The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 70

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Surviving Winter (3)

During the vacation season, Acken Island is always embraced by a tranquil atmosphere.

The buildings in the professors’ area, usually packed with crowds during the semester, are now empty. Since not even half of the students stay at school without returning home, a similar vibe is found wherever you go.

The commercial section of the dormitory area also experiences its off-season during the break, so many shop owners take the time to breathe and relax.

“Hmm…”

I straighten my clothes while standing in front of the glass window of Faculty Hall. I adjust the buttons on my sleeves and straighten the collar of my coat to improve my overall appearance.

The school uniform that I’ve had laundered feels remarkably crisp and clean.

Taking care of the uniform on my own is quite a hardship. I owe a great deal to Belle Mayar in this regard.

“Since the laundry always comes in bulk, adding one uniform doesn’t make much difference to the workload.”

“Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it adds more work for you, especially during a busy time. Thank you for your help.”

“We have a prior connection since you were from Ophelius Hall, and as I serve those acquaintances of yours, showing some flexibility is no trouble at all. Please, feel free to ask when it’s time to have it cleaned again.”

Belle Mayar, whom I met after a while, hasn’t changed. Indeed, her skill in handling affairs is first-class.

Only the simplicity of the senior maid’s attire has been swapped for the more elaborate dress of a maid director, but her tone remains devoid of major emotional shifts and her expression is as impassive as ever.

Her hair seems to have grown longer, with a rose pin the size of a fingernail attached to the notably long strand on her right side.

“The restoration of the Ophelius Hall is complete, isn’t it? With the incoming freshmen, the maids must be having quite a busy time.”

“Master Ed. But why do you still use formal speech?”

“I’m more comfortable with it.”

“I prefer to be casual.”

“And I prefer formal speech.”

It feels like a peculiar battle of nerves has just taken place.

Being in a position like the maid director, she almost counts as a ‘senior’ among the college staff… Now that I’m neither a noble nor a student of Ophelius Hall, it feels quite cumbersome.

I’d rather not deal with any complications in the family tree later on, so I kept the conversation formal, but to Belle, it seemed inconvenient. Nonetheless, she is a born maid through and through.

“Anyway, now that the restoration of Ophelius Hall is complete, it feels like my workplace is stabilizing as well.”

“It’s somewhat surprising that it took almost a semester to finish the restoration… I guess the college must have put a concerted effort into it.”

“It is one of the most critical facilities among the dormitories. Most students who were using the temporary accommodations have been assigned rooms and started moving in. This applies to the freshmen as well.”

The second semester of the second year is wrapping up, and with that, the peaceful vibe has returned to the college as winter break brings the year to a close.

The exam results came out decently enough, and with the end-of-term ceremony tidily concluded, the campus begins its preparation for the next semester.

In the administrative view of the college, winter break is a preparation period for the commencement of the next term.

It is a season to tie up the necessary loose ends between one semester and the next – it is a time of change within the college.

In each professor’s lab, preparations for next semester’s academic schedules are well underway, and research work continues without pause.

The move-in of new students to the dorms is likewise in progress. Since every student has different circumstances and schedules, many choose to move in during the long winter break at their convenience.

“That aside, there’s actually something I wanted to ask about, which is why I came to see you.”

Belle said and paused on the street. With the position of maid director, responsibilities tend to pile up, making it harder to take action.

They could easily assign a junior maid to deliver a laundered uniform, so the reason she came in person must be that she has something on her mind.

“Since this break, there have been seven freshmen assigned to Ophelius Hall who will require our services.”

Only seven out of numerous freshmen – the number itself is indicative of the high bar set for Ophelius Hall admission.

“One of them has a name that sounded familiar, so I came to confirm.”

“Tanya Rothtaylor?”

“Yes, indeed. She applied for early dormitory residence before the break started.”

Freshmen can move into their designated dormitories at any time during the break. It allows them to have ample time to prepare for the upcoming semester.

Most will finish up preparations at home and enter the college around the time of seating exams. After all, arriving early doesn’t offer much to do.

“She’s now in the midst of moving into a room assigned in the newly reconstructed Ophelius Hall… But given the circumstances, isn’t it a delicate matter?”

I’m in the position of being disowned by the Rothtaylor family.

Tanya is a lady who has been showered with love from the Rothtaylor household.

“And since she is your sister, you might know better, but… it seems like Ms. Tanya harbors a grudge over the disgrace you brought upon the family name.”

“I see.”

My response was bland, which seemed to make Belle peer at me closely, unsatisfied.

“Is that alright with you? I am in a position where I can only judge based on personal details and first impressions… But from what little I saw, Miss Tanya seemed to put great importance on the family’s honor.”

“I understand your point.”

The resentment of one’s bloodline. If one day a family with whom you shared a splendid upbringing starts to scorn you, it certainly becomes a mental burden.

Basically, Belle is showing concern and giving me a heads-up. Perhaps she’s suggesting I prepare myself mentally.

“Thank you for your concern.”

I already know quite a bit about Tanya.

[Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman] Act 3, Scene 3. In the episode of the student council president election, which centers on a political battle, she aspires to become the first-ever freshman student president in Sylvania’s history.

As with most characters originating from the Rothtaylor family, she serves as an antagonist.

Tanya is one who idealizes nobility and glory. In a Sylvania filled with stars, the role of being the youngest student president must seem like a desirable fruit.

I closed my eyes.

The villainess.

Tanya embodies the stereotype of that magical word, but cannot simply be dismissed as a consumable villain. Tanya has her own innate talents after all.

She is a political prodigy.

She argues principles, draws lines between sides, discredits opponents, manipulates issues, and manages to shift legitimacy onto herself.

Political campaigns are often reduced to grubby brawls in the mud. At least, that’s how Tanya’s values see it.

Politics are not about seeking the best option but about settling for the least bad one. And when faced with the worst or the lesser evil, the people will inevitably lean towards the lesser evil.

Victory in politics is ultimately about who can be the lesser evil.

That’s the value Tanya Rothtaylor has instinctively learned.

She probably arrived in Sylvania early to amass as much of her own influence before the semester starts as possible.

She will court those with power and high standing within the college to win them over.

In the process, what will she do with Ed Rothtaylor, born of the same bloodline?

Though kin, I have been disowned, so we might as well be strangers.

Still, knowing Tanya’s character, it seems unlikely she would leave someone who tarnished the family name alone. However, since I’m unaware if she harbors deep resentment towards me, I cannot judge.

Why? Because… I don’t know! I am not another person; I am myself!

As someone who’s played [Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman] countless times, I’m fairly well-versed in the character of Tanya, a significant villain in the story… but ironically, I have no idea about myself.

Ed Rothtaylor is a fleeting villain who briefly appears and vanishes…!

Not much about him is explored in the lore, and there’s hardly anything noteworthy in the epilogue – he’s the epitome of an extra!

Nothing about my former life at the Rothtaylor manor, the family’s internal view of me, or my relationship with Tanya is clear – no clues at all…!

Yet, considering the history of this body… I can guess that I wasn’t treated too highly.

Hopefully, at best, I was treated ordinarily and not with the disdain reserved for the arrogantly incompetent.

“Well, I’m pretty busy myself at the moment… Unless Tanya comes up with some kind of overture, I don’t see any reason to worry about it myself.”

“If that’s how you feel, there’s no more for me, merely a servant, to add.”

“I see.”

“Anyway, I’m really thankful. I was already troubled about having to rewash my school uniform due to my duties as a scholarship student.”

“Don’t worry about it. Lately Miss Lucy seems to be indebted quite often, and our unfinished tasks might have contributed to that, which has been bothering me.”

“You were thinking about that?”

Belle stroked his chin and tilted his head as he spoke.

“When washing Miss Lucy’s clothes recently, I’ve noticed an unusual amount of golden hair lingering. When washing Master Ed’s clothes, the scent of the candles Miss Lucy uses and white hairs are often found as well… It’s just a deduction.”

It’s true that recently Lucy has been clinging more than usual.

If I’m not doing any physical work, Lucy might lie down with her belly on my lap or I might wake from a nap to find her snoring atop me.

Though it was a somewhat awkward situation as Belle mentioned, to notice all that from just doing laundry… What would this person have done if not for being a maid…?

“Well… You don’t really need to worry about that, Belle. Just sharing some food occasionally and helping out like this from time to time is more than enough for me. With all the worries that come with being a maid chief, you must have bigger concerns than that, perhaps with your duties… or personal relationships…”

“Work is fairly easier now that I’m dealing more with management supervision and the physical labor has decreased because we have many capable individuals. And regarding personal relationships, it seems you, Master Ed, are more…”

Belle trailed off, looking at my freshly laundered uniform and stopped mid-sentence.

“Never mind. Too much worry can also become a burden. Regardless of how complicated the relationships around Master Ed may become, it’s for Master Ed to handle.”

“?”

“I won’t overstep my boundaries. Whatever decisions the ladies make… it is their own choice.”

With those words, we each let out a deep breath, our exhalations dissipating ineffectually into the sky.

“It’s gotten quite cold. Please take care of your health, Master Ed. You don’t want to suffer from minor illnesses during winter. You seem slightly feverish.”

“Is it that obvious?”

Indeed, Belle was one of the top maids in Ophelius Hall. A mere glance at my face and she had gauged my health.

“I might have to live with a slight fever for a while for personal reasons.”

“If you don’t take good care of yourself, many around you will be heartbroken. Health is paramount. It will get colder, so please be cautious.”

With a grave look, Belle finally made one more comment.

“…But really, will you continue to use honorifics?”

Indeed… Stubborn…

I had thought about dropping formalities when the timing seemed right…

Now it almost felt like a matter of pride…?

*

“Scholarship students, thank you for coming. I’m Anis Haylan, the lead teaching assistant in Professor Claire’s lab.”

“Uh… uhuh…”

“Right now, Professor Claire has been awake for 44 hours dealing with academic conference matters and checking on next semester’s academic schedule. The deadline is tomorrow. So, for now, communication is impossible. I’ll relay important issues on her behalf.”

Behind the smiling Anis, a blonde woman could be seen collapsed face-first on an office desk.

She had taken off one side of her glasses and was resting with an exhausted expression, looking more like a zombie than a human.

In one corner of the spacious lab, including me, there were three male students. They were scholarship students, each coming from different grades.

Clevius Nortondale, Ed Rothtaylor, Yenika Faelover. First year, second year, and third year, respectively. We would all be moving up a grade soon.

“What, what? Ed Rothtaylor… why are you here…?”

I was a little surprised when I saw Clevius.

As a descendant of the Nortondale family, reputed as the continent’s greatest swordsmanship lineage, he was almost disowned by his family due to a fault committed during his childhood. His self-esteem had plummeted, and he often had a negative attitude.

I was aware that he did not receive sufficient support from his family.

Somehow, he would manage to stay in school, but it looked like he was compensating for the lack of tuition funds like this.

There was also Yenika, a senior with a robust build, an entirely new face to me. Word was he was affiliated with the combat department like Clevius.

“Our job as scholarship students involves basic preparations for the upcoming freshman class placement examination and overseeing the exam itself. Essentially, that’s the main task at hand.”

Anis still smiled brightly as she laid out various documents on the table.

“This is Professor Claire’s freshman class placement exam plan, which she has been painstakingly drafting over the past week.”

Every year, the freshman class placement exam had been managed by Professor Glast, but this year Professor Claire was in charge.

Naturally, I knew the outcome.

Not a single student would be placed in the Magic Department’s A Class due to Professor Claire’s examination plans.

In a way, her system might be considered more vicious than Professor Glast’s, not because of her personality but due to fundamental flaws in the exam’s design.

It wasn’t so much a defect as it was simply too difficult. Clearly, it was a mistake on Professor Claire’s part in her duties.

The newcomers simply accepted it, thinking ‘Ah, it’s this hard to get into A Class, I must work harder to get promoted.’

Ironically, it’s funnier because it’s more fair than what Professor Glast attempted—randomly picking students for A Class based on his arbitrary standards. Since no one was placed in A Class, it was odd to even discuss unfairness.

“Last year the test took place in the dense forest to the direct north of Acken Island, but today, it will be held on the Orun Mountain in the northwestern corner. Even though it’s more of a hill than a mountain, it has rough paths which might make the climb time-consuming. And just in case, we need to prepare for the possibility of casualties.”

The more south you go on Acken Island, the more bustling it becomes, and the northward you travel, the more deserted it becomes.

Since there are only two bridges connecting to the Parenn Peninsula on the mainland, one to the southeast and one to the southwest, it makes sense that the northward areas receive less human contact.

Orun Mountain in the northwestern part of Acken Island retained its natural beauty. Apparently, Professor Claire had chosen it as the venue for the placement exam.

“The main outline is similar to last year’s. Magic stones will be placed here and there on Orun Mountain with students tasked to use their mana sensitivity to locate them. Once a magic stone is found, they must ascend to the pinnacle and offer it at the ‘Altar of Galem’ to complete the exam and potentially receive A Class grading. The rest of the scoring criteria are well-outlined in the documents.”

“…Aren’t there going to be too many A Class students?”

Yenika Faelover, the stalwart senior from the combat department, naturally asked a logical question.

“Wouldn’t the magic department’s students find the magic stones quickly? There might even be those who’ll find them with sheer effort without any magic sensitivity. And all they have to do is offer them at the summit’s altar?”

“Of course, the path to the summit won’t be clear. From halfway up the hill, all sorts of illusion magic and direction-confusing magical devices are spread out. Near the top, there will be a fight against medium-tier magical beasts.”

“Magical beasts? What if someone gets injured?”

“Of course, it’s an illusion. But unless the illusion is dispelled, the path remains blocked. Without combat experience, it won’t be easy.”

So, the test involves finding magic stones, reaching the summit, defeating magical beast illusions, and offering the stones successfully at the altar. Each component of this process is a criterion for scoring.

“Yenika, you will assist Professor Claire with procuring magic devices and their layout plan. Clevius, submit the reports required to Triss Hall first, then collect the necessary items you’ve requested, and for Ed Rothtaylor…”

Maybe because I’m the only second-year among them, Anis spoke to me casually and effortlessly.

Stepping up close with a radiant smile, she offered me a warm invitation.

“Let’s go on-site together for some reconnaissance.”

Despite it being our first real conversation, her affability left a deep impression.

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