How to Survive at the Academy - C.155

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Crebin Subjugation War (6)

The former head of the family, Brahms Rothtaylor, was poisoned during the process of usurping the second highest position in the imperial family.

Uncle Bain Rothtaylor was used as a sacrificial piece in a battle he was destined to lose, meeting his end at the hands of the Ain tribe, while the legitimate wife, Mary Rothtaylor, was assassinated by a rival family.

Many others perished, played like pawns by the grip of power. The chair where Crebin sat as the head of the family was stained with blood.

Yet, without blaming anyone, becoming angry, or going on a crazed rampage… he quietly sat on his throne, calmly contemplating the world.

He firmly secured his position as the second in command of the imperial family, dealt with scoundrels trying to use his family for their gains, and extinguished rival families that engaged him in secret struggles.

He became undisturbed by taking lives and came to see using others as a matter of course. Although he walked his lands like a benevolent duke, the road he traveled reeked of the sour scent of blood.

From birth to present, he became a villain to survive, never justifying his actions or seeking understanding from others.

When he succeeded the position as the head of the family, the whisperings of his predecessor, Brahms Rothtaylor, still echoed in his mind.

In this world rampant with deceit and secret warfare, only one of two could survive for long:

Either a hero or a villain.

If you cannot be a hero, then be a villain through and through.

Rationalize not, feel no remorse, simply rule with the poise of a villain.

On the terrace of the annex in the Rothtaylor mansion.

Overlooking the fief, Crebin sat on the balcony rail, carrying the heavy burden of hundreds upon him.

Nothing was light.

If the sacrificial magic circle were to be completed, more than half of the gathered nobles would perish. Then, Mephisto would feast on the souls of nobility, endowing Crebin with the power to wield his authority for the rest of his life.

“…….”

He had many excuses left to justify his actions as a villain, and ample reasons for why he had to twist himself.

For instance, the expectation and trust placed in Crebin.

The faith of Arwen and his retainers, who trusted him till the end, not doubting that his path would ultimately prove right… that unconditional and boundless trust.

The weight of it made it difficult for him to step back, pushing him deeper down the path of darkness.

――It was like the plight of Act 1 boss Yenika, now running towards Ed’s room.

Or perhaps, it stemmed from his regret for lost things.

His mentor Brams, who had no choice but to die in the power usurpation, or his legitimate wife Mary, who had to die amid the strife. If those lost dear to him linger heavy in his heart, whispering in his ear to compromise not and become an utter villain… it seemed quite valid.

――It was like the regret for a lost daughter that led Act 2 boss Glast to face death in the end.

If not that, perhaps it was all simply in vain.

Having climbed to the top over the corpses of many, what remained at the end were only his vast estates and mansion.

His family all dead or scattered, and even Arwen, who stood by him to the end, was crippled by his own hand.

Ultimately, if what was left of his life was only his immense strength and power, then he had no choice but to run to the very end using the demonic force… Not too bad at all.

――It was… like the life of Act 3 boss Lucy, who lived as the strong only to lose Gluckt and thus lose all reason for living.

Whichever way he looked at it, it wasn’t all too bad.

However, Crebin did not compromise in any way.

The broken balcony rail seemed like a throne.

He sat upon it with dignity, bowing his head and waiting for his time.

Born a villain, he would die a villain until the very moment of his death.

He judges the world as an unsullied pure evil, never tainted to the very end.

That was the attitude he had adopted to survive his whole life.

As long as that purity remained intact, no turbulence could shake him.

]Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman]; Act 4 Final Boss.

Patriarch Crebin Rothtaylor gazed over the world with dignity.

* * *

The dagger rent the tentacle asunder.

The spirit invocation took form, bursting into flames, completely bisecting the tentacle. The moment Ed sheathed his sword and leaped back, Muk’s flames engulfed and consumed the entire corridor.

Goblins broke through the windows and plunged in.

―Kyaaaak!

The demonic creatures, wielding their weapons, lunged at Ed, but a gust of wind rose and pinned them all against the wall.

A white-haired girl manifested behind him with a swoosh, her hand swiftly cutting through the air again. The goblins were crushed by the wind’s pressure and then consumed by Muk’s flames.

Criticizing but not killing the spirit of the excited Muk, I gathered more mana and fired a blade of wind.

―Crackle! Rustle-crackle!

Watching the gremlins being swept away helplessly, I realized that my basic magic’s firepower had also improved considerably.

No matter how outnumbered the gremlins were, it’s not easy to possess the firepower to wipe out a flock with a single blow.

Climbing the stairs over the fallen bodies of gremlins, my own body was already covered in the blood of enemies.

Dodging grotesquely swollen flesh here and there, I climbed the mansion’s steps until finally, an open hall emerged.

The staircase ended here for the moment because the third floor of the annex was one large hall.

To reach the rooftop, I needed to cross this hall and dash up the final staircase that appeared.

The largest hall of the annex, named the ‘Rothtaylor Hall’ after the family name, was almost completely devoid of its outer walls.

It was refreshingly well-ventilated. The starry sky was clearly visible.

Far in the distance, I could see Lucy fiercely fighting Mebuler with a sword, and the scene of the spirit legions battling gremlins stitched across the night sky was also impressive.

It was the moment I was about to cross through the Rothtaylor Hall.

―Groan, gru-gru-groan.

In the middle of the hall, a twisted figure was standing up. More than half its body was covered in grotesque flesh with no sanity left.

I furrowed my brow as I recognized the face. Although not a pleasant acquaintance, it was someone I had known before.

One of the two knights who, under the orders of Crebin Rothtaylor, came to Acken Island to kill me.

The Eagle Knight Cadec glared at me with eyes that had only the whites showing.

At that moment, gigantic tentacles burst from all around the hall, shattering the ground.

* * *

― ‘It suits you well, Tanya.’

― ‘What is this feather, sister Arwen?’

― ‘It’s a wild bird feather from the Pelvero region.’

It’s now a faded memory.

Sitting on the terrace in the comforting warmth of the past, Tanya, nestled in Arwen’s arms, smiled shyly as she fondled the pretty feather decoration that had been tucked into her hair.

― ‘It’s really pretty…’

― ‘You can wear it in your hair or hang it on the collar of your shirt. Men often put it in the front pocket of their tuxedos.’

― ‘That reminds me, you also put a decoration on your blouse hem. It suits you very well.’

― ‘Yes.’

Arwen gently stroked Tanya’s face and suddenly looked sad.

― ‘The wild birds of Pelvero are so colorful. When you take a feather from one bird, it hardly overlaps with the color of another bird’s feathers. So there’s a custom where family members share feathers of the same color and each wears them as a decoration.’

― ‘Wow… really?’

― ‘I sent one to Ed and Father as well… I’m not sure if they’ll wear them…

As Ed’s name was mentioned, Tanya’s expression also darkened.

It had been a week since Ed and Arwen had parted on the terrace.

Thereafter, Ed kept to himself in his room, seemingly lost in deep thought, not speaking to anyone.

Young and ignorant of the situation, Tanya was too frightened of Ed and clung only to Arwen.

― ‘I wish Sister and Brother would reconcile soon…’

― ‘Tanya. Perhaps Ed and I may never reconcile for the rest of our lives.’

Hearing this, Tanya looked on the verge of tears.

Arwen had an intuition. From the moment she had sided with Crebin, she had already crossed an irreversible river with Ed.

Having lived as Crebin Rothtaylor’s successor, Arwen understood the man better than anyone else. She pitied Crebin to the bone.

Crebin Rothtaylor would use even Arwen to extremes, exploiting anything that could be exploited.

Even if Crebin regarded Arwen as no more than something to discard or use, Arwen was ready to accept him as her father and family. That’s who she was.

Crebin’s life was shrouded in the stench of blood.

He had lived to prop himself on that throne by embracing his role as a villain.

Without a single person who understood him, he was destined to live and die lonely as a villain until his final day.

Only family could accept such a stubborn man.

If she was the only one who could understand the blood-stained path he walked, she was ready to go to the end of darkness for him.

But Arwen could not force her siblings to make the same commitment.

Ed, too, who was going in a different direction, was also a brother that Arwen deeply loved. She could not demand such a sacrifice from him.

Crebin was the stubborn of the stubborn.

If Arwen died or no longer had any value to use, Crebin’s hand would stretch out to Ed and Tanya.

So no matter what happens, one must grit their teeth and endure.

Even as she pursued her own choices, if she was to protect her siblings who walked a different path, Arwen herself must never die.

― ‘Tanya… Listen carefully to what I say.’

Arwen hugged Tanya tightly as she spoke.

― ‘Father may always look noble, but rather, he’s lonely and pitiable. Perhaps no one in the world will understand him.’

― ‘Sister…’

― ‘And Ed and Tanya… my beloved siblings. I’m greedy and want to embrace you all…’

Tanya could feel the strength in the arms that held her tight.

―Swoosh!

Suddenly, Tanya raised her head as she came to her senses.

Too preoccupied, she had been resting, leaning against the storage shelf.

―Thump, thump!

Gremlins were still pounding on the storage door. Tanya went deep into the storage and flung open the window.

Being in the middle level of the spire was quite high. Jumping out would not guarantee safety, and there was no assurance that using wind magic to land in the garden would keep her safe from the monsters.

Gazing out the window into the open skies, Tanya swallowed her dry spit. Then she turned her gaze towards the direction of the annex.

The Rothtaylor Hall, with its walls collapsed, exposing its insides.

There was a familiar man standing there. Tanya swallowed dryly, gathered her mana, and climbed onto the windowsill.

Her legs began to tremble.

* * *

―Ah, gah! Gaaah!

―Booom, ssshhh!

From the gaps between the tentacles that had burst forth, a figure of a human emerged. A girl who had pierced through from underground, protected by the tentacles, was someone familiar.

A missing arm had regrown, as had one of her legs.

However, compared to her delicate other limbs, they were quite grotesque. Rather than flesh, it looked more like flesh sewn together – another consequence of Mebuler’s power.

The fluttering blonde hair was similar in color to Tanya and Ed’s. She had already seen and returned from the underground once.

The girl who blossomed among the tentacles held a greatsword in one hand. It was the ‘Morning’s Edge,’ which had been piercing her body just moments before.

And behind her waist was another sword, half the size, worn horizontally. It was one of the swords handled by the first sword saint, Luden, called ‘Conviction.’

The girl then leaped down from the tentacles and landed in the center of the Rothtaylor Hall. And… she simply sliced through Eagle Knight Cadec’s neck.

―Crackle!

Cadec’s head rolled on the ground a few times before turning into ash and disappearing. His body did the same.

It all happened in the blink of an eye.

“Mebuler’s power comes at the cost of mental anguish. It’s better to die quickly than suffer that.”

The girl standing in the center of the Rothtaylor Hall, illuminated by moonlight, plunged her greatsword into the ground.

Then, kneeling towards Cadec, whose form was disappearing into ash, she quietly joined her hands in prayer in the moonlight.

“Cadec, he devoted a long time as a retainer to the Rothtaylor family. All I can do for him is this; I’ll probably receive a severe punishment in the hereafter.”

“Arwen Sister.”

“I’ve already let everything go, Ed. Unlike you, I chose a different path. I embraced all of the world’s sins, deciding to affirm our lonely Father to the end, even if it leads to darkness.”

The girl, kneeling and praying beside her greatsword, looked sanctified despite one of her limbs being horribly transformed.

“That’s the conclusion I came to while living as the successor of the Rothtaylor, observing Father, and being with you all. Father probably won’t care. I’m just something to be discarded to him, a convenient sacrifice.”

“…….”

“Yet, I chose to affirm Father to the very end. Otherwise… Father would die alone in his solitude.”

Arwen stood up once more.

“So you can’t pass here. For Father’s sake, and for yours.”

Mana swirled around her body, filling her with strength. Wrapped in various support magics, she slowly lifted her upper body.

In one hand, she held the immense greatsword, ‘Morning’s Edge,’ and in the other, she drew the sacred sword of Luden, ‘Conviction.’

The two swords that once symbolized her glory as the heir to the Rothtaylor family.

“Go back.”

“…….”

“The Rothtaylor family is over. Now live your life. I will stay here and meet the end with it.”

]Sylvania’s Failed Swordsman]; She was someone whose existence was unknown in the official records.

Not a boss, not even a hidden boss, invisible anywhere.

Finally, as Ed Rothtaylor, a member of this damned world, I felt confronted by destiny.

The girl obstructing the path.

The forgotten heir, Arwen Rothtaylor.

She stood in the center of the hall, her radiant eyes open and bathed in moonlight.

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