The cat-eared woman Mira met in front of the school had chestnut-colored hair reaching a little below her shoulders, big and round blue cat eyes, as well as round face. She was making a very innocent and affable smile.
In this world existed various races. For example Elves like Emera, and Fairyfolk like Mariana. And this woman in front of Mira was of the Meowfolk race which boasted of splendid kinetic vision and was very nimble. Although in general they were not much different from humans, they had cat ears and tails, and were not too tall, instead having a characteristic of seeing well in the darkness. They were truly a cat-like race.
“Ah, did I surprise youu? I’m, Hinata and I’m this school’s teacher. And you are?”
The Meowfolk woman who introduced herself as Hinata gave a cute impression rather than a pretty one when she smiled. Although Mira was used to Meowfolk, her heart skipped a beat for an instant seeing Hinata’s quickly-changing smile.
”Mira-chan, is iiit. That’s a cute name!”
Hinata made an even cuter smile and lowered her gaze, focusing on Mira’s outfit.
“That’s the mahou shoujo fashion that’s popular lately, isn’t it. It looks like a robe-type, so can it be that you want to become a spellcaster?”
Retaining her smile, Hinata asked a question.
The Arkite Academy was famous for being the best learning facility for those who aim to become spellcasters. A young girl who looks up to spellcasters and peeks inside the school. That was the first impression that Hinata had when she saw Mira.
“No, I’m already a spellcaster, though.”
Naturally, having totally no idea what was the impression Hinata had towards her, Mira denied it while feeling slightly upset. To Hinata, this was unexpected and she furrowed her eyebrows puzzled.
“Is that so. I’m sorryy. Ah, can I hear what kind of spellcaster are you??”
To smooth it over Hinata corrected herself and asked. Mira was not bothered by that at all, she corrected her posture, looked straight at Hinata and said “I’m a Summoner!”. That moment, Hinata froze in spot with a smile still on her face. It was because Summoning was currently the biggest decline in the school and was said not to have any future.
“I see…yup, let’s do our bestt.”
For some reason Hinata tried to cheer Mira up, but it seemed as if she was speaking to herself.
“I’m also a Summonerr. Arkite Academy’s teacher of Summoning. Right now...the situation is as you see. But you know? Cleos-sama is currently working hard without sparing time for sleep to reimplement the old method of forming contracts. He said the success rate is amazing, you see. That’s why, um, let’s do our bestt.”
Indeed, Hinata was also a Summoner just like Mira. The fact that a teacher was outside the school in the middle of classes spoke of everything.
Students who had aptitude for Summoning were moved to different classes if they had a different spellcasting aptitude, if not, they only received general education for grades before they graduated. That was the trend in recent years. Just being Arkite Academy’s graduate was prestigious enough, so there was no need to undertake spellcasting classes that were useless to students.
Summoning classes were held twice or thrice a week. Only people who had no aptitude for other spellcasting and were too stubborn to give up on Summoning, or people who had peculiar tastes have undertaken those classes. Therefore, when Hinata had no classes to hold, she listened to other teachers’ requests, doing things like shopping or helping out. As a result, teachers and students other than those in Summoning class had an impression of her like that of someone like a janitor.
“Hmmm. Even the school is like this, huh.”
Told this by Hinata, Mira learned that the Summoning’s decline had even cast its shadow on the academy. And that it affected children who had future in front of them.
However, it seemed that the equipment and Magic-Sealing Bomb Stones that she left with Cleos have been very useful. For the time being, with those, students should be able to form contracts with Dark Knights and Holy Knights that were basic of Summoning. What remained, was how much they are able to develop their summons.
“Right now to focus on safety we do it one by one, but the number of students who form contract with Armament Spirits are increasingg. I’m sure very soon, our days will come.”
Hinata acted very confident in front of Mira, who furrowed her eyebrows and groaned with a difficult expression.
Magic-Sealing Bomb Stones were enough to defeat Armament Spirits, but without someone cooperating with the new Summoner it was still dangerous. In order to compensate for that, they used equipment that increased muscle strength and stamina, but the school only had one person’s worth of that equipment. On top of that, they could not expose young people who were still students, to danger.
Cleos had currently gathered candidates and one by one he succeeded having them contract with Armament Spirits. There were many who clung to the hope they saw in that, but there were also many students who were still waiting.
“I wonder if there is something I can do to help as a Summoner myself, hmm.”
Mira said so and with the fingers of her left hand she stroked her chin and closed her eyes in thought. What can I do for the next generation, she wondered. One thing was most likely mass production of Magic-Sealing Bomb Stones. However, to craft a large amount of them a large amount of money was necessary. But she thought that it was a non-problem, it was most likely enough if she spoke with Solomon or Cleos about it.
The problem was body-enhancing equipment. It would be faster to rely on ready-made items, but to safely fight against an Armament Spirit they only had the equipment Mira passed to Cleos and the few equipment that remained stored in the tower.
About the time she came to a conclusion that there was no choice but to forcibly make some with Energy-Refining, Mira’s shoulders shook strongly and she had been returned to reality.
“W...what is it?”
When Mira opened her eyes, right in front of her there was Hinata’s face.
“Thiss, this is an Operator’s Bracelet isn’t it?? The proof of a high-class adventurer!”
While saying so, Hinata held Mira’s hand and with her round eyes wide open, all excited, she stared at the bracelet on Mira’s wrist.
“Well, I guess.”
To be precise she was a little wrong, but since it was troublesome to explain Mira affirmed it. It was a fact that an adventurer’s rank was a condition to borrow an Operator’s Bracelet, so she thought it was not a problem.
“You see, I, I have a contract with a Dark Knight, Holy Knight, Hellhound, Salamander, Carbuncle and a Wyvern. Mira-chan, are you contracted with something other than these??”
Although Mira did not understand the intention behind Hinata’s question, seeing her expectation-filled eyes and the frantic momentum she spoke with, Mira reflexively answered with “I am". That moment, the look in Hinata’s eyes changed into that of a cat who found her prey, and holding Mira’s hand with both of her own, she knelt.
“Pleasee. Please help me out a little!”
Because she was kneeling, her eyes were a little lower than Mira’s and she looked up at Mira from below as she pleaded. Normally this gesture would be fairly effective on Mira, but this time it worked tremendously well. The cute cat ears were twitching as they repeatedly stood straight, then slumped.
“I don’t know what is this about, but you can leave it to me.”
From the flow of the conversation she could tell that this was something regarding to Summoning, so Mira who lamented over the next generation Summoners nodded in agreement.
Pulled by hand inside the school grounds, Mira was guided straight inside the school building in the middle.
On the way inside, she listened to Hinata’s explanation of her request.
According to her, once a month an event called Spell and Ability Examination Assembly was held. As the name suggested, it was held for the sake of examining various spells, and based on the results, the school’s facilities and spell tool funding were decided. The examination was split between all spellcasting schools, and each spellcasting was represented by one person.
By the way, although the examination did not officially decide any ranking, the results were expressed in points and as such, the ranking had naturally been decided. And every month, Summoning continued to be ranked the lowest. The result behind that was that there was no student who was capable of using Summoning to a practical extent, and instead Hinata has been acting as the representative, so the audience and examiners have become bored of her limited repertoire. In addition to that, there was no better Summoner in the school than Hinata. Of course, the substitute Cleos aside.
This was the reason why Hinata asked if Mira had contracted any other summons than she had.
In other words, it was enough that she summoned something other than the six that Hinata mentioned. Realizing that this was a chance to restore the dignity of Summoning, in high spirits Mira started to line up high-class summons in her head and listed the most flashy ones.
(“I need to show everyone that Summoning is strongest of all, mm. In which case, it should be Imperial Dragon Aizenphard. He was a good and honest boy. However, if it’s flashiness, then the Rainbow Spirit Twinkle Pam would be… However...uh… It’s been thirty years but still… Nghh.”)
While thinking over it deeply, Mira recalled something and raised her head.
“By the way, is it fine for an outsider to take part in a school event?”
Mira asked a very important question. She wondered if she, an adventurer who was not a student, taking part in a monthly event wouldn’t become a problem.
“Yup, I think it’s fine in regards to thatt. Above all, the Examination Assembly is held to show off the possibilities of spellcasting, so even outsiders who can use spells can show the future prospects of spellcasting.”
“Hmm, so that’s how it is.”
“That is how it iss. Well then, I’ll go make the change in representative, wait heree.”
After being taken to one of the rooms of the large building, Mira sat down on a sofa and took a light look around her. On the floor there was a gray carpet and on the white wall was an analog clock which displayed 4:20 p.m.. The ceiling was not too high and sported a white ball releasing a faint light. From the looks of it, it was a guest room of very bland design. However, that was aside from the whiteboard placed in the corner of the room.
From the item box Mira took out Apple au Lait and sipped it before “phew”, she exhaled.
“I need to do my best too.”
Recalling that Cleos was doing his best and not sparing time to sleep, Mira muttered to herself. This was her face as the Sage of the Tower of Summoning.
“I made you waitt.”
The clock displayed twenty minutes before five and she was about to finish enjoying the Apple au Lait when Hinata returned.
“I finished registering yoou. Please take care of uss.”
“Well, you can leave it to me.”
Mira stood up confidently and guided by Hinata she headed to the assembly hall where the Examination Assembly would take place.
On the side of the assembly hall was a waiting room with simple chairs prepared. Lined up there, were the spellcasters who were to undertake the examination and their escorts. When Mira looked around with interest at the room filled with tense atmosphere, a single spellcaster noticed Hinata and turned around.
“Oh myy, if it isn’t the number one Summoner-sama. To think you would arrive last, aren’t you composed.”
A slender young man who was most likely a Wizard seeing as he wore a blue robe which was the color of Wizards, made a clear smile full of contempt as he said so. Hearing these words others also noticed, and they turned around to look at her with expressions full of pity, sympathy and exasperation. Hinata lightly waved her hand and “this way” she said, then pulled Mira by hand to the open seat.
The man in blue robe clicked his tongue faintly, then upon seeing Mira’s appearance on the seat in the corner he furrowed his eyebrows.
“Little missy, this is competitors’ cheet.”1Sorry, I attempted to make it mocking baby speech, he says “seat" here
When he spoke imitating baby talk with a vulgar smile, his chaperon by the side made a similar expression. As for people wearing other robes “Don’t pay attention to him", “How primitive", “Good grief, don’t know how can he do this”, although their reactions were varied, there was no one who acted with contempt like the man in blue robe.
Based on that, Mira felt just how severe was the treatment Summoning received. And she understood that it was natural for people who would take pleasure in ridiculing it, would appear in a place where people gather.
“I-iit’s fine. This girl is this time’s representative.”
Hinata said and her happy expression from earlier changed into one where she clenched her lips frantically. Her appearance trembling with frustration entered Mira’s sight. For better or worse, this was meritocracy. A hierarchy has been created in here.
“I see, mm. Looks like all school institutions are the same. Everywhere you can find mediocre people who can’t tell their own worth unless you show them who stands above.”
After taking a glance at the man in a robe, Mira evaluated him to be mediocre.
When he was told so by one of Summoners who were eternal lowest rank and always missed the required numbers, the man’s eyes were dyed with faint darkness.
“It’s just a child’s talk, you should act more mature.”
“Hmph, even more so. It is duty of an adult to teach a brat the way she should speak.”
As the man in the blue robe was further irritated, he ignored the dissuasion of a woman in a white robe sitting in three seats away and glared at Mira as if to overpower her.
“Hey hey, c’mon, stop it.”
He further brushed away the arm of a man in black robe who intervened and twisted his expression even further.
Seeing this situation Hinata was completely bewildered. She did not think that Mira would directly talk back to him.
“You’re one to talk despite being the one with least common sense in here. A Goblin would make more sense.”
“Hey, cut it out damn it. Who do you think I am, huh?!”
“An immature adult, clearly.”
Feeling that he was being looked down upon, the man stood up with a strong momentum. In response to that, Hinata’s body flinched strongly, seeing that, a twisted smile appeared on his face.
“I have made you wait. Please come this way to the assembly hall.”
In this stale atmosphere, the door opened and a high school student who was the staff of the examination assembly had come to call a representative. The man looked in Mira’s direction with bloodlust, then clicked his tongue and headed toward the door.
(“Well, I also acted like an immature adult, however.”)
When Mira shrugged as she muttered “good grief", Hinata had lowered her head apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Mira-chan. I made you go through something bad…"
While Hinata forced herself to make a smile, her cat ears fell flat and her tail slumped dejectedly. That moment, a white shadow appeared from the side. When Mira looked up, in her field of vision appeared a woman in white robe who snuggled up next to Hinata.
Hinata raised her head and looked at the woman, then said so. This woman called Mary looked to be nearly twenty years old, had aqua-blue long hair decorated with a silver hair ornament, a cross in a circle. On her chest there was a pendant, shaped like a branch of a large tree which was the proof of being a specialty division’s student. She was a very gentle-looking woman.
“You must have known this would happen, Hinata-sensei. It isn’t like you to put a little child like this in the brunt of all that.”
Contrary to her atmosphere, Mary criticized Hinata with a very strong tone of voice. Next, she immediately turned around to Mira, she said “Don’t mind him" and smiled. In response to which, Mira said “There is no problem" and stood up.
“Also, is this girl really the representative?”
Mary asked what interested her the most. Over these few decades, there were almost no young Summoners. It was no wonder she was in doubt upon seeing Mira.
“Mira-chan is a high-ranked adventurer and it looks like she contracted with summons I don’t have…"
“Even if she is an adventurer, you…"
“Well, it’s fine. I don’t mind it myself, Hinata-sensei, you should not mind it either.”
Mira interjected in the middle of Mary’s words and smiled toward Hinata who hung her head. Mary had swallowed the continuation of her words, feeling Mira to be much bigger than she actually looked to be, she found interest in her.
(“I wonder what is with this girl. Her manner of speaking is one thing, but she doesn’t feel like a child.”)
Feeling such a thing, Mary was reminded of the king of this country, Solomon, and she smiled happily. Maybe she was of the same race as him, she thought.
“Still, he did seem quite confident. Who was that?”
Mira asked about the man in blue robe who looked down on everyone else and let out such an atmosphere. She wondered just what would make someone act so arrogantly.
“Umm, you see…"
Hinata’s cat ears stood up slightly as she started to explain shortly.
His name was Kairos Bellrun. He was of a noble family of Wizards and the son of Marquis Alphons Bellrun. A third year of the high school’s department who aside from his noble-acting, indeed had talent for Wizardry. As a result, ever since Kairos became a representative for examination assembly, Wizardry has remained number one and he has been looking down on other spellcasting curricula. Furthermore, since he was a heir of a Marquis house, teachers who came from common houses could not reprimand him for his attitude.
(“A classic braggart noble, huh.”)
Mira heaved a sigh in her mind and smiled bitterly thinking that even in this country, there were nobles like that.
After they left the waiting room and passed through a fairly big door, they arrived at a circular assembly hall that looked a little like Colosseum. The ground rebounded a fair amount when she stepped on it and in the surroundings were about three meters-tall walls. Sitting on the outside of this arena-like stage were guests, lined up there were a few dozen of well-dressed men and women.
In the quiet atmosphere, a man wearing a white robe stood in the middle of the hall, then on the opposite side of the entrance to the arena he set up a knight-looking mannequin wearing an armor. The ceiling drew a gentle arc covering the hall with a dome. In East, West, South and North directions there were large shining balls which erased everyone’s shadows by lighting them from all directions.
The representatives who came ahead of them split in two directions from the entrance and lined up by the walls. From among them, Kairos looked with irritation at Mira.
Mira and Hinata, as well as Mary lined up on the opposite direction from Kairos, with the wall behind their backs. As a result, the only ones standing by the opposite wall were Kairos and his assistants. Seeing that he was clearly being avoided, Mira burst into quiet laughter.
However, soon enough Mira forgot all about it. After all, this assembly hall where examination took place was indoors and was unexpectedly small.
The circular space for carrying out matches had fifteen meters in diameter, and including the guests’ seats it had twenty meters in total.
Growing impatient on the inside, Mira took a look around and measured the distance with her eyes. She had to admit it was very narrow.
(“I can’t call my number one candidate, Aizenphard! But then again, my Rainbow Spirit is… Thinking of dignity, it wouldn’t be strange if they stopped Summoning’s demonstration… I need to think more carefully…")
“I am sorry for the wait. Let us commence the Spell and Ability Examination Assembly.”
While Mira was in anguish all alone, the declaration of examination’s commencing had sounded.