How to Survive at the Academy - C.140

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End-of-Semester Evaluation (4)

– “I should have quit such war-like endeavors.”

Obel Forcius, Guardian of the Imperial Capital, thus departed from the battlefield.

From the Ainkin flows blue-tinged blood.

It feels like only yesterday when he was rolling in the dust of the battlefield, drenched in that azure blood.

Under the reign of Emperor Clorel, the Clorel Empire, said to be in an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity, was truly at the height of its power.

Yet in one corner of Krayd’s heart lingered the remnant forces of the Ainkin at the northernmost edge of the continent.

However, Emperor Clorel no longer had the will to annihilate the Ainkin. Their power had already become negligible.

Even the Guardian of the Capital, Obel Forcius, had put the existence of his archenemy aside. He took up the mantle of education to nurture the next generation.

– “We didn’t fight to spill blood. We fought to protect the Capital.”

Following Guardian Obel’s wishes, cullers Zellan, researcher Glast, and Lawless Krayd came to the Sylvania Academy.

But unlike the others, Krayd had trouble adapting.

To Krayd, who had lived on the battlefield since his youth, the toothless Sylvania Academy seemed like child’s play.

Drunk on peace and romance, the students, under the pretense of studying, were enjoying their youth—unsuitable for learning the harsh survival skills of the battlefield.

At least his friend, researcher Glast, had managed to maintain his edge amidst the mild atmosphere of the Academy in his own way.

Academic as he was, Glast was a bit pedantic, but at least he was not soft or negligent of his duties, lost in romance or peace.

Thus, during Krayd’s tenure at the Academy, alongside Glast, they were known as the madmen, though their approaches differed slightly.

He would push the students with practice until exhaustion and required all-nighter magic sensitivity training.

There was no day or night in real battle.

The enemy will not wait for the brightness or darkness of the sky to target my throat.

But to students raised in the warmth of well-off homes, survival skills from the wild seemed akin to ‘unreasonable abuse.’

After causing various troubles, clashing with the Academy, and antagonizing the students, he eventually left the institution.

Since then, Krayd wandered the lawless region of Keheln, living as an adventurer and taking on jobs for a while.

When once again he received an invitation from Sylvania, he had already grown tired of his nomadic life.

In such a peaceful era, a talent like Krayd was no longer needed. Training successors, like what Obel had done, was possible only when one was willing to compromise and understand various circumstances.

In the end, it seemed only natural to let go of all expectations and while away the time, merely drawing a salary…

The last person his eyes beheld was the disciple left behind by his sole companion, Professor Glast.

Claire Elfin. Now his successor, an associate professor who seemed rather naive, had said this.

– “It seems that Professor Glast, in his lifetime, had placed peculiar expectations on student Ed Rothtaylor.”

* * *

Obel Hall’s combat training grounds are always bustling with various schedules.

Not just for class practice, but also for individual matches between students, various demonstration events, and personal training.

However, despite its size, the stands being full to the brim like this were rare—mostly during semester-end duels, combined combat practices, or demonstration duels by the faculty.

The reason for such a student turnout at this end-of-semester test was largely to witness the personal duel of Professor Krayd, once a war hero and once known as the Academy’s wild dog.

Moreover, his opponent was the rising star of the third year, Ed Rothtaylor.

Less a talent and more a hard worker.

As a freshman, his grades were at rock bottom, and although they improved significantly as a sophomore, they weren’t notably high.

Entering junior year, he suddenly rose to the ranks of the school’s powerhouses, making his name known to all.

The meaning behind his sudden rise was significant to the average students.

Not born with standout talent, nor heavily backed by family after expulsion, his rapid climb proved that even without a grand background, one could become a powerhouse in this Academy through sheer effort and investment.

For such a duel of these two individuals, naturally, many eyes were drawn.

When Student President Tanya Rothtaylor arrived at the duel grounds, flanked by her closest aides, even a moment of silence passed through the crowd.

– “Look, the student president herself has graced us with her presence?”

– “See that? She’s accompanied by none other than Senior Action Committee member Tyke and the foremost secretary…!”

Such murmurs were by now familiar to Tanya. The position of student president always attracted attention.

Feeling somewhat anxious, Tanya carved out time to attend Ed’s duel. After all, directly attending such a sensational duel was not unusual for her.

To some, a mad warmonger; to others, a selfish autocrat; and to another group, a pathetic drunkard… The individual simply could not be judged solely by student evaluations. That was Lawless Krayd.

No matter how great a power Ed might have acquired, it was improbable he could stand against Krayd, who was known even among the faculty for his combat prowess.

At least, that’s what Tanya thought.

If an incident were to occur, she needed to intervene personally, and even if not, should there be any unfairness or heated moments, it was her responsibility to give a warning.

No matter how reckless a professor might be, they can’t completely ignore the student president.

Intentions notwithstanding… Her thoughts wavered slightly upon glimpsing Krayd’s figure.

“Ah, my poor old bones…”

Though still too young to be called middle-aged, his rough beard and unkempt hair gave him a mature presence.

With both hands shoved deep in his overcoat pockets, and eyes that shot suspicious glances, Krayd murmured in discomfort.

“Passed out drunk on the ground and my joints are screaming in protest. I consistently eat my greens and dairy, but these joints still creak. Maybe I should eat more oily fish… Or should reduce the salty foods…”

“…….”

On the dueling platform.

Professor Krayd staggered, eyeing Ed squarely.

Ed was slinging a bag on his back as large as his upper body, which seemed considerably heavy. Recently, he started carrying it around with him.

“Alright, Ed Rothtaylor… have at me.”

Tossing the bag to the side, Ed stretched and loosened his arms.

“Do you wish to commence at this instant?”

“When else? End-of-semester assessments are supposed to happen at the end of the semester. You want to delay it and do it next year?”

With a faint smile, Professor Krayd casually channeled his magic without even removing his hands from his pockets.

Magic surged up from his legs, rushing through his body to the tips of his hair.

Enshrouded in magic, he displayed a level of attunement far from ordinary.

Faculty members are usually way beyond the students in abilities.

Krayd stood out even among the faculty with his practical experience and combat skills.

Though victory seemed unlikely, at the very least, a good evaluation was essential.

– Swoosh.

Ed’s hand whipped out casually.

Maybe a probing move or a maneuver to gauge the opponent’s reaction.

Magic manifested from Ed’s fingertips, creating a massive blade of wind that hurtled towards Krayd.

With unreal speed, he materialized his magic, deflecting the wind blade.

– Clang!

Krayd stood unmoved as his garments flapped in the aftermath.

“Oho, there seems to be some firepower there.”

While massaging and stretching his left side, Krayd grimaced as if still in discomfort.

Then, he changed his expression maliciously and muttered a spell barely audible, less than a second in duration.

Ed felt a sense of danger that moment.

Krayd, known for his high magic sensitivity, would not omit an incantation unless, at its foundation, the magic was significant.

Upon this realization, the intermediate lightning magic ‘Flash’ erupted.

– ‘Ahhhh!’

– ‘Ah…! That startled me…!’

– ‘I can’t see… my eyes…!’

A selfish tactic that disregarded the observing students, aimed solely to strike at the opponent’s vulnerabilities.

The dazzle of light from his vicinity robbed onlookers of their vision momentarily.

Seizing this, Krayd closed the distance and hammered home a basic impact spell at close range.

At this point, it’s no longer an assessment. It’s simply an attack aimed at defeating the adversary. A regular student with no actual combat experience stands no chance against such an ambush.

But Ed steadily cast a protective spell, deflecting Krayd’s assault. He chose a magic that prioritized speed over power. Even with his own magic power, Ed could fend it off sufficiently.

“Hoho, look at you.”

Krayd cracked a grin.

He had ducked his head and tightly shut his eyes the moment Krayd activated the flash. His reflexes and crisis management were commendable.

Right then, Ed exploited an opening by Krayd and performed a basic fire spell ‘Ignition.’

Of course, even for Krayd, such a level was easy to counter. He manifested a protective spell to ward off the heat, readying his next strike to be the end.

However, the fire spell did not head towards Krayd.

Instead, the flames enveloped Ed.

“Playing some interesting tricks.”

Feigning an attack, but actually defending.

If defense was the goal, one might as well manifest a defensive spell. Employing a basic elemental spell in this fashion, surrounding oneself with it, was inefficient in terms of magic efficiency and even cast time.

There must be a reason for this convoluted method…

“You wanted to obscure my view!”

– Whoosh!

Krayd, focusing on defense, was preparing a higher-level spell. Krayd guessed as much and used a wind spell to scatter the flames.

Ed had already finished preparing the intermediate fire spell ‘Point Explosion.’ His fingertips aimed directly at Krayd.

– Boom! Bang!

A spell specialized for rapid attacks, with unmatched speed among intermediate magic.

A burst of flame erupted from Krayd, but…

– Scream!

Krayd seized his fist, and the flames were soon suppressed by magic.

In theory, it was simple. Just wrapping the hand in magic and crushing the flames.

Considering the execution speed of ‘Point Explosion,’ reacting in time as a human seemed nearly impossible.

Only possible by anticipation. Krayd had to consider that the moment he cleared the fire, Ed would attack.

Despite the mental haziness from a hangover and the soreness from sleeping anywhere, this level of judgment was possible not due to logic but sensory instinct.

Even if his mind was foggy, his body remembered.

“It’s my turn.”

Krayd rapidly performed an intermediate ice spell ‘Frozen Blade’ with an absurd speed.

It differed from the familiar ‘Ice Spear.’ Whereas the spear aimed to pierce the enemy with a massive block of ice, ‘Frozen Blade’ created countless sharp crystals, dominating the surrounding space.

Each crystal was as sharp as a dagger.

A rash move will result in injury.

Not a direct assault but rather an area-control spell to restrict movement.

Krayd had already closed in on Ed. Even a basic spell could be threatening at such proximity.

“This is…”

Ed was in a bind. His sense of danger screamed. If he remained still, he would be overpowered.

Krayd’s intent was clear. First, to immobilize Ed and then launch an attack hard to counter with protective magic.

Evading was necessary. However, he risked being cut by ice blades.

Even if he could clear the ice and retreat in that direction, Krayd would simply adjust his attack vector.

Destroying ice on one side signaled an evasion in that direction, practically broadcasting his intentions.

Clearing the surrounding ice blades in one go was an arduous task with Ed’s means alone.

A brief dilemma.

Each moment in a duel is a succession of critical choices.

Instantly, Ed’s reflexes reached for another magic domain, not elemental but basic celestial magic ‘Forced Convergence.’

A spell that twisted space, gathering substances from the vicinity to a single point.

Many methods exist to gather enemies, such as ‘Converging Winds,’ ‘Convergence Elixir,’ and others—but by basing it on celestial magic, ‘Forced Convergence’ left no chance for resistance.

As space itself warped, no physical strength could counter it, nor typical magic powers against this different celestial force.

Even formidable foes had to submit at least once to its power, specializing in producing ‘results.’ This was the domain of celestial magic.

A dusky magic aura bloomed from Ed’s body.

“…What?”

Krayd’s pupils quivered for an instant. So did Ed’s. This was a mistake. His quick reflex had taken over, acting before thought.

Realizing he was manifesting celestial magic, Ed hastily diffused the power.

– Boom!

With that, Krayd’s basic wind spell struck Ed directly.

Dust swirled, and Ed was flung far and wide.

– Whoaaaa!

After a long tumble and dust clouds rising, Ed lay before slowly pushing himself up and declared.

“I’ve been hit.”

“…What are you doing?”

Krayd frowned, seeking an explanation.

What had just skimmed Ed’s body was unmistakably celestial magic.

Yet, the spectators, situated at a safe distance, were…

Although Krayd had failed to notice at first, he had certainly seen what was happening from a short distance away. Ed Rothtaylor had definitely tried to manifest a divine magic that even he couldn’t control.

“You just now….”

Krayd doubted his own eyes for a moment. Indeed, this student was one that Professor Glast would have taken an interest in.

That aside, Ed Rothtaylor had allowed Krayd’s attack by ceasing to manifest his magic.

If there was a reason for this…

“Are you, by any chance, consciously only using elemental magic?”

“…Isn’t that obvious? Isn’t this an exam for elemental studies?”

“…….”

“…….”

At those words, not only Ed and Krayd but also the surrounding students were enveloped in silence. Apparently, Krayd was the only one who had been unaware.

In truth, Ed’s words were valid. It was an elemental studies exam, so using only elemental magic made sense.

However, to anyone watching, Ed Rothtaylor was not just a student who handled elemental magic.

The rumors suggested as much, and at a glance, he was a student who dealt with a broad array of magical fields. His elemental magic firepower was stronger than expected, and Ed himself had good coping abilities, which went unnoticed until now.

No point continuing the duel if it would be nothing more than tying him down and beating him.

“I don’t just look at elemental magic skills from the start.”

“…Again, isn’t this an elemental studies exam?”

“While elemental studies are indeed the foundation of all combat magic, isn’t it also important to harmoniously fuse elemental magic with various other magical disciplines as a critical aspect of elemental studies?”

Although he explained it at length, the essence was straightforward.

“You can come at me by any means necessary.”

Hearing this, Ed slightly raised his head.

Half-risen, seated with only his upper body upward, anyone would see it was a clear defeat, yet Ed, unperturbed, spoke to Krayd.

“Is that acceptable?”

“Why? Worried I might get hurt? If that’s the case, I’d like to dismiss it as an unnecessary concern.”

“In that case….”

Ed slowly got to his feet. Dust clung to him, but to him, dirty clothes seemed nothing out of the ordinary.

Krayd furrowed his brow and manifested a defensive magic. Instinctually, he felt it was wise to keep basic defense magic in place.

―Click!

As he thought this, two mana arrows struck the defensive circle. Looking up, Ed held a bow made of mana.

―Boom!

The defensive circle Krayd had conjured disappeared.

Basic defense magic vanishes instantly under any number of typical attacks. Often, the frequency of attacks is more important than the power.

Ed’s attacks just… felt deliberately modulated to eliminate the defense magic.

Minimizing waste of power, executing just enough attack required.

All of it was a buildup to land a critical hit. That moment, Krayd realized it.

This boy was definitely not one who had merely frolicked amongst the flowers in a greenhouse. The feeling had been there, subtly, since a while ago.

His style of combat was solely for victory. To that end, he considered only how to suppress his opponent most efficiently.

Professor and student.

If the overwhelming difference in power is assured, students will always give their all but not necessarily fight to win.

That mentality is embedded, and when facing it, the opponent can certainly sense it.

An attack by one who has given up on victory is monotonous and soulless, fundamentally different from a battlefield where lives are wagered with each clash of the sword.

A duel with someone who considers defeat inevitable is meaningless. There was nothing to be taught from a teacher’s standpoint.

However, Ed Rothtaylor only fights with the intention to win.

The fact he perceives fighting against an overwhelmingly stronger opponent as natural.

Even when defeat is considered a given, he still thinks about winning the match. Wasn’t he restricted to using only elemental magic due to the test conditions?

If that restriction is lifted, what means will he employ to pressure his foe?

Curiosity blossomed the moment Krayd realized this. The ground around his feet was soaking wet.

It seemed like the use of elemental magic of water manifestation, but no matter what, it shouldn’t be possible to use medium or higher level magic without an incantation.

In that case, the magic circle must have been inscribed in advance.

“Spirit formation…!”

Krayd was quick to decide. At the moment a gigantic lioness burst from the pool of water, he raised a hand imbued with mana and erected an ice wall with intermediate cryomancy – “Ice Wall”.

―Clang!

Leshia’s teeth clashed against the huge ice wall.

‘To have inscribed spirit formation into mana arrows…?’

If one is thoroughly prepared, it’s possible to inscribe arrows with spirit formations in advance.

Yet, Ed was inscribing spirit formations on mana-arrows manifested on the spot. Judging by speed, such spirit sensitivity was unbelievable.

Yenika Faelover was known as a genius in spirit magic, unparalleled in her field. If not someone like that little girl… it should be impossible.

What Krayd hadn’t taken into account was, Ed had learned spirit magic from Yenika.

‘It wasn’t elemental studies that were his specialty from the start.’

It was as if he was tied down and being beaten up.

The now more liberated Ed drew a dagger with one hand and lunged towards Krayd, suggesting close combat.

Magic wielders often see close combat as the solution, except for one exception.

And that is, when they themselves are also magic wielders.

Yet, Ed disregarded this and provoked close combat, concluding he couldn’t win against Krayd with just elemental magic skills.

He moved solely for victory.

There was a clear and definite pressure.

Krayd again manifested defensive magic to fend off Ed’s dagger. But Ed twisted his body, pushing away Krayd’s arm with a roundhouse kick.

Krayd stumbled a few steps back. Though he had managed to create some distance, he felt another mana source from the ground.

Magical engineering gear – Talon Hand.

He had previously installed crystal orbs on the ground, which now pulled him back towards Ed. The mana swirling around his back pushed him, but Krayd gritted his teeth and expelled the pressing mana with his own power.

Yet, this was also likely within Ed’s plans.

As mentioned, if the goal was to close distance, there were many means to achieve it. The question was whether the opponent could resist.

A magic practitioner of Krayd’s level could easily resist mana from such basic magical engineering gear.

Just that, he wanted to buy time.

The divine magic he had almost manifested earlier.

A crimson mana that is irresistible by any means surged through Ed’s body.

‘Forced Gathering’.

Depending on the skill level, the range may vary, but at this distance, it would be effective.

It’s like watching a bullet fly towards you when you are already tied up. There is no escape.

Once manifested, one must succumb to the unfairness of the magic.

Even Krayd, who could respond to the speed of ‘Point Explosion’, faced equity before the absoluteness of divine magic.

Space twisted. When he regained consciousness… Ed’s dagger was right in front of his nose.

Unbelievable reflex speed. Krayd’s defensive magic prowess could astonish even royal magicians.

But Ed didn’t just use the dagger as a physical weapon. All weapons Ed handled were rigorously ensorcelled with spirit formations.

―Boom!

The spirit formation – Explosive Burst is manifested. This was beyond what Krayd expected.

He blocked some of it with almost animal-like reflexes, but the thrown-down Krayd sustained some damage.

“Cough, black… cough cough… you see….”

Already, the hangover was long gone. Krayd’s complexion began to return to its normal color. As he brushed off the rising smoke, he was wrapped by oddly large wings.

The size of the bat was almost as big as an eagle. If the wings were fully spread, it looked as if they could cover a person comfortably.

The bat perching on Ed’s shoulder, igniting flames, seemed ready to cast fire across the entire dueling arena at any moment.

The mid-class fire elemental Merilda. The Explosive Burst’s spirit formation already surpassed the power of intermediate magic.

Ed then pulled out all kinds of magical engineering gear from his robes and scattered them around him.

The various shapes of the engineering gear strewn on the floor each emitted different amounts of mana, making it impossible to predict their effects.

The key in a battle against a strong opponent is the creation of variables.

Krayd, who knew this fact all too well, immediately gathered all the mana in his body.

Now beyond the level of a student. Considering the scale of this Sylvania, there were often cases of young students surpassing active practitioners.

Therefore, Krayd also couldn’t keep holding back forever.

“So… Ed Rothtaylor, was it? Since it has come to this, shall we bicker a little more?”

“Do we need to continue?”

“Let’s see it through to the end. I don’t even know how to clean up afterwards.”

Before Ed could question what that meant, mana surged all over Krayd’s body. It was a different magnitude than before.

To any observer, this was a single spell he was pouring his full power into. Where that mana was destined… was the sky.

In any case, he was an individual already branded as crazy. Drafting up a resignation letter seemed a faint vision in his eyes, but he didn’t care.

The audience buzzed. The scale of the magic was ominous.

Even Tanya, seated among the audience, furrowed her brow. This surpassed the level of an exam. It was clear to anyone that this needed to be stopped.

As that thought crossed her mind and she rose from her seat…

―Crackling!

The high-level lightning magic ‘Heaven’s Punishment’.

There was no need for a lengthy explanation.

Lightning. That was what it was.

―Boom!

The lightning that tore through the ceiling struck Ed directly.

The resulting wind blasted the audience. Students shouted as they tried to hold their own.

“Oh, brother…!”

Even Tanya, her hair fluttering in the wind, struggled to look towards the dueling platform.

―Whoosh!

The violent wind assaulting the audience grew stronger.

Krayd snapped back to reality.

No matter what, it was insane to strike a student with high-level magic.

He was simply convinced that his opponent could withstand even that, and so he did something absurd, carried away by the flow.

If Ed was really hurt, he’d have to take responsibility. As cold sweat ran down his spine and Krayd’s coat was slashed by the wind’s blade…

―Slash.

A surprise attack flew through the rising dust.

It was purely ‘luck’ that avoided the assault. With visibility obscured, neither attacker nor defender could predict where the strike would come from.

But one thing was certain… Ed Rothtaylor wasn’t subdued.

“Haha….”

Was he indicating they should continue?

Bitter laughter naturally emerged.

Truly, once the boy’s resolve ignited, he had no interest in any outcome other than victory.

As Krayd felt a chill down his spine, both from cold and bafflement, he once again gathered his mana. If they were to continue, he wasn’t planning to back out.

Ed untied the leather thongs that had been firmly wrapped around the pouch.

At this point, it was clear that what looked like a pouch was actually some object wrapped in a leather blanket. It was something that Ed had been carrying around and testing for some time now.

Unwrapping it revealed a rather large staff.

The staff struck by lightning from a thousand-year-old tree. It was very different from the one Yenika had carried. It was worn down in many places, with various engravings etched into it.

Unlike limiting one spirit formation to each weapon, this staff resonated well enough to ensorcell with a variety of spirit formations at once.

Initially, he only used elemental magic, then utilized spirit formations with a dagger, and after exhausting more energy, employed magical engineering gear…and now, finally, he drew forth a staff.

Krayd could no longer gauge how many patterns there might be. But at this moment, he resolved to focus on subduing his immediate opponent.

With the dagger held reversely in his left hand, Ed grabbed the large staff with his right hand. Bowed low, he stood up from his position.

The wind blew.

Howls of wolves intermingled within the wind reached Krayd’s ears insistently.

Behind him, he could see… a gigantic wolf rising little by little.

Not just the audience, but even Tanya, who had already seen its form, was petrified.

The wolf, curled up and raising its body, had a presence so magnificent that the large dueling arena felt cramped.

Ed stood in front of it with a bowed head, gazing straight up at Krayd.

Updated from fr𝒆ewebnov𝒆l.(c)om

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