Laius kneaded his head to ease the growing pain. Wading through old muddy memory is not as easy as he thought. Why is it so hard to recall things from his first life? Every time he wants to find a specific memory his head would throb.
Damn it, how is he supposed to recall information about that lady!? There is just a bunch of useless things that came back to him instead.
He closed his eyes with a deep frown. Entering the academy is much smoother than the first time he did. Back then when he was still ignorant of the thing called reincarnation he lived his days like a ghost, aimlessly wandering around with no certain goal aside from keeping his stomach full.
Forget about the Royal Academy, he didn't have a good life inside the Ravencroft household.
He was the disgrace of the family, a bastard who was kept in the fief and treated lower than a servant. If he did not bravely decide to run away from home to work in Aurea he wouldn't have grown a backbone and learn plenty of useful things. For years he jumped from one household to another as a footboy, a messenger, a carpenter, and finally a chimney sweep inside the academy.
By the age of twenty, during his mother's final moments she told him that he was the illegitimate son of Zircon Empire's sovereign. As much as he wanted to claim that birthright, he had nothing on his hands. No proof, no strength and backing thus he passed his days as a bystander until his untimely death at the age of thirty when the kingdom was plunged into turmoil. That time, the newly ordained King grew more and more unstable.
Calamity erupted from the south, the monsters of Sleeping Forest overrun half of the land and the soldiers who were stationed as defence rebelled. He could vaguely recall the horrors of their barbaric ways. Anyone who stood against them was cut down as they rallied forces to the royal capital. From then on bloodshed ensued.
It was a bitter life for everyone, particularly for him so he forcibly flushed out unwanted memories. Right now he could barely remember the unimportant parts. He just did not realize that a day would come when he would regret neglecting it.
The great villain who plotted the rebellion in his two lifetimes driving the kingdom to annihilation… was it her?
But why is she acting so different from how she is supposed to?
Another bout of pain struck his head it drained the colour on his face.
His goal is to raise a Queen, become known and leave the Kingdom of Aurum. That's all he needed to pay attention to.
"Everyone from the Mage Division is thankful for your idea." Lady Regina said smilingly. "Especially Grandmaster Xanthous who had long wanted to test the coveted practice field of the Warrior Division. For years, he wanted to study the barrier matrix holding this place and you've given him this chance."
He knew from experience that a barrier matrix is one of the Grandmaster's obsessions. Chivalric Order promised to let him study it but unexpectedly Commander Vlugel entered the scene and he completely lost his chance causing the two Order to fight. In his second life, he made sure the Halcyon Knight's commander will not be able to take over and gave the chance to the Grandmaster. How easy it is to do this again.
"A month is more than enough to decipher its components and make a duplicate. After which, we can strengthen Royal Capital's defence using an improved version of the barrier."
Once that barrier appears, he can prevent those useless rebels of the south from entering Aurea then. Vermillion will become his, and soon Mythril.
With a click of her heels, Regina strolled around the practice field observing her classmates. The facility is well equipped with different kinds of weapons from the simplest dagger to spears and broadswords. Banners hung on the poles silently proclaiming the Warrior Division's glory.
It was neat and orderly. Not one item loose, every decoration has its purpose and congruent to ethics. When paired with its uniformed students, a splendid sight can be seen. However, right at this moment, groups of robed mages occupied the field.
An idea came into her mind and she quickly informed Laius about it. Though Laius is a bit of an eccentric that he oftentimes gives her a scare, she cannot deny his talents and foresight. As long as he approved it, she can be assured that it will go smoothly. Bernice may still have her status but she became less aggressive since their military power was revoked and her father resigned from the chamber, although they still have their wealth, their family is currently being flooded by rumours.
A while later, she and Laius walked back to the teaching hall to share the news.
"I feel bad leaving the knights like this while we enjoy the privilege." No one anticipated that Regina would suddenly propose a shocking idea. "In order not to create discord among us, students, why don't we have a joint practice? After all, this place is originally the Warrior Division's area, and we all know that in the future we will all be taking missions together so why not foster a good relationship from here on?"
She said it with a selfless and benevolent tone Sterne cannot help but break into goosebumps. Mother of peanuts, what ghost possessed you? Leave us alone.
"I have long been curious about Lady Nachtwald's strength, today I would like to ask for Lady Nachtwald's assistance if it is not an inconvenience to you."
Aiy, Inconvenience indeed! A total inconvenience.
While Regina's face is smiling, her tone did not sound amicable at all. If anything, the smile she is giving is mocking the other girl. The knights paused on their reading and gripped the books tightly, their opinion of this Hallowed One fell several meters more.
"Why? Afraid? Don't be, it's just practice." Lady Regina continued. "I would like to ask Sir Wisteria as well but it seems he is not here today. I can only ask Lady Nachtwald."
Laius nodded his head. "If it is inconvenient for the lady then we will have to ask for volunteers. This is a good opportunity, the Chivalric Order and Magic Bureau would also like to see how promising this year's batch of juniors from each division." While saying so he moved his eyes around the room full of people.
"Don't take it as if we are purposefully finding faults," Lady Regina hastened to correct, her expression aggrieved, like a bullied child. "You see, since the enrollment, there had been a few dissatisfied students about Lady Nachtwald's test scores."
Mainly you. Sterne laughed in her head.
"This is inevitable of course," Laius added. "The more outstanding you perform, the more critics there are. Lady Nachtwald is currently under attack from these critics, we would like to help clear up your name. Lady Regina had been very concerned about this and was the first to come up with the idea."
Wow, he said it so bravely she almost believed it and shed tears of joy. Throw all the praise to Regina to polish her image some more.
Regina's face blushed. "Sir Laius didn't have to say it out loud. I only wanted to help."
Everyone in the classroom, "..."
The acting is even worse than the low budget theatre play! Laius acting as the valiant hero with a pure and innocent maiden by his side. Fortunately, Andrej is currently outside doing some errand else he will have something to retort and leave this pair of cheap performers to shrink in shame.
Can we throw rotten tomatoes at them now? Was currently in the mind of everyone present.
"We know Lady Nahctwald is not proficient with magic, but your sword skill is excellent. Maybe we can exchange pointers?"
How many jabs had they thrown today? Sterne sighed, her cheek resting on her hand. The picture of the sleepy lady was far from they expected. The moisture in her eyes obviously came from yawning but this was the scene a certain Young Master saw.
"What the hell is going on here?" the roar that could startle the dead echoed inside the classroom.
Everybody's eyes lifted from the combat manual towards the raging figure coming from the entrance. Royce just came back from the mission outside and he had been in a bad mood the entire week after knowing that none of his companions looked familiar to him. His beautiful face looked several times terrifying that even without looking you will feel your hair stand at the ends. With large strides, his boots created a rhythmic sound while crossing the room walked passed Laius and Regina towards the lady tucked in the corner.
Not talking some more, he looked at Sterne's slightly bewildered eyes. His fingers reached out to catch the teardrop about to fall.
"I was sleepy." that was she said.
His eyes narrowed. "Sit properly. What do these people want?"
Sterne pulled on his sleeve and cupped her hands to his ear, and just like that she openly gossiped about their visitor in front of them.
"Oh, is that so?" An ironic smile twisted his lips. "Since when did the Warrior Division become someone else' lackey?"
Standing like a tower, Royce's eyes looked at the pair in front of the class. With him staring like this the two felt somewhat alarmed. Laius particularly felt strangled, this person is taller than him by a head and the indescribable intensity in those abstruse eyes gives him a feeling of being sliced open.
Why does it seem like he was mocking him? The condescending gaze made his teeth itch. Subconsciously, he threw his sights to Sterne Nachtwald and seeth some more. "Lady Regina graciously invited Lady Nachtwald for a joint practice, we would like to hear the lady's answer. We know the lady has little exposure to magic, this will be a good chance to learn a few techniques."
"If not you're going to mention Magic Bureau and Chivalric Order again correct?"
Laius clenched his teeth.
"Teach me magic, correct?" Sterne stood finally. "Alright."
To their surprise she obediently agreed, Royce didn't have to say anything. Regina was about to add more assuring words when she saw Sterne smile, the words lodged in her throat and never came out.
"It's just a simple exchange, no need to feel nervous. Lady Regina is one of the best Fire Mages rest assured her technique is one of the best there is. There will be no accidents."
"Then I will leave it all to milady." Sterne replied. "It's not as if you are going to accidentally slip and burn me, that would be too tragic. Right, Lady Stolz?"
Regina nearly opened her mouth to agree before she realized that this hateful girl is leading her on again. Due to her being gifted, there are stories about Lady Regina Stolz accidentally losing control over her magic that it sometimes hurt a few bystanders. Strangely it happened a few times yet victims never once filed complaints. Didn't an accident occur during the last enrollment test? But as always Heraldic Order was swift to clean up the mess.
The knights looked at Sterne with sympathy. She only said a few words, the rest they needn't have to think too hard to understand. The once quiet atmosphere was stirred and eyes began to look at her strangely.
"I, uh… please don't put it that way." Regina gripped her fingers whilst her eyes began to turn watery.
Sterne remained composed while flipping the manual. For once, her aura looked so willful and haughty as though she really is bullying a weak and pitiful maiden. "Of course, I heard Lady Stolz is a good mage. It's just that I'm terribly afraid of wounds."
Everybody rolled their eyes up.
Regina's face paled and her eyes flashed. "I came to invite you… b-but why did you have to make it look like this… what did I ever to you? Lady Nachtwald, why does it seem like you hate me so much?"
"Aiy, you're overthinking things. Didn't we just meet recently? Personally, I barely know you."
Royce added in a severe tone. "If you're done disrupting other people's classes, you may go."
Regina did not expect she will be rejected straightforwardly like this. Snickers rose in the background putting her in a more awkward position. Laius' face sank. The alienation and indifference in that tone are clear it will be more embarrassing to continue.
Why are things not going as he planned? His mind raced, turning to the part where the Mage Division completely suppressed the Warrior Division. Despite having no protection from Commander Vlugel these bunches are behaving differently. After provoking them this far, they are yet to show aggressive behaviour. A riot in the field should have started by now and most mages will get injured causing the dean to sanction the knights into two-week house arrest. What's going on?
"We already lent you our field, now you want to grab one of our classmates for what? Target practice?" Penelope asked lightly as though discussing the weather.
Laius looked at the lady darkly. Isn't this the granddaughter of that old coot Bismarck? She's supposed to join Mage Division but changed her mind, the cause of the riot could have started with her because she cut one of their mages.
"I-It's not like that Lady Bismarck." Regina stammered then her tears fell one by one in big droplets as she looked at Sterne. "This is a misunderstanding, I didn't mean anything like that. You… you said you do not hate me but why did it…" Her words came out muffled and aggrieved.
Laius was livid. "Is this how House Nachtwald raise their child? You pretend to be nice and sincere in the surface but you cleverly manipulated everyone into thinking like this, indeed a well-bred lady."
Sterne pointed her nose. Oi, oi, what did I ever do to you? I swear I'm innocent.
"Now, now Sir Ravencroft don't just throw words so casually like that. People here still have brains and ears." one knight said.
"Lady Nachtwald did not have to emphasize the real issue. We know."
"You're siding with her?" Laius' eyes widened in disbelief.
"Quit with your nonsense and scram." Royce snapped. "Still not going?"
Laius roared at him. "The Chivalric Order gave us permission, it's already favour for your side to be allowed to join our practice but you ungraciously decline and make the matter even worse. Don't forget, Magic Bureau also gave their consent and made our division top priority."
"Ah, so you are going to force the Regular Class. Aside from barking the names of your backers, what else can you do?" Royce said in a low insolent voice. "Who's the one making a mountain out of a molehill here?"
Regina stared at the unfolding scene with a panicked expression. The eyes of the knights looking at them like with unbridled ridicule. She came here to gain the favour of the few talented knights who joined this batch, she never expected to be harshly condemned like this.
"It was you who started this!" She glared at Sterne. "Sure enough you are the descendant of that Black Knight, one word from you and everyone foolishly follows. The whole kingdom knows he sold his soul to the devil and rebelled, what of his achievements? That doesn't change the fact that he colluded with the monsters to destroy Aurum. A blackhearted wastrel is treated as one of the great heroes. How shame--"
A hand flew to her left cheek. Followed by another on the right leaving her ears ringing. It was unbearable coupled with the horrible sting on her face. Flabbergasted, Regina raised her terrified eyes to the furious face of Sterne Nachtwald.
"Still not enough?" Penelope Bismarck raised her hand to deliver another loud slap when Sterne caught her hand. She took a handkerchief and give it to her.
"Wipe your hand. Remember not to touch filthy things the next time."
Filthy… thing? Her?
Grabbing her injured face she screamed. "You… how dare you. I'm a Hallowed One."
"You're a candidate." Sterne corrected.
Commander Amaranthe Vlugel just entered the teaching hall when he heard the pink-haired lady's cursing. Beside him, Andrej who looked like he had swallowed something bad nearly tripped on his own foot. He only left for a while to welcome the commander, who knew he would return seeing this drama?
The commander's face broke into a smile. If Andrej hadn't known his temperament, he would think he was simply amused if not for the sudden heavy pressure in the atmosphere. His chest began to hurt a bit from lack of air.
The space where he stood warped, in a blink of an eye the commander is already standing in the middle of the classroom. His hands behind his back, a smile spreading his handsome face as he looked at the two green-robed students who shouldn't be there.
Everyone was startled silly by the abrupt appearance of the imposing man. The aura surrounding him was quite fierce causing the students to involuntarily step back to give way to him. Sterne who nonchalantly tear the mask off of her opponent still had an indifferent expression on her face, imagine stabbing someone repeatedly but still looking bored. This caught the commander's attention.
She looks like a problem child.
When almost all the people inside are grasping their chest to ease the discomfort, she was the only one who doesn't look particularly affected by coercion. Sterne's eyes flickered noticing the shift in the atmosphere, but instead of raising her guard she turned to the source.
"Oh," She mouthed like a miscreant caught by a teacher cheating on a test.
Regina's knees buckled. The pain on her cheeks hasn't even stopped yet.
Laius' whole body shook. Why… why is this person here? He's not supposed to be here!
Sterne sighed feeling rather embarrassed. He's early, huh, and based on Andrej relaxed but sheepish look, things back at home are finally settling down. Her mind was flying far and beyond when she heard a harrumph. In an instant, the tall commander caught her shifty eyes and fix them in place with a glare.
"You're in trouble." Royce murmured.
Can you not scare me?
She knew this kind of look, it's the same as Sir Ahmose! She couldn't clearly tell what's going on inside his mind, but a strange tingling in her spine tells her that something is amiss.
"Sterne Eloise Nachtwald. Report!" He chewed out the words causing their ears to ring.
As a reflex, her slouching back sprang straight as a stick and a torrent of words flowed out of her mouth in a concise account of what happened including the Mage Division's sudden intrusion on their area. Her throat ached and the inside of her mouth felt so dry after talking nonstop.
Laius and Regina were both terrified.
Suddenly a deep magnetic voice said, "Very good. So this is how my students are treated by other divisions."
The innocent Support Division mentor felt a chill brushing on his back. Truth to be told the old guy is determined to live up to their name as a neutral faction. Why fight when he can sit there and have tea while teaching his students the many things he learned in life?
It was just a few casual words but they felt their inside twist several times. Commander Vlugel eyed Laius and Regina pretending to be air. He retracted part of his aura directing it at the two then asked, "Chivalric Order and Magic Bureau?"
"Commander, we were given autho--"
His stare choked Laius' reply. One quick glance made the poor chap stiff as a board, what he said next caused his entire person to shiver uncontrollably. In his state, he bumped into Regina who is rapidly turning to ice herself, her eyes looked dazed as she looks at the tall commander in front of them.
"In five minutes I want everyone in green robes out of my building. I see anyone dawdling around making noise I will nail them to the pillars."
You want to argue? Let's see if you have the guts to! The knights' eyes bulged out but didn't say anything, they just stood there like lost chicklings looking at their sparkling new mentor with a bit of a temper. Warmth suddenly suffused their chilled hearts.
Well, their mentor looks quite scary but that doesn't change the fact that he came for them. This is already enough to make them shed tears of gratitude. No wonder Andrej and Lady Nachtwald looked nonplussed, they must have known Commander Vlugel is coming. Their eyes went to their manuals unknowingly.
First one hundred pages… that's a whole week of lessons!
Laius wanted to rub his eyes refusing to believe what he is seeing. Amaranthe Vlugel should be in Purple Haven attending a funeral and stopping a mutiny. He left for a month already and should be back at the end of this year, from which he will suffer a huge injury as one of his hands will lose all its function from a poison. And a year after that he will die.
He knew because he personally sent the same person who poisoned Mythril's Lord Commander to do the same to him.
Magic Bureau and Chivalric Order did a taboo by taunting the Warrior Division, taking advantage of the absence of their mentor. In the first place, the situation between them and the commander is already like a powder keg just waiting to explode. Regina and Laius unwisely lit the sparks.