The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 39

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The Occupation of Ophelius Hall (9)

Act 2, Scene 3, The Occupation of Ophelius Hall.

Battle to capture the fifth-floor boss, head maid Ellis.

Her demeanor as she looks upon Taely’s group from the center of the fifth-floor hall is as calmly composed as ever.

Her poise remains impeccable at all times. Not a hair out of place from head to toe. The chief maid’s attire is significantly more ornate and decorated than that of an ordinary maid. Nevertheless, she hasn’t missed a single detail.

What she holds in her hand is her rapier, intricately engraved with an elaborate rose pattern. In her opposite hand, she gathers mana for intermediate magic.

Not only that, she now has control of all the protective magic circles guarding Ophelius Hall, as Willain has lost consciousness.

She boasts swordsmanship that can stand up to combat students, knowledge of intermediate magic, and, even more, all of Ophelius Hall’s protective magic circles are on her side.

Unlike Willain, who got carried away and destroyed the hall, she thoroughly understands the structure and practical usage of these protective circles, having served as maid chief.

However, she has no chance of defeating Taely’s party. Taely McLore is the protagonist.

Nevertheless, the final battle of Act 2, Scene 3 was inexorably set into motion.

And the conclusion, it would be as abruptly anti-climactic as ever.

*

A single raindrop slides down Shenny’s rapier.

Mana is almost depleted. At best, I can only cast basic magic two or three more times.

I quietly close my eyes and rewind my memories.

Shenny’s initial thrust is aimed between the lower abdomen and the thigh. It’s been the same even after repeating a hundred, a thousand times. The maids of Ophelius Hall all wield their blades in a similar manner, thus, I’ve inevitably grown accustomed to their pattern, reluctant as I am.

Shenny’s foot pushes off the ground amidst the downpour, and she pierces through the rain to close the distance in an instant.

If you view her dive from the front, against the billowing skirts of her maid uniform, it’s as if a single flower blooms.

Yet Shenny’s body swiftly rotates, and the frills of her skirts, petal-like before, twirl and vanish. Before you can visually track her movements, her rapier should be thrust into the thigh—should be, yet—

Clang!

Shenny’s rapier lies flat against the floor, trapped under my foot.

My body has already reacted before Shenny could come close. It’s not a matter of reaction speed—it’s precognition.

Shenny’s strength lies in her coordination with her sister Kelly, who specializes in handling magic.

While Kelly takes care of the rear, causing disturbances and direct firepower, Shenny’s role is to move deftly and agilely into the frontlines, drawing out the enemies’ blind spots.

Her movements, of negligible direct power, unnecessarily showy and dynamic, are merely meant to distract, and although agile, her raw strength is weak.

“What, what!”

She attempted to close the distance, thinking I was casting a spell, but the motion mocking basic magic was merely a feint.

One shouldn’t give mages distance. Their large movements and time-consuming incantations require safety from a distance to be truly effective.

Moreover, they lack the physical strength and quickness compared to close-quarters fighters. That is why those facing mages invariably focus solely on closing the gap.

Regrettably, there is a difference in stature between Shenny and me.

“Ugh!”

Startled, Shenny scrambles to draw the dagger strapped between her thighs.

However, my hand intervenes before hers can reach it.

I twist one of Shenny’s wrists while kicking away the bunch of knives strapped to her thigh.

Clang! Clatter!

Even the secondary weapons she’s brought along just in case are rendered pointless.

But suddenly, Shenny’s eyes fill with red as mana begins to seep around her twisted wrist.

The twin maids Shenny and Kelly share abilities to some extent, a privilege bestowed upon siblings blessed by the same star at birth.

A dagger that had been rolling on the floor starts levitating unexpectedly—Kelly’s lower-grade telekinetic magic. “Alive Arms” can direct the movements of a sword or spear to directly attack the enemy.

Four daggers whirl into the air and come to a halt, targeting me. As Shenny’s hand clenches the rapier once more, the daggers lunge, akin to a flight of predatory birds, but I do not divert my gaze.

I hunch down, protect only my vitals, and thrust my shoulder at Shenny.

Shenny’s magic is not as refined as Kelly’s. Though she can borrow the power, it remains merely a distraction.

A dagger lodges into my thigh, right shoulder, and forearm, but the term ‘lodge’ is laughably inadequate—they fall away too easily, like toys tossed by a child. The damage to me is negligible bleeding.

I do not relent on Shenny’s twisted wrist.

From the beginning, Shenny’s purpose was clear. The incoming daggers aimed to distract and compel a response, with most of her offensive relying on her distinctive swift movements.

Having restricted her, I have no intention of relinquishing my upper hand.

I fall to the floor, holding onto Shenny’s twisted wrist as I bring my elbow down onto her solar plexus.

“Ugh!”

Releasing the pigeon into the air, I bestowed upon its wings the gift of freedom.

The homing pigeon, slicing through the rain-streaked night sky, promises to return with Elte’s necklace clasped in its beak.

Relief sighs from me, satisfied with the completion of a significant task.

*

It’s been a while since the northern woods have been so welcoming.

Once a harsh terrain where survival was a day-to-day struggle, I’ve since realized there is no place quite like these woods. After all, even the most humble abode is most comfortable when it’s one’s own, no matter what.

The rain has nearly ceased. Or rather, has stopped completely.

The forest in the aftermath of rain cultivates a unique ambiance.

Though the deluge has ended, a heavy moisture presses upon the skin, weighing down movements.

Yet even oppressive humidity becomes a pleasant sensation amidst the mystique of the greenery. Floating among the richly dampened scent of grass, I feel part of the woods myself.

However, to claim kinship with them… my appearance might suggest otherwise.

My shirt is soaked in blood, gashes open on my thighs and shoulders. Although bleeding has ceased, stains remain, and with my limp resembling a zombie’s gait.

Yet, considering my past experiences, I’m certain these wounds will heal faster than being gored by a boar or falling from a tree trying to gather fruit. After all, once the flesh heals, so will I.

“Huff…”

With a deep sigh, I hasten my step. Follow an almost trail-like path, more akin to a rugged mountain route, I push through the foliage.

Should all plans have come to fruition, Lortelle would be waiting in the cabin.

The clock ticks against Elte. From his perspective, cold sweats should be the least of his worries.

Before the pigeon arrives and the sale is agreed upon, I must find Lortelle and coax the whole truth from him. Even if it requires a somewhat violent and brutal approach.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a challenging endeavor.

No one would imagine the head of the Elte Trading Company appearing in such a place at a time like this. Not even I considered it, nor did Lortelle. After all, one of his stature is always preceded by rumors days in advance.

Had it not been for the help of Zix and Yenika and some timely resourcefulness, Lortelle would have faced inevitable downfall without recourse.

Nevertheless, now the odds seem favorable. Time is on Lortelle’s side, and likely today’s night to tomorrow afternoon marks the last chance.

Should word reach that Lortelle’s carriage has dashed out of Acken Island, Elte won’t be able to sit still.

In these pressing hours, searching methodically within Acken Island isn’t an option.

Chasing the fleeing carriage, trying to trace Lortelle’s steps, will likely waste precious time.

Even if I could swiftly corner the coachman and extract the truth, it would be too late once the chase leads back to Acken Island. Failure to resolve matters at the Ophelius Hall could prove to be a bitter mistake.

I can only hope Lortelle waits back at the cabin.

With these thoughts, pressing forward, a young girl appears at the crest of a low hill.

Due to her overnight ordeal, her normally blazing red hair has lost its luster.

Her hair, once neatly tied to one side, is now unkempt, her drenched body showing no sign of drying despite the rain’s end.

A girl who has lived a life in a golden world, calculating profit and compromise, known as the Golden Daughter.

Though her expression is concealed under the hood of her robe, I speak casually,

“What’s this, you’ve come to meet me? How obliging.”

My remark hangs without a response.

The girl seems weary, her steps unsteady as she descends the trail.

The clearing clouds and rising moon cast shadows, further obscuring her face.

— In her hand, she unsheathes a silver dagger, its edge gleaming dangerously.

A shiver runs down my spine.

“….What?”

Is it one of the knives carried by Shenny? After I subdued Shenny and exited through the back, it would have been possible for her to snatch one.

Was the dagger kept as a personal defense since using magic would draw too much attention?

I shake my head.

Clear your thoughts. That’s an overly optimistic interpretation.

Trying to take a step back, my battered body fails to match the necessary pace.

Of course. Was I too careless?

The opposing force is none other than the Golden Daughter, Lortelle.

One who uses others for her benefit and discards with a brutal, loveless heart when deemed necessary.

Indeed, from Lortelle’s perspective… now’s the time to eliminate Ed Rothtaylor.

Regardless of Elte’s fate, it’s crucial to minimize those aware of the true nature of the Ophelius Hall siege involving Elte Trading Company.

She’s bribed five individuals.

Ellis, Shenny, Kelly, Willain, and me, Ed.

Even if she manages to dethrone Elte, the five must be silenced.

Ellis is ruled by the logic of money. Once a traitor always held at arm’s length, yet throwing enough coin keeps track of the agreements. Her betrayal likely stemmed from financial discontent.

Moreover, should Elte fall from grace, Ellis’s only choice would be to align with Lortelle. As clear as her predicament, she can be exploited without fail.

Shenny and Kelly, maids loyal to Ellis’s word, would naturally follow with Ellis’s persuasion.

Representative low-end scholar Willain had been initially bribed. Initially desired to be the voice for his peers, money in hand, he was a puppet dancing to any tune—an easily managed pawn.

The uncontrollable variable left is Ed Rothtaylor.

Initially assumed purchasable, current circumstances dash confidence in bonding through coin alone.

The risk of a second betrayal looms while attempting to read between lines.

In a secluded spot of the northern woods.

Amidst the chaos of the siege, no eyes bear witness.

Wounded and exhausted, the figure can barely stand, much less fight back.

In hand oddly rests a sharp weapon.

She’s the incarnation of greed that seizes even the smallest opportunities.

I know more than anyone; she isn’t the type to forego such a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Stay calm.

There’s a chance to counter.

Tired as I am, she must be exhausted too, not yet deep inside the woods; there may still be a way out if I evade her just once.

The woods host spirits friendly towards me. With their aid, I might obstruct Lortelle’s pursuit at least once.

Admit it; I was too complacent.

I didn’t consider all potential variables amidst the unfolding chaos.

After all, I shouldn’t have forgotten the essence of Lortelle Keheln.

The climax seen in Act 2, Scene 3, the Sage’s Seal Confrontation that triggered Act 2, Scene 10.

Have I so quickly forgotten the sight of Lortelle, witnessed in that climax?

Lortelle Keheln is the quintessence of villainy—an archvillain capable of betraying her foster father, grasping the tails of the Taely gang, seizing all the stakes as she escapes with the Sage’s Seal.

Her image, holding the Seal in the face of scholars, smirking viciously, resonates; the residues of the scene still etched in my mind.

This isn’t the time for distractions. Engage the mind.

As I muster the strength of my uncooperative body, poised to form a credible escape plan, an unexpected sound breaks my focus.

– Rustling.

Lortelle, using her dagger, slashes her plush robe with apparent ease.

Staggering, she approaches,

“Was it really necessary… to be this injured?”

Tenderly, with torn cloth, she binds my wounds.

Her exposed expression is tear-filled,

“I will support you. I lit a fire, knowing the rain had stopped. Let’s warm up first, shall we?”

– Crackling, crackling.

“So, did everything go according to plan?”

“You’re really something, Ed Rothtaylor.”

Her words hang, yet the moon and stars resume their nightly vigil. The clearest sky following the rain wraps us in coziness.

Between us, separated by the dancing flames, she smiles, her fox-like demeanour seemingly returning.

“I ensured the coachman’s utmost promise. He swore to draw attention and buy time, even if it cost him his life.”

“So loyal? What did you offer?”

“Do you want to know?”

Her mischievous grin betrays her unscrupulous methods, prompting me to refrain from prying. Could it be she’s taken his family hostage?

…Surely not?

“Anyway, I owe you big time, Ed Rothtaylor. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Do you understand? If this plan succeeds, I will become one of the actual power-holders of Elte Trading Company.”

Though another veteran merchant will nab the patron’s seat, being the architect behind the current patron’s success cements her as a power broker within the company.

“To bestow such a debt upon me is no small matter. Don’t you feel a surge of pride? Don’t I seem impressive?”

“…”

“Come on, such a dull reaction.”

Still laughing, I’m relieved her smile hasn’t changed, no different from before she concealed her malevolence.

Lortelle’s playful chuckles subside as she sips her herb tea… then somberly lowers her tone,

“Thank you, Rothtaylor. I will never forget this.”

“Just make sure to pay back those 20 denars on time.”

“Ahaha, of course… I’d never omit that.”

Amused by something, she fails to drop the smile, blinking as she scrutinizes my face, as if attempting to read my mind, unsettling me alone.

“Changing the subject, I’ve wanted to ask you something, senior.”

“What? Is something still unresolved? About Ellis?”

“No, not that. I’ll address that myself… It’s about senior Yenika.”

Effortlessly shifting the conversation, a natural skill for any merchant.

“You’re quite close to Senior Yenika, aren’t you?”

At her words, I tilt my head briefly, responding sincerely,

“Yes, we’re friends. She’s a good kid.”

“Indeed, a wonderful and respected senior. Always caring for others with a kind heart.”

“Yes, and your point is?”

At that, Lortelle gazes skyward, lifting her eyes to the heavens seen from the northern woods’ riverbank. The sky is clear and lofty, as always.

The rain has ended. Like rejoicing in the fact or proclaiming it to someone.

“I’m not as kind as that.”

She murmurs, eyes shut, cradling her mug.

– Booming loudly!

The ground floor of the Ophelius Hall is beyond ravage; it’s demolished.

Zix Effelstein wraps up the battle and recomposes himself. The mercenaries Elte had brought were less formidable than expected.

They didn’t appear to be mercs contracted directly under Elte Trading Company. If they were of a higher grade, even Zix would struggle. But in the face of sheer numbers, quality often falters.

However, the condition of the mercenaries was woefully shoddy, making Zix and Yenika alone sufficient in defending the manor.

‘Hastily gathered mercenary bands? Either an urgent situation or someone wished to avoid revealing their absence.’

Contemplating, Zix settles down among the debris.

‘Somehow… I get the feeling we’re poised for another fight. The head maid’s been on my mind. There’s definitely something there.’

The situation is hardly satisfactory, but given the circumstances, there’s no choice.

“Whew, thank you for your hard work, Senior Yenika.”

Swept into the situation by Ed’s abrupt request, Zix wonders if this was part of Ed’s plan. Elte suddenly dashed off upon receiving some report mid-battle and now has no apparent interest in the manor.

Maybe this turned out well after all? Perhaps I’ll hear the full story later.

With these thoughts, Zix glances at Yenika.

“…”

Amid the ranks of mid-tier spirits, a girl remains. She initially seemed worried, but as the battle wore on, the spirits seemed uncharacteristically fierce.

Zix had to repeatedly deter Yenika from intensifying the fight, fearing casualties might result.

“Senior Yenika?”

Yenika’s back is all Zix can see, her presence almost sinister. He instinctively holds his breath at the sight.

“Senior Yenika, is something troubling you? Are you upset?”

“No.”

The girl is smiling faintly.

“I’m not angry.”

Still, the sight of bulging veins in her fuming glare halts his attempt to converse further.

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