The Extra’s Academy Survival Guide Chapter 87

TO ACCESS EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND SUPPORT THIS NOVEL, CLICK HERE !

As the building had been recently renovated, the Ophelius Hall stood stoutly, unshaken even by a blizzard. Its management team comprised of veterans, and most of the residing students possessed exceptional talents, which resulted in a more peaceful atmosphere compared to Dex Hall or Lortelle Hall. The heating was perfectly arranged, and the maids provided for nearly all necessities, so the interior of Ophelius Hall felt more like it was settling into a long rest than preparing for a natural disaster.

Although crossing the dimly lit hallways might give off an eerie feeling in the winter’s soft darkness, the gentle lights from various halls and student facilities inside Ophelius Hall gave off a warm sense of comfort instead. The student halls located midway through each floor seemed to serve as leisure spaces for the residents of Ophelius Hall, albeit somewhat more spacious than their intended purpose.

With antique wooden pillars lined up along the walls and neatly placed tables throughout the hall, assortments of desserts and drinks kept stocked by maids could be found between the pillars, and around the large fireplace located in the center were big round wooden tables arranged in abundance.

Most students spent their time in their rooms, but too much confinement could lead to boredom. Therefore, these facilities inside Ophelius Hall saw a decent amount of use. Some students chatted while enjoying desserts, others participated in light reading groups, and there were also those who practiced chess or engaged in elemental magic to improve their skills.

“Do you really wish for a duel?”

Zix had not long since returned from visiting his family home with Elka. They had hurried back before the blizzard, feeling rather exhausted from the rushed journey and now firmly intent on recovery.

Leaning casually against a table in the student hall, engrossed in alchemical texts, Zix showed a curious smile at the bold suggestion from a junior who had come to greet him.

“Yes, senior Zix.”

Folding the corner of the book he was reading, Zix placed it on the table. The junior who had come to find him was Wade Callamore, holding the position of top freshman.

With hair as white as new snow and pale grey eyes, the boy bore an almost albino appearance as he greeted Zix earnestly. And hastily, he proposed a duel.

“Of course, not right now. You’re famous across the academy, even beyond the Magic Department, senior Zix. I am not yet a match to challenge you in a duel.”

“I’m not really concerned about such formalities. If you want a duel, crossing blades with you is not too troublesome.”

Zix casually leaned on his chin and replied nonchalantly.

“But why?”

“Of course, as a junior, I wish to seek guidance from a senior like you.”

“Skip the superficial reasons.”

As Zix said this, Wade nodded with a grin.

“I want to prove my worth. I feel I haven’t properly demonstrated my strength within the academy yet, so I’m approaching reputed seniors for duels.”

“Hmm… Securing the position of top freshman and still saying such things?”

“I genuinely wish to duel with Zix senior, but considering you just returned from your journey and everyone needs to follow a certain order, it wouldn’t be right to challenge you straight away.”

Wade smiled refreshingly, but Zix sensed that Wade’s intentions were not as pure as his appearance seemed to suggest.

Whether it was Tanya declaring her intention to capture the student council president seat or Wade ambitiously challenging seniors to duels, Zix felt a certain pride watching these energetic juniors.

“I will first defeat seniors like Clevius from Combat Department and Elvira from Alchemy Department before I issue a challenge to you.”

“The Magic Department’s top isn’t me, though?”

“The top sophomore of the Magic Department is usually excluded from such considerations by all students.”

Wade pulled up a chair and sat down, asking a maid to bring him a cup of tea. Indeed, Lucy Mayrill had become the standard exception to the usual ranking considerations, whether for academic grades or duel outcomes.

“Considering that, I view you as the actual top sophomore of the Magic Department.”

“Well, I’m not interested in such hollow victories. Lucy is stronger than me, and I see no reason to exclude that truth.”

“Everyone is aware of your humility, but facts are facts. If I defeat Zix senior, I can prove that I am on a higher level than the other second-year students.”

Wade seemed aware of what he was saying; making such declarations to someone’s face could be seen as provocation, depending on the circumstances. But Zix wasn’t one to take offense at such things – Wade probably knew that too.

“Winning against you, senior Zix, might be hard to guarantee…”

“That sounds like the other seniors will be an easy win for you.”

Wade simply smiled in response.

“And what will you do once you defeat me?”

“Then I’ll extend my challenge to the third-year seniors, like top student Yenika and Combat Department head Drake. Personally, I’m also eager to contest against senior Ed, whose reputation is well-known among us first-years.”

“It’s great to be ambitious, but make sure your confidence doesn’t turn into arrogance.”

Zix wasn’t being rude – he was merely stating the plain truth.

Wade smoothly handled the advice with a word of thanks, though he didn’t seem to take it too seriously.

“I’ve arranged to duel with senior Clevius. With the blizzard locking everyone in the dormitories, he seemed to have time to spare. We can use the underground hall of Ophelius for the duel.”

A week indoors was considerably lengthy, so Ophelius Hall had prepared various activities to pass the time, including student duels.

“However, Clevius senior seems to be avoiding a duel with me; it’s quite disappointing.”

Wade laughed contentedly.

It was clear – Clevius, always gloomy and timid, would certainly not accept a duel challenge from an overzealous freshman like Wade. Wade’s enthusiasm made it apparent he’d try anything to secure a victory over Clevius.

“My purpose in greeting you today was to give a prior notice for when I eventually request a duel.”

“Your thoughtfulness is appreciated, but unnecessary.”

Zix smiled again, picked up his alchemical text and briefly flipped through it.

“Even if you defeat me, progressing to duel with third-year seniors or Ed… It doesn’t seem likely to me.”

“I understand. I’m not foolish enough to believe defeating senior Zix will be easy.”

“That’s not what I meant. Although you appear to be quite capable based on rumors, confidence, and achievements, you still need to improve in gauging your opponents.”

Flipping through the pages, Zix spoke indifferently,

“You don’t understand, you’ll end at Clevius.”

“…”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t even contemplate reaching me, let alone Yenika or Ed.”

Though Clevius always seemed disheartened, cowardly, and pitiful, it was a mystery he held the position of the Combat Department’s chief. There were rumors doubting his capability. Wade, about to express his displeasure to Zix’s conclusive statement, hesitated as Zix affirmed confidently,

“If you wish to defeat me, better develop a sense of reality.”

*

In the northern forest, it was rumored that an outlaw lived.

Among the students unaware of Ed’s wilderness lifestyle, the rumor had taken root. Those who knew about Ed’s way of life numbered less than a dozen, so it made sense for such strange rumors to circulate.

The tales portrayed a man clad in the skins of bloodied wild animals, grinning unpleasantly—an intimidating collection of eyewitness reports. But for Belle, who knew the truth, it all seemed peculiarly odd.

“Ugh…”

The blizzard blasted through the forest, but the dense conifers shielded enough to provide visibility, though the gusts of wind proved too mighty for Belle’s slender frame. Still, ample preparations against the cold had been made: layers of thin clothing, a dress of a chief maid, and a thick cape to top it off.

Using a low-tier fire spell for warmth, the conditions seemed more bearable than anticipated. The destination was clear: Ed’s cabin.

If Saintess Clarice had ventured into the northern woods, Ed was likely the only one who would have encountered her.

‘Footprints…!’

Fresh tracks marked the snowy path in the direction of Ed’s cabin. Although other students might assume Ed to be uncommunicative and cold-hearted, Belle knew otherwise: a reasonably sensible man, capable of conversation, and in his own way, considerate.

It was far preferable for Belle to cross paths with Ed than with some unknown individual. Despite being pursued by formidable women like Yenika, Lortelle, and Lucy, Ed remained staunchly dedicated to his principles. He could be trusted. It was highly improbable that he’d harm Clarice or harbor any nefarious thoughts against her.

Should he come across Clarice, surely he would intend to send her back to Ophelius Hall rather than entertain any malicious intent. The only concern was that Ed’s personal relationships seemed unnecessarily complicated – a situation that already caused enough headaches for Belle.

Finally, Ed’s cabin came into view. The blizzard made the distance seem longer than expected.

‘Ed must be unaware of Kylie’s true identity.’

Kylie was none other than the saintess, Clarice, under the protection of the holy city.

Even without knowing her true identity, Ed would’ve treated Clarice with kindness…

With such certitude, Belle opened the door to the cabin.

-Whoosh!

“…”

Inside, she witnessed the figures of Ed and Clarice.

“Oh, it’s you, Belle. I had a feeling you’d come.”

Ed appeared frustrated and was bandaging his injuries.

In the cabin’s corner, shivering Clarice was kneeling on the floor, holding onto a wooden chair as if being punished, presenting a pitiful sight.

Belle was already beginning to feel a headache.

Both women were shivering, but for different reasons. One was trembling due to the numbness in her arms from holding the chair, while the other was terrified by the fact that a saintess, protected by the grace of the saints, was being punished.

Unable to disclose Kylie’s identity to Ed, Belle felt stuck and awkwardly accepted the tea Ed had offered.

“Um, Master Ed…”

After tidying up the chaotic cabin, Ed looked at Belle, waiting for him to speak.

“Thank you for explaining the situation, but it seems we should take Miss Kylie back soon before the blizzard intensifies.”

Upon hearing this, Ed paused to consider before nodding.

“Indeed, it’s not ideal for the head maid to be away from Ophelius Hall for such a long time.”

“That’s true, but…”

Sweating profusely, Belle glanced at Clarice, thinking he must somehow take her away first.

Ed pulled a wooden chair over and sat down in front of Clarice, who was standing as punishment. The sight of her trying to hold the chair steady, tears welling up and trembling, was pitiable.

Ed fell into thought for a moment. He must have been startled when Clarice appeared out of nowhere in the cabin. However, after regaining his composure, it wasn’t hard for him to deduce why the young saintess had come to this remote place. The minor mishap during the class assignment test was likely the cause.

Despite dropping her brooch during a battle with Merilda and covering up the mistake swiftly, Clarice must have thought Ed had seen through her disguise.

Admittedly, Ed’s response wasn’t smooth due to the suddenness of the situation, but there wasn’t a better way to handle it at the moment.

Kylie’s true identity was a major plot twist revealed only in the latter half of Act 3.

If Kylie’s identity were exposed too early, and she ended up under the strict surveillance of the church’s knights, the future developments would become unpredictable.

After tidying up the cabin and his thoughts, Ed concluded that as long as Kylie believed he knew her true identity, she would remain uneasy. There was no immediate way to dispel her suspicions.

Thus, Ed chose a direct approach.

“I apologize for my disrespectful behavior, Saintess. You may put down the chair now.”

Both Belle and Clarice shuddered at his words.

Clarice’s eyes widened in shock, and Belle, uncharacteristically nervous, asked for confirmation.

“You knew…?”

“As a baptized member of the Telos Church, it’s usually easy to recognize when an illusion spell dissolves up close.”

“Really…?”

This was a grey area. Kylie’s illusion hadn’t completely dissipated during the test, and even if it had, making such a smooth recovery would have been difficult.

Assuming ambiguity, a quick wit and reflexes could cover it, preventing any further questioning about Ed’s awareness of Kylie’s true identity.

“Then…”

“I’ve said you may put down the chair.”

“Ah… Yes…”

With the plan of action decided, Ed didn’t want to get further entangled with Saintess Clarice. Acknowledging that he was aware of her identity would hopefully remove her unease.

Next, he needed to ensure Clarice that he wouldn’t disclose her identity.

“As a follower of the Telos Church, it was regrettable to act so rudely towards a revered saintess. However, I felt obligated to teach you the dangers of freedom.”

The dim cabin, the howling wind, and the occasional creaking of the roof painted a stark contrast to the Saintess’s usual surroundings.

The tools of the hunt and the remnants of game, along with the heavy scent of blood, added to the severity of the environment.

Ed hoped to convey that life in the wilderness wasn’t always romantic and filled with the scent of flowers. Often, it’s more like the suffocating smell of blood in the cabin.

“Do you understand the life I lead?”

The disparity between a senior student’s simple description of being strong and scary and the reality of living with blood and survival was profound.

To the members of the Telos Church, Clarice was always an object of veneration, making the idea of punishing or angering her inconceivable.

Yet, here was a boy looking at the saintess with cold eyes, prioritizing survival over religious veneration.

This man’s life is more about surviving than living. The slight difference in phrasing might seem insignificant, but its reality is profound. Everything possesses both light and darkness, and freedom is no different. If Adelle is a bard who sings praises of freedom’s beauty, then this man must represent the weight and darkness of freedom more than anyone else.

“Please go back, and avoid approaching this cabin again. Even under the protection of holy laws, accidents like slips, getting lost, or dying from exposure cannot be prevented.” Ed said this and bowed his head graciously. “I apologize for being harsh. Sadly, it seems there’s no one around you to share these truths, so I took it upon myself to overstep.”

Rising from his seat, he concluded, “Now, please leave.” Clarice had no chance to respond. She could not find the words as Ed turned to leave.

Before the blizzard intensified, they needed to return to Ophelius Hall. With Belle’s guidance, it would be a quick journey back. There, they could enjoy warm soup in a cozy room, a stark contrast to the storm outside. Sitting in a well-kept room, the blizzard would become a distant tale.

Holding Belle’s hand and leaving the camp, Clarice looked back with difficulty. Ed, confirming their departure, returned to the cabin, his figure blending with the bleak surroundings. Inside, the cabin would remain cold, filled with the heavy scent of blood, a reality that weighed heavily on her. Yet, this boy seemed unburdened by its gravity, treating the harshness of survival as a mere aspect of life.

Clarice had read that even beautiful swans paddle ugly beneath the water. The life of freedom was no different. She could never have imagined the complexities behind Ed’s facade, based on her initial impression of him defending the summit’s altar.

“Mr. Belle.”

“Yes, Lady Clarice.”

“I’m sorry for causing you such trouble.”

“It’s merely my duty. Please don’t worry about it.”

As they made their way through the blizzard, Clarice glanced back towards the cabin repeatedly. For the first time since arriving in Sylvania, she felt she had met a senior worth respecting. Such an encounter would have been impossible in the holy city.

Belle, unaware of her thoughts, sweated as he saw Clarice looking back at the cabin. ‘Could it be? No, it couldn’t… Could it?’

As the blizzard raged and winter slowly receded, everyone experienced their own form of winter. Some buried themselves in magical engineering research, others conversed with spirits by a window, and some completed ledger books in the warmth of their rooms. Each person found their way to endure the season, from diligent students and failed knights to guardians of the northern plains and timid swordsmen hiding in their rooms.

In the royal residence, a platinum-haired princess sat quietly by the window. Watching the snowfall, Princess Phoenia of Phoenia lowered her gaze and made a small resolve. With spring and a new semester approaching, it was a time of change, including the upcoming student council president election. Widely regarded as a strong candidate due to her broad support across the academy, Phoenia Elias Clorel decided, “I choose not to run…”

For Ed Rothtaylor, this statement was akin to the crumbling of all premises and the onset of all calamities.

TO ACCESS EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND SUPPORT THIS NOVEL, CLICK HERE !



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *