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Translator : PolterGlast


Two girls are walking along the main street of Arcazam, where people come and go on their way to work. One girl has red hair that flutters in the air. She has a saber and a dagger on her waist, and the other girl, perhaps a magician, has a wand in her hand. Dressed in their distinctive white uniforms, they are headed for the Solminati Academy in the center of the city. The red-haired girl's name is Lisa Hounds. The other girl who looks like a magic caster is Lisa's best friend, Camilla.


She's usually bright and cheerful, and she has a good reputation for being friendly. Her confident expression and her vibrant red hair give the people around her a courageous impression, but right now she is somewhat absent-minded it's as if her mind isn't there.


"Haa ..."


A sigh escaped from her glossy lips.


There's a strange feeling that's been nagging at Lisa's chest. It had been disturbing her mind these days.


"Lisa, are you okay? Somehow, you didn't look good..."


"Y-yeah. I'm fine. My body didn't have any problems. Thank you for worrying about me, Camilla.


Camilla spoke to Lisa in a worried voice.


She was also worried about Lisa's recent strange behavior.


The only thing that came to Camilla's mind was the special training they had a few weeks ago. Especially, when they confronted Nozomu Bountis, who they called a traitor.


She wondered if that traitor had done something to her. Camila, who had such thoughts in her head, rushed to Lisa with a slightly strong tone.


"Uh, yeah. No. I couldn't sleep a little yesterday. I'm sorry, I made you worry ..."


"Hey, did he do something again?"


"Eh?"


"I'm talking about him. The bastard who betrayed you, Lisa. You have been acting strange ever since we met him at the special training. ... No way, that guy did something again!"


"U-umm. That's not it. I couldn't sleep last night. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you worry..."


Lisa and Camilla. Their first encounter was after they arrived at Solminati. Most of the students at Solminati Academy are people from outside the city. Boys and girls whose living environment changed drastically when they were still teenagers. They had hope in their hearts, but they also had an equal amount of anxiety. As school life began, those who made friends were still able to alleviate their anxiety. Because there were people of the same age who had similar problems in their surroundings. However, Camilla was unable to make any friends.


She tended to be a bit presumptive, and the change in environment made her nervous, which made it difficult for her to communicate well. The only person Camilla could talk to without feeling nervous at all was Lisa. Lisa and Camilla. They were both strong-minded and would have clashed and collided with each other, but strangely they got along well. They got along well and began to work together. In the process, she met Nozomu, who was Lisa's boyfriend at the time, and Lisa's childhood friend Ken. For Camilla, Lisa is the first friend she has made at this school, and she is her dearest best friend. That's why she couldn't forgive Nozomu's betrayal.


(What kind of thinking he has to abandon her on his own and then come back to her now? She hadn't fully recovered from the wounds you inflicted on her yet...)


"It's okay. I don't really care about this stuff. In the first place, did I ever bothered by you since the first year, Lisa? So, you don't have to worry about it."


"... Thank you, Camilla"


Camilla waved her hand as if to say, "Don't worry about it". And seeing that, Lisa smiled in relief.


"Yeah, but don't sleep during Inda-sensei's class. If that happens, I'll pretend not to see it."


"W-wait! I thought you were going to cover for me!"


Lisa thought that at least Camilla would give her some support and said "She's not feeling well right now". But the girl in front of her seemed to be merciless.


"It's just, that sensei seems to have accumulated a lot of stress, doesn't she? Doesn't she know that men won't come to her because she is so stiff~"


It reminded her of a school teacher who always put up a wall around her with her attitude and her sharp gaze.


That serious and hard-headed Inda-sensei would have ended up saying a single sentence, "What can you do if you can't even take care of yourself!"


Well, her appearance is classified as a beauty, and judging from the fact that she is a homeroom teacher for the second class and an assistant to Jihad Roundel, she is excellent in various aspects. However, no men were willing to approach her because there was no chance.


"Well, I don't know if Inda-sensei wants a boyfriend or not, but with the way she is. I'm sure she'll make some excuse like, "I can live alone!"..."


"Gosh……"


Lisa let out a chuckle at her best friend's inappropriate remark.


The two of them continue walking toward the school while giggling and laughing. Lisa tried not to let her mind wander and think about him.


====================================


In the central park, Somia headed for Ecross.


Nozomu and Mars, who had parted ways with Irisdina and Shīna at the main gate, were walking toward the 10th class classroom, but after entering the school, they felt a strange atmosphere.


"...Hey, Nozomu. Isn't the atmosphere of the school quite strange?"


"Yeah. I'm not sure if it's the school as a whole, but the whole area where the third-year classrooms are located has a strange atmosphere. What the hell is going on?


They wondered if something happened. The students passing by were all glancing at Nozomu and Mars. Until recently, there would have been at least a clear hostility or malice thrown at him, but even with Mars next to him, he couldn't feel such emotions in their gazes.


While tilting their heads toward the unsettling attitude of their surroundings, Nozomu and Mars arrived at the 10th class classroom and opened the door. Inside the classroom, their classmates were spending their time studying by themselves or talking with their friends.


However, as Nozomu arrived in the classroom, the eyes of all the students in the class suddenly focused on him. Doubts, confusion, disbelief, curiosity. Gazes with various emotions were directed at Nozomu.


"Eh?"


Nozomu was a little perplexed by the gazes that were directed at him.


For the time being, Nozomu walked to his desk, unloaded his belongings, and looked around him.


His classmates, who had been watching him, somehow looked flustered when their eyes met Nozomu's, and they averted their gazes and resumed their studies or started talking to their friends again.


However, he wondered if there was something on their minds. Even while talking, his classmates were glancing at Nozomu.


"W-what happened..."


"Who knows. I don't know either..."


Nozomu and Mars tilted their heads at their classmates who were acting strangely. Until recently, the gazes directed at Nozomu would have carried only negative emotions such as contempt and ridicule. But today, he couldn't feel those emotions in their gaze.


"I... did I do something?"


"No. That shouldn't be the case..."


Nozomu himself had no idea why their gazes were changing. Mars, standing next to him, also had no idea what the cause is. Nozomu understood that he wasn't well thought of by his classmates, and until yesterday, they had been looking at him the same way.


Nozomu and Mars tilted their heads, not knowing why their classmates' gazes had suddenly changed.


At that moment, there was a figure that approached and called out the two of them.


"Good morning, you two.


"Jin, Deck, and you guys..."


When Nozomu and


Mars turned their heads towards the voice, they saw their classmates from the 10th class, Jin, Hamria, Deck, Tommy, and Cami. They had been at the same party in the previous training. Since that special training, they had become one of the few classmates who would talk to Nozomu normally.


Jin and his friends were there when the Undead Dragon appeared, but they had retreated to save Kevin's injured companions and had not participated in the fight against the dragon.


Therefore, unlike Nozomu and Mars, they were not injured and able to attend classes the next day without any problems.


"Nozomu-kun, are your wounds alright now?"


"Y-yes. I'm fine now. Thanks to Norn-sensei, I'm completely healed.


"Well, I was worried when I heard you couldn't move for almost two weeks, but I'm glad you're doing well."


Hamria asked about Nozomu's condition, and Deck was stroking his chest in relief that Nozomu is okay. It seemed that Jin and his friends were also worried about Nozomu.


"By the way, Jin, there's a strange atmosphere in the classroom. Do you have any idea what the cause is?"


"Well, it's because of the last special training."


"Eh? Special training? ...What do you mean?"


Jin answered Mars' question. A question mark danced in Nozomu's head when he heard those words.


In the first place, the special training was canceled due to the sudden appearance of an Undead Dragon. The training was not finished. It was only on the first day without finishing to the end. Even the results have not been announced so far.


Moreover, about 3 weeks had passed since the training ended.


Due to the training ending midway and the time that had passed, Nozomu and Mars thought that the results of the training would not be announced.


"Hey, look at this!


Jin pointed to a corner of the classroom. There was a large piece of paper on the wall and the words "Results of the Special Training" were written on it.


"See, the results of the special exercises have been announced! Our party is in the top 10!"


As prompted by Jin who was a little excited, Nozomu and Mars looked at the paper on which the training results were written.


When they read the list of the top 10 teams, the names of Nozomu and his party members were certainly written on it.


"6th place ..."


"That's right! 6th place! We did an amazing result, overtaking other high-ranking parties!"


A shocked voice leaked from Nozomu's mouth at the unbelievable result.


It's unheard of for the Solminati Academy to have the lowest class, the 10th class, being in the top 10.


Moreover, the party consisted of two of the school's most famous students. One of them was at the bottom of the class and a regular in the supplementary exams. The other was a problem child who was like a hazardous material that could explode at any moment.


"...I see, so that's why there was a strange atmosphere at the school; since the morning."


Mars muttered as if he was convinced.


Considering Nozomu's reputation and Mars' action so far, it was no wonder that other students cannot believe this result.


The students around them were still glancing at them and listening to them as if they were watching.


"Haa ... So, Nozomu, what are we going to do?


"Ehh? ..."


Nozomu looked around, but the other classmates who met his eyes still turned away and refused to make eye contact with him. It was painful to be hit with outright hostility and contempt, but the current atmosphere filled with an indescribable sense of frustration was also not good for him. So, he didn't know how to react.


"Honestly, there's nothing I can do about it."


"Well, that's true."


Certainly, there's nothing he can do about it.


Nozomu himself had not expected such a result.


During the special training, he had a lot of trouble during and after training.


In the morning of the first day, he fought many times.


In the afternoon, he was involved in a huge battle with a top-class party, was attacked by an Undead Dragon, and so on.


Moreover, after the training was over, he was attacked by various problems one after another and was seriously injured, which kept him in bed for about two weeks.


Because of that, he had not expected that the results of the training would create such a strange atmosphere in the classroom.


"Some students don't seem to believe it..."


When someone inferior to them achieved something extraordinary, some of those in the same position would be jealous of that achievement. Of course, some of them would sincerely congratulate them on their accomplishments, but because Nozomu's reputation had been so low up until recently, they couldn't forgive those they thought were inferior to them to achieve more than they did.


In fact, more than half of his classmates looked at Nozomu with suspicion, and some of them were still hostile to him.


"... It can't be helped."


Nozomu muttered, feeling a little sad at the way they were looking at him.


People cannot change that easily.


When a certain lie had been in front of them for a long time, they would eventually be unaware of the fact one. Before they knew it, it became common knowledge, something they took for granted. And when it got shaken, they felt as if the ground beneath their feet was crumbling.


When faced with such a situation, humans will act in various ways.


They may scream in anxiety, looking for the cause of the problem, or close their eyes and refuse to see the fact that things have changed. Just like Nozomu did in the past.


That's why Nozomu was never annoyed or irritated by their hostility. He, when faced with the fact that he had been betrayed by Ken, had used it as an excuse to slaughter the Cyclops.


However, he still felt a little sad that they didn't accept him.


It's not that he doesn't deserve it. As long as he was running away from them, he couldn't help it to feel that way.


"Nozomu ..."


"It's okay. We shouldn't worry too much about it.


As he met the worried gazes of Mars, Jin, and his friends, Nozomu gave a small nod as if to say that he was fine.


He was indeed sad, but he had found people like Jin and his friends who believe in him. This was one more thing that would light a fire in Nozomu's heart.


"Besides, the morning assembly is about to begin."


While saying so, Nozomu turned his gaze toward the entrance of the classroom. Mars and the others turned their attention to where Nozomu was looking, and the door of the classroom was vigorously opened.


"Everyone~, good morning~~. Let's do our best again today~~!"


Anri-sensei entered the classroom.




Perhaps because she was as energetic as usual, the atmosphere in the classroom turned warm and bright.


See? Nozomu smiled at Mars and the others as if to say so, then returned to his own seat. The expression on his face didn't seem forced as if he was forcing himself to fake a smile. Mars and the others finally relaxed their shoulders as Nozomu acted in a very natural way. As usual, Anri's voice seemed to relax them, and Mars shrugged as if he couldn't help it.


While watching them, Nozomu also returned to his seat. There was a slight smile on his mouth.


======================================


After the morning assembly ended, the morning lessons would begin, and Nozomu's class lesson was general combat on the training ground.


In this type of lesson, the students would initially engage in mock battles in pairs, and then the training would begin, assuming a variety of situations. Nozomu, who rarely had friends, had recently been teaming up with Mars to fight each other, but now it was a little different.


"Teeei!"


Jin stepped in and swung his sword down at Nozomu.


"Fuh~!"


Nozomu twisted his body and accurately transmitted the momentum of his movement to his katana. While precisely aligning his katana with the belly of Jin's sword, he was able to escape to the side of his opponent in a fluid motion


"Kuh!"


In an attempt to keep Nozomu from escaping into his blind spot, Jin overturned his sword and tried to swing it towards Nozomu.


However, Nozomu took a step further toward Jin while quickly moving sideways before Jin turned his sword back.


Nozomu's position was one step inside his opponent's range, and the sword that Jin swung had not gained enough momentum.


Nozomu twisted his body and used his rotational momentum to strike at Jin's sword, which was swung out in an unstable position, from below.


A slash with no momentum, a stance with no solid footing.


Jin's sword deflected upwards with a high-pitched sound, and Nozomu swept him off with his feet.


"Uwa!"


Jin's body got knocked to the ground. As he frowned upon the pain that hit his back, Nozomu stuck the tip of his katana at Jin's nape.


"...... It's my win, right?


"......Yes. I surrender."


With Jin's declaration of defeat, Nozomu lowered his katana. Jin stood up while brushing off the dirt that had stuck to his clothes. This time, Nozomu was having a mock battle with Jin instead of his usual partner, Mars. Behind Jin were his companions, Hamria and Deck. A little farther away from Nozomu and the others, Tommy and Cami were moving toward Mars, with their respective sword and dagger in hand.


"Teyaa!"


"Ooo!"


The two swung their respective weapons down towards Mars while raising their voices. In response to them, Mars' launched a slash of his greatsword that seemed to sweep them away.


"Hmph!"


Mars' slash created a gust of wind while tearing through the air, and the greatsword that swung out blew Tommy and Cami who were attacking him.


"Kyaa!"


"Bufu~!"


The two of them were blown away and rolled on the ground.


The difference in strength between the two sides was clearly evident as they went head to head.


Meanwhile, Nozomu and the others were talking about Jin's fighting style as they watched the fight on the corner of their field of vision.


"Hmmm. As expected, if I don't get the right weight, my attack can easily be deflected."


"That's part of it, but I think what was really bad was what you did after you lost your posture."


"What do you mean?"


"After you lost your posture, you were in a hurry and tried to chase after me. That was definitely a bad move."


According to Nozomu, Jin should have used his legs to break away and regain his posture as soon as he lost it. As long as there is a difference in physical ability, Nozomu cannot catch up once Jin is devoted to escaping.


And since he has a limited amount of Qi, Nozomu will be at a disadvantage if he is forced into an endurance battle.


"Hmm. Nozomu-kun, I thought I could make it in time because your movement itself wasn't fast ..."


"No matter how slow it was, I could use my knife-hand strike by strengthening it with Qi to deflect your attack. Well, it's hard to deflect attack of someone like Mars tho... "


"It's amazing that you can deflect a sword strike like that..."


While Jin let out a slightly tense voice, he glanced at Mars' battle against Tommy and the others. He caught a glimpse of their situation. Cold sweat ran down Jin's back as he watched his friends get blown away with just one sword strike. As Jin's complexion is getting worse, this time Hamria, who was behind Jin, spoke to Nozomu.


"But, Nozomu, if you know about that, does that mean you have a countermeasure?"


"Well, there is, but..."


It's not that Nozomu doesn't have a way to chase down an opponent who is trying to break free. But if he were to use his Qi technique, it was certain that his opponent's body would split into two. As expected, his Qi technique cannot be used in school classes.


"Even so, it hasn't subsided yet, has it? ..."


Deck looked at the surroundings as if he was amazed, the other classmates were watching Nozomu as they had in the morning.


"Well, It will probably stay that way for a while. It's no use worrying about it, I guess. Instead, I think we should concentrate on ourselves for now. Anri-sensei told us in the morning that the special training is over, and it looks like the joint class will start tomorrow."


Joint class.


As the name implies, this is a class that is held together with students of other classes.


Since the school's class ranking is determined by one's own ability and overall performance in the school exams, until now, students of the same rank have been training and doing mock battles together.


However, on the battlefield, it was rare for two people of the same ability to fight against each other. In most cases, the opponent's and one's own abilities don't match. Many factors, including the number of people in the party and their equipment, may be different.


That's why this joint class is carried out in the form of mock combat and training between different classes so that they are prepared as much as possible.


Even in Special Training, on the second day, the students were allowed to join other classes and have them hold party battles between people with different abilities. This joint class is also carried out with the same purpose. Of course, not only mock battles like party battles but also mock battles between individuals were held.


"That's right. For now, we need to start by understanding each other's abilities."


As long as the joint class includes party battles, it goes without saying that each other's cooperation is indispensable in such cases. Indeed, Nozomu had teamed up with Jin and his friends on special training, but the time was less than a day, and they also worked separately at times. Whether it's Nozomu or Jin and his friends, they certainly don't have enough time to get to know each other. At that moment, several classmates around them called out to them.


"Oi"


"Hmm? Do you need something?"


"It's not you. I'm here for that lowest."


A classmate called out to him in a rather strong tone.


When Jin asked them what he want, they pushed Jin aside and came over to Nozomu as if they had no business with him.


"Hey, you. What the hell did you do in the special training?"


"What do you mean...?"


"O-oi, Shimnal. Calm down."


A classmate raised his voice and pressed Nozomu in a questioning tone.


The boy called Shimnal has a strong suspicion of Nozomu in his eyes.


Nozomu understood that they thought he had cheated to get the results of that special training. Or perhaps Shimnal was the only one who thought Nozomu had cheated. Shimnal's friend behind him was trying to calm Shimnal down as he tried to press Nozomu further.


"'Are you referring to the results of that special training?"


"That's right! There's no way such a lowest guy like you could have achieved that result! What kind of dirty hands did you use?"


Shimnal pressed Nozomu with a tone that he firmly believed that Nozomu was committing fraud. It was Jin and his friends who were teaming up with Nozomu who raised their voices against him.


"Wait a minute! We're not cheating!"


"That's right! Thanks to Nozomu, we were able to put up such a good fight. Besides, Nozomu was with us the whole time, and he was injured and couldn't move for more than two weeks. How could he cheat?"


Deck took Shimnal's gaze head-on. Hamria also refuted him in an unusually strong tone.


"Then, how did you win! The opponent you defeated is 4th class or higher, If you defeated the 8th or 9th class I would have believed it. Besides, it's not normal to defeat a special target!"


"I'll say it again, we're not cheating. We understood the terrain, we had a good strategy, and fought on that basis."


It seems that who Nozomu defeated in special training has raised suspicions about him. Shimnal was convinced that Nozomu had cheated, but Nozomu and the others denied it. Shimnal doesn't seem to believe Nozomu and the others, no matter how much they deny it. In fact, Shimal thought they were trying to avoid his question, and his anger escalated rapidly.


"Are you going to keep lying to me? ......"


In the end, his anger reached its peak, and Shimnal put his hand on the hilt of the sword at his waist.


"O-oi, Shimnal!"


Shimnal's behavior also changed the complexion of the friends who were watching behind him. No matter how strong the suspicion, resorting to violence was obviously a bad idea.


However, Shimnal was so angry that he didn't hear what his friends said. He gave in to his unreasonable anger and tried to draw his sword.


"~!!"


Shimnal's anger was directed at Nozomu. When Nozomu felt his killing intent, he moved as if he was responding to it. In an instant, he raised his Qi and slammed it into his legs. In a single movement, he made a natural, flowing step, drew his katana like a flash, and thrust it into Shimnal who was about to draw his sword out.


"Ugh~!"


“…………”


Shimnal grunted and was completely petrified due to the Qi that emanated from Nozomu's body. Nozomu's katana was halfway out of its scabbard, but he didn't pull it out.


"... Ah! S-sorry."


Nozomu hurriedly withdrew his katana.


It seemed that he instinctively reacted to the bloodlust that was directed at him. However, since Shimnal was the first to try to pull out the sword, Nozomu didn't need to apologize.


With Nozomu's apology, the atmosphere, which had been tense to the point of exploding earlier, became strangely relaxed.


Shimnal, who was about to draw his sword, was no exception. The anger that had been welling up in him had lost its point and dissipated.


"I'm sorry, Nozomu. He was a little impatient because the results of the last training were not good."


His friend, who was behind him, stepped forward while poking Shimnal's head. According to him, their party had gotten caught up in the fierce battle at the beginning of the training and was eliminated without being able to do anything.


It was unavoidable due to the system of this school, but Shimnal's own performance was not good enough to continue to stay at this school, and even before the results of the training were announced, he seemed to have become quite impatient with the results. Perhaps the results of the training announced today had stirred up his frustration even more.


When Nozomu looked at Shimnal, he looked away awkwardly. It seemed that his head cooled down at once because he was pressured by Nozomu and was protected by his friends.


"Nozomu, why don't you tell them how you defeated them? I'm sure they'll understand if you do..."


"Yes, I think so. If you don't mind, why don't you tell us? We're curious to know how you defeat the upper class."


"That's true. I understand."


Mars, who had been watching the situation from behind, suggested that Nozomu tell them how he had defeated the students of the upper class. It was certainly not something to hide, and Nozomu decided to tell them about what they had done on that day.


Starting from setting up a warning string and splitting the party into two to earn points. He also set up traps around the area to scatter the opponents and deprive them of their composure.


And finally, when the enemy party attacked, the vanguard would deliberately let the enemy side pass in order to attack the enemy rearguard. The enemy vanguard once again stopped by the trap, and Nozomu's party vanguard, who had defeated the enemy rearguard, pinched and attacked the enemy vanguard.


"But it's quite a tightrope walk, isn't it...?


"It can't be helped. It's difficult for us to win even if we were to fight them head-on with the same number of people. That's why we have to use other means and elements to win."


"That's true…"


"Hey, I have another question..."


He answered each question one after the other. Before he knew it, about half of his classmates from the tenth grade had gathered around Nozomu and the others. It was like a little lecture. They, too, had been called as failures by the students of other classes.


Therefore, the fact that Nozomu and his party members, who were also at the bottom of their grade, had defeated the upper class was in itself a very emotional story for them.


Until now, they had been unable to believe him because of their distrust of Nozomu, but now that they had heard the story in detail, they could believe that it was true.


"Hey, how did you set up those traps!?"


"Rather, you defeated the special target, didn't you? Who was it? How did you defeat it?"


The eyes of the classmates gathered around him were shining, and the number of questions being asked gradually increased. At first, the questions were few, but now they were coming at Nozomu and his party members like a storm.


"W-wait a minute! I don't know which one to answer!"


Because too many questions were asked, Nozomu's processing capacity could not keep up. With so many questions being thrown at him, Nozomu's processing capacity could not keep up. He asked for help, but Jin, Deck, and Hamria, who were his party members, seem to be overwhelmed by the questions from other classmates.


"Mars! Help me!"


"Don't push it. At that time, I split up and acted separately. I don't know the details of the battle..."


While saying so, Mars has a grin on his face for some reason.


Certainly, when Nozomu was confronting Anri-sensei, Mars wasn't there, so he may not be able to answer the question well. But surely, he was there for the other fight that followed.


Apparently, he was amused by Nozomu's mess, and Nozomu could only say, "you bastard!" to Mars while giving him a gaze full of grudge.


However, the storm of questions didn't seem to subside, and Nozomu had no choice but to stare at Mars while gnashing his teeth.


But he wasn't in an uncomfortable mood. Sure, it was frustrating to be teased by Mars, but there was nothing malicious about the way his classmates were looking at him.


It might be a temporary thing, and they might drift away again. In fact, the rest of his classmates who hadn't come to listen to Nozomu were still looking at him with suspicion.


Even so, for now, he was happy that his hard work had been recognized.



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