The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 42

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Cats, cats, cats (3)

Assistant Professor Claire Elfin was quietly banging her head on her desk in her private research office.

Her wavy blonde hair cascading down like waves embroidered the table, and her glasses, briefly removed, were demurely folded beside her.

Most new assistant professors, having received their degrees in elemental studies and begun their teaching careers, spend their first month with rosy complexions and romantic expressions.

However, once they truly understand the cutthroat lives the esteemed and authoritative professors had to endure, they quickly wish to return to their student days when focusing on their own studies sufficed.

Claire, now in her second semester as an assistant professor, felt no different.

“I want to die…..”

Her pale, child-like skin and eyes that could charm observers in an instant, along with her youthful beauty that triggered a desire to protect her even as she aged, had always been Claire’s pride.

Yet when she momentarily raised her head and saw the reflection of a walking corpse in the hand mirror before her, the thought was depressing.

Despite daily skincare to prevent her skin from drying out, the dark circles gradually expanding territory below her eyes seemed ready to unify a continent.

“I want to die….!!!”

She murmured her wish, but no one would listen.

Preparing for undergraduate courses, even the basics, was overwhelming.

Moreover, she needed to cater to each student’s academic performance.

Additionally, she had pitched research proposals to various towers throughout the semester, all which were rejected without reason, probably due to a lack of trust in a new assistant professor.

Unable to actively collect research data, the sources for her papers were limited.

The lack of research performance led to pressure from the university.

Amidst all this, the students were so prone to mischief, and the aftermath often fell into Claire’s lap as the junior faculty member.

“…”

The fear of becoming a wrinkled old lady by the time she earned full professorship crawled up her spine.

Once a prodigy who sped through her advanced degree courses in her twenties and secured her own research office as a professor, Claire had achieved much at a young age — excluding honorary positions, she might have been the youngest to accomplish so much within the university. And yet, here she was.

She had thought the flower of her life was blooming, not expecting the trials that awaited to be so arduous.

Knock, knock.

As she wallowed in pessimism, a knock sounded at the door of her office. Perhaps an assistant coming to report on the inventory check of elemental studies materials.

Bang!

Before Claire could tidy up her corpse-like appearance and invite them in, the door swung open on its own.

“Taking a break?”

It was Glast, her academic advisor since her degree program days, known colloquially as the ‘irritable skull’, the senior professor in charge of first-year students.

Having spent over five years under the unyielding Professor Glast as his apprentice, Claire was hardly embarrassed by her current disheveled state.

However, his presence always ushered in ominous forebodings.

“Oh, my dear Professor Glast. To think you’d come down to visit an assistant professor’s office, what brings you here? Shall I prepare a cup of coffee for you?”

“No, that’s not necessary. Claire, I’ll just convey the message and leave.”

Though a cold sweat trickled down Claire’s arm, she maintained a polite smile.

“Wh-what is it?”

“Have you read the report on the accident at the Ophelius Building?”

“Yes.”

“The Inspection Department has completed their investigation. The date for the Disciplinary Committee to determine punishment for the instigator has been set. The university lacks attendees for the proceedings; it looks like the dean might have to go alone.”

“That’s unfortunate. And Senior Professor Olbaig of the third year…?”

“He’s away at a conference at the mage tower.”

“Professor Kelbrim..?”

“Busy with royal counsels for the Clorel kingdom. We cannot afford to interfere with royal matters needlessly.”

“Oh! I heard Professor Delfina has returned from her leave!”

“She injured her back and is in pain.”

So, you, Professor Glast? Claire didn’t dare finish her thought. He’d likely dismiss her with some inane excuse and return to his research in primeval magic.

“You can leave the task of reviewing the case report, making a judgement, drafting the opinion submission, and other simple paperwork to your assistants. But you’ll have to make the important decisions yourself.”

“Professor Glast, I’m really sorry, but it’s the beginning of the school year and I happen to be in charge of the basic courses… Things are quite hectic… I also have three draft proposals to write, and if I don’t start on the elemental studies paper this semester, my situation will be precarious too…”

“If that’s the case, then you’ll have to cut down on sleep.”

Nodding in agreement, Glast dropped a binder full of relevant documents on her desk and left the room.

“…”

Claire unfolded the binder without changing her expression. She briskly flipped through, finding a concise summary of the occupation incident at Ophelius Hall.

The ‘lone act’ of head maid, Ellis of Ophelius Hall.

She persuaded Shenny and Kelly to use the facilities at Ophelius as hostages for a demonstration led by negotiations with Willain.

Grievances against the university for overworking her despite her deteriorating health appeared to be the main motive.

Since she had always been diligent and well-mannered, no one expected such an event, resulting in significant damage.

Taely, Aila, and Elvira were considered for shop allocations, while the names of Ed, Yenika, and Zix were listed as potential subjects for further investigation, though it seemed like further resources would be spared if the facts were clear.

—There was no mention of Lortelle’s name, and there was no reason for Claire to find this odd.

After quickly scanning through the documents, she could gauge the amount of work needed.

“It doesn’t seem too bad.”

Claire clicked off her thick glasses.

“Check the investigation report, gather university opinions, submit the opinion papers, finalize the student disciplinary measures, determine the necessity of further investigation, attend the committee, verify the accuracy of the minutes, report to the university administration and the dean’s office, inform Professor Glast that the tasks have been well handled, and then submit the collated documents to the record office…!”

She just had to juggle this with her usual university and research duties!

Claire folded her glasses and placed them back on her desk, then flung open the window behind her and screamed out.

“Even a junior professor is human…!! Save me…!!!!!”

“Right, I forgot to mention, due to the budget shortfall this semester, several research proposals have been rejected, so check those out. The university plans to compile assets for liquidation related to the budget issues; delegate that to your assistants.”

Suddenly turning around, Claire saw Professor Glast had returned to the office.

Suppressing a hiccup, Claire turned her head to look at the unmoved ‘skull’ professor who seemed indifferent to the surroundings.

“I apologize.”

“This isn’t new. Just make sure you do your job well.”

“Yes…”

Claire sat down and hung her head in defeat, looking like a person who had given up on life.

*

The next night, a message arrived.

– ‘The sale of long-winded articles has been approved. The investigation on the fall of the guild leader is complete. Elte’s power has been heavily restricted. His downfall is almost assured, the mood is turning. Report your status,’

Information was crammed succinctly onto the small piece of parchment and dispatched with haste. The shadow war, for all its fearsome reputation, proceeded with such simplicity.

“With things having come this far, Father is probably making his last stand at the main guild office. It’s a futile struggle, but… he definitely won’t have the time to worry about here in Sylvania,”

“What’s the chance Elte’s got something else up his sleeve?”

“He’s just as crafty as I am… It’s not entirely zero. But we’ll have to trust Slough, who’s aiming for the guild leadership. Apart from that, there’s not much I can do from afar.”

The flickering campfire repelled the night’s darkness. Yenika had returned home long since it was late.

Late summer, or the dawn of autumn.

The northern forest was currently changing its attire along that boundary line. The outermost deciduous trees had already begun to alter the color of their leaves.

The once familiar sound of insects had faded from the height of summer, leaving the night-time forest tranquil.

Changing attire wasn’t unique to the forest. I was doing the same.

“Doesn’t this refurbished uniform seem a bit worn out?”

“It’s wearable enough as it is.”

“Hmm… Well…”

Since there was nothing good about prolonging my absence, I planned to return to school the following day.

Trying on the robe on a whim, I found it surprisingly neat and acceptable.

“Well, at least I’m a bit safer now… I feel somewhat relieved.”

Lortelle smiled faintly, pulling the hem of her robe as she sat down.

“There’s a lot to do immediately. First off, there’s the issue of where to stay…”

“Even with all our efforts, it’s said that restoring Ophelius Hall will take at least a semester.”

“Right. There’s also the matter of checking if there’s available space in the temporary lodgings… And then there’s the aftermath of the incident to deal with… although it seems mostly resolved,”

I heard they’d hastily converted the empty faculty offices and the abandoned buildings in the southern part of the island into provisional accommodations.

Tidy as they were on short notice, they wouldn’t satisfy the displaced students of Ophelius Hall. But, given the circumstances, it couldn’t be helped.

“The biggest concern was about Miss Ellis, but it seems to have ‘settled’…”

“…”

I tossed a few more logs into the campfire.

“Did Ellis not reveal that you were the mastermind behind this?”

“She really couldn’t, it’s a bit like ‘advance payment’.”

“Advance payment?”

“Think about it, senior. head maid Ellis would’ve sided with whoever was winning between me and Elte.”

Pulling out a small sheet of parchment from within her clothing, Lortelle revealed information.

It was something Belle Mayar had conveyed after visiting Ellis in the aftermath of the incident.

On the parchment were a list of orphanages Ellis had supported her whole life, their annual maintenance costs, and sponsorship details.

“Once my victory seemed certain, she turned towards me again. Simply put… regaining lost trust is hard.”

Ellis had already betrayed Lortelle once.

Even if it were for a necessary cause, would Lortelle trust Ellis again?

Even if trust were granted out of necessity, upon losing her usability, being abandoned was the likelier outcome.

After all, no one employs a betrayer to the end.

“Miss Ellis… She knew well enough that I wouldn’t trust her, hence she kept her mouth shut as an example, to instill confidence in me. Well, I prefer the role of the mastermind behind the occupation not to be revealed, so I had to play along.”

Ellis was a survivor in her own right.

Despite non-stop work, failing health, and no support from the administration, she gambled her whole life when she could no longer run the orphanages.

Always taciturn, with little emotional display, her desperation went unnoticed. No, perhaps ‘unnoticed’ is the wrong word.

On a rainy day behind Ophelius Hall.

I remember Shenny who was looking up at me with bloodshot eyes while pinned under me.

At least those who followed Ellis had a basic understanding of her situation and psychology.

“Holding any grudges against Ellis? After being betrayed?”

“Of course I’m furious. It’d likely be not guilty to slap her upon meeting, right?”

“For someone betrayed, you do seem relieved.”

“Well, I’m alright now. For now.”

Somehow pleased, she gave me a fox-like grin as she sat by the campfire, resting her chin in her hands.

“I’m not exactly virtuous enough to stand tall with pride. If necessary, even those who’ve betrayed me must be exploited again. No permanent enemies or allies in this field.”

“Let’s avoid crossing paths then.”

“Of course, senior.”

As Lortelle chuckled, she stood up and dusted off her skirt.

Now that safety was somewhat assured, it was time to get moving.

Even if Elte’s fall from grace was evident, Lortelle, with her avaricious tendencies, would not give up the pursuit of the Sage’s script. Having stirred up events to this extent, she’d be set on obtaining it.

It was now time to return to the merchant life.

Staying in the camp, idly watching the stars between the leaves or counting them… the romantic interlude was nothing but a brief deviation.

“I’ll be going. You’ll visit the trading post next week to sign the contract, won’t you?”

“Yes, that’s the plan.”

Putting down my arrow, I retrieved a fire poker from the fire and imbued it with an ignition spell.

The charm would serve as a torch for a while, providing necessary light in the darkness of the forest for those unfamiliar with its paths.

I handed the torch to Lortelle as she began to leave. Making a half-moon smile, she hummed thoughtfully.

“What are you pondering?”

“Oh, it’s just that you’re taller than expected, senior.”

“Out of nowhere?”

“Hmm… I’m wondering if I’m rushing things. No matter the context, taking over would involve some kind of audacious move…”

Abruptly, her mumbling turned cryptic, and I extended my hand, urging her to take the torch and be on her way.

But instead of accepting the torch, Lortelle suddenly started on a tangent.

“You know, senior? Human relationships are fundamentally a push and pull.”

“What?”

“Like this necktie. See, it’s crooked.”

Lortelle moved closer with a mischievous smile and held the back of my necktie knot.

“Just as you need to push the front part and pull the back to straighten it properly.”

“Does my attire bother you that much when there’s no one to see?”

“Well, what’s wrong with always being neatly composed? We are students of Sylvania, after all.”

Before I could reply, Lortelle seized the necktie with one hand and pulled forcefully.

Caught off-guard, my head jerked forward, and seizing the moment she tiptoed…

“The raspberries we had for dinner were delicious, right? A surging memory, how pleasant.”

“…”

“Didn’t expect you to look so serious.”

“Keep your distance.”

“That’s disappointing…”

Finally, Lortelle took the torch and scampered backward, muffled laughter betraying her composed expression. If she had a tail, it would surely be fox-like.

“Don’t be too pushy or dismissive, lest you be disliked. Next time, it’s your turn to pull, senior.”

Turning away, she continued to laugh, her gaze still fixed behind her.

“Guess I’ll need to practice pushing away, too.”

As such, Lortelle disappeared into the dark forest. The light of the torch wavered and occasionally dropped, but she wouldn’t lose her way.

Standing where I had sent her off, I rubbed my face.

It felt like a hammer to the back of the head, but I needed to calm down and regain my composure.

I had hoped to avoid entanglement with the main storyline characters, but life doesn’t always follow plans.

Especially now, with the Ophelius Hall siege accelerating Elte’s downfall.

The main scenario of Act 2, Chapter 10, ‘The Battle for the Seal’, primarily features Elte’s downfall.

Effectively, it meant the story was progressing ahead of schedule, creating a significant gap in the scenario.

Yet, one between Elte and Lortelle had to exit, and given the more significant role Lortelle played in future events, my hands were tied.

Elte’s downfall was an inevitable chapter; only the sequence had changed a bit, which wouldn’t adversely affect the scenario, I thought. But with the anxiety growing, I knew too well how minor influences could alter the course of a story.

In theory, if it all went smoothly, the storyline would stay roughly on track… but now, I couldn’t be sure about it.

Looking at the sky, the stars were still beautiful, the moon bright.

The chirping insects, crackling fire, everything sounded the same, but it felt as if the orbit of the storyline I was in was constantly twisting.

Watching quietly from the sidelines, just grabbing what I needed from the smoothly concluding scenario, my plan hadn’t changed.

Yet, despite my intentions, I couldn’t help feeling sucked into the center of the narrative.

No ambitions of my own. Just to graduate and build up my credentials was the goal.

That simple plan… it would soon prove to be a perilous challenge.

Summer passes, and autumn arrives.

It was now the second semester.

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