She didn’t have any particular reason behind her actions, but if she had to give one, then it was because there was something that concerned her.
Shinichi said he would lure out the people who sent him those fake love letters, but it was his first time taking the test. Of course, she didn’t doubt his strength, but he might be troubled by something else, so she left her designated exam area in hopes of repaying the favor he’s shown her, fully aware that her grades would suffer greatly.
She felt bad about her classmates who were still suffering within that cruel environment, but she felt even worse for Shinichi, whom she’s done nothing for just yet. However, as she watched him from the skies, she realized that there were no suspicious people and Shinichi didn’t seem troubled either.
Now that she thought about it, he was the boy who saw through that incident and solved it without anyone knowing. He was far beyond her in flexibility and imagination, and when she saw him use the shield skill as a bucket, she even doubted her eyes.
At that point, it should’ve been fine for her to go back. After all, it was evident that he wasn’t having any difficulties. She could come back later in the dead of the night when the students could move a lot easier. Odds were that if the people who sent those letters were to make a move they would do it during that time period.
But she didn’t do that and joined him instead. As for why, she herself didn’t know exactly why. The only thing she did know was that… For some reason, she couldn’t ignore the girl standing beside him.
It was a strange sight to anyone but the people themselves. Sitting around a bonfire by the riverside in the night wasn’t in itself unusual. What was unusual were the people sitting around it – A boy in uniform, a girl with fox-ears, a girl with blue ringlet curls, and a fox-like creature. If one didn’t know who they were or what their circumstances were, they would think them an ill fit for their surroundings, but if one did know, then they would find them to be a strange combination.
“Thank you! Amu, a, hamu, un, delicious!” Myuhi said.
“Well, thanks. It’s just grilled lilik, but would you like some?” Shinichi asked.
“I would be most obliged… Hamu, ngu, ah, delicious. It has a different taste from what they normally serve,” Aristel said.
“That’s good to hear. Amu, un. It’s been a while, but I see I cooked it well,” Shinichi said.
“Huh? Did you use us to test if it was safe to eat?” Myuhi asked.
“M-Me too!?” Aristel exclaimed.
“Tch, you found out,” Shinichi muttered.
“T-That’s cruel!” Miyabi said.
“This is too much!” Aristel said.
“Kyukyukyu,” the fox-like creature laughed.
Because of the wind their light-hearted conversation could easily be heard.
The grilled fish was like the Ayu fish. It had a meaty taste just like the grilled fruit.
Under the night sky, the four of them enjoyed their meal.
“They look like they’re having fun.”
“Yeah, a lot of fun too by the looks of it.”
The class of 1-D that was eating the same food were dumbstruck by what they were seeing. From their perspective, the two top students of the academy were having a pleasant chat with their classmate. One was a real princess that carried one of the Ten Great Noble Families on her back and has been ranked 1 since enrollment, while the other was a beastman girl who despite her lovely appearance has many unprecedented rumors and is said to be a destroyer of smiles.
Although the reasons were different, these two girls both possessed something that made people want to approach them. It was because of that that they camped in the forest away from Shinichi’s group who camped at the riverside.
“He’s not nervous at all, is he?”
“I knew he was weird, but he gets weirder the more I look at him.”
Just what was that man that could sit so casually with those two girls beside him? They knew from today’s exam that he wasn’t normal, but this made him stand out even more.
“Having a flower in each hand is nice and all, but when hose two flowers are as amazing as those two, normally you’d feel really uncomfortable.”
“Come to think of it, he didn’t blink in front of that giant raybeast either. Are people unfazed by raybeasts on that level once they’ve lived in the otherworld?”
They ate the fish and fruits they cooked while watching Shinichi and his group. They were able to cook only by copying Shinichi, though at first, they were quite resistant to copy him because of their pride, but in the end, hunger and fatigue won out. Because of that they were leisurely enough again to study Shinichi.
“Personally, I’m more worried about whether or not we can handle the later exams.”
“…When I think back to it, that exam was really strange.”
The results of their exam were terrible, but the contents weren’t really fitting to be called an exam. The topic for the afternoon exam was normal, but the examiner kept butting in. At the time, they were at the end of their wits, so they couldn’t think about it too deeply, but now that everything’s calmed down and their bellies were full, it was indeed strange.
“B-But thanks to that, weren’t we really amazing today!?”
Regardless, it was indeed amazing just as the female student said. It was as if that feeling of hopelessness that they’ve felt in all this time has finally been lifted.
People told them that they were doing it wrong, but for the past two months, they couldn’t understand exactly what it was that they were doing wrong. But in ‘Shinichi’s Class’ that was held under the pretense of an exam, they finally started to intuitively understand what that something was.
“I guess. It was desperate, but when he talked to me, my body was suddenly able to move.”
“Yeah, same. I can’t put it to words well, but it’s as if I’m finally starting to understand what the teacher has been telling us all this time.”
“That thing about just swinging your weapon. It might be because the image in our head and our body’s movement was able to sync for the first time.”
The reason they still lacked confidence was because they knew they were yet to reach a higher class. But regardless, the fact that they could finally feel that they were getting stronger for the first time in two months made them happy.
“What a sloppy way of putting it… But, yeah. It felt like that for me too.”
“Ha ha, but it was surprisingly a lot less tense even though it was our first time fighting with raybeasts.”
“Well if you had to fight something like that in the morning, obviously a bunch of D Rank raybeasts will look like a walk in the park.”
“Didn’t you scream really loudly at the end?”
“Anyone would scream if a cicada that big flew at them!!”
The student sarcastically laughed when he saw the female student get angry after being reminded of her experience.
But amidst the laughters, one student suddenly realized something.
“Ha ha ha— Wait a moment. Wouldn’t that mean that the reason he made us fight that B Rank was that?”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is didn’t he make us fight that thing to get us used to the raybeasts? Because if we fight something that amazing right at the start, the weaker raybeasts won’t look like much anymore.”
The student couldn’t find the right words to express himself, but in the end, everyone around him was shocked.
If not for that then could they really have fought like they did today?
Wasn’t it precisely because they had to fight that monster at the start that they were so calm in the afternoon exam?
“Didn’t he say he made us fight that thing to find out our abilities?”
“…He did that plenty too, didn’t he? I only realized it myself just now, but our teams were really balanced weren’t they?” A female student said.
Everyone looked at each other as they thought back to their groupings and became surprised.
They might be the trash D Class of the academy, but they still had things they were good at and bad at.
There were some who were more suited toward the vanguard role since they were good at holding the weapon and moving, while there were those who were more suited for the rear since they were better at invoking skills.
Although they were grouped into three, if the grouping was done irresponsibly, then the teams should have had some imbalance.
The fact that they were so balanced shows that they were grouped only after considering their respective abilities.
“I don’t know if I should say this, but even the things we’re eating now are only because he showed us how to do it, right?”
“I never even thought you could use those skills like that. We’re prohibited from using the skills outside of classes, so I never thought of using them any other way. If he hadn’t shown us how to do it, I don’t know if we would have gotten enough to fill everyone…”
No one said the words ‘it should have been difficult’, but they all thought it.
What’s more is that he even started processing the fish somewhere they could see him and then started cooking.
All the skills he used were low level skills as well, so they could all use it.
“Uwaah, I’m getting chills!”
They all felt a chill go down their back as though a block of ice had slid down.
The things that happened today were because of their substitute examiner, so in a sense it was only natural that things would go as he intended them to. But even though they understood that in theory, but they still felt fear and discomfort upon realizing that they’ve been dancing on his palms this whole time.
“Isn’t that guy like really suited to be an instructor?”
“I hear there are people like that at Garesto too. People with low stats but have a really good head on their shoulders.”
The distribution of roles based on stats was purely done for combat professions. After all, no matter the world, it isn’t possible for an army to be made up of only strong people.
An army also needs people to scout, resupply, and maintain their equipment. On top of that, they also need someone who can lead their forces. That is true for the Garesto army as well, and those people may or may not have high stats.
Because of that it’s usually the ones with lower stats that have more career options. But the combat professions tend to take the spotlight, so it’s not common knowledge in Earth.
“You mean he studied this kind of stuff there?”
“Leadership classes don’t start until our second year, though. Is he going to ignore all the classes until then?”
They knew that Shinichi was a returnee, but they didn’t know the details behind his return. Even the official story was told only to the homeroom teacher to prevent any seeds of trouble from being sown. That’s why 1 – D wanted to reason the oddities surrounding him ‘like that’.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Only one of the students dropped the topic and looked at everyone.
“Rather than something like that, personally I’m more concerned about what he’ll make us do tomorrow, sigh…”
The unease heaved with that sigh quickly spread among the students.
This day started with such an unreasonable exam. Who knew what kind of ridiculous exam he had in store for them tomorrow?
Everyone quickly paled, then they looked at each other and nodded.
“Let’s go to sleep already!”
“Yeah! At the very least, we should recover our strength!”
“The raybeast repellent (field barrier) has already been set up, so we should be fine tonight!”
The students bid each other good night, and then they all crawled into their respective tents.
Today’s exam and even Shinichi himself have already become a kind of trauma to them.
“…Consider our debts settled with this, Substitute Examiner.” Yamanaka muttered with a sour expression.
Shinichi’s actions annoyed him to no end, but he did save him. It wasn’t much, but he couldn’t not help him.
But if he says something unreasonable again tomorrow, he ‘ll definitely jump down his throat.
After getting rid of the flame, he too went to his tent and slept.
It wouldn’t be until later that Yamanaka would realize that the method he used to get others off Shinichi’s case was exactly the same as Shinichi’s.
While 1-D was fast asleep.
“—Do you mind if I throw a tsukkomi already?”
When the four had finished eating their supper, Myuhi smiled.
“Isn’t it fine? It doesn’t really matter.”
“Okay, since you gave your permission… *Ahem.”
The confused girl who didn’t understand and the wryly smiling boy who did understand.
Myuhi straightened her posture, cleared her throat, and then bellowed.
“What did you come here for so suddenly, huh, Ari-chan!? And since when did you get so close to Icchi!? Weren’t you angry just a little while ago because you were being ignored!? Should the class representative of the special class really be lazing around here!? I’m surprised those two attendants of yours let you go! You know what, I’m sure you knew they wouldn’t let you go, so you came here without telling anyone, didn’t you!? What’s more you’re actually eating at a different area! That’s grounds for a demerit! To top it all off, you’re shrewdly sitting beside Shinichi! You’re really close to him too!!”
“Wow, you didn’t breathe at all.”
The girl that took the verbal beating was in shock, while Shinichi was full of praise that Myuhi was able to say all that in one breath.
Incidentally, Youko was wryly smiling as she ate beside her.
‘Ah, it’s finally started here too,’ her expression said.
“R-Ruona-san, I-I was never angry! I was just a little confused… And I’m not that close to him just yet…”
When Aristel said with flushed cheeks that everything was but a misunderstanding, Youko clapped her paws.
Shinichi realized that that was meant for him, so he clicked his tongue and glared at her, but she just shrugged her shoulders.
—As expected of Master, you work so fast!
—Stuff it! Don’t mock me!
—Sure, sure, this loyal servant shall be quiet.
That sort of silent discourse may or may not have taken place.
“…Hoh, of all the things I asked, those are the ones you address?”
Myuhi had no way of knowing that there was a battle between a master and his servant taking place while her attention was taken by the girl before her.
She had thrown so many questions at her, but the ones she actually responded to were those.
She was all smiles, the same as ever, but without her knowing, displeasure had already tinged her voice.
“Fue!? N-No! I mean the first question you asked is—”
“Why you came here, Ari-chan. But, yeah. I think I get the message. Surprise, surprise, but it seems you’re a girl too, aren’t you, Ari-chan? I’m happy for you.”
“W-What are you talking about!? Please don’t jump to conclusions! I am the top student of the special class; hence, I’ve taken it upon myself to see how the other students are doing!”
“Sure, sure, let’s leave it at that!”
She couldn’t refute that that was just an excuse, but for some reason, she found it utterly humiliating how Myuhi refused to believed her and acted so condescending.
She was furious, but she knew that if she allowed herself to be controlled by her emotions, it would be playing into her hand, so she did her best to keep her composure.
“Fuu… I understand. Take it however you wish. It’s true that I’m tired persuading Rizet and Oruto, but I did leave to see how everyone is doing. It just so happens that the one least used to this exam is him, so there’s nothing unusual about me coming to meet him. Yes, that’s right! This is a fitting duty for someone such as myself who is the top of the academy!”
Or so she declared with confidence. Amusingly enough, because she kept making excuses, she ended up confessing that she had in fact come here to see Shinichi.
Still not knowing that she had dug her own grave, Aristel puffed out her chest proudly, as if to say, ‘How’s that?’
Upon seeing that, Myuhi broke into laughter. “Pu fu ha ha ha! You’re kidding, right? That ojousama is acting like this?”
Aristel may have been powerful, but she was also the very picture of an arrogant ojousama. Just what did Shinichi do to break her to this extent?
Myuhi looked at Shinichi meaningfully.
“…Don’t look at me like that. I don’t know how she was before, but this is how she really is.”
Although she may have put on airs before, deep inside she was actually an earnest girl with little interest in herself.
The boy nonchalantly said that this was the true her.
“A ha ha, you say it so easily, but no one noticed all this time. Not me or anyone else.”
“Huh? Huh? What are you two talking about?”
“Ohh, it’s nothing. But you know, Ari-chan. If that’s what you came for, you can go back already.”
Where did the displeasure in her voice go?
But even as Myuhi laughed from the bottom of her heart and fooled herself, she pointed out the flaw in Aristel’s statement.
“Apparently, Icchi is really used to places like this, and his ‘usage’ of skills is probably even better than us, so there’s no need for an advanced student of the special class that’s currently taking her exam to help.”
“B-But… In that case, aren’t you the same!?”
For a moment, Aristel was at a loss what to say, but then she realized that Myuhi was also in the same position. Unfortunately for her, something on this level couldn’t possibly make this fox girl waver.
Myuhi replied with a smile. “I’m his official caretaker, and I’ve already passed today’s exam. I’ve also gotten permission from the teacher.”
“Well that goes for me too! I have a duty as someone superior in rank, and I’ve also both passed and gotten permission!”
“…Why is it that I can only imagine them getting those permissions by threatening the teachers?” Shinichi remarked as if they couldn’t hear him.
In fact, the only teacher that could really say no to them was Frire at most.
“Heh, Ari-chan, you went that far just to meet Icchi?”
“—!? Why would you think that!!??”
“Uwaah, she’s as red as a tomato!”
The laughing Myuhi and the blushing Aristel. It was obvious who was more skilled here. The reason this hasn’t turned into much of a competition was because Myuhi was playing with Aristel’s feelings.
Shinichi understood that, but he didn’t intervene since he enjoyed seeing Aristel desperately get worked up and try to get back at Myuhi.
“Don’t look at me like that. I know my hobbies aren’t nice.”
Seeing her master self aware but have no intentions of changing made her sigh. It was well and good that he was back to normal, but when she thought of the people that would get abused by him, she couldn’t help but drop her shoulders.
“Don’t mock me! I am here purely because of my sense of duty! There are no private feelings at play here!”
“Then shouldn’t you go back already? After all—”
While Aristel started to get worked up on her won, the fox girl sat beside Shinichi without reservation and with terrifyingly natural movements.
She sat directly opposite Aristel and squashed Shinichi.
If it were just that, Aristel probably wouldn’t have been so surprised, but she even took Shinichi’s arms and clung onto him without any shame.
“—Unlike you, I’m here because I want to be with Icchi.”
She overlapped her fingers with Shinichi’s just like a lover would and smiled.
That smile of hers even seemed triumphant.
Strangely, however, Shinichi gave no reaction.
“Wait, huh, w-what are you… G-Get away from him! S-Such licentiousness during the exam – what’s more in front of me – won’t be forgiven! Besides, haven’t you spent enough time with him!? It’s my turn next!”
Perhaps that finally got to her or perhaps those last words were her true real purpose, but regardless, Aristel leaned in and sandwiched Shinichi while glaring at her.
However, Myuhi ignored her and just whispered loudly to Shinichi.
“Hey~ Forget the girl who’s just here out of obligation and take a walk with me in the forest.”
“Fue!? W-W-W-alk i-in the forest a-a-alone with just the two of you… That’s immoral!”
“Oh? What are you blushing so much for, Ari-chan? I just wanted to take a walk. Just what could the school’s top ojousama be thinking, I wonder.”
This really wasn’t much of a contest. Was it because one was just too good at leading the other on? Or was it because the other’s imagination was too strong? The former might be laughing, but the latter was flushed red and was biting her lips out of frustration. A closer look at her glaring eyes would even show that they’ve gotten a little moist. Apparently she wasn’t used to arguing with other women and was about to cry.
“Alright, ladies. That’s enough.”
Upon seeing that, Shinichi solemnly put a stop to the catfight like a referee.
Taking advantage when Myuhi’s guard was down, he smoothly freed his arm and flicked her on the forehead.
“If you’re going to copy me, then don’t go so far as to make her cry.”
“…Huhhh? That’s what you’re mad about?”
“I-I wasn’t crying!”
Myuhi was taken aback by Shinichi’s words while she rubbed her forehead as though it hurt.
It was true that she copied him, but she didn’t think he’d scold her for not holding back.
In the backdrop, Aristel tried to argue, but fortunately or unfortunately, no one reacted to her.
“Huh, ah, wait!?”
Shinichi chuckled and rubbed her head thoroughly. It didn’t matter whether it was her hair or ears, everything was shaken fiercely.
“Icchi, wait, wah.”
“Don’t do something like that if you’re so bad at it that you’d tremble.”
“! Ah, ah, uu.”
He muttered with concern and astonishment as he pointed at her hand.
Although she took his arm on her own volition, for some reason, her hand was trembling.
She wasn’t afraid, though. That much was clear from the red tinge on her cheeks. And that red tinge wasn’t because of the light from the fire either.
“…I see, so that’s how it is. You tease me a lot, but it turns out you’re plenty innocent yourself.”
“A, aha, ahaha…”
The sharp-eared sharp-eyed ojousama counterattacked, and all the fox girl could do was laugh dryly.
“You said it. But I don’t think her proposal is bad, though.”
With a smile on his face, he gently stood up and stopped Aristel’s verbal counterattack.
When Aristel asked what he was talking about, he extended his hand to her and invited her in a soft voice.
“Would you honor me with a walk in this dark forest?”
Everything happened so suddenly that the two girls both opened their eyes wide, but Shinichi didn’t mind that and just smiled.
Shinichi had a plain face, but perhaps it was because of that that when he smiled gently, he looked really gentle.
Only the lone beast among them covered her face with her paws and looked up to the sky.
“It wouldn’t do to treat you with just food when you came here knowing that your grade would suffer. I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy it, but how about going on a little walk with me?”
“Ah, umm, t-that’s… You don’t have to be so concerned for me…”
That silent cry probably didn’t reach her when she was being stared at head on like that with a smile.
Her words indicated reservation, but her flushed cheeks betrayed her.
Meanwhile, the other girl was at a loss as to how things ended up like this.
“W-Wait a moment, Icchi. Where are you planning on taking Ari-chan?”
“Somewhere deep… In that forest over there.”
Myuhi ignored the excited cries in the backdrop as she looked in the direction Shinichi pointed at.
That part of the forest was no longer within the D Rank exam area. It should be another rank’s area.
But before she could wrap her head around what was happening, things moved on without her.
“So, will you come with me?”
Shinichi asked again while being a little anxious.
It was as if he was implying he wouldn’t ask another time if he were to be refused, so Aristel panicked and took his hand.
It didn’t have a single wound, but it was hard. It was slender, but it was reliable. It was a hand like that that Aristel firmly grasped.
Her movements were remarkable as one would expect from the daughter of a famed family, but…
“But of course. It would be rude of me to refuse when you’ve gone out of your way to invite me, de arinsu. I would be delighted to go on a walk with you, de gozaimasu.”
“Uwaah, Icchi, you probably can’t hear it, but Ari-chan is using some really weird Garesto language right now.”
“Nah, it’s plenty weird in Japanese too.”
Apparently, she was messing up her words so much that not even the translator could correct it.
Myuhi was dumbfounded and remarked with a monotonous voice, but Shinichi just laughed and watched Aristel.
Meanwhile, the person herself was unaware of how strange she was being as she took Shinichi’s hand and implored him to take her away.
“D-Do accompany me well.”
“Leave it to me, Princess.”
“J-Just so you know, this is an exception, okay?”
Aristel took Shinichi’s hand and stood up, then she walked while clinging closely to his arm.
Though the difference between her and Shinichi wasn’t so grave as to call them the beauty and the beast, it was grave enough to call them the princess and the commoner.
The only problem with calling them as such was that the princess was nervous while the commoner was calm.
“…It’s not even her first time being invited by a guy or taking her escort’s arm.”
Still dumbfounded, Myuhi watched as Aristel clung closely to Shinichi while they walked.
Given Aristel’s position, she should have had many similar interactions in Garesto’s high society. The fact that she was acting so strange despite that was proof that she recognized Shinichi as a man.
“Seriously, just where, when, and how in the world did he get her to fall for him?”
Myuhi did not know about Aristel’s disguise, and neither did she know that Shinichi was there at that time, so their connection was truly a mystery to her.
But there was no denying that these two were indeed walking closely together, so what she needed to do now was to figure out what to do next.
And then as if Shinichi had seen through her thoughts, he turned around and smiled at her.
It was a smile so crazy that Myuhi’s thoughts actually stopped.
‘Where did that textbook good guy smile go to?’ She wanted to ask.
His eyes were tinged with evil and only the corners of his mouth were lifted. No matter how you look at it, this was the face of evil.
At this point, Myuhi honestly thought that she should stop them not because of her work but out of obligation as a fellow girl.
“Icchi, what are you planning on doing?”
She rushed after them and asked that while feigning calmness.
Although Aristel liked Shinichi, to Myuhi, Shinichi looked exactly like a man trying to bring a girl to someplace dark.
But Shinichi answered surprisingly quick which made her head hurt again.
“Oh, actually, there’s a weird reaction around this area.”
As he said that, a display appeared in the direction he pointed at. It was a map of this area, and on the adjacent area could be seen several blinking red lights that were gradually approaching them.
“No, way… Ari-chan, stop! That guy’s seriously planning on using you!”
That was enough for her to know that something problematic was definitely happening over there. If he was bringing Aristel there, then it was obvious what he was planning on doing. Most of the problems at this school could be dealt with by a shout from her. That’s why she asked her to wait, but—
“Oh, no, what ever shall I do!? I did change, but I’ve yet to bathe. I mean who would’ve thought he would be so daring and invite me out of the blue like that! I’m sure he’ll bring me someplace dark, and then… Hyaaa! He’ll do even that, and then that!”
—The person in question was beet red and feverish while her body shook left and right.
Myuhi deserves to be praised for controlling herself well enough not to automatically throw a tsukkomi here and ask, ‘who the heck is that girl?’
“Helloooo—! Come back to Earth, you perverted girl!! Take a good look at that guy’s face! That’s a bad guy’s smile right there, I’ll have you know!!”
Unfortunately, Aristel was completely lost in her delusions, and Myuhi’s voice had no way of reaching her.
What Myuhi didn’t know was that Shinichi was actually laughing because she had completely forgotten to play her character.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“What do you mean by that!?”
“Are you coming or not?”
“Uwaah, you’re seriously going to say that here? You villain!”
She was the person officially in charge of Shinichi, as well as the person tasked by the student council to observe him. What’s more was that as a fellow girl she had issues with the way Shinichi was treating Aristel. Frankly, she had no reason to refuse and plenty of reasons to accept. If there was one problem it would be that it was precisely because the boy knew those reasons that he was acting like this.
Myuhi wanted to wipe that evil triumphant grin off Shinichi’s face, but she endured the urge and yelled at him instead while still breaking character.
“Grr… O-One day I will definitely stab you in the back!”
“Fu fu, I look forward to it.”
Unfortunately, it was futile and Myuhi could only drop her shoulders.
What she didn’t notice was that somewhere in that voice was a voice really hoping for that to happen.