༺ Night before the Festival (2) 





  A month passed after the Tornado Bat incident.
These days, the Academy was bustling with noise.


  “There are a lot of people talking about the festival.”


  The reason the students were so hyped up was because of the upcoming festival.


  “It’s a big event that only comes once a year, after all.”


  Hearing Korin’s reply, Alicia gave a concerned look instead of one of expectation.


  “…Parents and guardians will be invited as well, right?”


Are your parents going to be coming?”


  “I think… my Sister will be the one coming.”


  Even during her middle school, it was always her older sister whenever there was a parent-teacher interview.


  “Did you see Miss Lunia during the holiday?”


  “No, I did not.
She was busy hunting demonic beasts in the east.
I had to come back when she was close to being finished.”


  Just like Alicia, who wasn’t really hyped up for the festival because she was still scared of Lunia, Korin was also not interested but he had a different reason.
Including the last iteration, this was already his 4th festival.
He was an experienced newbie who even attended the Legendary Festival that involved all the 4 great academies worldwide. 


  “By the way, shouldn’t we hurry up and make our teams?”


We need to sign up for the individual, double, and group events!”


  “You can only attend 2.”


  “Oh right.”


  As expected of a knight, Jaeger preferred individual battles whereas Lark wanted to participate in the doubles event.
It was understandable because individual battles were quite difficult for a mage.


  “Which one are you going to attend, Mr.
Korin?” asked Alicia.


By the way, you have to come with me.”




  “What do you mean, ‘uwek’? You’re in my fixed party, remember?”


  Alicia had no right to turn him down.


  “What about the group event?”


  “A lot of things are random for the group event, so it’s hard to tell right now.”


  By the way, there were always at least 1,000 people participating in the preliminaries of the festival’s group battle event.
Out of them, only 4 teams of 4 people would be making their way up to the real stage.


  “But wasn’t everything random? Even if Mr.
Korin and I want to attend the doubles, the chance of us being chosen for the doubles is…”


  “We will have an announcement soon.
Everyone above Grade 2 can choose to participate in one of the events except for the group battle.”




  Alicia was in the middle of thinking about how she had no other choice but to attend the doubles, but she suddenly thought of something and asked Korin.


  “Why aren’t you going with Senior Marie? It’s a bit weird for me to say this but… isn’t Senior Marie the strongest?”


  “Senior Marie said she’ll be going for the individual event.”


  “Huh? She’s a mage though?”


  “Apparently she likes one of the prizes of the individual event.”


  Mages were weak at 1 on 1 battles because most battle mages excelled at slow but strong spells that required time to cast. 


  “Well, I’m sure Senior Marie will be beating everyone this year.”


  Unlike other mages though, Marie had the overpowered Doggo, who could become the strongest bodyguard that offset the greatest weakness of mages.


  Besides, Marie herself was also physically strong enough to blow away random knights with her fists.




  “What is it?”


  That was when the lecture room turned noisy.


  “Look at those clothes.
Is that the famous sage clothes of the east?”


  “You idiot.
That’s just what they wear in the east.”


Look at her; she’s so pretty.”


  Looking out the window, Korin saw three people walking across the Academy.
Their clothes were proof that they were from the east, from the same homeland as Hua Ran.


  “They’re finally here.”


  Taoist Sage, Kang Ryun.


  Sword Lord, Kang Yuhua.


  Trampling Warhound, Sa Jinhyuk.


  They were the main characters of the 3rd Arc, [Heavenly Yaksha].




  “…Do you seriously believe what you’re saying makes sense?”


  Senior Professor Josephine of Merkarva Academy was flabbergasted by the request of the middle-aged man who visited from the east. 


  “I believe it is a rightful request as the child’s direct kindred.”


  “Transferring a student of our Academy to Purple Hawk Academy is something we cannot permit.”


  As soon as Senior Professor Kang Ryun arrived as the ‘judge of the preliminary group event’, he immediately requested a meeting with Chairman Eriu and Senior Professor Josephine.


  The content of the meeting was that he wanted his blood-related kin, ‘Kang Ran’ to transfer over to Purple Hawk Academy.


  “1 year ago, we had ourselves a terrible tragedy.
Unfortunately, the one at the center of that tragedy was my own niece.”


  “…I am aware.”


  “In the midst of chaos when one of our castles was being reduced to rubbles, you took away my niece.
Now that we are aware of her whereabouts, I believe retrieving her is the most natural measure for me to take.”


  “Student Hua Ran has special circumstances.
I’m sure you are aware of that yourself.”


  “I simply want to regain my niece.”




  Kang Ryun’s argument was very reasonable because he really was Hua Ran’s blood-related uncle – he was her father’s older brother.


  “As you know, there is a beast lying inside the body of that child, Ran.”


  “It is thanks to her that the body of Student Hua Ran is still alive.
And that was the wish of Chairman Eriu and his long-time friend, Mister Kang Yu, the father of the student.”


  “Hmph…! That is up to us to decide.
In the first place, do you seriously think that that beast can learn social skills?”


  “Of course.”


  In truth, Hua Ran spent her first semester without any problems.
She didn’t show any overly aggressive attitudes and she did have several acquaintances despite her limited number of relationships. 


  Josephine was saying that to make sure Hua Ran wouldn’t be dragged back to the east, but that was when the other visitor opened his mouth after a long silence.


  “I would like you to prove your words for us.”


  He was a large yet virtuous-looking man.
He, who was wearing a slightly old-fashioned sacred clothing was Bishop Renault Lusignan who was sent from the holy land of the Old Faith, Xeruem. 


  “That fiendish demon having social skills? How do you not realize that this is part of their evil plans?”


  “Bishop Lusignan.
I believe it is better for you to refrain from saying anything else.”


  “No! We, the true faithful ones, will not believe your claims that have zero evidence.”


  “…What are you trying to say?”


  “How about you let that evil one attend this festival? That fiend that murdered countless innocent lambs will reveal its true nature in the heat of battle and violence.”




  Honestly, Josephine wanted to logically argue against everything he said but she didn’t have the confidence to have a battle of logic against religious people.
A dispute against a religious person was not a battle of facts and logic, and was in the realms of emotions and faith.


  According to their standards, she too would have to be burned at the stake for being a witch.


  “Are you saying we should have Student Hua Ran attend the festival?”


  Fighting against Old Faith and the Senior Professor of Purple Hawk Academy on the topic of Hua Ran was actually favorable for Merkarva Academy, because they had two precedents that proved how demons could have more than enough social and rational mindsets.


  It would be great if she beat them in the argument by using that as proof and stopped them from coming up with worthless disagreements but…


I will ask Student Hua Ran if she would like to attend the individual event this year.
And, Professor Kang Ryun?”


  “What is it?”


  “Student Hua Ran will decide her residence herself.
Things might be different in the eastern continent but here, her legal guardians are me, Chairman Eriu… and the great Saintess of Chapel Zeon.”




  With that, Josephine encouraged them to leave.
There was a reason why she was so cooperative with their request.


  “Things… really went the way he said.”


  Josephine recalled the conversation she had with a certain boy a few days ago.








  “Please let me decide the group dormitory of the students from Purple Hawk Academy.”


  “…That’s very sudden.”


  Lady Josephine said with a cold gaze.
She was in the middle of monitoring every one of Korin’s actions due to her distrust and was probably wondering why he was suddenly saying this.


  “Is there a reason?”


  “The academy invited for this festival is the Purple Hawk Academy, right?”


It is an annual event.”


  “There are Valtazar’s dogs hidden in this festival.”




  Lady Josephine’s eyes widened into circles.
She was considering Korin Lork as Valtazar’s disciple, so she found his words highly convincing.


  “Who?! Where are they?”


  “I only know that something will be happening but I’m not sure about the details either.
However, I can make a guess.”


  “You mean?”


  “Old Faith and Purple Hawk.
It might be one of them, or it might even be both.”


  It indeed was both.


  Because of their constant decline, the Old Faith was desperate to increase their influence once again, and a small portion of students along with the spiritualist of Purple Hawk were also working in conjunction with them.


  The keyword for both groups was [Heavenly Yaksha, Hua Ran].


  This event concerned the turning point of the main scenario and the fate of the super important named character, Hua Ran, which would later decide the future of the entire El Rath Kingdom.


  “Professor Josephine.
I want to ask you to monitor the Old Faith.”


  “Then Student Korin, you…”


  “There are newly constructed inns, or rather hotels, near the outskirts of the city.
Please have the Purple Hawk students stay there.
That place is the best place to monitor them for me.”


  “But how can I trust that…”


  “You don’t have to trust me.
Please continue doubting because that is the right way to take things.
But whatever you do, my goal will never change.”


  『I will save the world.』


  Josephine had also seen that Pledge.




  After heaving a sigh, Lady Josephine turned to Korin with a squint.


  “By the way, I think there were stories about how new hotels were built in the outskirts with the investment of students…”


  “That has nothing to do with this.”


  “I heard how Student Korin was the owner of the hotels who received the investment…”


  “That has nothing to do with this.”


  “Recently, there were talks about Student Marie moving fresh ingredients over to that place and running stalls…”


  “That has absolutely~ nothing to do with this.”




  Obtaining more than 100 long-term guests.


  The reason he prepared all sorts of profitable business models including daily necessities, food, carriage fees, and everything was all because he wanted to make things more comfortable for the guests.


  That was most certainly the case.




  At the center of the Academy at the ‘festival venue’ were more than 1,000 students including myself.
Everyone was looking around their surroundings including Jaeger and Lark.


  “There’s so many of them.”


  “Apparently there’s a bunch of 4th year Seniors as well.”


  “Can we… even survive here?”


  We were here for the preliminaries of the festival group battle event.
Only 16 of these people would be able to survive. 


  Starting from freshmen students who participated out of curiosity, it ranged all the way to 4th year students who wanted to add even one more line to their CV.
There were about 1,000 students including the 4th graders and that meant most of the diligent students had applied for the event.


  ‘I guess Hua Ran is the only named character that is not participating in the group event.’


  Apparently, she was only going to be attending the individual event.
And as for Alicia…


I’m hereeee…!”


  She was all~ the way over there in the middle of the crowd.
Try your best to survive, Alicia.


  “Nice to meet you everyone.
I am the judge of this year’s preliminary battle, Kang Ryun.”


  The middle-aged man with a dignified aura said from the platform while gazing down at the festival venue.


  “Who is that person?”


  “You know, he’s the Senior Professor from Purple Hawk that came a few days ago.”


  “Ahh… that’s him huh.
I think I saw him the year before when we went over to the east…”


  “It’s going to be disgustingly hard again.


  The 1st and 2nd year students showed a contrasting reaction to the 3rd and 4th year students.


  “Is he famous?”


  “I think… he was on Guardians once.
He was like the greatest formation expert of the east or something…”


  Taoist Sage, Kang Ryun – he was officially recognized by the Alliance as a semi-Unique Grade mage, and was well-known for creating unbreakable formations with unbreachable walls.


  “The following battle is the preliminary stage to choose 16 brave guardians that will be attending the group battle.
I wish you good luck.
You will be disqualified on the spot if your epaulets come off so keep that in mind.”


  After saying that, Kang Ryun ended his dry speech.


  “We will now begin.
The content of the test is… I believe you could say this is the most important role of guardians.”


  『Save the Citizens.』


  Before the students could even process those words—


  – Kugugung…!!


  The ground began to soar up.


  “H, huh.
W, what’s happening?”


  “The ground is moving!?”


  “…This is gonna be another hassle.”


  Some of the students were confused while others were somewhat expecting this to happen.
In the blink of an eye, the ground finished changing into a structure.


  “How does this make sense?”


  Jaeger barely stopped himself from swearing but…




  Lark unknowingly let out a swear word.
As a mage who understood just how immensely difficult something like this was in principle, it must have been more ridiculous for him.


  Their reactions were justified though, because the festival venue that had a thousand students inside had suddenly turned into a labyrinth!


❰Eight Formation Drawings – Eight Gates Formation❱


  It was a formation that was activated by placing down mythical articles that braced the laws of nature with the support of the user’s mana.


  A well-constructed formation messed around with people’s sense of distance and was as tough as an unbreakable fortress that could stand off against tens of thousands of enemies.


  In order to crush a formation that had already been activated, you had to destroy or remove the articles forming the formation, or brute force the formation.
Of course, brute forcing and trying to find the weak points of a formation was as difficult as finding the pattern of claymore mines in a minefield.


  “By the way, what does it mean to ‘Save the Citizens’?”


  “Maybe he was talking about those?”


  Lark pointed at a place that had golems made of stone.
There were sentences written down on the wall next to them.


You may command the citizens after touching them.

If you safely guide the citizens to the destination, you will receive 1 point per citizen.
But needlessly destroying a citizen will result in -2 points per citizen.』



  The rule itself was quite straightforward.




  Alicia was able to understand the rules of this preliminary event without much difficulty.


  All in all, this was about protecting the citizens.
Following the fundamental purpose of guardians, which was to protect citizens in a land infiltrated by demonic beasts, their job was to guide as many stone citizens as possible to the safe locations.


  “C, come this way!”


  “Miss Alicia! We have another citizen here!”


  “We already have ten! This should be quite enough right?”


  Right now, she was moving with other students.


  What she wholeheartedly realized during the hunting grounds prac lesson was that tests like these weren’t supposed to be done as an individual despite the Academy not separating them into groups.


  Especially in a test like this, the most efficient method was to gather allies and assign roles. 


  “A demonic beast in front! A long hound…!”


  Hearing that, Alicia quickly raced across the labyrinth.
Hounds had the tendency of calling their kindred so it was best to deal with them as quickly as possible. 


  – Woof!


  With a thud, a long wound appeared on the long hound’s body.
Soon, the body of the long hound turned into stone and crumbled down. 




  They were the stone warriors of formation experts.
It was probably made to look like demonic beasts to make it seem more realistic.
Since the stone citizens were also technically stone warriors, it was possible to see just how much effort and articles had gone into this formation.


Did you find the safe locations?”


  “I’m looking for them right now with my familiars.
It’s an Eight Gate Formation so there should be an exit near this place as well…”


  “Everyone else was busily moving around though.
Shouldn’t we gather as many citizens as possible beforehand?”


  “What do you think, Senior?”


  Four boys and girls including Alicia worked in cooperation to come out on top of this preliminary event.
However, what they weren’t aware of was that crazy people tended to appear in survival games like this.




  A strange scream echoed across the enclosed labyrinth along with the deafening sound of drums.




  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!


  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!




  “E, enemies! Enemies approaching from the front!”


  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!


  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!


  A thunderous set of noises were reverberating inside the labyrinth.
The owners of that ominous yet majestic background music were slowly approaching Alicia’s group.


  And when they at last showed themselves… Alicia and others were struck speechless.




  “…What in the heck is that?”


  Running across the ground were stone warriors that went by the name of stone citizens.
After combining dozens of stone citizens together like the horses of a mock cavalry battle and riding on them, several students were striking their drums and harps, which they got from who knows where, like madmen.


  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!


  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!


  – Dung dudududung! Dung Dung!






  Due to being way too immersed in their acts, the boys let out barbaric howls and played their harps like electric guitars which made them appear like bandits that came straight out of a book.


  “We are the Mandrake Bandits! Drop your weapons and we will spare your lives!”


  One of the bandits with their lips painted red, Jaeger, shouted while looking down at Alicia and her crew.


  It was hard to tell them apart because of their overall appearance which made them appear like people who would say, ‘Why so serious?’, but Alicia immediately recognized who the boss of that bandit group was.


  “…M, Mr.


  The common rule for battle royales was this:

  Look for teammates and cooperate.


  But this was the real principle of battle royales:

  Plunder everyone except for me.


  “I know not who Korin is.”




  “I am the omnipotent ‘Immortan Lork’! You are to call me ‘O~ Mighty Immortan!’ when referring to my name!”


  “…What kind of thing are you up to now?”

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