, he kept devising new dishes and sweets. Afterwards, he established a restaurant at his parents’ house. After his brother and his wife took over the family restaurant, Astraea went on a journey. On the way, he fixed the unbalanced diet of the merchant’s daughter with sweets made of vegetables, and also cooked delicious, healthy, meals for a village plagued by illness during his stay there. The villagers are still thanking him even now.”
“…He has a great track record.”
Riol picked up the onion ring and carried it to his mouth. He chewed the crispy ring—he seemed to savor it.
“I’m glad to hear that! I shall make it again!”
While also eating, Sharina immediately planned the next day’s lunch menu. Of course, she never forgot to also think about Riol. Albeit onion rings were delicious, they were likely to cause his hands to get oily if she continued to serve them as they were—
—so why not put them in the sandwich? She shall adjust the amount so they’d be a lighter portion.
“Yes? What is it?”
While she was pondering, Riol stared back at her—their gazes overlapped.
Not to mention, he called her name—she was so happy, she was ready to jump!
“Uh, about that tournament, if I…”
***T/N: DO IT RIOLU!!!!!!! DO ITTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!
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