That morning the students came to school later than usual. The practical exam which will be held for three days was starting today, so in order to give the teachers time for some last minute checks, as well as to give the students time for some last minute preparations, the assembly was moved to a later time than usual.
But unlike the students, the teachers had to wake up early and go to school ahead of time. The only teachers who’ve yet to arrive were those who had nothing to do with the practical test.
Other than those with night shifts, the teachers all lived in the residences prepared within Kutoria. While the school administration could have built a staff dormitory within the vast lot of the academy, the staff were also residents of Kutoria, so they had to live outside the campus. This was one of the policies taken to prevent friction from forming between the insular academy and the people of Kutoria who had no direct relationship to the academy.
The people of Kutoria come from various places. As such, their history is shallow, but they’re necessary in order to manage the city. The students subjugating the raybeasts is also partly done in order to improve the image of the academy. Neither the city nor the school directly interferes with each other, but they do their best in the shadows to form a good relationship.
However, such sensitive things couldn’t matter less to a certain teacher. She didn’t know about it, and neither could she bothered right now.
Early in the morning, at the staff entrance, was a female teacher standing imposingly with arms folded.
She was in her trademark jersey uniform that put to waste her good looks and figure, and by her waist was a sword, which struck fear to those around her.
Were Shinichi here, he would have surely asked her in jest, “are you planning to attack someone or something?”
That was how strange this woman has been acting these past few days. And for that to continue until the very day of the test was not something that her coworkers were happy about.
the tension about her became even stronger when her objective approached.
It was enough to make the teachers that were just arriving run away without so much as a greeting.
When she spotted the male teacher with light purple hair, she stepped forward.
“G-Good morning, Teacher Frank!!”
“A-Ah… Good morning, Teacher Frire.”
The female teacher, Frire, wore a stiff expression as she gave her overly enthusiastic morning greeting, while the male teacher, Frank, who has been on the receiving end of these greetings for the past few days, was still visibly confused.
“L-Let’s do our best today as well!”
Frire said without looking clearly at his face or waiting for a reply before bolting off like a flash of lightning for her desk, where she then heaved a sigh and drooped her shoulders.
“Auuu, why can’t I greet him normally!?”
It was a busy day today, so she could’ve used the lack of time as an excuse, but that wasn’t it. She knew herself that she was being overly tense and overbearing. She’s been trying to relax herself as much as she could, but the result always ended up like that. With a greeting like that, even she didn’t believe that anyone would take it as a normal greeting between coworkers.
“…Would it be better if he hated me or would it be better if he just thought I was a weird person?”
She was so shocked that she ended up seriously thinking that. If not for her holding her favorite sword, she would have probably screamed out already. Incidentally, said sword was currently pointed underneath her desk. That’s right. She didn’t carry around her sword to scare the students or play the part of a strict teacher. She carried it for emotional support.
“Is something the matter, Teacher Doneju?”
A female Earthling teacher sitting next to her couldn’t act indifferent and called out to her.
They weren’t close by any means, but they still had a much healthier relationship as coworkers compared to her relationship with her older brother.
“Ah, no, it’s just… I’m just a little fed up with myself. Please don’t mind me. It won’t affect today’s test.”
But because of that she couldn’t tell her what was actually bugging her, and so she had to politely refuse her kindness.
The other teacher also picked up on that and didn’t pursue the topic any further.
“I see. You’ve been so energetic in the morning lately, so it was worrying to see you so down so suddenly.”
“I… I thought of trying out various things this year. And well, all sorts of things happened.”
She knew what her coworker was trying to say, so she dodged the question by being vague.
This teacher probably knew how Frire has been greeting her older brother oddly. And she was also probably aware that they had a distant relationship, though she didn’t know the details.
To the students, it’s an uninteresting topic, but that’s not necessarily the case for her colleagues. Still, her colleagues do tacitly understand that it’s best not to cross their respective boundaries.
But of course, everyone is free to speculate behind her back.
“Is the reason you’re so happy lately because of your change in your morning training?”
“Y-Yeah, I changed my training a little, and it’s been working out well for me.”
Part of their deal was to keep the sparring a secret, so she lied her way out with the words she thought of beforehand.
It wasn’t a complete lie, though, since she did change her training routine.
“I see. If someone of your caliber is saying that, then your new training must be really amazing. Perhaps the students could also benefit from it?”
“The same training for those kids? Yeah, that’s… Definitely impossible. If they did the same training, they’d probably all end up in the hospital,” she muttered.
When she imagined the students fighting in her place during her morning spars, she couldn’t help but tremble. Even if she were to take command and they moved properly, they would still only get hit. In the first place, she can’t even land a decent blow when fighting him alone, and it was also doubtful that that boy could be defeated just by increasing their numbers.
“What does he mean he specializes in one on one battles? The way he moves is obviously geared to fighting many foes alone,” she muttered.
After about 20 battles, it was only a given that she would start seeing through his habits. When Shinichi fought, he treated even his enemy’s attacks as foes themselves, and even as he dodged, he never forgot to be on his guard. Just how much experience does one have to accumulate to be able to do that at his age?
“Ah, no, it’s nothing. Unfortunately, I don’t think it can be used for the lessons. Anyway, I’m sorry, but I have some last things I need to check up on for the test today…”
“Ah, sorry for not noticing. Good luck.”
The teacher smiled an adult woman’s peaceful smile as she encouraged Frire, while Frire couldn’t help but wonder to herself, ‘why didn’t it turn out like this?’ as she renewed her mind and set off to do her job.
Actually, she was one of the teachers in charge of supervising the test that will be held for the next three days, so even that excuse she used to wrap the conversation up wasn’t a lie.
They haven’t sparred these past few days. She’s been trying her best not think about it since they can’t spar until the test concludes, but because of the teacher, she finally couldn’t stop herself. But what she thought about wasn’t the spar itself but her partner. In other words…
—The strength of the student named Nakamura Shinichi.
She found out several things in the 20 mock battles with slightly differing rules that they had.
It wasn’t as if she had no intentions to try and find out what the deal was behind him, but not being able to win against him fascinated her, and so she couldn’t quite find it in herself to put together what she’s found out about him until now.
First, Shinichi’s specialty lied in his ability to use any kind of weapons, as well as the bizarre ways he could use them. Normally, people have weapons they specialize at and don’t regardless of their efforts, but in Shinichi’s case, that wasn’t the case at all. No matter what weapon he is given, he could handle it skillfully. Even for the shooting armaments that he used for the first time he could handle freely.
But what was really ‘amazing’ about him wasn’t actually his skills with the weapon but the way he used them. After all, his methods were a jumble of orthodox and unorthodox methods which made it impossible to predict him. One moment he’s crossing swords normally, and then all of the sudden he hits you with the pommel. One moment it seems he would thrust his sharp spear, but then he executes a pole vault and kicks you from the air instead. One moment you think he just threw the gun at you, but then he grabs it back and shoots you with it. When on top of that you add his imagination in how to use skills that no one else possesses, it quickly becomes a handful dealing with him.
Attack skills, defense skills, support skills… None of those exist to him. To him, they’re all the same. Support skills used offensively, offensive skills used defensively, defensive skills used as support… And then when you think that’s all he is, he suddenly uses them normally. It’s really hard to predict what he’ll do next.
The reason he relies mostly on counters is because he’d lose in a straight-up contest of strength, but it’s also a way to deal with Frire’s constant attacks. After all, if she were to attack repeatedly, he’d have no choice but to try and land a counter. If he were to try and defend instead, he might be driven into a corner by an unexpected attack, and eventually lose if an effective blow were to land.
But if you’re talking about the scariest part about him, then it has to be his insight and spatial awareness, as he would always predict her actions from her slightest movements and immediately prepare a countermeasure. With how sharp his insight was, he could probably see through the strengths and weaknesses of any foe despite meeting them for them the first time.
In fact, that was proven to her during their first spar. He was also abnormally quick to pick up skills like Short Land that could attack from anywhere or skills that covered every direction. He was so good at it that she even wondered if he had eyes on his back since he was able to dodge regardless of if she attacked him from a blind corner or from behind. Because of that she’s never once landed a clean hit on Shinichi.
Just like he says, hand-to-hand combat on land is his specialty. During their battles, Frire has imagined him fighting many people alone and defeating them one by one. But for some reason, every time she did, Shinichi wouldn’t have any weapons on him.
“Even though you can use any weapon, you’re actually scariest when you’re unarmed.”
He was truly an aberrant from Garesto’s perspective since their way of fighting always presumed the usage of weapons and skills. But when she thought about it, he was also unarmed when she attacked him for the first time. She also hasn’t felt fear like that time in any of their mock battles. He wasn’t cutting corners, no, but his disposition was different.
The spars they had were ‘battles’ knowing that the opponent was Frire, but at that time, he didn’t know at all who his assailant was. His actions then was a reflexive attempt to ‘repel’ the threat.
She knew without being told which one was closer to Shinichi’s true power. But despite that, she didn’t think that he was cutting corners in their spar. After all, she too was doing her best to avoid inflicting a heavy wound on him.
Of course, if a certain boy were here, he would speak out against that, but she did that plenty internally. After all, she knew full well that she had no right to demand for more from an opponent she couldn’t even win against. That’s why she needed information that would allow her to defeat Shinichi. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have any weaknesses. He had several, in fact. But from everything that she’s seen so far, they were all mere conjectures.
First, he didn’t have much firepower behind his attacks, so while he could deal with several opponents, he lacked the overwhelming destructive power needed to deal with a large army. Shinichi himself admitted this and said that he didn’t have any techniques that would allow him to instantly blow away 10,000 foes.
Frire felt like the number he gave was a little too big, but she ignored that part.
The next weakness he had was his low rank in Stamina. Because of that a war of attrition would make the difference in stamina evident. In the spars, Frire is always attacking to prevent having the initiative taken from her, so that part isn’t an issue, but apparently, his stamina is one of his weaknesses.
Of course, this was a moot point as far as their spars were concerned since they had limited time.
Other than that his Resistance stat wasalso low, so a single blow waslikely to prove fatal to him. Alas, this actually works out in his favor during their spars since Frire has to take extra care not to hurt him. Frire suspects that that too was taken into consideration when he thought of their ‘mock battles’, but as someone who believes that creating a situation where one could win to be a part of one’s abilities, she would never accuse Shinichi of cowardice because of it.
Besides, she didn’t think that he was a completely unbeatable opponent even in their ‘mock battles’. After all, she could feel the gap between them closing. It was strange given their history, but she didn’t care. What mattered most was that that happiness she once had when she first held the sword had returned. Those happy days where she could feel herself growing everyday were here again. Just by sparring day after day, it was as if a piece that was missing has finally been filled, as if something she’d been searching for all this time was finally within her hands.
Unfortunately, that something had distanced itself from her again because of the preparations for the test, but it’s her job, so it can’t be helped. That boy probably won’t be taking that test properly anyway. As soon as the grading ends, they can go back to normal. Next time for sure she’d make him eat dirt, Frire thought to herself as she worked vigorously.
“Ah, Teacher Doneju. I see you’re in the middle of checking some things, but…”
“What is it?”
But when the principal suddenly came to her while covered in cold sweat, the story took a completely different direction from what she’d expected.