Akashic Records of the Bastard Magical Instructor

 
 
 

Akashic Records of the Bastard Magical Instructor Volume 2 Chapter 5


So I’ve read through the responses of the earlier survey after completing the translation of this chapter. Thanks everyone who took the time to respond! I’ll be writing a response-summary sometime soon as a blog post, and readers should see the changes come into play starting the next chapter (6).

For those who watched the anime, this chapter might be better known as ‘the chapter that got away’.

Speaking of anime, I’ve also received the 1st blu-ray volume for the Akashic Records anime, which includes a separate volume written by the author himself, which I like to call ‘Reverie Records of the Bastard Magic Instructor’.

Well, as always, enjoy the chapter!


Translator: yuNS
Editor: Hocchibi


Chapter 5: Fervent Outside, Turbulent Inside

The fervor in the stadium showed no signs of dying down. Rather, dramatic developments that did not allow the spectators to put their minds at ease happened one after another, driving the stadium into a state of wild enthusiasm.

"…What's taking so long?" murmured Sistina.

In contrast to the lively crowd, she was feeling uneasy.

"Has he still not found Lumia?"

A fair amount of time had passed since the afternoon events began. Even with Glen missing, the students of class two struggled as hard as they could and managed to keep their rank from plummeting any further from fourth place. However, given that the class' aim was to win, they now found themselves in a rough situation. Without a leader at their helm, the difference in raw ability was starting to show.

"As expected, without sensei here…"

The class' morale plummeted without Glen's presence. 'I don't think we can do it. We can't win without him.'…Such sentiments permeated through the air. Even Sistina herself was getting trapped in thoughts such as 'We had fun' and 'We tried our best…'"

"Just where did those two go… Ah, he's not doing anything indecent to Lumia is he?"

Sistina grew frustrated and angry at her helpless ignorance.

Then, sensing a presence of someone behind her, she quickly turned around.

"Took you long enough! You're late as hell sen— H-, Huh?"

She thought it had been Glen and Lumia, but her eyes fixated on an unfamiliar boy-girl duo instead.

One was a young man with long hair who carried a piercing hawk-like gaze.

The other was a doll-like girl with blue-hair, a color rarely seen in the empire, whose bearings bore no resemblance of emotion.

The two each wore a black-themed suit and cravat with a pair of white gloves, a combination widely recognized as the empire's formal wear. Although the attire seemed rather formal for the occasion, it wasn't particularly rare or special. For some reason though, the attire felt slightly out of place.

"You guys are class two right?"

"Y-, Yes… b-, but who are you people…?"

"I'm an old friend of Glen Ryders, Albert. The girl with me is Riel."

"………"

Sistina's question was answered by the young man who called himself Albert. The girl who was introduced as Riel speechlessly lowered her head in what appeared to be a greeting.

"We were invited to the academy by Glen to supposedly rekindle our old friendships after the festivities today. Of course, we have entry passes.

Albert then retrieved a card that bore a silver-print of the academy's owl emblem from his chest-pocket. It was a magic talisman that was distributed to official guests of the academy after a strict inspection, and allowed its bearer to pass freely through the barrier surrounding the academy.

"However, it seems that he had some sudden business to attend to."

The students of class two began chattering amongst themselves in response to the sudden visitors.

"…While the abruptness of this news may be troubling, it seems that he will not be able to return for a while, so he has entrusted this class to me. Thus, I will be taking over as the leader of this class from hereon. Now then—"

In a corner of the town a large distance away from the academy—

A young man wholeheartedly ran whilst carrying a blonde-haired girl in his arms.

He recalled the conversation he had moments ago with a former colleague.

<TL Note: To clear any confusion, the following is all said by GLen.>

"Lumia is an emotion amplifier, but in order to break through this situation, we can't use her powers."

"Well, you should understand this already, but if her identity as a supernatural is discovered then we'll never see the end of it. She'll be persecuted, loathed, and if we make a misstep in further political matters, executed. If the news of her being a supernatural is spread, then the unofficial weaponized orders with come out of the woodwork to purge her under the god's name. It's game over if we catch their attention."

"So on top of having to hide Lumia's real identity, we can't use her powers, and we won't get the chance to explain the situation to anybody either. In this kind of sticky situation, the only way we can get to the Empress unobstructed is if my class wins the Magic Games Festival."

"This time around, the winning class' instructor, as the representative of the class, will receive their medal directly from the Empress. Given the strict security around the Empress right now, this will likely be our only chance to get past the royal guards and come into contact with her."

"That's 'cause for the brief moment that the festival ends and the Empress stands on winner's podium, the royal guard will have no choice but to release her from their thorough supervision. If they prevent her from bestowing the medals to a commoner in the name of the Empress, then the Empress' authority and honor will be damaged. Given the pride that the royal guards have as a right-wing faction, they definitely won't do such a thing."

"So I have an idea to get close to her without being suspected, that's—"

-----.

--To be honest, this is a steep gamble.

However, it's true that we have no choice but the play this hand to break through this situation.

"Found them—!" an angry voice called from behind.

Without slowing down, he took a fleeting glimpse behind himself—

"There they are—! After them—!"

He saw a group of royal guards at the crossroad a fair distance behind him.

I can't be caught here.

"…Hmpf, what a bother."

Exhaling briefly through his nose, he picked up the pace—

"You'll take over… and help us win…? But why?"

Sistina and the other members of class two could not hide their doubts regarding the man named Albert, who claimed to be Glen's old friend.

Just who is this guy anyway? Well, the academy has a barrier that prevents any outsiders from getting in. So, given that this guy has an official entry pass, he should at least be trustworthy…

As Sistina tried to come to a judgment, the small statured girl standing next to the man who introduced himself as Albert walked up to Sistina and clasped Sistina's hands in hers.

"…Please believe in us."

Sistina peered into the girl's eyes from a distance where they could feel each other's breaths.

Then, she turned her eyes back and forth between the man and the girl.

"You two are…"

As if to reorganize her thoughts, Sistina fell silent for a brief moment. Then she said,

"…Alright. I will leave the command and supervision of our class to you, Albert-san."

With this announcement, Sistina became the focus of her class' bewilderment.

"It'll be fine, I think we can trust these two. Even with a different person in command, we'll still be doing what we can to win right? Everyone wants to win right?"

'That's right', the students exchanged glances with one another as if to share this sentiment.

"I don't know what the heck Glen-sensei is doing right now, but…"

Sistina took a fleeting glance at Albert for a brief moment, and announced to her classmates.

"We've gotten this far already, so let's win! We've gotten this far thanks to sensei haven't we!? Aren't we just a teensy bit away!? It's too early to call it quits!"

"U-, Uhuh…"

"Well about that Sistina…"

"Without sensei… we…"

Sistina tried to rouse up her classmates, who had given her a weak response.

"You know… if we give up just because that guy isn't around, I'm certain that he's going to be all like 'Gyahahahah! You guys are totally useless without me aren't you! Ah right~, big sorry you guys, for dropping out midway~ Teehee ☆' or something like that…"

Clink, Clack, Crack—

Acknowledging that such a development was possible, the classmates' emotions were set alight.

"That would be irritating… That would most certainly be irritating…"

"Even if that's all that that idiot says, I won't be able to endure the shame…"

"Ah, shit! I feel angry just thinking about it! Alright, let's do this then!"

The extinguished fire was reignited.

"…This should be fine I guess."

Sistina, who had succeeded in riling up the class, sent another fleeting glance towards Albert.

"Now then, let's see what you can do, Al-ber-t-san?"

In response to her taunting, the man could only grimace and scratch his head.

"It's about time for the Magic Games Festival to go into full swing! Class two put up a good fight in the first half, but are they already out of gas—!?"

Like before, an energetic voice was broadcasted throughout the whole stadium.

"Next up is 'Transform'—! If class two drops the ball, then they can kiss their hopes of victory goodbye! Now then, what will class two do in this dire situation—!"

"U-, Umm…"

Next to the circular stage set-up in the contest field of the stadium, in a standby test for contestants awaiting their turn, Rin anxious grasped the sides of her uniform's skirt and trembled out of nervousness.

"If I lose… Then the class will… our class will lose…"

"WOOO—OOOAAAAAHHHH!?"

Rin jumped in surprise from commentator's sudden outburst and the following applause.

"Setah from Harry-sensei's class one has transformed into an impressive dragon—!? Amazing!"

Rin fearfully turned her eyes towards the stage. Standing there was a creature with scales that gleamed with black luster, wings that were broad and mighty, fangs that glowed with sinister light, and a massive figure that seemed like it would crush anything in its path. The pressure exerted by the creature was so great that it seemed like it could be mistaken for the real deal.

"Hyii—!?"

In reflexively cowered away from the frightening figure.

"The judges have given high scores across the board! 9, 9, 10, 9… for a total of 37 points! Has the winner been decided—!?"

"W-, Wahah… W-, What should I do…"

As Rin reached her wit's end and her face began to pale, someone grasped her shoulder from behind.

"G-, Glen-sense—"

Turning her head around—

"I mean… A-, Albert-san…"

Standing there was the mysterious young man who had introduced himself as Glen's friend, Albert.

"Ah… U-, Uhmm… I'm so sorry… I made a mistake…"

"It seems you've done quite a bit of image training haven't you?"

Albert had turned his eyes towards the collection of holy artworks that Rin hugged to her chest.

"Eh? Ah-, yes… Glen-sensei told me to…"

"Then you shouldn't have any problems."

Albert vigorously nodded his head.

"You were called Rin right? You'll be fine. I'm sure you're far more excellent than you think you are. The only problem I see is that you seem to be lacking a bit in terms of confidence. I hear from that guy Glen all the time that thinks that you have genuine ability."

"Albert…-san?"

"Don't fret too much if it doesn't work out. Even if I said that we gotta win, this is still a festival. No one's gonna die from this, and no one will complain either. If we happen to lose and people start blaming you for it, I'll give 'em a good spanking, so don't sweat it alright?"

It was as if he was taking the words out of someone else's mouth. Rin thought to the relief and calmness that she had felt the first time she heard those words.

IMG_0213.PNG

Taking a deep breath—

"Alright! I'll do my best!"

Rin determinedly nodded.

"Now, next up is the slightly well-known person in the academy in regards to transformation magic, Rin-chan from class two! Just what kind of transform will she show us today—!"

"I'm going."

Albert silently nodded, and Rin left for the stage.

"Oh? If we want to be victorious we have to win here, but then you say it's okay to lose?" said Sistina as she watched Rin leave with a smile.

Looking at that expression, Sistina herself showed a knowing smile.

"Albert-san, you're quite a dauntless person if I say so myself."

"…If those above are seen to be calm, those below can act to their full potential. This is especially true for someone with her personality. Whether to scold or encourage depends on the person."

"I see I see, you really understand quite a lot. It's as if you've always known her. "

"…"

Then—

"I- It's an angel—!? An angel has descended upon this academy as if flying out of a holy painting—! How beautiful! What a wonderful transformation Rin-chan from class two has shown us—! Now then, how do the judges think—!?"

The emerging figure had a halo that resembled the  face of a clock. On her back were 3 pairs of pure-white wings. Her pure-silver hair flowed freely in the air and her lightweight silk gown bounced gently off her skin. A seemingly endless amount of golden chain coiled loosely around her delicate figure. Connected to the chains and held by her slender arms was a giant golden key, symbolizing the Angel of Time.

The beauty of the figure was akin to a precisely crafted sculpture.

It was Lahtirika, the Angel of Time.

The divine presence on the stage seemed like living proof of the angel's descent in religious tales.

Amidst the rupture of applause and cheers that captured the stadium, the devout reflexively fell to their knees and performed the sign of the cross before the majestic descent of the angel—

"Damnit, where did they go…!?"

A veteran of the royal guard, Cross Fahrus, grew impatient.

He had been given the mission of protecting the noble Empress during her visit to Fejiti and carried his role with great pride and gave it his undivided attention. However, without any precedent nor notice, he had been ordered to execute a certain girl by Zeros. He had also been courteously provided a monochrome picture of the girl.

Just when did Zeros prepare such a picture? Also, the fact that they were to execute her immediately after her capture was also strange. Even if the girl was guilty of Lèse-majesté and was a traitor to the nation, the methodology through which the punishment was carried out was unnatural enough to be conspicuous.

Although this was a truly distasteful mission for Cross, he had been put in charge of it, and so he began to pursue the girl and the man who was escaping with her. A considerable amount of time had passed since the chase began.

Cross had split his team into tens of units to search through the vicinity of Fejiti. Then, the unit led by Cross had spotted the aforementioned girl being carried by a man as the two continued to run.

They had already contacted the local authorities ahead of time and sealed off all the walls of Fejiti.

The duo were nothing more than birds trapped in a large cage.

Actually, Cross team were already progressively going about their capture.

After all, their capture was a merely a matter of time.

Or at least it should have been, but—

We can't catch them. Regardless of how close we get, we haven't been able to even touch them.

I've coordinated to the other units spread out throughout Fejiti using the magic tool, set up an encirclement, and continued our pursuit, yet they always somehow manage to precisely choose the correct path and break through the weakest part of the encirclement. North, East, Center, South, West— they've run rampant all over the place. We're practically on a wild goose chase at this point.

It's like had a bird-eye eye view of the town. They have a complete grasp of both the structure of the town and our movements. It even feels like our communications are being tapped somehow.

What I don't get is that the second we lose sight of them, they suddenly pop up in front of us again. It's like they're playing around.

"Damnit… Are you looking down on us…!"

Alongside his colleagues, Cross continued to feverishly chase after the man tens of steps away—

 

--.

----.

"After getting the highest possible score in the 'Transform', it seems that class two is back in business! With their equally great performance in 'Familiar Control' and 'Investigate & Unlock', they have climbed up to third place and are now in prime position to win! My, this Magic Games Festival is one for the books isn't it!?"

The most heated competition is one with an uncertain result, is it not? Seeing class two return to their earlier form, the spectator's spirits were roused up once again. Their excitement was at its peak

"With this in mind, we are now entering the climax of the traditional magic game, 'Grazia'! Right now, Harry-sensei's class one and Glen-sensei's class two are trading blow-for-blow in this conquest battle!"

'Grazia' was played on an elliptical field where the contestants of each team would wear different color bibs to signify their affiliation. Participants would desperately chant spells to set up spirit-points, which would then be connected to create territorial boundaries. Walls of light were erected along the lines that connected the points to signify ownership of a territory, and the field would be split in a dazzling display of vivid colors—

"Supposedly, but what is class two doing! Since the beginning they haven't made any fields! All they're doing is destroying the opposing team's territory fields!"

Just like the announcer said, class two ignored creating their own fields, and focused all their resources and attention to disturbing and destroying class one's fields.

"Damn you insolent pests…! Aiming for a draw aren't you!? You class won't get any points, but knowing the difference in our class' abilities, I guess that's the best you people can hope for!"

Standing outside the field, Harry, who was commanding his team, grit his teeth in frustration.

The contest field had been forced into a stalemate. Although the contestants of class two - Alf, Vicks, and Caesar - were definitely worse than their class one counterparts, for some reason or another, they were strangely adept at destroying fields.

Thus, neither side had been able to gain any points.

Whenever class one got any points, it would almost immediately return to zero.

The final rankings were determined based on the difference in scores attained by each class in their respective matchups. The case of class two aside, if this continued any longer, class one would soon find themselves in a chasm compared too many of the other classes.

Faced with this situation, Harry lost his patience and gave his next command to the team.

"Damn it, there's no time! In this situation— Ah right, 'Absolute · Field'! Hurry up and make an 'Absolute · Field'! Have these pests know the difference in our abilities!"

Hearing the instruction, the members of class two began creating a field that shone red.

This type of field took a lot more work to create compared to a normal field. Furthermore, if it was destroyed during its creation, the team that attempted it would receive a large point deduction.

"Ahh—, class one is making an 'Absolute · Field'! If it's completed then class two won't be able to force a draw! Class two have hurriedly started making a 'Normal · Field', but as expected, class one is fast to react! Class one's defender, Null-kun, quickly dismantled the attempt—!"

The three member of class two desperately attempted to erect a field to secure the upper hand, but class one's defender put a wedge in their plans. At the same time, class-one's 'Absolute · Field' was nearing completion.

"Fuhahahahaha—! You can try as many little tricks as you want class two, but this is checkmate! And with this victory, we will cement our place at the top! It's over!"

As Harry triumphantly shouted his victory speech, class one's 'Absolute · Field' was completed— and class one's loss was also cemented.

"T-, This isssssssssssssssssssss—!?

In the face of the result that defied all expectations, the stadium was filled with angry roars.

As the red field was completed, a field of yellow light suddenly appeared and enveloped it.

"'Silent · Field · Counter'—!? What in the world!? Class two has prepared a 'Silent · Field' with that activates under the condition that class one completes an 'Absolute · Field'—!"

In 'Grazia', a field that is completely surrounded is worth no points, and all the points are given to the team with the outermost field, meaning—

"N-, No way…"

Harry fell into a stupefied daze.

"A 'Silent · Field'…!? Even amongst experts, this is a high-level strategy that's hard to execute… And these small fry managed to pull it off!? On top of that, the activation requirement was an 'Absolute · Field' of this scale… It's a useless strategy that dooms the user if they make a single misstep…! What utter nonsense—"

The contestants of class one began to panic. Never in their wildest imagination would they think that their opponents, who they had thought were so much worse in terms of ability, would be able pull off such a high-level strategy, not to mention that it had created such a large point differential. In amidst the chaos, class one lost their ability to think rationally about the situation.

"—!? You idiots! What are sitting around for!? D-, Destroy it! Go and destroy it!? Just a little bit is enough, so hit the damn field—"

Then, as the referee mercilessly sounded the whistle, Harry covered his face with his palms.

"Ohh, that's time—! Who would've thought that we'd see such great comeback—! With this, class two closes the gap between them and class one, who are currently in first place—! The result is still up in the air! Class one's place in first had been all but confirmed, but this result has brought in a wildcard factor—!"

"…Alright."

Albert, who gazed upon the same field as Harry, nodded to himself.

"Wow, we actually won…"

Beside him, Sistina, who was in charge of documentation and timekeeping, stared on in amazement.

"In theory, we would lose nine times out of ten. We just managed to pull out the win on the first try."

"Even so… You're quite amazing, Albert-san."

"Amazing? Me? The ones who are really amazing are the ones from your class isn't it? They managed to pull it off against much stronger opponents."

"That's true… but Albert-san, didn't you give my classmates detailed instructions using hand signals throughout the event? I can understand since I've been keeping a record of everything; the instructions you gave were so perfect it was almost scary."

"…Uhuh?"

"Yep, the reason they were able to pull off that counterattack is all thanks to you, Albert-san."

"Nope.

Albert firmly denied Sistina's praise.

"In order to make the counter work, all the members of your class worked together to modify the barrier creation spell so that it was easier to use right?"

"Huh? How did you know that?"

"…I heard from Glen. Anyway, your class' victories belongs only to you guys and no one else. I'm only helping you guys shore up a few weaknesses."

"Hmpf, well, if you say so, I won't argue."

Sistina combed her hair upwards, and showed a knowing smile.

"Now then, we've finally reached the finale of the Magic Games Festival! I'm up next for the highly anticipated event, 'Duel'!"

"I see… I'll look forward to it."

"…-! Yes, please do!"

Sistina seemed to go blank for a moment in response to Albert's words, but then she showed a dauntless smile.

"Hah…Hah…-! We got him! We finally have him cornered-!"

Cross confirmed his victory with ragged breaths.

The detestable man carrying that girl, without losing speed somehow, is just in front of us in this narrow back-alley. He may have used the white magic [Physical · Boost], but to be able to outpace us thus far despite our combat training is something that is deserving of praise and amazement.

However, this is the end of the road for them.

That man is running straight towards the formation that my colleagues have set up ahead of time.

"Pincer them! You may have managed to break through previously, but I won't allow it this time-!"

In front of the escapee, several soldiers stood ready to intercept.

"Halt! If you refuse, then you leave us no choice but to display the might of our magic-!" a waiting guard warned.

Cross felt that the pursuit, which seemed to be something from a drama, would finally come to an end—

"W-, What-!?"

Carrying the girl in his arms, the man continued to recklessly charge towards the waiting group of royal guards—

"D-, Don't say we didn't warn you-!"

The guards simultaneous began to chant.

<Oh crimson lion · With a torrent of rage · Roar and Infuriate>-!"

The black magic [Blaze · Burst]. It was a military-grade assault spell that gathered and compressed heat energy into a fireball and fired it towards a target. Whatever it struck would be engulfed in a fiery explosion, and anything without magical defenses would be reduced to dust. Its attributes made it an excellent suppressing spell.

It was impossible to evade such a great number of [Blaze · Burst] within the confines of the narrow alleyway. Even if [Tri · Resist] was used, the sheer volume would penetrate that defense and send the two to their graves. The black magic that returned the energies of the three elements to their natural state, [Tri · Vanish], would also be insufficient for dealing with the sheer volume. If black magic that erected a powerful magic barrier, [Force · Shield], was used, the man would have to stop moving, which meant that the two would become an offering to royal guard's blades.

All the guards believed that it was finally over, and launched the fireballs towards the man.

But then— The sturdy stone walls of the alleyway suddenly changed form as if it were clay, and formed a wall between the man and the spells launched by the guards.

Immediately after, the properties of the wall began to change. The moment the wall of stone became a wall of water, the numerous fireballs collided with the wall.

After absorbing the fireballs, the wall of water was instantly vaporized. The expanding steam gushed outwards in the narrow valley, burying soldiers' vision in its wake.

"Guwahhh—!?"

With their vision obscured, none of the guards dared to move carelessly until the scorching stream of steam receeded.

Finally, when the vision cleared— the two were nowhere to be seen.

The only change was that stone wall that had been used as a catalyst to the subsequent events was now gone. The two had most likely escaped through the hole that was formed.

"Shit, what was that? …Was that alchemy? No damn way…-! What in the world was that synthesis speed-!? How could that possibly be human!?"

It seemed like the pursuit drama would continue on.

Helpless and tired, Cross chased after the man—

--.

----.

"Now then, we're finally reaching the end of the second year's Magic Games Festival! Today's final event 'Duel' will soon begin-! The rules will be the same as last year's; a three-on-three team-competition tournament! Which class will be left standing at the peak!? Let's find out!"

The participating teams were gathered on the circular battlefield in the center.

"Gathered here are the three strongest members of each class! All of them will fight a fair and square battle with the honor of their classes on the line! To add onto that, if today's star, Glen-sensei's class two, manages to be the last one standing in 'Duel', they will overtake Harry-sensei's class one for an underdog victory! How will this turn out! I can't wait—!?"

This event would decide everything.

Will the side that used all their member's merits come out on top? Or will the side that sent forth their strongest grasp victory?

For better or worse, this one anticipated event would decide the ending of the second year's Magic Games Festival—

"Now, let's get it started. First up, for the first battle, we have class six versus class four! Both sides, please send your starter forward—!"

In contrast to the boisterous stadium, the V.I.P. stand became the set of flurry and impatience.

For a while now, soldiers had been restlessly coming and going. Whenever one entered, angry remarks were sure to fly.

"Not yet!? You still haven't caught them-!?

Zeros frustratedly shouted at the soldier that had come to report.

"B-, But… there's someone helping our target escape. I apologize for repeating this, but that man is far more formidable than we expected…-!"

"You fool! Is he not just a plain magic instructor!? And yet you're still unable to catch a single magician! Do you still consider yourself as a member of the proud royal guards!?"

"M-, My apologies!"

"After them! Do everything you can to kill lady Lumia! If we're unable to… you understand yes!?"

"Yes sir!"

"However, your excellency, our opponent is truly powerful. I am doubtful as to whether or not we can complete the task with just our abilities. Let us reveal the truth and ask the academy for suppo—"

"We cannot!"

Zeros angrily silenced the soldier's suggestion.

"That alone, we cannot! Have you forgotten!? Us aside, if we do that, the Empress will— We absolutely must avoid doing that!"

"R-, Right… my profuse apologies!"

"Once this comes to an end, I shall bear responsibility take my own life if I must! It doesn't matter if I die an irredeemable mutineer to her Majesty, but we must protect her Majesty at any cost! That is why—"

The young soldier limply lowered his head.

"Your excellency is willing to go so far… I understand, we shall hurry and capture lady Lumia and the man assisting her escape."

"I must apologize as well… for forcing such a villainous role on you. Bring a portion of her Majesty's guards to support you if it may allow you to capture them even a moment sooner. Yes, this is all for her Majesty's sake—"

Suddenly, the alleyway burst into crimson flames, creating a shockwave that swept over the area.

"Gaaaahhh—!?"

A soldier had caught on fire fell to the floor and rolled rapidly.

"A-, Are you alright!?"

Cross hurriedly dashed towards his colleague who had been engulfed in flames.

"I-, I'm fine… The fire wasn't that powerful… But because of the explosion and aftershock, my arm…"

Once the fire was put out, the soldier got up from the floor with a painful groan and clutched his arm with an anguished expression.

"Damn it… it's the black magic [Burn · Floor]… another magic trap!"

They had managed to avoid fatalities from the countless magic traps thanks to their armor which had been enchanted with [Tri · Resist], but the damage wasn't so light that they could shrug it off either. Using healing magic one-by-one to treat wounds also ate at their magic power, resources, and time. Due to these factors, Cross' group had to be constantly be wary of magic traps and as a result, they hadn't been able to close the distance between them and their target.

To add onto that, their opponents weren't placing traps at random, but rather, as the chase dragged on, their opponents seemed to wait for their patience to run thin and their guard to be lowered before taking the opportunity to set up traps. The way they did so was ingenious, if not miraculous. As a result, despite Cross' group knowing that there were traps, they had managed to trigger the traps a countless number of times.

Cross couldn't help but tap his feet in frustration in response to the turn of events.

"Honestly what the heck? Just who are these people that we're chasing? They seem to be rather experienced in combat… They've practically been leading us by our noses this entire time! Not to mention they're not killing us either… what the heck is happening!? Isn't the person helping that girl escape just a magic instructor!?"

"Cross-san! More importantly, we've successfully made contact with unit three! Right now, those two are in East Area Second Street, advancing south towards Tortol!"

"Understood! Alright let's move everybody!"

--.

----.

The 'Duel' event continued.

Lightning beams, fiery arrows, and frozen gusts flew across the dueling ring.

The fifth battle, class two versus class four—

"<Oh the great winds>-!"

Sistina completed her chant of the black magic [Gale · Blow] before her opponent could complete the counter-spell and struck her opponent with an intense gale of wind.

"U-, Ugaaah—!?"

Unable to resist, the opponent was blown away.

"Ooh!? Contestant Ridory wasn't able to complete the [Air · Screen] spell in time—! She is out of bounds! Class two defeats class four with three consecutive wins—! They are strong without a doubt! I thought that first-up Cashew-kun would run into trouble, but this team is simply overwhelming!"

Amidst the crowd's cheers, Sistina and Cashew exchanged a high-five.

"An overwhelming victory as expected, Sistina! Totally different from how I won through a messy fight."

"What are you saying Cashew? A win’s a win. You did well."

Sistina and Cashew exchanged compliments with smiles.

"Hmpf. Well I guess that was alright Sistina, but aren't you a bit too soft? If you weren't so worried about injuring the opponent, you should have even less trouble winning."

"You never change do you, Gibel…?"

The class was roused up, but Gibel alone maintained his cold, cynical, and snarky attitude. Sistina could only sigh, unamused.

"There's no time to chit-chat you guys."

Albert put a wedge into the team's conflicting views.

"The next duel is starting. Pay attention to how the other contestants fight and think of how to deal with it. Also, listen closely to what I say next.

Albert turned to Cashew, and pointed to one of the contestants that was currently on the stage.

"Isaac from class seven over there will probably be your next opponent. From what I've observed, his [Shock · Bolt] cast speed is insanely fast. With your abilities, you won't be able to counter it with a vanish spell. Taking this into account, you can put up [Tri · Resist] and [Force · Shield], but you'll likely be forced funnel everything into defense.

"T-, That's right I guess… With my abilities…"

"Stop and listen Cashew. Do not use [Force · Shield], and only use [Tri · Resist] for the first exchange. Using it more than once is forbidden."

Cashew opened his eyes wide in surprise.

"Hmpf, another reckless command… I've never heard of a magic battle that forsakes defense."

Gibel exhaled loudly from his nose and shrugged his shoulders in a mocking manner. Ignoring this, Albert continued.

"Cashew, between the three of you, you have the best athletic ability and a sturdy physique to go with it. Utilize that athleticism and stamina and find some way to withstand [Shock · Bolt]. Either way, Isaac has a habit of doing five consecutive chants, after which his mana biorhythm will be thrown out of order and you'll have a great opening to exploit."

"!"

"Use [Tri · Resist] to take on the first four shots, and find some way to avoid the fifth. If you can do that, then you win. You're a man right? You should be able to resist a little pain when it comes down to it."

"…A-, Alright, I'll try it!"

Cashew nodded obediently as he was taught his winning condition.

"Next is you, Gibel. Your opponent is…"

"Hmpf, don't trouble yourself. I can do without your advice."

"Just listen up. Your opponent is—"

Despite the curt response, Albert patiently forced his advice onto Gibel.

"…Hmm"

As Sistina looked at Albert's profile, a sense of knowing could be felt in her gaze.

In the southern area that was filled with a variety of street stalls and stores—

Splitting apart the countless number of pedestrians, Cross' group rendezvoused with the other two units.

"Damn, they've disappeared into the night-time crowd…! What about over there!?"

A colleague quickly replied to Cross' shout.

"I don't see them! My apologies!"

"There's no other way, declare martial law in this area and drive the civilians ou—"

As Cross shouted orders to his colleagues—

"Gyaa-!?"

One of the gathered soldiers' bodies rapidly convulsed, and then he fell to the floor with a scream.

"What!? What happened!?"

"W-, We're being sniped!"

"What did you say!?"

As Cross trembled in shock, a beam of [Lightning · Pierce] flew past his vision. The beam, along with the many that soon followed, flew in an arc to strike his colleagues one after another.

"Gyaaah-!?"

"Guahah!?"

Bzzt. As flashes of electricity burst from the soldier's bodies, the area soon became a stage for an ensemble of screams—

"What the hell!? Are they serious!? They're magic-sniping through this crowd!? Ku-! Hurry and spread apart! Find some cover to hide behind!"

Realizing they were being sniped, the guards frantically spread apart and jumped behind alleyways and buildings for cover.

"Tch, what's happening!? Our equipment should be reinforced with a [Tri · Resist] enchantment… We shouldn't be getting taken out in one hit…-!"

"A-, About that, it seems like this area is under the effect of a [Dispel · Force] field… At some point, it neutralized the enchantments placed on our equipment!"

"Have we played into their hands again…!? Damnit! Give me a sitrep!"

"Four have been hit! However, it seems that they've held back as far as the force goes! Our fallen allies have lost consciousness after being shot in the leg, but their lives aren't in any danger! No civilians have been caught in the crossfire!"

"Ku… They're only targeting us huh… Not to mention, they're haven't killed any of us either… Just who are they…"

The sudden collapse of the soldiers caused the plaza to fall into chaos. People panickedly surged in all directions as they tried to escape the scene. The commotion would undoubtedly suppress the movements of the guards.

If this is what they were aiming for— Cross couldn't help but tremble in fear in face of his opponent's frightening skill in magic sniping and their ability to calculate the outcome of the situation.

"It cannot be helped! Units three and four guide the civilians to shelter and pass on the order for martial law! Unit two go heal the collapsed! Unit five, we've figured out where the sniping is coming from! Go and pursue them!"

"Roger!"

Once the orders were given out, the royal guards set off to perform their duties—

--.

----.

"After eliminating class five and defeating class eight, class two have climbed their way to the finals—!"

Cheers erupted from the crowd. The excitement in the stadium was at its peak.

"Their opponents— As if by some twist of fate, are their fated adversaries, Harry-sensei's class one! This will be a direct face-off between the classes! Whichever class takes home the victory here will also become the victors of this year's Magic Games Festival! Well, despite all the twist and turns, the endgame has turned out to be quite a simple—!"

The development that everyone was hoping for was now unraveling before their eyes.

However, in contrast to the rest of the stadium, a certain corner permeated a heavy mood.

That being, the V.I.P. stands of the stadium.

Surrounded by several elite guards, Alicia bore an expression of prayer as she said softly—

"Please, my lord… I beg you… Please protect that girl."

Alicia seemed to get increasingly haggard with each passing moment. Serika, who sat next to her, murmured apologetically.

"Sorry. I let such a thing happen right under my nose… Damn it."

"…Serika, it's not your fault… To start with, this was because I…"

"There's still hope though."

Serika cast her gaze downwards towards the stage, where Sistina's group of three and Albert, who was in charge of strategy and instruction, were.

"…Have some faith in Glen. If it's him… he'll surely find some way to get through this."

"Glen… you said?"

"Yep, wasn't he always this sort of guy even back then?

Alicia contemplated for a brief moment, and then vigorously nodded.

"You're right, if it's him… If it's him then surely…"

The finals of the 'Duel' event.

This intensity of the match did not betray its stakes.

First round: Class two's Cashew vs. Class one's Enna. As both sides fought to the best of their ability in an close extended match, Eina managed to complete the alchemy spell [Paralyzing Mist Field] to immobilize Cashew, resulting in his defeat by a narrow margin. The score was 0-1.

Continuing to the second round: Class two's Gibel vs. Class one's Kreiss. Both seemed evenly matched at first, but as time went on the difference in abilities began to show. Gibel summoned an ice elemental using the spell [Call · Elemental], which then captured Kreiss using its two arms. Kreiss then surrendered. The score was 1-1.

All the stakes fell to the deciding round, where the general of each class, Class two's Sistina and Class one's Heinkel, would clash.

<TL Note: In team competitions in Japan, namely kendo, the 'general' (daishou) is referred to as the last member to compete, and is often the strongest of the team. 'general battle' is thus referred to as the final match.>

"…Nicely done, Gibel."

Sistina congratulated Gibel, who returned to the standby area with a carefree expression.

"Hmpf, I've returned the score to a tie. I hope you don't mess this up."

"At least say 'the rest is up to you'… You are always so insensitive."

Sistina pressed on her temple, unimpressed.

"…Sorry Sistina. If I won earlier, this would already be over…" Cashew regretfully grumbled.

"Well, for a poor student, your performance was satisfactory… Just leave the rest to our general."

"Yeah yeah. Geez, why do you have to be like that…?"

Sistina lightly bit back at Gibel, who continued to run his mouth, and headed towards the stage.

As Sistina left, Albert briefly said.

"…The rest is up to you."

Without turning to face Albert, Sistina outstretched her right arm horizontally, and gave a thumbs up.

Then, carrying the hopes of her entire class, she stepped onto the dueling field.

The cheers of her classmates reached her from the stands.

Before her was her opponent in this clash between generals, Heinkel.

Heinkel, as an excelling student who was comparable to Sistina, often competed against her for the class year's first seat. If the match came down the magical prowess alone, the odds of winning were about 50-50.

--Please win.

Sistina thought back to Albert's words.

--Please believe in us.

Sistina thought back to Riel's words.

"…Geez, why do they have to be so indirect… Well, fine. I'll just do it then!"

Bam, Sistina struck a fist against her palm to pump herself up. Then, she removed the glove on her left hand.

Both sides abided to the formalities of traditional magic duels, and then—

"Let the general battle begin—!"

Sistina and Heinkel made their move immediately as the round started.

"<Oh the thunder spirit's lightning>-!"

Heinkel swiftly cast [Shock · Bolt].

"<Calamity shall hence disperse>-!"

Sistina immediately followed with [Tri · Vanish] to neutralize her opponent's spell.

The remaining magic energy of the spells burst in the center of the field.

In that moment, both parties started to move around the circle while maintaining their distance.

"<Oh the great winds>-!"

"<Oh wall of air>-!

Both continued to chant as they ran. The tempest brought forth by Sistina's [Gale · Blow] crashed into Heinkel's enclosure of air. The resulting force sent gusts flying all across the stadium.

In their first bout, the two were evenly matched—

"Do your best—! Don't you dare lose Sistina!"

"It's all yours! Keep going—!"

The classmates above cheered.

"Damn you class two! To think that you would hang on this long—! Heinkel, finish them! Losing to such a conglomeration of small fry will be a stain on your life as a magician! Anyway, just win—!" Harry hysterically shouted.

"OOOOH, both sides do your best—!"

"Good! Go get 'em!"

The crowd's spirits were fired up from this amateur magic battle.

The Magic Games Festival of ups and downs seemed like it would soon come to an end—

"<Oh crimson flame field>-!"

Heinkel cast the spell [Fire · Wall], creating a radial wall of fire that expanded explosively.

"<Divine protection of the guards>-!"

Sistina countered with [Tri · Resist] and stepped aside. The blazing tempest brushed against her body, causing her hair and coat to blow intensely.

"<Return to P—"

Heinkel immediately responded by chanting [Dispel · Force] in an attempt to nullify Sistina's [Tri · Resist]—

"<Brighten>!"

However, Sistina managed to complete the chant for [Flash · Light] a moment faster.

A flash of light exploded in the air, and the stage was dyed white.

To avoid damage to his eyes, Heinkel turned his eyes away, which delayed the activation of [Dispel · Force]. Sistina avoided the blazing tempest—

"<Oh storm of white winter>--!"

And chanted the black magic [White · Out]. The spell would fire an icy shock wave that could immobilize its target by stealing away the limb's sense of touch. Vision was limited to the whiteness of the frosty air—

"<Oh the great winds>--!"

However, Heinkel shrewdly countered with [Gale · Blow]— The intense gale overcame the icy shock-wave in the clash of forces, and swept up Sistina's body—

"Ku… <The balance shall hence sink rightward>--"

As she was blown off her feet by the wind, Sistina used the black magic [Gravity · Control] to increase her weight temporarily in a desperate attempt to bring herself back to the ground.

She used her arms to cover her eyes, and lowered her center of gravity in order to resist the gale. Her prided long, silver hair, which had been tousled by the wind, violently fanned behind her—

He's strong—

Although she was astonished by Heinkel's chanting speed, magic power, and decision making, she continued to carefully regulate her mental state and her mana biorhythm—

"<Oh the thunder spirits' lightning>-!"

As Heinkel broke through the white field and came into her vision, Sistina immediately pointed her index finger towards him and fired a bolt of lightning, which pierced straight through the wind—

"T-, This intensity of this showdown is beyond all expectations—! Both contestants refuse to yield a single step!"

Countless assault and counter spells were exchanged without reserve.

The duel only allowed spells with low lethality that the students were taught, but the deftness of the offense and defense had departed from the realm of mere students. A match of this caliber couldn't be seen very often.

"<Come · Winged servant of fire · Fulfill our contract>--!"

"<Return · To where you must be · Abandon that contract>--!"

A seemingly endless amount of spells were ceaselessly cast.

The spectators who, without exception, watched this match with cheers and exception, gulped as battle continued on—

"You've may have given us a hard time till now, but now you have nowhere to run scoundrel!"

Cross and his colleague rushed down a narrow alleyway, believing that victory was within their grasp.

"I'll admit that your use of magic and your sniping ability are outstanding… But revealing your sniping position was your fault! You've exposed your location! You're not getting away this time!"

"Cross-san! Unit one, seven, eight, and nine have arrived at their designated points, and are now converging towards the target along the assigned route!"

"Is that so!? Good! With this, we've eliminated all their possible escape routes from their sniping position. They are no more than cornered rats!"

It's over. It's finally over.

With this conviction, Cross and his colleagues triumphantly traversed the complicated alleyways, and arrived at an empty area surrounded by buildings on all sides—

"Wha…"

They stood there in astonishment.

Before them, there was nothing but a dimly-lit wasteland that was teeming with weeds. It was far detached from the hustle and bustle of the town. There were not even stray cats, much less people in this area.

"Hm!? Cross' fifth unit!?"

"What happened!? Where is the enemy!?"

"What is this absurdity!? Are you saying they got away!?"

"That shouldn't be possible—!? All the escape routes were covered—"

Seeing no traces of their enemy, the soldiers fell into disarray.

Ignoring his panicked colleagues, Cross noticed something awry in this area.

Namely, the four walls that surrounded this empty space.

It was covered all over—with something odd.

"…Mirrors?"

I can feel the traces of magic power. This is probably the product of alchemy.

The shape-transforming alchemy technique, [Phenotype Transformation] was probably used to make parts of the wall into flat surfaces. The trait-alter technique, [Elemental Rearrangement] was likely applied after that to cause a silver-mirror reaction to form a makeshift mirror. For some reason though, the surfaces of the mirrors were treated with magic

These mirrors were placed at varying angles on the walls facing this empty area.

This is surely the work of the enemy.

Now the problem is— Why did they do such a thing…?

"No… That can't be…!?"

He completely understood.

Cross had long understood the intent of the enemy.

It was because he understood, that he felt a devilish chill across his body. The opponent's strategy couldn't help but make his blood feel cold and his body feel uneasy.

Cross' mind went blank for a few seconds, delaying his warning to his colleagues. He simply did not want to admit that there existed a person who could pull off such an absurd feat. He simply did not want to accept that such a nightmare would soon become a reality.

All the sniping done until now was merely toying with us.

They had never fired at us directly— They've been firing from somewhere far-away at these mirrors using [Lightning · Pierce], and using the ricochet to hit our arms and legs with pinpoint accuracy—

"EVERYONE, GET AWAY FROM HEREEEEE—!"

Cross cried out with all his might.

At the same moment as his cry—

Beyond one of the alleyways leading to this empty expanse, far away from the avenue leading into it—

Came a flash of light.

Several bolts of lightning cut through the darkness and struck Cross' defenseless team one after another—

--.

----Half an hour since the beginning of the duel.

In the end, it seemed that Sistina, who had experienced a life-or-death magic battle during the earlier incident, had a slight edge.

As both had reached the limits of their hand of spells and the bottom of their reserves of magic power—

"<Obstruct and reject · Oh Barrier of storm · Bring tranquility to those legs>--!"

Sistina skillfully took advantage of the delay between spells caused by the fluctuation of the mana biorhythm to pull out her final trump, her own modified spell, the modified black magic [Storm · Wall].

"Huh—!? What is that spell—!?'

Faced with an unknown spell, Heinkel immediately erected an [Air · Screen] in response. However, the wide-area wall of wind still completely sealed his movements. His own impatience and quick-handedness had robbed him of the time he would have had to consider his spell options.

To ensure her victory, Sistina mustered up the last of her magic power, and chanted [Gale · Blow] with all her might.

"Take this! <Oh the great winds>-!"

The force of [Storm · Wall] in addition to [Gale · Blow] managed to barely break through Heinkel's sturdy [Air · Screen]—

"U-, Uwaaaaaaaaaahh—!"

Heinkel's body was immediately blown away from the stage.

………

There was a brief moment of silence—

"I-, it's over—! Out of boundsssssssssss—! What in the world, what in the worlddddd—!? Class two, that class two has wonnnnnnnn—!"

In the following moment, the audience rose into a standing ovation.

There is was no longer a matter of enemy and ally, winners and losers, or classes and years. This was pure applause for the spectacular duel that had just taken place.

Harry, the only person unsatisfied by the outcome, dropped his shoulders in mortification.

"Hah—Hah— F-, Finally…"

After the close victory, Sistina powerlessly fell to one knee due to the vicious exertion and fatigue.

"We did ittttt—!"

"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah—!"

The students of class two flew out of the seats and ran towards Sistina.

"Eh!? Ah, kyaa-!?"

Her rowdy classmates tossed her into the air without a care for her bewilderment. The students ecstatically celebrated Sistina's victory.

"…Well done."

Albert observed Sistina and the class from afar, and murmured in a voice no one else could hear.

"My, could anyone have expected such a turnout!? This Magic Games Festival was truly filled with many twists and turns, back and forths! And so, with the end of the 'Duel' event, today's Magic Games Festival for second years has come to an end! To the guests here today, thank you again for coming so far to attend! To the students, well done all of you! After this will be the closing ceremony and the awards ceremony. The commentary has been brought to you by me, Earth from the executive committee. Thank you all for listening—!"

In contrast to the lingering excitement in the stands, the V.I.P. stand was solemn as a wake.

"The festival is over now, isn't it?"

Alicia called out to Zeros, who kept a watchful eye.

"…So it appears."

"I have the duty to present the representative of the class with their commendations… Would you allow me to do that?"

"…Of course I do not mind. However, I must accompany Your Majesty there, for I must act protect Your Majesty from any extenuating circumstances… And Serika-dono."

"What is it?"

"Would you like to come with her Majesty and I?"

"…Hmpf, you don't need to ask me."

Serika rose from her seat with a languid expression.

"Hey, Zeros."

"What is it?"

"I understand your loyalty, but… could you please stop this?"

"I cannot."

Zeros firmly refused.

"The nation must not be allowed to lose its Empress. For that cause, the sacrifice of others is a fair price to pay."

"…But…"

"I understand that how much this pains you, Your Majesty. However… I cannot comply. For Your Majesty's sake, for the nation's sake, Your Majesty's daughter… Her Highness Princess Alumiana must be killed."

"…-!"

Alicia bitterly closed her eyes.

"Now let's us go Your Majesty, to recognize the efforts of the young ones who will uphold this empire's future."

Alicia fell silent. Serika, who sat next to her, whispered to her.

"Let's go, Alice."

"!"

"… Glen… Believe in him."

Receiving Serika's words of encouragement, Alicia nodded her head and rose from her seat.