“Welcome back, Aneki! Did you manage to return it to Prince Erneste?” Briar asked with her sparkling eyes once I went back to where my friends were.
…From the way she said it, people who didn’t understand would surely think Erneste was of a royal family.
For some reason, I couldn’t really see her sparkling eyes as usual. Perhaps since I already knew what Erneste was actually thinking of, when he tried to approach me. There was no love, there was no like. He only approached me to take advantage of me.
I dislike that kind of a person, but I guess it couldn’t be helped for me to encounter the likes of them from hereon.
“I didn’t…,” I answered.
“Oh, that’s too bad. Maybe you can return it to him the next time you meet?” Valerie asked.
The next time we meet…
I don’t even want to see him anymore… I don’t know how I can talk to him after knowing all that.
“Yes, yes, let’s just make a plan!” Dmitria also supported Valerie’s suggestion.
“No, I don’t…”
I said with a weakening voice as I found myself couldn’t explain it well to them.
Somehow, I didn’t want to explain it to them.
The trio quite liked Erneste. Would they believe it?
As for my friends, some of them were already quite hostile and suspicious of Erneste. If I were to confirm their suspicion, then would it bring trouble?
I wouldn’t want them to worry about me, unleash their wrath to Erneste, and cause troubles for them.
I know I have to face this problem myself, but maybe… not anytime soon. Maybe soon in the future, after I have arranged my heart.
Therefore, for the time being…
I tried to fake a smile in front of my friends. Faking a smile was something I was so used to, but now it seemed quite unfamiliar.
“It’s fine. I’ll give it to the staff in charge for lost and found within the academy. Who knows if he needs it as soon as possible and we can’t meet that quickly?”
“Eeh, but you can meet him again, that’s too bad…,” Dmitria gasped.
“But Aneki is right, Prince Erneste might be in trouble if he doesn’t have his student ID card with him! They can meet another time, but this isn’t something we can postpone for too long. As expected, Aneki is thoughtful after all!” Briar said with a worshipping expression on her face.
I smiled helplessly at them. Really, when did I start getting used to having three older girls addressing me as ‘Aneki’?
Then, I suddenly noticed someone staring at me since earlier. When I turned to look at who exactly was staring at me, I locked my eyes with Luca.
“What are you staring at me for?” I straight-forwardly asked him, who was staring at me with a serious expression.
Luca shifted away his face in response before he said, “Nothing. So, did you get lost again as usual?”
“As usual? Come on, Luca! Don’t make me mad!!” I immediately denied Luca’s provocative words.
“Don’t bully my big sis Lyra, Big Bro Luca!” Ein quickly came to my rescue.
“Now now, stop bickering, okay?” Kiri also tried to make Luca stop.
“Go, go! Fight it, Lyr! Go too, Luc!” Carbuncle became a cheerleader all of a sudden.
“…,” Iris only silently looked at us.
But still, we kept bickering for a moment.
“Hey, stop that! Don’t say anything bad about Aneki!!” Briar also chimed in.
“What anything bad? I was only stating facts,” Luca said as he let his tongue a bit.
“Aneki is the most awesome person I’ve met so far!! She is flawless!!” Briar intensely defended me.
“We’re Aneki’s followers, so just argue with us!!” Dmitria then challenged Luca.
“I’m in for it, too,” Valerie lightly said.
…How daring? They took my side instead of the country’s legitimate crown prince!! They are really something…
“Hoo? You guys want to have a go?” Luca said in a taunt.
“Yeah, who said that we’re afraid of you?!” Dmitria bravely said.
“Yeah, right! We are older!” Briar menacingly said.
“I am fearless,” Valerie calmly said.
“Then… let’s see who back off first!” Luca smiled, but for some reason, his smile was so scary and he even gave off a weird vibe!!
I couldn’t help but shudder a bit.
What’s up with Luca, anyway? Is it the power of the future king, being able to intimidate his subject like that? Just what kind of things do the future leader of this country need to learn?
“Ugh, this…,” Dmitria lost her earlier confidence and courage.
“W-why, you… You are…,” Briar also trembled a bit.
“I am… fearless…,” Valerie said as she turned her face away and her voice turned small.
“A-alright, then! Let’s end it, okay? Break time is over soon, so let’s just go back to the class?” I couldn’t endure watching this anymore, so I quickly tried to end the whole farce.
“Uuu, I still wanna be with Aneki…,” Briar sadly said, and she was similar to a puppy who had to separate from its master…
“I lost to a younger kid?!” Dmitria couldn’t accept the reality.
Oy, oy, even if Luca is younger, he isn’t your ordinary kid! He is the crown prince!! It would be bad if Luca were to lose against you, right? Right??
“As expected of Aneki, your friends are all amazing. I feel honored to be able to join in your circle!” Valerie recovered a bit from her earlier fright, and she could smile now as she said it with her normal and steady voice.
“Eh? It’s just a coincidence…”
“No, it’s said that birds of the same feathers flock together. It’s true for Aneki’s case. Aneki is outstanding, so obviously your friends are all amazing people,” Valerie insisted.
“Then, we are amazing too, right? Right?” Dmitria positively said.
“Stupid! We are but her followers! We might not be that amazing yet, but as we’re her followers, we will definitely be able to be amazing one day, right?” Briar first scolded Dmitria before she turned to look at me with expectant eyes.
“Well, you guys are quite something too, if I have to say it myself,” I honestly told them my opinion of them.
The Flugel twins were unique and they were outstanding in how they could befriend the ‘untamable’ beasts—or it might be due to their family, but still…
As for Briar-Rose… I think it’s still amazing how she is able to charm the Flugel twins and how confident she can be.
But maybe their words are true. In any case, my friends seem to be people who attract others’ attention, for some reason. …Does that mean I am one, too?
It’s hard to admit, but maybe that’s true.
“Alright then, see you guys later!” I said as I waved my hand to the trio who must go to their respective class.
“See you, Aneki!”
“Alright, guys, let’s go back to our class? Can we make a visit to the staff room so I can hand the item over to the Lost and Found?” I turned to ask my friends of the special class.
“Aww, and here I want to know who will be speechless in an argument between you, Lyr, Luc,” Carbuncle said in disappointment.
“I bet it’s her,” Luca confidently said.
“Well, people say that the one more mature should give in to the one more childish, so I guess it’s true I’ll be the speechless one as I will give in to him,” I managed to come up with a good one!
“You…,” Luca looked at me in disbelief.
I looked at him and let my tongue out.
“Like you see, don’t worry, there will always be another one, Carbuncle,” Kiri said.
“Kiri, you… it’s good that you are no longer the timid kid, but this…,” Luca shook his head at Kiri.
“Big Sis Lyra is the best!” Ein exclaimed.
“Hahaha, come on now!” I laughed at their conversation.
Really, these friends of mine never failed in cheering my mood up. My mind which was too preoccupied with negative thoughts due to my discovery of Erneste’s true side, it didn’t feel as heavy as it was before.
As I laughed, I noticed that Iris was silent since earlier.
“Iris? What’s the matter?” I immediately asked her.
“Eh? …It’s nothing, really,” Iris looked at me in her surprise before she smiled.
“Really? If there’s something, you should just tell it to us, okay?” I asked her again, just to be sure.
“Yes, I will, don’t worry. I was just… thinking of the next class,” Iris answered.
“Next class is… Philosophy. Yep, it’s one of the harder subjects,” I could understand her worries. It was also hard to keep my mind focused during the teacher’s explanation. My mind would sometimes trail off when we were discussing the harder topics.
“But after that, we will have a homeroom session! I wonder what will be discussed in this time’s homeroom session?” Kiri tried to not think of the hard subject and shifted the topic to the homeroom session.
And then, during the homeroom session…
“Alright, kids! Listen up, I believe this is your first time hearing about this, but Harmonia Academy’s 475th birthday is coming soon, and we are going to hold…,” Gloria-sensei, our homeroom teacher in Intermediate Level’s special class, narrated.
“I know, Sensei! It’s time for celebration, so festival again?” My classmate, Smyrna, raised her hand as she confidently answered.
“What? It’s not our first time hearing it, Sensei! We have experienced it during our Basic Level as well!” Another student also said.
“Wrong and wrong!” Gloria-sensei tapped her desk.
“Eh??” The class turned noisy all of a sudden.
Harmonia Academy was founded by the most well-known female ruler of the country, Remillia-sama in Year 506 Month 6 Day 11.
To celebrate it, we usually held a school festival with various competitions for three days, namely Day 10, Day 11, and Day 12. Parents were invited to come to the celebration and the king was also present—not only because he was Luca’s father, but because he was the king.
So, it was nothing new, really.
But why did Sensei say we were wrong?
I tilted my head in confusion.
Gloria-sensei smiled in satisfaction at our responses.
“Listen carefully, kids! On Harmonia Academy’s quinquennial birthday, we’re holding a special festival! The festival will be held for a whole week—or five days. Furthermore, the festival will be open for public—it will be open for all who want to come, so it’s definitely going to be very festive,” Gloria-sensei explained.
At her explanation, our class was in uproar.
“Eeeh, really?! Everyone can come?!”
“So, our competitions, performance, and everything will be seen by outsiders?!”
“We definitely have to prepare very well for this festival, then!”
“Oh my! Why did my older sister never tell me?!”
…Yes, why did my older brother never tell me!?
“So, here is the lineup of the festival! Remember that each class has different schedule for each competition, performance, and class open house. We will talk about it later,” Gloria-sensei said after she finished writing on the whiteboard.
Written on it was…[Day 1 (Date 8): Opening Ceremony, School and Club Open House
Day 2 (Date 9): Class Open House, Performance, Competition
Day 3 (Date 10): Class Open House, Performance, Competition
Day 4 (Date 11): Class Open House, Performance, Competition
Day 5 (Date 12): Award Ceremony, Closing Ceremony]
So, it was pretty much an extended annual school festival, huh?
“Sense~i! We, special class students, can’t partake in clubs, so we can’t really participate in the [School and Club Open House], except for walking around and sightsee?” One of my classmates raised his hand and sulkily complained.
Yep, there are clubs and the likes of it even in this academy, but sadly, since we are special class, most of our time is already taken by the lessons. None of the special class students joins a club because of time constraints, though if we insist, we can join one. But any sane special class student would definitely not sign up for a club, for their own good. We are allowed to become ‘guests’ in any of the available clubs should we wish to try them out, but we are not members.
Oh, there are also normal class students who prefer not joining any club, though, so the students not belonging in any club won’t be just us special class students.
“You can join in Day 1’s open house by joining in the elective class of your choice. Normal class students who have club activities will be given a choice to join in their club or elective open house, so it won’t be just you fellow special class students there.”
“Ehh?! Elective classes open booths in Day 1’s open house?!”
“Yay, this is good news!!”
“Sensei, for the performance, competition, and class open house, will we join hands with the senior special class of the Intermediate Level?” Another student asked.
“Ah, yes. Since Intermediate Level special class spans 2 years, there are only two classes of special class (Special Class [Year] 1 or ‘Junior’, 2 or ‘Senior’), so yes, you guys will be combined. It won’t be fair if not so, since your number is around half the number of students in one normal class. In Basic Level where the special class spans 4 years, the 4 special classes (Special Class [Year] 1, 2, 3, 4) are divided into 2, right?” Gloria-sensei said as she scribbled on the whiteboard. It seemed that she couldn’t help scribbling what she just explained in form of a diagram.
“As I expected!”
“This should be the same as when you were still in Basic Level. Before moving on to pick the representatives and decide on other things, let’s join with the other special class.”
–Loading screen: Please wait a few moments until the two special classes merge—
“Alright, everyone! Let’s refer to this as a ‘class’. We will now start by selecting our class’ representatives for the competitions. Ah, I forgot this. By the way, we will also face students of different level, with the exception of Master Level in combat-type competition.” Gloria-sensei explained.
As expected, everyone was immediately in a ruckus after this.
In the regular school festival, we only competed with students of the same level. This was the first time we could compete with other levels!
Things escalated really quickly, huh?
“For the competitions, we have sport competition, freestyle combat, magic combat, physical combat, cat-and-mouse race, war of the intellect, …”
Gloria-sensei wasn’t affected at all by our ruckus and proceeded to write on the board.
Some of the competitions would be held at the same time, so we really had to make our choices.
During my first year of Basic Level, I only participated in the sport competition, a series of athletic contest such as relay race, borrowing race, going through the obstacles, tug-of-war, and so on. Actually, any first year student in Basic Level wasn’t allowed to participate in any of the combat-style competition.
During my second year, my class agreed we’d pick the members based on our lucky draw. I ended up becoming a part of the cheerleading team (a.k.a the ones not getting chosen in anything), much to my happiness.
Third year. We went by volunteering system. I was interested in the cat-and-mouse race, so I ended up participating there. Carbuncle, the girl forbidden from any combat-style competition, the one who chose to observe in the first two years, finally participated in the cat-and-mouse race as well.
Fourth year or my final year in Basic Level. My class decided to have fun (to “escape” from the final exams), so we decided to mess up the members.
To illustrate how messed up it was… Iris, who couldn’t really run fast, was chosen as one of the representatives in cat-and-mouse race. Kiri, who wasn’t so good at the theoretical lessons, was chosen to participate in the war of the intellect.
And this was more of a ‘performance’ than ‘competition’, but Luca was chosen to act as a… tree in our drama performance. Carbuncle was chosen to act as a boy in the drama—which was welcomed by Carbuncle happily.
Meanwhile, I was chosen to play an important role in our class open house at that time—we opened a haunted house, so I ended up becoming a ghost there. …I was a bit terrified that the real thing would haunt me, so it was a really messed-up selection. The haunted house became a screaming party as not only the audience, the ghosts were also terrified.
Thinking back to those days, they were indeed fun.
The discussion was so heated as our competitive side was brought to maximum level. We would be facing other levels’ students, and outsiders could watch us. We couldn’t afford losing face in this time’s festival.
Everyone who always thought of the festival as a way to be silly and had fun in the middle of the special class’ higher pressure… became serious now.
Therefore, by the end of our discussion, it was decided that…
Our joint special class would do “Alchemia Cafe” as our open house attraction—the concept was that some of the ingredients normally used for alchemy lessons (that are safe to eat) would be mixed with food ingredients, producing food that may or may not give unexpected (safe and undoable) effect. It was very obvious to me that Iris was really happy with this attraction.
As for the performance, we would be doing a musical drama.
As for the competition… the right cast was put together.
In the end, I was chosen as one of the representatives for the freestyle combat. Since there would be 3 people participating in the freestyle combat, so I’d be battling along with 2 other students in special class—which were none other than my own friends, Luca and Kiri.
Kiri was more of a physical combater, but everyone argued it would be good for him to be Luca’s side kick as always. It would save the time needed to work on our team dynamics.
Meanwhile, the youngest member of the class, Ein, became one of the three representatives for the ‘war of the intellect’ competition as expected. Many had high hopes on him.
I could imagine the bustling period that would follow this exciting announcement. Therefore, I felt slightly relieved that I might not need to think about my discovery regarding Erneste yet.
Although I felt like it was only an excuse partly due to my denial, I decided not to mind it for the time being.
After all, I disliked having this ‘heavy’ feeling in my heart whenever I thought of something unpleasant like this.
Let’s just stuff such thing deep inside my heart and lock it so it won’t bother me. Just like what I usually did.
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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.