The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 173

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The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide

Elte Trading Company Retake (2)

“If you strip away your money and power, what’s left for you?

Do you think there’s anyone who would reach out to you with a helping hand, when you’ve lost everything without a chance of resurrection and are dumped in the gutter?

Once you’ve been wrapped in the scent of money and power, only flies drawn to that scent buzz around you.

And when you hit rock bottom… no one will be left by your side.

Such is the fate of most great merchants, discarded by life at its end.

Among those who made a name for themselves as great merchants in Oldec, few met their latter years with happiness.

Do you think you’ll be any different?

Do you really believe a life riddled with betrayal and scheming could have a happy ending?

Like most of reality, your end will be mired in a dismal, dark grey quagmire.

Whether you chose this path willingly or out of necessity for survival doesn’t matter.

Once you enter this circle, you can never leave.”

With a bitter laugh and his head turning this way and that, Elte Keheln spewed his curse.

Soaked in blood inside the escort carriage, he bared his teeth with a chilling grin and laughed for a long while.

-Chirp, chirp.

With that, Lortelle awoke.

The crisp air of a northern forest morning was palpable.

In the cabin, as morning sunlight filtered through, neatly arranged were pieces of wooden furniture with a clean design.

Lortelle slowly pushed off the covers and sat up, his expression was utterly peaceful.

There wasn’t any fuss or displeasure, even after having such a dream—it was just another part of his everyday life.

“Sacred Dragon Bellbrook.”

He silently muttered the name to himself.

The mythological Dragon Spear that “First Sword Saint” Luden McLore sealed, which the great sage Sylvania had maintained till now, denying it the world’s light.

This monster, known as “Dragon who devours gods,” tried to set the world ablaze multiple times during the era of myths, and after, attempted to engulf the world several times.

However, the heroes of that era thwarted it, and it became nothing more than an old tale beyond history.

Bellbrook’s roar that once split the heavens became mere stories in history books, with all generations who remembered its presence now having closed the chapter of their lives.

Thus, the final boss that crowns the grand finale of [Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman] revives without any preceding signs.

A calamity capable of annihilating half of the island with a gesture and massacring thousands with just its roar filled with scales and magic.

Even famed grand magicians and warriors, who flocked in droves, couldn’t leave as much as a scratch on the Primordial Dragon Spear.

Even Lucy, who was treated so exceptionally, could only manage to defend against its attacks, and the city’s protector Obel Forcius eventually met his death by such a formidable foe.

Befitting the boss that concludes all stories, the opponent boasts such might that one would wonder how to defeat it.

To be direct, you can’t win.

The tooltip blatantly stated that Bellbrook’s scales could only be pierced by special means.

That special method is only one, the Sword Saint Art of the protagonist Taely McLore.

At least in the game… no matter what powerful method was brought in, Bellbrook’s scales would not be penetrated.

No sword, spear, magic, while it could pierce the Dragon Spear’s extremities, would never penetrate its vital points.

Especially the heart that must be surely pierced… Only Taely’s Sword Saint Art could even make it twitch.

It was so irrational it seemed unnatural, as if the world conspired to make Taely a hero.

It couldn’t be helped. Taely was born with the fate of the protagonist.

It was natural that only Taely, who inherited the Sword Saint Art designed by Luden McLore who sealed the Dragon Spear long ago, could pierce the scales of the Dragon Spear.

… Such was the reason given, strangely not quite convincing, yet also irrefutable.

“I didn’t think the senior would call on me…”

“I really didn’t want to call on you either. After all, neither you nor Taely likes me that much.”

“…”

The place was a terrace café near the Mekses Bridge. Since the commerce area of the residential complex was most active around the entrance to Mekses Bridge, there were quite a few people around.

The girl sitting somewhat stiffly across the café table seemed to be someone I hadn’t seen in quite a while──Aila Triss.

The most important and deep character among the four heroines of Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman.

From her childhood, she had been the closest friend of Taely McLore, supporting him whenever he felt weak or weary… a character that anyone would have grown attached to after playing Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman for a while.

Her short chestnut hair charmingly fell to just about her shoulders, the ends curling slightly in an elegant way that matched her charming character.

However, remembering the watchful gaze she always had, as if seeing a monster, I never tried to approach.

I only confirmed through rumors that she was indeed progressing through the main scenarios alongside Taely.

Time passed by, and whether they became special to each other… as I walked through the academy, various stories of romance and rumors would reach my ears.

As for me… I was just clapping from a distance.

During the time after retirement, unable to adapt to the peaceful world and spending long times cooped up in a room.

My body was injured, my mind was hurt, and in many ways, it was a time of depletion, but watching the two did provide me with a lot of healing.

Although they were both brusque and aggressive towards me, as players, they were characters I had grown fond of… I didn’t harbor any hard feelings. I just decided to watch from afar.

Still, the situation has changed significantly.

Now, due to circumstances, I needed to approach them.

Since it was rather daunting to dive straight into Taely’s territory, I first considered meeting Aila and sharing a conversation.

The school break would be ending in five days. It was the time when the students were starting to return home.

Aila was also back in Lortelle Manor, so I asked Zix of Lortelle Manor to arrange a personal meeting with her.

I didn’t have high expectations, though.

Aila always seemed terrified or on guard whenever she saw me. If she declined, I would consider finding another way… it was just a speculative proposal.

“No, I don’t really dislike you… It was just a big misunderstanding… I understand.”

But Aila, whom I met after a long time, was surprisingly not wary of me at all. Though now that I think about it, I do recall there being talks about apologies and such.

Perhaps there was a change of heart during this time, or maybe I had been too quick to judge….

Aila actually agreed to come to the café without any suspicion.

“So… why am I here…?”

“I’d like to have a duel with Taely.”

It’s likely that Taely McLore’s power is far weaker than I thought. It couldn’t be helped.

Taely’s major trials, the Lucy extermination and the Crebin extermination, have both disappeared.

And besides, various minor events have evaporated, so Taely’s Sword Saint Art has halted its growth as well.

“You want to duel Taely…? If it’s just a simple duel… why not apply directly to Taely? Why go through me?”

“I don’t think he’ll put his heart into it otherwise.”

“… What?”

There’s still some time left before Sacred Dragon Bellbrook makes his return.

However, I can’t afford to be complacent.

Even the slightest variable has moved numerous boss battles ahead, some by as much as a month, others by half a year.

With each passing moment, the tempo feels faster than the original story.

Originally, the primordial Dragon Spear Bellbrook would descend a semester before the protagonist’s graduation, but with the influx of variables, such assumptions are now pointless.

If possible, it’s better to start preparing sooner.

“I’m not even sure if he’ll agree to the duel.”

“Hmm… Indeed… Taely still doesn’t quite trust you, senior Ed. Although your reputation and grades have improved lately, from Taely’s point of view, he will still feel uncomfortable. Since the beginnings weren’t great, and it’s not like you’ve formally reconciled.”

“That’s right, I’m actually thinking of exploiting that aspect.”

I continued my story calmly to the puzzled Aila.

“I wish for him to come at me with all his might, completely driven to the edge.”

The first thing to do is to check Taely’s current state.

How much has his specs grown? How much more does he need to grow for the Bellbrook subjugation?

Whether steering Taely’s direction is correct, or if it’s better to push for a different approach.

To determine these things, there’s a need to face Taely at his full power.

Currently, Taely is in his second semester of the second year. With Taely’s vast potential for growth, he would have already been considered among the strong of his year.

I wanted to seize the chance to check in detail how and where he had developed.

Simply speaking, his…

Not a duel defined by the laws of the academy, but a real battle where every last ounce of strength is employed—tempting Taely into such an encounter… seemed to be the only way forward.

“I’m considering the possibility of kidnapping you, Aila. It’s a classic but effective strategy.”

“…What?”

“Ah… well, this is somewhat awkward to say, but… when the time comes, could you let yourself be kidnapped without fuss…?”

“Do people even ask permission to be kidnapped…?”

“That’s how it has turned out.”

It was a matter of securing Aila’s consent. The problem was presenting a plausible reason for it.

“Taely grows stronger with every challenge she faces. You know that well, don’t you, Aila?”

Taely McLore and the word ‘trial’ were inseparable. She was the embodiment of the foundational message spoken of by Sylvania’s failed swordmasters.

The epic tale of Taely, who persevered through endless trials and ultimately became a swordmaster—wasn’t that it?

Therefore, Aila, who had watched Taely closely since childhood, would understand.

“If Taely needs to grow stronger periodically, we’ll have to drive her into extreme circumstances.”

“I don’t want to cause Taely any worry though.”

“Well, there’s no helping it then. We’ll have to think of another way. But I can’t predict what that might be.”

This may sound like a threat, but from my perspective, there’s no choice.

Reviewing Taely’s capabilities is a necessary step for me. It’s not just a problem if I’m the only one in trouble, but Acken Island could very well be blasted off the map.

“Why are you going to such lengths to aid Taely’s growth? Why take it upon yourself to get your hands dirty…?”

“…”

“Ever since the entrance exam, I’ve heard how solid you are, Ed. Why risk so much for this…?”

The truth is, if Taely fails to perform her role, we all die.

If there’s even a hint that she might not fulfill her role, I need to figure out another way quickly.

But of course, speaking honestly won’t likely be convincing. I had to come up with a credible reason that Aila would believe.

“We’re fundamentally similar.”

“…What?”

“I’ve had my share of trials in life. My time with the Rothtaylor family… wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. That’s why I couldn’t simply stand by and watch.”

Was that reason too superficial?

But the longer the story, the more suspicious it seems. It’s better to keep it simple and concise for a clean fit.

“So that’s why… you’ve been helping Taely in such a way, and then pushing her away? Even at the cost of tarnishing your reputation…?”

“I am, after all, her senior.”

“…”

“Even if it’s meddling, I couldn’t just overlook it. That’s all there is to it—the story is more common than you think.”

With that, I fell silent.

Aila stared at me for a moment, her gaze fixed, as if she had seen something unbelievable.

On the terrace seat, amid the lively street where many people passed by, the sounds of the pedestrians filled the air, we sat in silence.

Eventually, Aila broke the silence.

“… Sir Ed. Now that I think about it, I’ve never properly apologized for the misunderstandings I’ve had towards you.”

“What?”

“… I really feel sorry for being so cold to you all this time. Our perspective was… quite narrow.”

Caught off guard by this unexpected reaction, I withheld my response, feeling a tad flustered.

“No need to mention such things.”

“No, I think we prejudged you harshly, sir Ed. Although you said apologies were unnecessary… I wanted to take this chance to apologize.”

“Well, if you insist, I suppose, just keep it brief.”

After saying that, Aila looked at me and spoke quietly.

“If you need, I’ll cooperate.”

“What do you mean by that…”

“Actually, I’m quite skilled at being kidnapped.”

Aila, with the demeanor of a scholarly girl, seemed far from a combat type.

She seemed more like a princess waiting for a hero, trapped at the top of a tower, awaiting rescue.

However…

“I’m actually specialized in being kidnapped… It’s embarrassing, but…”

Is this correct…

I suddenly found myself wondering…

*

“The price list update should be finalized and submitted by today. I’ll have the reports ready soon.”

Returning to Sylvania’s branch office of Elte Trading Company after a long absence, Lortelle reviewed the backlog of work in his personal office.

Engrossed with the situation in Oldec, he had almost neglected Sylvania. As a result, his desk was buried in documents needing his attention.

Once back in Sylvania, it seemed he couldn’t escape the quagmire of work.

With a sigh, he rolled up his sleeves to check everything that happened during his absence and to review all the ledgers.

In the midst of this, he remembered what Belle had said and instructed Durin.

“To bring the latest price list of groceries.”

But the reply from Durin stated that the price list had yet to be updated.

– I was aware of the general rise in prices, but I didn’t expect it to be to that extent. I will have to check it myself tomorrow. I wonder if the documentation is still in the archive of the branch office.

– It’s a decision made today or yesterday, so it should be there.

Belle had said that the latest price list, taking into account the current market prices, was definitely settled by Durin.

However, Durin reported otherwise.

A feeling of unease struck Lortelle.

“Durin.”

“Yes, acting chairman.”

Lortelle mixed honorifics and casual speech while addressing his employees. Depending on the need, the way he treated them would shift, serving as a means to set the tone for the workforce.

“Bring the latest price list.”

Durin had just stated that the price list had not been updated, yet Lortelle gave the same task again.

Durin stood silently for a moment, contemplating Lortelle’s order across the executive desk.

Lortelle knew well that Durin was not an unscrupulously honest employee.

That he occasionally manipulated the ledgers for minor embezzlement was something Lortelle chose to overlook.

Durin must have been aware to some extent. Lortelle’s lack of action served as a silent indication to keep things moderate.

But if Durin took bold steps across the line, then a realignment was necessary.

After all, if it came to an official accusation, it was Durin who would suffer the losses. The balance of power was such that Durin was always in a submissive position.

If Durin manipulated the price list to inflate purchase prices and pocket the difference, his embezzlement was more than ‘light.’

A hint of malaise crept in.

No matter how much Lortelle had been focusing on Oldec lately and neglecting the Sylvania branch, Durin was not the type to risk such bold theft.

He would at best surreptitiously siphon small amounts of money to collect expensive foreign liquors… just a common employee with a bit of a collector’s habit.

In the cold-blooded world of merchants, this level of corruption was honestly negligible.

But… such blatant misbehavior? It seemed influenced by external factors rather than Durin’s own judgment. Or was there a change of heart?

Either way, it was a matter not to be ignored.

Lortelle watched Durin intently with a chilled expression.

Yet, Durin remained still, meeting Lortelle’s gaze without flinching.

Lortelle didn’t even expect him to bring the adjusted price list immediately and beg for forgiveness.

At the very least, he thought Durin might offer some sort of excuse…

Durin, however, watched Lortelle with an unnervingly calm gaze.

*

“Ah, I am Lien Clenson, the personal secretary to Lortelle, the acting principal of Elte Trading Company…”

It was during my conversation with Aila.

A petite woman with red hair approached our table, appearing quite nervous.

“Ah… Elte Trading Company?”

Aila seemed taken aback by the sudden address from the girl, momentarily flustered.

But the secretary, Lien, proceeded to speak directly to me without minding Aila’s reaction.

“You are Ed Rothtaylor, correct…?”

“That’s me.”

As she placed down a stack of documents she had been holding, secretary Lien slowly began to speak.

“I’ve come with a proposal on behalf of Elte Trading Company…”

This was unexpected for me.

It felt as though there was a major shift happening, as if anticipating big changes unfolding.

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