How to Survive at the Academy - C.148

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“The sacrifice accompanies the cause, and the price follows progress,” her once lustrously golden hair had become dull, and her radiant eyes were now muddled. Yet, the girl laughed without concern, seated daintily on the terrace, gazing up at the clear sky. The view of the Rothtaylor estate from Arwen’s room high in the mansion was beautiful, peaceful enough to be like paradise itself.

“Look ahead, father. I will do my role, so there’s no need for your concern.”

As an enchanting glow enveloped Arwen sitting on the terrace—it was then that Crebin opened his eyes.

“…”

When he sat up to look around, he was in the most opulent and spacious room of the Rothtaylor mansion—Crebin Rothtaylor’s bedroom.

He vaguely remembered trying to catch a brief nap before the morning schedule, though it didn’t last more than thirty minutes, yet Crebin arose without hesitation.

Feeling a bit lethargic was an everyday burden; this level of fatigue was nothing.

However, his mood was not the best.

That dream which crept into his subconscious time and again. When recalling that scene, a wave of nausea threatened to rise in his throat. 𝐟r𝗲𝚎𝚠e𝐛no𝘃𝗲𝐥.c𝗼m

Crebin’s eyes flickered with poison as he bowed his head in silence.

Though not a man to show emotional fluctuations openly, there was no need for him to wear his mask when alone in his personal chamber.

The desire for rest was strong, though it was time for the soirée’s second day to unfold on a grander scale. Many tasks and concerns awaited Crebin’s attention.

Two days until the renowned grand alchemist Balvern would arrive. Until then, it was imperative to maintain the grandeur of the social gathering.

Still, a brief respite was no excessive luxury.

With that thought, Crebin sat on the bed for a moment longer, looking down at the sheets with venomous eyes.

*

Even at the Rothtaylor social gathering, where all the influential figures congregated, saint Clarice’s presence was utterly singular, always the recluse who seldom left her stronghold. Not even the most prestigious nobility had frequent chances to meet her.

She might not wield great political influence, but as a religious symbol, she held the highest authority on the continent. That authority was immense within the Telos Order, to the point where no one, save for Saint Eldain himself, could sway her.

Amidst the plethora of dignitaries, the attention Clarice commanded was inevitable.

Curiosity abounded as to how she would spend her time upon arriving at the Rothtaylor estate.

The room assigned to her was as grand as the master’s own quarters, and with ample time until the evening dinner, she surely had leisure to either entertain visitors or engage in purposeful discourse.

The saint’s actions meant more than simply passing the time; she could reshape power dynamics with her political endorsement.

Hence, Sella, an ambitious schemer, had already begun weaving her connections.

“The flowers of Hyangsulran symbolize purity, innocence, and eternal friendship. There’s no flower that suits you better, saint Clarice. They also embody the hope for smooth relations between you two.”

“You certainly have a knack for selecting gifts, Dest.”

“It’s an overstatement.”

Sella lightly brushed off Dest’s compliments while accepting the beautifully arranged bouquet.

Though Sella did not particularly enjoy the fragrance, there was no need to show aversion.

“I’ve warned Archbishop Samal beforehand, so it shouldn’t be hard to converse with Saint Clarice. There’s no need for an overly aggressive approach; just strive to leave a positive impression.”

Not every notable guest had arrived at the Rothtaylor estate yet.

Even among the high and mighty, the only individual of equal stature with Saint Clarice was Sella, the Serene Princess.

Even Saint Eldain would welcome the chance to become known to Sella during this event. No matter how much authority he held within Saint Eldain, Sella was a leading contender for imperial power.

Respect was a mutual necessity, so Sella resolved to be as courteous as possible.

With a retinue of servants, as she passed through the hallways, the nobles’ gazes gravitated towards her.

Though each noble might be the center of attention in their own territories, they were mere backdrops before Sella.

The dignity emanating from her status made even simple greetings challenging, with only the most esteemed daring to inquire about her well-being or comment on the pleasant weather.

Sella responded to these glances with a graceful smile and proceeded to the room where Saint Clarice resided.

Observing her direction, the gathered nobles nodded in agreement that the most suitable person to engage with Saint Clarice was none other than Sella.

“Saint Clarice is currently away.”

Five minutes later, Sella faced a dismissal.

“What?”

The Archbishop Samal hesitated with downcast eyes, conveying the news.

An outburst here would only be unseemly. Instead, Sella locked eyes with Samal, wordlessly pressing him for truth.

Two imposing templar knights blocked the saint’s chamber, with Archbishop Samal awkwardly fiddling with his glasses in front.

“I did hint, rather subtly several times, that Princess Sella was here, but her holiness dismissed it and left to meet someone else.”

“She left? You mean to say the Saint went to see them instead of asking them to come here?”

It was an unusual situation. There was no one in the Rothtaylor estate who could command the saint’s presence. If anyone had the potential, it was maybe Crebin, host of the soirée.

“Though hard to believe… did Lord Crebin summon Saint Clarice?”

Archbishop Samal shook his head.

With an incredulous look, Sella frowned, doubting her ears.

*

“It’s a Caldorn Mountain iron greatsword. Placing it center in the room gives the place an eerie feel…”

The location was Arwen Rothtaylor’s room in the estate’s upper floor.

It was unusual to preserve a room of someone long departed untouched.

Then again, my own exiled room remains the same… Perhaps there’s just too much space in this grand mansion to bother with it.

Nonetheless, leaving such a spacious room with a view wasn’t it a waste?

It seemed to be Crebin’s express orders that the room remained undisturbed.

“Saint…”

Upon receiving her room assignment, Clarice rebuffed all requests from assorted dignitaries and burst into my chamber.

If she wanted to meet, summoning me would’ve been enough. Instead, she decided to surprise me, taking my hand and pressing her thumbs against the back, nearly killing me with the weight of onlookers’ stares.

Clarice planned to tour the mansion that day, but upon suggestion, decided to follow me instead.

Thus, under the pretense of showing Saint Clarice around the Rothtaylor estate, I spent all afternoon at her side, enduring gazes from every guest. By dinner, word would likely have spread throughout the mansion.

“Saint, shouldn’t you be more aware that every move you make is under scrutiny?”

“When I’m buried beneath the throng in Saint Eldain, I am.”

Clarice halted her survey of Arwen’s room, spinning to face me.

“Now… it seems I’ve indulged too much in Sylvania waters.”

A beaming smile betrays the high-born messenger of God’s usual image.

“And… I find myself rather excited. Can’t sit still for some reason. It’s odd… during Easter, I could spend twelve hours straight in prayer.”

“What has you so uplifted, if I may ask?”

“It is the home of Senior Ed.”

She grins, lifting my hands playfully.

“It feels quite different than Sylvania life… And to think, senior Ed spent his childhood here, it leaves me feeling quite special.”

“Truthfully, my childhood wasn’t something to brag about. I made more enemies than friends.”

“And that’s what I didn’t know. Normally people become deeper the more you know them. I bet, senior Ed, you’d be surprised if you saw me leading prayers in Saint Eldain.”

Saying so, she traced a holy sign, then clasped her hands, winking playfully. The demeanor of the divine representative vanished, replaced by that of Kylie Ecknair, her alter ego in Sylvania.

Her sanctified exterior shifts to that of a girl her age, challenging even my experienced self to keep up.

“I was honestly concerned.”

Seated on Arwen’s once used bed, Clarice let out a sigh.

“When I heard Senior Ed was reinstated, I was ecstatic but figured the treatment wouldn’t be amiable.”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly known for being well-received, so that’s unavoidable.”

“That’s why… if anyone dared harm Senior Ed or spoke ill, I was prepared to give them a piece of my mind… Thankfully, that didn’t seem necessary.”

She resonated, glancing up at the high ceiling before lightly tapping her heels against the floor.

“This is… the room of Arwen Rothtaylor you spoke of.”

“Yes. It has been well-preserved, which is quite astounding.”

“She was a widely respected individual.”

“She was my most esteemed figure.”

At least to the former Ed Rothtaylor, Arwen exemplified admiration and respect.

I’ve read nearly half of the letters stashed in the desk, the reverence towards her clear in the exchange.

However, I wonder about his intention behind keeping all those letters hidden there.

Still figuring out the core…

It seemed like I couldn’t reach the heart of the matter quickly enough, and I wanted to find out the truth as soon as I could. However, hiding away in my room just reading letters would only arouse suspicion. I needed to engage in at least minimal activities to dispel any doubts from Crebin’s mind.

Well, Clarice’s involvement in the process was a piece of welcome news. At least the rumors would have spread for certain.

“… I see. That must be troubling for you, Ed Senior. I failed to read the mood.”

“No, there’s no need for that. It is all in the past now.”

After saying that, I took a few more glances around Arwen Rothtaylor’s chamber. There didn’t seem to be anything of importance to note.

Among the luxurious furnishings, girly items such as combs, hairpins, and makeup mirrors caught my eye.

In one corner of the wall, there was a large glass door leading to the terrace, and beyond it, a portion of the Rothtaylor estate beautifully came into view.

I couldn’t help but admire the scenery. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this was the room with the best view in the mansion.

Clarice also got up from the bed and stepped onto the terrace. Surprised by the view, she opened her eyes wide and stood beside me.

“It’s a wonderful place. Surely growing up here would shape one into someone as splendid and endearing.”

“…”

“Arwen, the lady of this house, must have been such a person.”

Clarice said softly, then suddenly took my hands in hers again.

“Lady Saintess?”

“Ed Senior. Since your return to favor, I’m sure it’s been hectic. Though you might not verbalize it, given your nature, you must have felt many a scornful gaze. The scandal of your excommunication brought great disgrace. There are still those who look upon you as if you were a ruffian.”

“What can I do? It’s a burden that I must bear.”

“Do not bear it alone.”

Clarice said, holding both of my hands close to her chest, and spoke as if whispering.

“We can bear it together.”

“What do you mean?”

As I looked conspicuously flustered, Clarice seemed to lose her composure slightly… speaking with a hint of hurry in her voice.

“Um, what I mean is… you should use my authority. If you stay by my side during the dinner tonight, no one will dare to belittle or guard themselves against you, Ed Senior…”

“It’s quite strange to be suggesting so blatantly that I make use of you. Whoever accepts that would be seen as odd…”

“No, that’s not what I mean. It’s just good to be good. It would be better if things moved in a direction that benefited you, Ed Senior. And in doing so, maybe even I could, um…”

Clarice began to say something else but ended up sighing deeply.

“Ahhh… I get all tangled up trying to justify it. Fine, I won’t pile on reasons.”

“…”

“I need a partner for tonight. Will you dance with me at the banquet?”

With that, Clarice threw out her words and, after meeting my gaze, suddenly looked down.

“Because showing that relationship would be good for your status, Ed Senior, and well, there might be benefits for me too… or maybe not, but there’s a good chance it will bring more pros than cons…?”

“Didn’t you just say you wouldn’t bring up such strange justifications…?”

“There’s no need for you to point out everything, Ed Senior.”

Then she let go of my hands abruptly, grabbed my shoulders, and tiptoed to whisper in my ear.

“Anyway, I shall refuse all dance requests tonight at the banquet.”

She made sure not to forget to add a sly smile.

“Except for one person.”

On the terrace during the day, we were ever aware that others might be watching—it was a thrilling sensation. The knights of the cathedral were guarding the entrance to Arwen’s room.

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