The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 50

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Sage’s Seal Battle (5)

[He looks really exhausted.]

A breeze is blowing. The wind through the forest, infused by nature, is pleasant at any time, but the wind tickling Yenika’s cheeks isn’t natural.

Merilda, the high-ranking wind spirit.

Her dun fur flutters pleasantly in the breeze, giving off a light appearance despite her substantial size.

Leaning against the Guardian Tree, Merilda spoke in a low voice to Yenika.

[Yenika, you know well that the college curriculum isn’t easy, right? Even as the top student of your year who’s constantly busy, that person has been pushed to their limits with camp life on top of everything.]

“Even Merilda sees it that way.”

It was a decidedly different attitude than when speaking with Tarkan.

Nestled up with her knees, Yenika listened intently to Merilda’s words, swallowing dryly, and tuned in to her close friend’s advice.

[But Yenika, this is an opportunity. That fiery fox is too busy with negotiations and activities to visit the camp often. You have to seize this moment.]

“Right, right.”

[As you know, when someone is pushed to their limits, they are more likely to be persuaded. Don’t feel guilty about exploiting this crisis to your advantage. To make them fall all at once, you can act a bit cunning and materialistic. Some directing may be required.]

“Can you be more specific?”

[Hmm…]

Despite her appearance, Merilda’s manner of speaking and gestures are quite delicate and modest. However, that doesn’t necessarily extend to her way of thinking.

[Like it or not, to ensnare a man, you have to become a bit of a fox, Yenika. In that regard, a girl like that fiery fox is quite clever. There are aspects of her you need to learn from.]

Merilda crossed her legs, raised her head, and cleared her throat with hushed hums and hmms.

[Take attire, for instance.]

Yenika was taken aback by Merilda’s suggestion, valuing it as much as gold.

Planning on trying various recipes near the campfire, she had brought plenty of food ingredients from the academy’s dining hall that were close to expiry – not usually allowed, but the understanding Belle had turned a blind eye.

Intending to cook, her attire was extremely simple: blouse worn and washed many times with sleeves rolled up, and waist tightened on her blue denim skirt that she wore back home on the ranch, draped in a shawl.

She recalled the magnificent and beautiful frilly dresses of Lortelle, the splendor that could make even a woman like her gape in awe. The time she had let down her red-brown hair, adorned with a headband featuring a large blue rose decoration and amber accessories…

Comparing herself now, Yenika’s current look felt more like a robust village woman than an attractive female, a far cry from her usual neat and cute uniforms.

[Perfect score, Yenika. You’ve become quite the fox.]

“Huh?”

Yet, Merilda, self-proclaimed master of love advice (though without any actual experience), praised her.

“I don’t look presentable now, do I?”

[Yenika is really something. You have your own charm. Ordinary vibrancy and vitality—men fall for such a gap. It’s clever the way you subtly show off your different side.]

“That’s… good?”

[Go ahead and roll up your sleeves more, and let’s tie up your hair too. A feeling like a constant companion through hard times is appreciated.]

“Uh, yes! I should definitely play the part with charm!”

Watching Yenika finally roll up her sleeves as if she had planned it all along, Merilda internally sighed. Yenika seemed to believe she had performed an impeccable act of feigned nonchalance.

After being provoked by Lortelle, it would be beneficial to show a little more materialistic nature, but alas, this girl only now corrected her expression to smile. She was like a blank slate of humanity.

How can she date like this?

At this rate, she will end up like a character used and discarded in third-rate romance novels.

Merilda has a keen interest in various human cultural artifacts.

With the aesthetics to appraise art pieces that could perplex an average person, she sometimes even borrowed books from the library using rudimentary transformation magic to imitate human form.

Suddenly, Merilda remembered the third-rate romance novels she occasionally read. Yenika seemed to personify the typical characteristics of the jilted lover in those novels.

The classic portrayal of crying out a past lover’s name while tearing a handkerchief kept coming to mind, making her feel like she was abandoning a child by the waterside.

She doesn’t even hope for Lortelle’s high-society, sophisticated push-and-pull. But to captivate a man, she at least should know how to make herself desirable.

[Anyway, you’re going to see him today, right? If you let an opportunity like this slip, even the heavens may forgive you, but I never will. So go there today and make some progress. Got it?]

“Progress, you say…”

[No, tell me now, Yenika. What did you plan to do today at the camp? How are you going to close the distance with him?]

“Um… that’s…”

Yenika replied hesitantly, not meeting Merilda’s gaze.

“I wasn’t planning on doing anything.”

[AAAAARGH!]

Merilda, trying to contain the rage welling up within her, pressured Yenika.

[Does that make any sense! At a time like this, with such an opportunity! Do you think he’ll be struggling again any time soon? Look at how he’s progressing! It’s at an unbelievable rate! You won’t get another chance like this! There’s no surer formula for victory than spending the time in crisis together! You have to exploit that position, as the person who supported him through tough times, no matter how materialistic or cunning!]

“But, that’s true, so… I wasn’t going to do anything.”

[That doesn’t make any sense at all!]

“No, what I’m saying is… it’s just… my own idea, but…”

Unable to continue her words, Yenika trailed off, leaving Merilda speechless.

However, after a moment’s reflection… this very response felt very characteristic of Yenika.

Perhaps these aspects could even be turned into an advantage. Nodding, Merilda agreed.

[Yeah, that’s very you, Yenika.]

At that, Yenika bashfully buried her head.

*

“The moniker of ‘Golden Daughter’ will soon become a legacy of the old generation, once Elte’s downfall is official.”

Crebin Rothtaylor had not expected to visit Elte Trading Company’s reception room.

Surprised by his move, Lortelle had no choice but to quickly prepare for the reception and sit down to meet him.

“It is an honor and concern at the same time for someone like me, a lowly merchant intoxicated with avarice, counting gold coins, to be graced by your presence, Lord Rothtaylor. I hope my staff’s conduct was not found wanting in any way.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Crebin took the tea in his hand, sipping from the opposite side of the reception desk.

The company might have brought out their finest goods, but to Crebin it might as well have been tasteless as water.

Lortelle sat opposite Crebin, lowering her gaze.

Her every breath was calculated, breathing carefully even to prevent the risk of swallowing dry.

Crebin Rothtaylor was an adversary not easily approached.

Yet, there was no need for excess tension as the intent behind his actions was becoming rather clear.

“Let’s have Elte Trading Company sell back the Sage’s Seal they’ve acquired.”

His tone was matter-of-fact, as if Elte must certainly sell it to him.

“Tell me the profit you had in mind, and I’ll pay that much plus a premium. Wasn’t that the plan all along?”

Elte Trading Company raised their bid for Sage’s Seal counting on the fact that Crebin Rothtaylor would buy it back.

It felt as if Crebin knew that fact as well.

“But this is curious.”

Crebin lowered his head, continuing in a low tone.

“Did you foresee that I would go to such lengths to obtain the Sage’s Seal? The Elte Trading Company I know doesn’t engage in such risky investments.”

“Who knows.”

“It’s as if someone tipped you off about my intentions or mood.”

Lortelle did not make the mistake of gulping or stuttering foolishly.

However, Crebin’s words were piercing through to the truth.

“Do you have an informant with intimate knowledge of our family affairs?”

“Yes, something like that.”

Resorting to blatant lies only invites further suspicion.

An act like this could backfire against Ed Rothtaylor.

Using informants to make a profit isn’t strange to a merchant. Given Crebin’s nature, he wouldn’t antagonize Elte over such actions but he would certainly not overlook a betrayer within his ranks.

Even Crebin, famed as a benevolent Duke, would hardly leave Ed unscathed after being expunged, especially if Ed continued peddling his family secrets after the fallout.

“However, the informant is from a distant location, hard to communicate with, and he demands a high price due to his high status. So it’s only natural that I wish to recoup that investment… just the merchant’s instinct, really.”

A lie intermingled with a grain of truth deceives better.

Instead of repeating noes and unknowing responses, it’s more strategic to subtly lead the conversation in the wrong yet plausible direction.

It is easy to judge whether an opponent is speaking the truth or not. However, deciding how much is truth and where the lies begin is far trickier.

Determining a clear cut-off point for what constitutes a gimmick is… even for humans with innate intuition, it is not an easy task.

Lortelle is a negotiator who knows how to effectively exploit this fact.

“How much will you ask for?”

“12,000 diths.”

“Fine. Once I take over the seal from the scholar, I will buy it immediately.”

There was no haggling over extra negotiations. On the surface, it was a remarkably straightforward deal.

After all, since the Elte Commerce Guild officially won the seal at an auction from the scholar, the transfer must be made before they have the right to sell it. Until then, they had to wait.

“Ah, and there is something else I have to add. Just to save myself a headache if the situation gets any more complicated, I would like to let you know in advance.”

“Oh, what is it?”

“It’s about your stepfather Elte Keheln. I’m no longer interested since he has been disgraced, but it’s just to give you a heads-up in case it affects the business deal, which would be a loss for me.”

Crebin put down his teacup and continued in a low voice.

“After it was confirmed that he fell from grace, he gathered his few personal assets and hired a mercenary company, I was told. Two days ago, I received a report stating they were passing through my territory heading towards Sylvania.”

“What did you say?”

Lortelle was aware of Elte’s suspicious moves, but hadn’t thought that he would have already taken action.

“Well, I don’t think they would be foolish enough to wreak havoc here at Sylvania Academy under imperial protection… but it seems he has something planned at the very least. I would appreciate it if you handled things quickly to avoid getting caught up in such external issues.”

With that, Crebin gathered his attendants and left the Elte Commerce House’s parlor.

Lortelle saw Crebin off and then sat alone in the reception room, sipping the remaining tea. She needed a moment to organize her thoughts.

It appeared the schedule for reselling the sage’s seal was set in stone.

The request from Ed was simply to purchase the actual ‘Sage’s Seal’, so she wasn’t going back on her word.

Ed was aware of the plan to resell the sage’s seal. Ed’s request was fulfilled properly, so once the seal was purchased, Lortelle could ask Ed for ‘anything.’

What a sweet promise that was. Not much longer now.

With just one word ‘anything’, Lortelle’s girlish imagination began to unfold its wings.

If only she could… Then she could do this, and that…

While imagining a blooming flower garden… When she thought of something else, Lortelle’s composure quickly returned to its rightful place.

She had gained a piece of crucial information.

Elte Keheln was on his way.

Honestly, she wasn’t particularly scared. It would merely be his last struggle before sinking into the abyss.

Entertaining the thought that he could wield power against Lortelle with a band of mercenaries was a grave miscalculation.

There was no chance he could bring a private army of significant size into Sylvania Academy, nor was Lortelle’s own strength to be underestimated.

‘If there is some special scheme… Perhaps he intends to take a hostage?’

With that thought, something clicked.

– ‘Do you think just because you honor that child, I will treat you specially? Or have you been bewitched by the child’s beautiful appearance?’

Elte seemed to be under the impression that Ed favored Lortelle greatly.

The reality was the opposite, but even in a dire crisis, they had shown each other support. It was a relationship that could certainly be considered trustworthy.

Though Lortelle always had the commerce guild’s guards at her check, and her own strength was not to be belittled… if the target were Ed, that would be a different story.

If Elte was thinking of kidnapping Ed to use as a bargaining tool…

“She’s crossed a line.”

Quietly donning her robe in a dark corner of the parlor, Lortelle prepared for what was to come.

*

“Ta-da! Looks delicious, right?”

I had been lying around all day.

I had tried to do something, but kept feeling dizzy, coming to the conclusion that I needed a few more days of rest.

I was truly grateful for Yenika’s help.

Two days into my convalescence to recover from exhaustion, Yenika, who had somehow procured plenty of ingredients, had skilfully prepared a variety of dishes.

It was late at night. Perhaps because it was the evening before the weekend, Yenika showed no sign of leaving for the dorms despite the hour.

The cozy darkness of the room was barely kept at bay by the light from the fireplace.

The sounds of the nocturnal insects, which used to be so lively, had decreased with the arrival of fall, replaced by the calls of owls and the rustling of leaves in the wind.

The stew made by Yenika was indeed distinct from what Zix whipped up.

I pondered whether I should learn a few cooking skills, but then reminded myself that my current priority should be recovery, not growth.

“Back in my hometown’s ranch, we’d make stew every day. You know, Ed, when I was a kid and used to take care of the cows…”

As she prattled on with a big smile, seated near the fire, I quietly closed my eyes. Though I was starting to feel better, my strength hadn’t fully returned.

“You look tired, Ed.”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“You should rest soon.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s good that you’ve been helping out with various things, Yenika, but I feel bad that I’ve only shown you my tired self.”

“Huh? Not at all. It’s nothing.”

From Yenika’s perspective, cooking or cleaning hardly seemed like work.

When I asked her why she seemed proficient in nursing the sick and wounded, she said that on the ranch, she often had to help her father, who frequently injured himself working.

Feeling a bit feverish again, I touched my forehead to find it quite warm. A headache and slight fever seemed to be coming on, making me sigh.

After lying down on the makeshift bed in the hut, Yenika followed me in and quietly took a seat in the corner, chuckling.

“What are you planning to do?”

“Nothing at all.”

“Nothing at all?”

“I’ll just be here for you.”

As I looked at her incredulously, she expressed,

“Ed, I know how hard it is. When the body is suffering, the mind suffers too; it’s the same for everyone. I know you’ve been living diligently and enduring harsher days than anyone else. So, you don’t have to pretend it’s not tough.”

Clearing her throat and puffing out her chest as if urging me to compliment her, she connected that to her presence.

“What does that have to do with you doing nothing and just sitting here?”

“Just being there for someone without doing anything is a big support, don’t you know? Ed hasn’t experienced it, so he doesn’t know!”

Then, lowering her gaze and speaking softly, she added,

“There were many times when I was severely stressed and struggled. Although I received a lot of comfort and help from many people… in the end, what gave me the most strength wasn’t that someone tried to do something or comfort me prematurely… it was just having someone sit by me in silence. Since I felt that way, I’m sure it will help Ed too. Just give it a try!”

After saying that, Yenika approached the bed where I lay and sat down with her back against it. I was worried the floor might be cold, but it didn’t seem to be too chilly, given that winter was not yet upon us.

It didn’t look great that I was lying in the bed while Yenika sat on the floor, but she didn’t seem to mind at all.

“You’ve really been through a lot, haven’t you? You’ve done great.”

She smiled pleasantly with her eyes closed.

“No, you really didn’t need to go to such lengths…”

“Shh!”

Her angry look seemed more cute than fierce, and it wouldn’t have been surprising if a laugh escaped instead.

“It’s tough, face it! You have to admit it’s tough to really get good rest! Admit it! Ed is having a hard time!”

With that, I leaned back against the headboard, sat cross-legged, and slowly… lowered my voice.

Perhaps I had been unwilling to admit to myself and turned a blind eye.

“Right… it’s been tough.”

The feeling was indeed peculiar.

I had lived the past semester and a half on a minute-by-minute schedule. But had there ever been a day I wasn’t exhausted? No specific day came to mind.

“It’s been really tough. Too much, actually.”

As I slowly gave myself up to sleepiness, it seemed like I might finally be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

After sleeping straight for 10 hours, my body returned to normal.

I felt emotionally rejuvenated as well, enjoying a refreshing awakening for the first time in a long while.

Upon waking up, I immediately saw Yenika, who had nestled at the foot of the bed, deeply asleep.

Seeing her drooling and blissfully unaware, I couldn’t help but laugh.

It was an unexpected moment of levity.

*

– “Decision to sell the sage’s seal. The person in charge at Triss Hall should complete preparations for transferring it to the resonator and file the report.”

Professor Glast, in charge of transferring resonators for scholarly magic books, was the one with that duty.

In reality, he had delegated most of the work to librarian teachers, holding the title only in name.

However, for a transfer operation of this magnitude, the head person had to step in to handle the work.

“Professor Glast! The seal staff are looking for you!”

Assistant Professor Claire burst into Professor Glast’s office.

What Claire saw was Professor Glast, seated quietly at his desk, gazing out the large window.

His desk was piled high with reports related to the seal’s sale.

“Already got the report, huh? You need to process these papers and report back to the scholars…”

Suddenly realizing that nothing was coming back from Professor Glast, Claire called out his name again, rather needlessly.

Professor Glast, just sitting there quietly, continued to look out the window without a word.

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