Chapter 221, Welcome to the Brigade
~~Royal Capital Magic Guardians Headquarters in Regalia, Ten O’clock in the Morning, Tenth Day of the Fourth Month, Ninety-Fifth Year of the War Demon Calendar~~
Approximately fifty people, all in brand-new uniforms, lined up in a formation in the Headquarters training ground.
All faces were full of motivation and confidence, sitting in a gorgeously decorated chair in front of them was Gaston, with Viola standing beside him.
Lina and Hornel could be seen standing in the front of the group.
Today was the initiation ceremony of the Magic Guardians Brigade.
The main ceremony itself had already ended, and now the new arrivals stood before their Commander, Gaston, for the first time before their routine duties started.
Gaston directed his gaze at Hornel, one of the candidates he had scouted himself, as if assessing him.
Hornel, despite being met with a sharp glare, stood tall as if he had nothing to hide, whether it be his past or present.
[He’s trained up quite a bit this past year – I don’t see any doubt clouding his eyes anymore.
And then there’s her-]
He took a glance at Lina.
Held in her hand was the Blazing Dragon Staff, one out of the pair of staves that he had entrusted to Asley.
Gaston sensed that Lina’s arcane energy was equally as strong as Hornel’s, full of spirit like a well-crafted sword that had been further sharpened and polished.
Gaston could not help but break out into a smile.
The gesture that even surprised Viola, even if only a little.
[Now this is rare.
Sir Gaston seems to have the same reaction as when that… silly man in glasses was here… Oh, I see – so this girl is the best mage of this batch She may be small physically, but the prominence of her aura is second to none…]
Gaston’s scrutiny continued, and after getting a look at the last of the newcomers in the corner of his eye, the legs supporting his small body stepped forward.
The new recruits looked underwhelmed, as if they had felt no fear toward Gaston’s small stature.
The only ones who did not act that way were Lina and Hornel.
Gaston groaned subtly, and then…
Powerful arcane energy surged through the training ground, making even Gaston’s second-in-command, Viola, turn pale.
The sensation that the new recruits felt was clearly something they had never experienced before.
To them, it was like murderous intent, the sheer force of which felt as if it could kill with its pressure alone.
Their eyes now looked down in fear: some flinched, others fell on their buttocks, their teeth rattling.
[S-such power! How does Sir Gaston even do this…!]
Gaston, disregarding Viola’s astonishment, looked at the two mages who had stood unwavering through it all.
[I knew it… only these two make the cut.]
-Only Lina and Hornel.
Gaston’s expression softened subtly.
So subtle, in fact, that only Lina could tell, thanks to her standing in the front row and how long they had been acquainted.
Gaston turned back to look at the two again, and then muttered ” before walking away.
Viola followed Gaston, but not before ordering the newcomers to stay on standby.
There were some whispers among the formation, discussing what had just happened.
At this point, Hornel finally relaxed his mind.
“Now that is what I call a surprise…”
“It sure is.”
Lina’s indifferent reply struck Hornel as odd.
“What, that’s it You don’t seem so surprised to me.”
“Well, I’ve had mock battles with Professor- I mean Miss Irene, a few times.
And then there’s…”
The words that followed could be considered ‘unfair’ to Hornel, but Lina proceeded to say it anyway.
After all, it was THE thing that she strove to surpass.
“Sir Asley – his power level is impressive.”
Strangely enough, no jealousy arose in Hornel’s mind this time.
He knew that Lina’s words were not meant as mere praise, but as respect.
“…Is his power really that high”
“Hmm, maybe around the same level… well, no, I think a little higher.”
“Oh, but it’s been a while since then, so he might have gotten even better now, too.”
“I-if you say so…”
Even without Asley present, Hornel could still see the silly man overshadow him.
He clenched his teeth, expressing his annoyance at his perceived rival in love.
[I’ll definitely catch up to him – no, surpass him, one of these days…!]
Both of them had Asley as their goal, in one way or another.
And then, as if to capitalize on that motivation of theirs, the sound of well-paced footsteps echoed forth.
The newcomers’ whispers stopped instantly as the regular brigade members gathered around, led by a certain woman.
Lina and Hornel were taken by surprise.
They knew this one soldier quite well… but now, she showed no trace of the softness that she once had.
The gentle arcane energy she had back in her Magic University days, when she had been known as the Lightning Flash, when she had been roasting opponents with the Black Emperor, was now gone.
She instead appeared before the two with a powerful, well-honed aura.
She was their Student Council predecessor, yet now she felt so different, as if she had never even been one before.
She even exuded a subtle hint of hostility.
The new recruits, unable to utter a word, could only gulp down the lumps in their throats as Jeanne stood before them.
The new recruits complied without question.
“The Royal Capital Magic Guardians will now begin their training! Those who don’t keep up WILL be left behind – that is the rule here! We have the entire population of the War Demon Nation on our shoulders! We do not need anyone who cannot pull their weight!”
At long last, the new recruits could bring themselves to say something.
“Only those who are willing to die will be welcomed!”
“And don’t even think of going back on your word!”
Reactions to Jeanne’s rousing were a complicated mix of fear, determination, and nervousness – very few of them answered in their own words.
Jeanne, knowing that full well, cracked a creepy smile.
A drop of cold sweat ran down Hornel’s back as he looked at her crescent-shaped mouth.
“High-Order Muscle Style! Muscle Training Theater of Love! Begins… NOW!!”
Today was the initiation ceremony of the Magic Guardians Brigade… and also the first day of training.
Because of the prestige to the Magic Guardians Brigade name alone, there had been no new recruits who resigned right on the day of the ceremony before, but now came a change of policy: the Immediately-Ready Newbies training program… which marked this day in the brigade’s history as the day when half of the newcomers immediately left.
Additionally, Irene had released to the public a part of the magic formulas she had invented: the new recruits were taught how to manipulate their arcane energy circulation with those techniques of hers on this day, too.
As for the reason… it was because Irene had refused to even imagine seeing Lina grow past her young, beautiful look.
“W-wait, ME TOO!”
“Is-sent this too hard, Master Lina!”
The training, which involved the mages’ Familiars as well if they had any, went on until almost dawn.
“DAMN IT ALL! AAAHHH!!”
One the same day, the man known as Tūs the High-Order Muscle snuck his way through the Regalia Ravine, trying to keep as low of a profile as he could with his gigantic body.
Perhaps it was because of the arcane energy inside him, the aura surrounding him, or even both, but one thing was certain – there was not a single creature that dared to move close to Tūs now.
At least until he arrived at his destination…
Tūs looked up at the sky.
He was now walking along at a leisurely pace, his eyes following the Heavenly Beast above him as it landed seconds later.
“Yeah, ’cause you called me.”
“Considering how much of a pain you usually are… I expected otherwise.”
“Just tryin’ to avoid causin’ more trouble, stupid bird.”
“Oh It seems to me that you have something that needs saying… friend.”
Tūs let out a subdued groan of frustration.
Shi’shichou spread its wings wide, then folded its legs as if preparing for the most likely long conversation that was about to take place.
Tūs also sat down on a nearby rock and scratched his shaggy afro.
“You smell terrible.
You should at least learn to wash your hair.”
“Bah, I’m not big on being clean like you, dammit.”
“I know your lifestyle is that of a beast, but you still are a human being – you should at least act like one.”
I’m an Elf.”
“Doesn’t make much of a difference to me.
So, what do you want Cat got your tongue”
Shi’shichou, still waiting for an answer, started pecking at its own wings.
“You’re the one who interrupted me, dammit…!”
Tūs turned away and grumbled, prompting Shi’shichou to give him a sharp glare.
“Did you say something”
“Nothing, nothing at all!”
Consider keeping it that way.”
Tūs clenched his fists and then, as if even expressing that anger was too much of a hassle for him, let it out along with a deep sigh instead.
“The Devil King will return.”
Tūs stated so without a moment of hesitation, then proceeded to pick his ear with his pinky.
Shi’shichou immediately stopped what it was doing.
“…So you really weren’t here just to spit some nonsense.”
“I know… now THIS is a story worth passing around, right”
“And that man… never have I thought that he would be resurrected… AGAIN!”
Tūs, in an attempt to ease up the now-petrified Shi’shichou, changed the subject,
“By the way, you said that you’ve met some humans last year, right They really gotta be some stupid idiots, coming out to a remote place like this…”
“…They do resemble you in that way, I suppose.
If memory serves, their names are-“
“-Asley and Pochi, righttt~~”
The one who barged into the conversation was none other than Tūs’ apprentice, Melchi.
Neither of them seemed surprised, most likely since they had already known that Melchi was nearby.
“Oh, now I see.
Mel… you’re the one who sent them here.”
“I knew you’d catch on, mein mentor! Ash’s gotta be Ash, y’know – always a wonder that he never stopped to think why this place’s not a tourist spot yet, even with a Heavenly Beast living so close to the city, eh”
Melchi shrugged and feigned a troubled look.
“The two of you are the only ones who know where I live, so I already knew that it was either one of you… So in the end, it was you, Evil Eye wielder.”
“Good to know that I’m being recognized, I guess…”
“Bah, like hell I’m gonna do that kinda thing, anyway.
Still, why’d you let him go You could’ve killed that fool in an instant.”
“He did say something quite… interesting.”
Tūs expressed interest in what Shi’shichou had said, while Melchi proceeded to chuckle.
…Which prompted Tūs to be more suspicious of her instead.
“What, Mel, you know something we don’t or what”
“…Seeing that you’re not saying anything, I would guess that it’s another revelation… or did those eyes
show you something again”
“Aha~~ I knew you’d catch on, Shi’shichou!”
Melchi chuckled again – Shi’shichou proceeded to turn away.
“He technically IS my apprentice, that silly fool.
So, what do you think Did he show any potential”
“Will he be able to make it through the terrible times to come – is that what you’re asking, mentor”
“…In that case, the answer is a no, not as he is at the present.
But if it’s him from that time-“
“What What’d you mean, that time”
Tūs’ question was an obvious one to ask, but Shi’shichou refused to elaborate on its remark.
Tūs, understanding that he would not be getting an answer, turned to ask Melchi something he had just recalled,
“By the way, Mel… what’re YOU doin’ here Weren’t you supposed to be doin’ somethin’ somewhere else”
“Ahhh… right, right.
Got something to report – yeah, I know, you two probably won’t do anything, but it doesn’t hurt to hear this just in case…”
Melchi coughed to clear her throat and said quietly,
“It looks like Ishtar of the Black will be making her next move soon.”