How to Survive at the Academy - C.152

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Crebin’s Subjugation Campaign (3)

A flower bloomed in the Rothtaylor family.

The influential nobles who observed Lady Arwen Rothtaylor’s childhood all unanimously proclaimed so.

The achievements of Crebin Rothtaylor had elevated the family to one of the continent’s most powerful ranks and were indeed astonishing. However, even he was now facing a problem that all those who reach the pinnacle eventually confront.

It was good to own such lofty status within the ranks of the high nobility, but the question was how long such glory would last.

The issue ultimately boiled down to whether he could secure a worthy successor.

Arwen was beautiful, wise, and kind-hearted. Furthermore, she strove to act in a manner befitting the Rothtaylor name and followed her father Crebin’s intentions faithfully.

To anyone, it was evident that she possessed ample capacity to continue the Rothtaylor family legacy. After Arwen’s emergence, concerns about a successor seemed to have settled.

Her existence as an exemplary heir was envied by numerous powerful figures, thus ensuring the Rothtaylor family’s future was perceived as a direct and stable path.

Arwen was an ever-shining guiding light for her brother Ed Rothtaylor, three years younger, and for the youngest sibling Tanya Rothtaylor, who was five years apart from her.

Even before her first baptism ceremony, she had amassed extensive knowledge in a variety of fields – not just swordsmanship, magic, and alchemy, but also in sociology, imperial studies, domain management, and political science.

On the day of her baptism, she was gifted a magic greatsword, ‘Dawn’s Edge,’ capable of manipulating the power of the elements, and during her coming-of-age ceremony, she received ‘Condemnation,’ one of the eight swords once wielded by the legendary Sword Saint Luden, bestowed by Emperor Clorel.

The world seemed to be showering its blessings upon her.

That is, until Crebin Rothtaylor reached out for the power of the dark gods.

– ‘Sister.’

It felt just like yesterday, but a considerable amount of time had passed, turning the memories into tales of the old days.

The scene unfolded on a large terrace attached to Arwen Rothtaylor’s room, an ideal spot from where the vibrant landscapes of the domain could be admired during the day and the beautiful night sky at night.

The moonlight gently illuminated the terrace table.

Beside the chair where Arwen sat, there was only a bouquet table set with a book of poems by a famous poet from the Fulan region, a simple snack, and a chessboard with a few laid-down pieces on it.

Cautiously seated next to Arwen, staring up into the sky, her precious younger brother Ed Rothtaylor approached her with something to say.

– ‘Do you know where I found this book?’

Ed tossed a book onto the table and sat across from it, looking up at the sky as well.

Arwen glanced sideways at the table.

It was a historical text about ‘Mebuler,’ the dark god responsible for hatred and wrath. The book was banned and designated as a prohibited text by the royal household.

Moreover, the book was filled with traces of research on the descent and power of the dark god. Numerous hypotheses, underlined in the handwriting of a middle-aged man, were evident on its pages.

– ‘Did you find it in Father’s study?’

– ‘No. I found it in your secret bookcase. It seems it was originally in Father’s study indeed.’

Arwen turned her head towards Ed and twitched the corners of her eyes.

Behind Ed was Tanya, standing silently as if hiding within the folds of his clothing. She was too young to comprehend the world of adult politics, still beloved as the family’s endearing youngest child.

Among the three siblings, Ed was the only male and relatively stubborn-minded, maturing remarkably quickly for his age. However, the adorable youngest still had some years to dream.

– ‘Why is Tanya…?’

– ‘…’

Although Tanya’s mind wasn’t yet solidified enough to grasp the entire situation, she was still a party involved.

The power of the dark god demands a price in blood. Often that price is your own kin’s blood, body, and mind.

The more noble and stout the sacrifice, and the more reputable they are, the more the dark god salivates with greed.

Therefore, Arwen Rothtaylor would be the first target.

– ‘Why haven’t you confronted Father?’

– ‘Ed. My beloved brother.’

Arwen looked at Ed with distant yet complex eyes.

– ‘Not everyone pursues the correct answer in life. And sometimes, what seems to be a wrong path might have its own reasoning or might even be a necessary part of achieving a greater goal.’

– ‘Father is heading down the wrong path right now. Are you suggesting we should accept that?’

– ‘There are many instances where what seems wrong initially, upon reflection, turns out to be right. Leading a group, a family, or walking the path of a monarch is about fighting against such rebukes.’

Arwen’s expression was distant. It was the face of someone already sensing that she wasn’t going to be persuasive.

– ‘And to trust someone is to maintain that faith, even when all opinions and adversities suggest otherwise.’

– ‘Sister.’

– ‘If this is also part of finding a better way, I will never lose my trust. Even if Father wanders or takes a wrong turn at times, he has always lived his life moving in a direction of progress.’

Ed was left speechless by her words.

Not withdrawing trust in Crebin.

For Arwen, who had lived her entire life as a lady of the Rothtaylor family, Crebin was such a figure.

That’s why she could be seen as the most likely successor and the perfect candidate to carry on the Rothtaylor name.

– ‘I cannot comprehend. What meaning is there in this power and authority obtained through selling even our own kin?’

– ‘Ed… I won’t force my views upon you. But… please, do not set yourself against Father.’

The Rothtaylor residence was a place where everything revolved within Crebin’s grasp. No one knew what fate awaited them the moment they opposed him.

The great mansion which always embraced Ed like a cradle now felt like a huge coffin.

If Arwen could not be used to summon the dark god, would Ed be next, and then after him, would Tanya be targeted?

What point then is there in such a luxurious mansion, or in such great authority? Better to be a beggar wandering the slums, begging, for at least they can still hope and dream of a future they may never see.

Ed’s face, bowed down with his head held low, was out of sight.

– ‘Oh… Brother…?’

Tanya, completely unaware of why the mood had become so severe, looked back and forth between Ed and Arwen, pitifully unsure of what to say.

– ‘May I ask you one thing, sister?’

– ‘Ask away.’

– ‘How far are you willing to go? If you were asked to offer even an arm, would you smile and chop it off willingly?’

Arwen’s face turned distant at the question.

Ed had always admired Arwen more than anyone. However, he couldn’t help but question upon seeing her ethereal face, bathed in starlight.

– ‘Sister. Why go to such lengths?’

Following his query, Ed felt a suffocating block in his throat.

– ‘Because it’s family.’

– ‘…’

– ‘They raised me with great care, handed down the splendor of this grand family, and loved me as a daughter.’

Privately, Ed and Arwen shared a unique bond and cared for each other deeply.

However, for the first time since his birth, Ed felt a sense of defiance towards his seemingly perfect sister.

When it seems that someone is straying from the correct path, whether it is a friend or family, it’s distressing not to be able to intervene.

What meaning is there in enduring steadfast belief that the right direction will eventually be found? To wrap those waiting faithfully in the name of family love, presenting it as something beautiful, how foolish can that be?

A shadow of irritation bloomed in Ed’s mind, widening the gap between the siblings.

A mysterious aura surrounded Ed, who sat with his arms crossed and head down. Tanya, who first noticed and reacted to the strange aura, said,

– ‘Oh… Brother…’

– ‘I understand, Lady Arwen.’

Ed rose from his seat and walked toward the terrace exit. Then he turned around suddenly.

He saw Arwen, looking down sadly at her knees, and Tanya, scared and unaware, looking at him.

Abruptly, Ed spoke to Tanya.

– ‘Tanya.’

Tanya’s shoulders shook as she looked towards Ed. His presence was darker and more intimidating than usual. Ed, whose aura was dark from within the room’s shadows and who had clenched his teeth suppressing his emotions, called out to Tanya.

– ‘Don’t stay there; come over here.’

Between Arwen, sitting demurely under the moonlight on the terrace, and Ed, silently watching from the darkness of the room, Tanya shivered. Eventually… she went to Arwen and hugged her.

– ‘I’ll go over… later.’

– ‘…’

– ‘Oh, brother… I’m scared. I want to stay with my sister.’

Ed bowed his head. He gave a word of acknowledgment and then turned to leave Arwen’s room.

He clomped down the hallway, clenching his teeth. Gradually, his eyes filled with malice, and his lips curled inward.

His pale face, advancing through the corridor, was no longer that of the old Ed.

The young Tanya merely shivered, wrapped in Arwen’s arms, still unaware of everything.

– ‘Brother is frightening, sister… Why is he like this…? He wasn’t like that when we were playing just before.’

– ‘… Many things are about to change, Tanya.’

Arwen gently stroked Tanya’s face and spoke in a melancholic tone.

– ‘Prepare your heart.’

* * *

– Thump, thump!

The commotion-filled banquet hall was abruptly entered by a group of soldiers kicking the doors wide open.

The clanking of metal armor filled the grand banquet hall, a setting ill-fitting for such a ruckus.

Leading them was Crebin Rothtaylor’s close aide and loyal vassal, the ‘Bear Knight’ Nox.

The towering figure of Nox moved forward, cutting through the ranks of Crebin’s private soldiers, and addressed the assembled guests with a loud voice.

“Currently, there seems to be an anomaly within the manor. It would be dangerous for the honorable guests to act rashly, so we will gather here to escort you. For now, please refrain from leaving the hall.”

The rumblings continued even after the initial large explosion, unsettling the guests. However, the soldiers that had gathered reassured the nervous nobility.

“……”

Clarice, too, sat anxiously at the center of the hall. The continual sounds of explosions did not bode well.

Fearing the building might collapse, she preferred to wait outside, but the private soldiers firmly prevented the VIPs from leaving.

“Please call our Cathedral Knights. I have my own personal guard. They must be waiting outside the manor.”

“We can’t get in touch with them.”

“What do you mean…? You’ve tried contacting them, right…? They’re not the type to just stand by in this situation…”

Clarice looked up at Nox, tilting her head in confusion. His towering presence radiated unwavering authority, as if he would not yield to anyone.

Despite Clarice’s status, numerous guests asserted their own importance and demanded passage, but instead, the soldiers began to thrust their spears forward.

“What, what’s this?!”

“Have you lost your minds?! Do you know who we are to brandish weapons at us?!”

“Do you realize what will happen if this gets public?! What’s wrong with everyone?! Won’t move aside?!”

Nonetheless, Nox’s stance remained unyielding.

“As I’ve said, this is for everyone’s safety. Not one of you may leave this hall.”

Amidst the murmuring VIPs, Clarice quietly surveyed her surroundings.

Though she couldn’t recognize every noble, she knew most. Yet, certain faces that should be present were missing.

She was aware of Ed and Crebin’s absence, but even Princess Sella, who had been standing by the terrace just a moment ago, was nowhere to be seen.

Clarice scanned the area, deep in thought.

She could force her way past the soldiers, but the potential for dispute made it difficult to act hastily. It seemed the other guests harbored similar thoughts.

One thing was clear: something was unfolding within this manor.

* * *

Boom! Bang! Roar!

The secret research laboratory beneath the mansion.

This must have been the place where Crebin Rothtaylor conducted his research on the advent of the evil god Mebuler. The remnants were conspicuous, filling every nook and cranny.

There were more than enough items that could serve as evidence of his wrongdoing—so much so that one could just grab any research journal and flee.

However, the situation did not permit such swift action.

Boom! Clang! Crash!

The relentless explosions continued.

It was likely the sound of Crebin attempting to breach the entrance guarded by Lucy. Despite every conceivable magical and techno-magical device, weapons, and manpower, the entrance seemed impregnable.

If Lucy Mayrill set her mind to it, that entrance would never be breached.

For Lucy, retaliation was a delicate matter.

Without concrete evidence that could doom Crebin Rothtaylor to hell, she found it difficult to take aggressive action. Defending a pathway versus a full-on assault carried drastically different implications.

Hence, she awaited my signal.

“How was your life as a scholar in Sylvania? Tolerable, I hope?”

“Now… isn’t the time to ask about that.”

“Ha, just casual talk to ease the tension… You must be quite startled, I imagine.”

Arwen, with one eye open, was in a dreadful state.

The extent of his involvement in Crebin’s research was incalculable given how dire his condition was.

Yet, he continued the conversation nonchalantly.

In the midst of this calamity, Arwen had not been without foresight. It wasn’t an overnight occurrence.

The research had progressed little by little over a long period. Perhaps Arwen’s composure owed to her gradual adjustment to the changes in her body.

Watching it was an unbearable sight.

I looked up at the longsword that had pierced Arwen’s body. It was ‘Dawn’s Edge,’ a gift received at her first baptism ceremony.

A magical longsword capable of bearing various enchantments. While elemental magic fused best with it, it seemed healing spells designed to sustain life were engraved this time.

Was she standing thus, transfixed by the longsword, simply to cling to life?

If the sword’s enchantment were indeed active, there’d be no need for maintenance personnel, and mana supply would be convenient.

Most chillingly, it appeared that this conclusion was Arwen’s own choice.

“After you left the terrace that day, we each went our separate ways.”

“…”

“I don’t know if your path was the right one, but this is certainly where mine has ended.”

Arwen’s smile slowly formed. To my surprise, she harbored no regrets about her decision.

“It’s hardly a sight for sore eyes, and you might ache at the thought of it… Yet I wanted to see you once more, Ed.”

With that, the pieces fell into place.

The failed swordsman of Sylvania, Act 1, chapter 1.

A third-rate villain who instigated a fight with Taely and was beaten to expulsion and oblivion. Ed Rothtaylor.

The course he traversed from the Rothtaylor estate began to imprint on my mind, stretching out slowly.

A blonde man walks. He carries the glory of his family and a weighty destiny, a potentially sacrificial future.

Crebin was too mighty an adversary to face. There was no escape.

Every night, he must have agonized and reflected upon his life, sitting at his desk, his face a portrait of dying strife.

He tried to sway his father and fought, turning step by step into a misguided rogue… The picture was easy to piece together.

Arwen affirmed the misguided Crebin. He was family, after all.

Ed denied the misguided Crebin. He didn’t want to die. 𝓯𝘳𝘦𝑒𝓌𝘦𝘣𝓃ℴ𝘷𝘦𝘭.𝓬𝘰𝑚

Tanya wandered aimlessly between these diverging paths without understanding, ultimately following Arwen because Ed seemed to have gone astray to her.

Tanya did not reach out to him. Therefore, Ed Rothtaylor walked alone.

Seeking freedom from this coffin-like Rothtaylor estate, he struggled alone to find a way.

Even if it meant becoming a ragged beggar on the streets, the preset path to death was unacceptable.

He had to distance himself from this estate. Thus, he forced himself into Sylvania’s magic department, lacking any talent for magic, and took residence in the Ophelius dormitory, away from the Rothtaylor lands.

He had to erase even the family name etched in this cursed lineage.

About a year after Ed’s enrollment in Sylvania, when the Rothtaylor estate had begun to stabilize without him, Taely, the swordsman, caught his eye. So did Princess Phoenia, unable to tolerate injustice.

From thereon, events progressed swiftly.

‘I will no longer recognize you as the Rothtaylor heir. For the vulgar insults hurled in the presence of our noble Princess Phoenia, for the disorderly intervention in the sacred Sylvania Academy entrance examination, for besmirching the family name with jealousy and dishonor. These are unforgivable.’

The first letter I read when I arrived in this world.

Sitting alone in his room in the Ophelius dorm, the blonde man would have hung his head after reading that letter.

He had lived his entire life under the glory of Rothtaylor.

Now stripped of everything, expelled from the dormitory, he was a man bereft, thrown solely into this harsh world.

Was he relieved, frightened, or trapped in boundless emptiness?

No one knows what expression he wore in the dark room of Ophelius dorm.

What can be inferred, though, are a few facts.

He never cared for the slander of academy scholars nor his reputation’s downfall.

For a noble, the luggage Belle Mayar prepared for him was sparse. That is, despite living a life of luxury, he hardly had personal belongings.

There were no plans set for after his expulsion.

Thus, opening the window of the Ophelius dormitory and clutching the letter from the patriarch Crebin… The face he wore as he gazed upon the dusky landscape was filled with more emptiness than any.

Such was the life of Ed Rothtaylor.

He had fled, but there was no place in Acken for him.

No, no place in the world had a space for him.

The grim reality hit him hard, and Ed Rothtaylor peered down at the academy with a void expression.

* * *

Ka-chak, crash!

Despite using all sorts of elemental magic and the powers of the evil god, the entrance guarded by Lucy Mayrill refused to yield.

Lucy’s face showed no reaction. She seemed drowsy, idly gnawing on jerky, as she glared at Crebin.

“Alright, I must accept it.”

Crebin put down his sword and slowly gathered the power of the evil god’s marks.

“The usual tactics won’t break through you.”

Gradually, a heavy presence surged.

Amidst the unsettling sounds, the mark grew larger. As the mark consumed half of his upper body, the ground began to tremble.

Boom! Thud!

Cries and screams could be heard from servants and guests throughout the mansion.

Yet Crebin remained indifferent to them as he amassed his power, an oddity indeed.

Crebin was an old wolf that would not expose a political weakness at any cost.

Showing such an excessive display of the evil god’s power in the presence of these guests would mean political and social ruin.

Nevertheless, Crebin continued to muster power, unbothered.

Ka-chak, crash!

Tentacles whipped out from the floor, more than ten of them. The writhing appendages began to dance ominously.

Sensing the grave potency, Lucy spat out her jerky and glared at Crebin, her eyes hardening.

She had restrained herself due to Crebin’s political influence and the family’s stature, but this was different.

The evil god Mebuler.

If he were to fully manifest, even Lucy would have to treat him as a grave threat.

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