Chapter 31 – The Start of the Exam

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And the day of the tumultuous practical exam finally came. The hateful blue sky was spread above as if to welcome the academy students who were lining at the front gate.

…It looks like it’s going to rain, I should be honestly pleased.

But now that everyone is gathering, there’s really a lot of people…

First, each class was arranged for the checking of attendance but when I looked at my right and left, purple uniforms filled my eyes. Although I am accustomed with the large number of people during noon, I was naive, it seems. It is truly the largest school in Japan.

Incidentally, each class was organized to have about 40 students and up to 4 classes per year level. As the year level goes up, the number of dropouts increases and about one-fourth to one-fifth of the admitted students back when they were in first year remains in the sixth year.

Is the system that aims for the top a technical job?

As soon as the teacher finished the brief explanation and left, everyone finally lost their calmness. Others started to strangely read aloud their thick notes, while others hurriedly did some bending and stretching exercises. Well, it is a test that is originally not a part of the elementary course, but everyone knew it was planned…

“Meryl.”

Surrounded by my classmates, a usual gentle voice echoed.

“Oh, Senpai. Good morning.”

“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

His silky blue hair brilliantly shined when it was illuminated by the still pale morning light.

“What is it? Is there something on my face?”

“No. When I see your handsome face from the morning onwards, I think my eyes and my brain are being poisoned.”

“Poison, huh? Sorry, should I wear a paper bag again?”

I frowned at his obvious sarcasm but when he added “in a good way”, I laughed at once. Senpai seems to be his usual self. I cannot detect the word “tension” at the good posture of his back.

“As expected of Senpai.”

“Well, we almost always have practical exams.”

As expected, the people around us looked at us and bitterly smiled. Nervous and restless classmates, in a nutshell, looked at us and hurriedly averted their eyes. I wish they’d just ask what they want to ask, but maybe they’re too tensed.

“Well, that’s part of the lesson. So I think there’s nothing prepared in advance. It’s a waste that you were not able to team up with the other upperclassmen and create good memories.”

At the same time I reflexively sighed, Senpai’s calm voice echoed.

After my classmates shot us another glance, they lightly lowered their head and dispersed to their respective teams.

……It seems that, they realized that he is an upperclassman and an adult.

“Amazing, Senpai. I’m sorry that I am next to you.”

“I wanted us to be alone, you know?”

His golden eyes softly narrowed and his fingers stroked my hair. I casually thanked him for his kindness, and then we also started walking to the meeting place.

*    *    *

Before long, a teacher’s voice rang from above the special platform. The one who was calling has a blue hair hiding one eye . . . It seems to be Barrett-sensei that I met the other day. He looks like a young man in his early twenties, but can he really take responsibility? There are other old teachers who are “Bona fide magicians!” but I can’t judge people based only on appearance.

He quickly proceeded with his explanation in a strong voice. There is a hint of a smile in his expression and his tone is bright. The content of his speech is an explanation of the simulated combat so it is quite unsuitable. When he closed his speech with a very cheerful, “Good luck!” I can’t laugh.

“……For the time being, what shall we do?”

“Let’s see . . .”

Senpai who was next to me does not seem to be particularly surprised, so that teacher is probably normal. I have a vague understanding on the concept of the upper year level but today, I am not afraid and I have no other choice except to follow Senpai. As we searched for the designated place, Senpai narrowed his eyes a bit and began to examine the people around us.

“Although an indoor fight is allowed this time, suddenly this place became a little narrow.”

“Personally, I do not know what fighting inside the school entails.”

By the way, it seems that a special magic covered the whole school building and it can be repaired immediately even if it is destroyed. But since it will somehow leave records before it is restored, maybe regeneration is the right term? Anyway, they are asking for something unreasonable because these features are impossible to be included in the general households. I’m not pleased, though!

“Well, don’t say that. About the outdoors . . . Maybe you should fight in open places as much as possible.”

“Open? I thought it is better for those people who can use shields to hide.”

“Do not get used to it. Because you might end up being buried in the rubble.”

I cannot refute his slightly worried statement. Indeed, Senpai knows me well.

I see. I have repeatedly heard him say, “Do not attack directly,” or “Do not get hurt,” but I’m not told, “Do not break things,” right?

If it is all right to aim the attack to the surroundings and the foothold, then the upperclassmen will likely aim for that. Even if a teammate will take care of it, poor students like me are likely to be involved in catastrophes.

……Today, I will really behave and keep close to Senpai.

While slightly regaining my mood with the warmth of his hand that was connected to mine, the tentative destination was an outdoor practice field. From the start, it is a place that is used for rough classes, so it seems that it is easy to fight because the building was solidly built. We haven’t used this for class yet so I have no choice but to believe Senpai’s words.

Whether they had the same idea as us or not, a few academy students also went to the same outdoor practice field. There were some sixth year level among them and occasionally, Senpai would send them some form of a sign while waving his hand.

…I still do not know what those of the advanced courses will do.

“How to say this? I don’t match you, right?”

“Really?”

“Yes. Very. I don’t want to hold you back at the very least.”

I’ll hold him back, I said when I imagined what will happen from now on. I did not get nervous like everyone else but in some ways, I felt depressed. I can only be useful by motivating others so, of course, I will do my best. But honestly, I guess it was not enough to console me.

“Meryl?”

“Yes?”

“I came here today intending to protect you with all my might.”

Senpai walked slowly and the other academy students wondered, took a quick look and overtook us. Our connected hands became tighter, and his other free hand caressed my cheek. “Didn’t I like your attitude? So please, do not feel down.”

When he bestowed me an unusual, mature smile, my heart throbbed. The part that was touched by Senpai felt very hot. [T/N: The cheek, the hand . . . Or what?]

“I do not want anyone to speak ill of the woman I like. Of course, you too, Meryl.”

“Y-Yes.”

Very well. This time, I smiled like a child showing her white teeth. The smiling face he always shows me has various meanings, has different meanings…… Senpai is really bad for my heart.

“I’m too nervous. My heart feels like it is going to break.”

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“Well then, please think of me all the time. Then, won’t the exam end immediately?”

The gait which began to advance once again was light. Since we can already see the crowd, then we’ll see the practice field and the others soon. I will definitely pull him down but it’s not because I was feeling daunted. I have to do this.

“…I’ll do my best. Even if I will become a dead weight or a hindrance, I will do my best as much as I can.”

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“Ah.”

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