Breiya lowered her wine glass and looked at the man before her.
It was youth who looked to be about the same age as her, but thanks to his stained and tattered shirt, he looked several years older.
He had a pair of small eyes, the kind which formed a line in its normal state, and wore a tiny hat which revealed half of his short black hair.
The man lifted up his hat and greeted Breiya before quickly putting on the hat once more, fiddling with it several times.
Even though it was merely for a split second, Breiya’s sharp senses immediately picked up on what was underneath his hat.
Yellowed close to the roots and messed up like a patch of wild grass, grass that had been afflicted with a drought or locust swarm.
While that strange hairstyle didn’t ring any bells in her memory, looking at the man’s face, she was still able to vaguely remember it.
Breiya: You are…
Coagan: That’s right. That’s me.
Coagan was one of the few classmates who knew about her frequenting casinos. The fact that he was able to call out her nickname along with her name didn’t surprise her one bit.
She had lost all contact with her classmates thanks to her political circumstances so being able to meet one now was a serendipitous encounter.
In actuality, they weren’t particularly close to each other. Rather, they were more like classmates who were part of the same extra-curricular group and just that. However, this wasn’t an impediment to them reminiscing together right now.
Breiya: Have you been well since graduation?
Coagan: I can’t really say it’s good or bad but I did return to my hometown to do some business.
Breiya: Business? You didn’t join the army? I remember your skills were considered one of the top few in our year.
While the military academy of Skills wasn’t the top academy amongst the human countries, it was top in the field of managing teams and small battles involving three to ten people.
Naturally, children from ambitious military households wouldn’t enroll in such an academy, but for those who wished to become a minor military officer, this was one of their best choices.
Coagan: Haha…I didn’t manage to become an officer in my home country’s army so I had no choice but to seek my fortunes elsewhere.
Coagan: However, at the very least I was able to strike a business deal with the army so all those days spent in Skills were not a waste.
Coagan: What about you? Have you established an army within the casinos yet?
Breiya: Sigh, stop making fun of me. If gamblers were to engage in any group activity, that would most likely be mistaken as an unlawful assembly.
Breiya: I’m just here for a few days of summer vacation, I’ll have to return home soon as well.
Coagan: Haha, southern countries like yours sure have it easy. Even though they require females to learn the same subjects as their male counterparts as a precaution, their requirements are a lot less constricting.
The fact that he still remembered the story she made up all those years ago saved her a great deal of trouble…but constraints…they weren’t little at all.
Whether or not she would use this identity ever again was still an unknown, who knows if she would ever get to reminisce with her old classmates again.
Breiya: So why are you back in Skills? Don’t tell me you’re here for the Three Battles?
Hearing that, Coagan couldn’t help but smile bitterly.
Coagan: My reasons for returning are…complicated.
Coagan: The most direct answer would probably be that Cold Iron and Molten Steel are going to war with each other again.
Breiya: War? I’m not very familiar with matters regarding the northern countries.
Coagan: The problems each country have with the other has gone on for several hundred years now. Skirmishes were a yearly thing, and every three to five years, a large war would break out.
Coagan: Small skirmishes aren’t too bad for my business, but once a large war starts, a small supply store like mine might end up getting drafted into the war effort.
Coagan: So the only choice I have is to make a living in Skills for now and return once the war is over.
Breiya: You have connections with the army of Skills?
He hesitated for a moment and said no more. He didn’t see the need to reveal his true motive to this female classmate of his who he might not ever see again.
In order not to destroy this nostalgic atmosphere, he decided to tell a little white lie.
Coagan: …in truth, the military police of Skills require some supplies and one of my subordinates managed to win a tender. Thus, I’m here to deliver a shipment of goods.
Coagan: It would be great if this relationship continues until the war is over though.
Breiya: What did you sell to the military police?
Coagan: About that…
Since he already lied once, he might as well see this lie to the end.
Coagan: They aren’t really weapons but instead belong to the category of “hazardous materials”
Coagan: As for what they are exactly, I can’t divulge that information. Just know that I ended up suffering quite a bit while researching these materials.
He fiddled with his hat as a way of drawing Breiya’s attention to that half of his hair that was covered by the hat.
Coagan: I’m a licensed merchant of such stuff, but selling to other countries…well I’m sure my home country won’t mind a small businessman like me as long as I don’t sell to any enemy countries.
Coagan: Times of chaos calls for exceptional measures, don’t you say? I can’t be expected to completely abandon my fortune and be a refugee, can I?
Coagan: —ah right, ever since I became a businessman, I realized that this so-called Three Battles was basically seen as a bodyguard pageant for all those big bosses working in the industry.
Coagan: The majority of businessmen will inevitably end up having to do some dangerous work, so even I’m beginning to consider finding a bodyguard.
Coagan: Hah, don’t mention those skills of mine, ever since I became a businessman, all those skills have basically become useless.
Coagan: Oh, I have some private matters to handle as well which I planned to settled during this trip.
Coagan: One really becomes busy once they enter the working society, just thinking about those carefree schooling days makes me wish I could be a student for a few more years…
Breiya blinked her eyes, rapidly wiping away the image of a certain green and purple substance.
Breiya: —it’s nothing, don’t mind it.
The next day, back in the classroom…
Di Qi Ju: ……
Naysis Ferne: ……
The pain from yesterday hadn’t completely left my body yet.
Even after soaking for an entire night in a stone tub of cold water, my senses still had not recovered to the state it was before that assassination attempt.
In the past, I heard that people who had undergone some sort of traumatic matter or injury would become taciturn and slightly numb instead of wailing like those actors in the movies.
I’ve now experienced this myself.
I ran my hands over my skin. Even though my sense of touch and sight told me that it was perfectly fine, my brain didn’t agree with them at all.
Phantom pain…it hadn’t left my body at all.
The princess sitting in front of me right now probably didn’t know of yesterday’s incident, but there’s no guarantee that she won’t hear some stories about it.
Her attitude was still in the state it was in yesterday when she left us: a combat-ready state.
Her prim and proper behavior with her head faced in front seemed completely natural to me but the others probably didn’t see it as such.
For example, Bailey was throwing me strange looks from her seat behind me.
If I had to describe that look, it would probably “Huh, so it ended up developing like this.”
For all I know, this was the look the others were throwing me as well, but all I could sense was the girl behind me.
As long as they had heard of the stories surrounding Naysis Ferne, they probably all came to the same conclusion after seeing this scene—
“Di Qi Ju did something that exceeded the princess’ limits and was “punished” by her.”
That was definitely a plausible explanation, but the fact that Naysis Ferne was still in this classroom disproved that theory already.
If she had truly given up on me, she simply didn’t have to pay anymore attention to me, and she definitely didn’t need to be here.
In other words, she was planning to “confront” me directly.
…well, whatever. The me right now has no desire to bother with anything that doesn’t have to do with myself. At the very least, I needed time to recover.
If there had to be someone worthy of my attention right now…
Poppy: —alright, that’s all for today’s lessons. You are all dismissed.
Di Qi Ju: …
Today’s Poppy seemed extraordinarily, ordinary. It almost made me feel like this Poppy was a completely different person to the one I knew.
She didn’t take the initiative to call out to me like the first day of our lessons.
I think…she must’ve discovered my howling through that ability of hers. She probably didn’t understand what had happened to me, but she could definitely guess that I had suffered an excruciating amount of pain.
Shouldn’t she offer her shoulder to me…
…am I thinking too much about this?
Come to think of it, our relationship wasn’t even that well-defined.
Lover? Benefactor? All of them seemed wrong…
Di Qi Ju: Sigh—
What’s with me today? Why am I suddenly doubting my relationship with Poppy?
This trauma seems a lot harder to deal with than I had initially thought…
Looks like I really need some time off after all. If this was my original world, I think this matter would have warranted a visit to the psychologist already.
Di Qi Ju: …Miss Cherry.
Poppy: Hmm? What’s the matter?
Di Qi Ju: …I would like to request some time off. I need a break.
She calmly thought about this matter for a while, her thoughts completely hidden from me.
Poppy: Are you tired?
Di Qi Ju: Yes, I’m tired. I need a break.
Poppy: Alright then. Just know that there’s no make-up lessons for those days you are absent. You have to revise those topics yourself.
Poppy: Give me your textbooks, I’ll highlight the key points.
Di Qi Ju: …alright.
As the sun began to set, I made my way back to the Checkered Path alone.
The hustle and bustle of the streets passed by me like a blur as if I was nothing by a passerby in this different world.
A day had passed and the pain afflicting me seemed to have fermented a number of changes in me.
My current wish abilities were completely inadequate in protecting me. That sense of safety I gained after my previous round of wishes had completely left me.
I think, it’s about time for me to revisit this logic of mine and make some new wishes. At the same time, I can deal with the previous matter of that wish point and wish ability theft.
No matter what, I must pull myself out of this rut.
Di Qi Ju: I’m back.
Stepping up to the Checkered Path, I pushed open the inn door and found an empty dining hall as if the entire place had been booked.
In the corner of the room was Breman and all my friends seated around a table with a solemn mood around them.
One’day High was filing his nails while Halfmoon Leak’age seemed to be deep in thought with his eyes shut. Lee Sole’shot was maintaining his bow while the lupine Mo Chuan was currently giving off a beastial impression as he panted at the side.
Breman: You’re back I see.
Di Qi Ju: …mhm.
Back in his commander mode, Breman threw me a thin smile before wiping off any sense of levity from his face.
Breman: Right now, I have an impromptu special mission for everyone here.
This can’t be a good thing…
Di Qi Ju: What…is it?
Breman: The revenge operation against the Head of the Military Police, Ferdila…
Di Qi Ju: ….
Special thanks to Steve Granger, Kaung Thant Win Naing, and Antoine Thompson!!
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.