Waking up this morning was the worst.
When one woke up with their whole body tied up in ropes and hanging down from the ceiling, anyone would think that, right?
“Ara, you woke up by yourself today, huh?”
“…Untie the rope.”
In response to my demand, Sherry answered with a cold stare.
“Ara, no can do. It’s as if you’ve already decided that I am the culprit.”
“I saw you locking the door last night. We’re two people in a room that can’t be entered, I’m the victim, so you’re the offender, right?”
“Too bad. There’s a hole in your reasoning. You said you saw me locking the door, but in reality I only pretended to lock it. This room could be entered. Anyone could be the culprit, you know?”
“Even if I believe that for argument’s sake, the moment you left it unlocked on purpose you’ve at least become an accomplice, haven’t you?!”
She had participated in this crime either way, it made no difference.
“Ehm, the rope is slowly cutting into me and it really hurts, so can you let me down already?”
“That’s just the right disciplining for a flirtatious manservant.”
“I don’t get what you mean by disc…”
“I’ve gone through great lengths to buy this whip, so shall we use it?”
“I’m Sherry-sama’s loyal manservant! I’d never be unfaithful, so please forgive me!”
He mobilized his meager vocabulary and tried to do nothing but speak well to her and her horse-riding-whip-wielding hand. Somehow or other, he was forgiven.
It was that kind of ridiculous exchange right in the morning…
“So? Why did you have to shape me like a bagworm first thing in the morning?”
Hayate said in a resentful way while giving a sidelong glance at the second bed in the room. Previously, Hayate had always slept on the floor, but yesterday the academy had finally arranged his own bed.
Even when he had been sleeping on the floor, thanks to the carpet, his body didn’t hurt; but even so, that was a different feeling entirely. In fact, when he had fallen asleep last night, he thought he would wake up feeling a lot better in the morning…
“Please try to look for the reason in your chest.”
“Or why don’t you try looking for it in my chest?”
“That so? If you need a hint, you can always touch them. For one touch, three hours worth of your working salary goes into my pocket.”
“…You’re taking a fee?”
That was close. Had he been tempted into touching her bouncing breasts, it would’ve cost him three hours worth working in the ‘Berry-in Café’.
If a student paid the school expenses, food for the contract beast was included. So as long as Sherry kept paying the expenses, he didn’t have to pay for his meals. However, on top of that, letting him stay in her room in the dorm for free – as expected – didn’t look good in his eyes. So last week they had a discussion and decided that he’d pay half of her expenses from the money he received from his job. And the other half went into his own pocket in case there was something he needed himself.
Since his official position was that of a contract beast, he couldn’t even freely take a stroll outside the academy, but he worked by the sweat of his brow and was deeply moved to be able to get that reward… Going by that, Hayate was anxiously awaiting his payday.
Well, enough of the money issues.
Back to the main point.
Wait, the reason why Sherry is so ill-humored can only be that, huh…
He flashed back to the events that transpired yesterday immediately after they had returned from their date.
“Ha—… Hayate-san! P-Please maaahaaarry meeeee!”
His jaw dropped.
Towards the astounding confession from a girl he wasn’t even acquainted with, he couldn’t help but be dazed.
As for the confessing Kiruru – her cheeks had blushed and she kept looking up to Hayate with her teary eyes.
“Please marry me!”
When he told her his honest thoughts, Kiruru staggered as if she had received a blow.
The black dog, seemingly her contract beast, roared.
“Eh—? What’s— GYAAAA!”
Hayate screamed as he was struck by lightning that had erupted from around the feet of the beast.
The lightning attack stopped thanks to Kiruru’s intervention.
Hayate had barely escaped electrocution, but his appearance had turned into something quite amusing with the hairs all over his body standing on end.
“Aah—… That’s, errr… First of all, I’d be grateful if you could tell me how it came to this.”
“Came… to this?”
“I mean, why did you suddenly come and ask me something outrageous like to marry you.”
“BECAUSE HAYATE-SAN SAW ME NAKED!”
Immediately after Kiruru had screamed that and her face had blushed again, Hayate’s own face received a magnificent slap from Sherry.
He almost fell over from the impact. Her wrist snaps were effective.
Pierced by Sherry’s glare, Kiruru withdrew behind Aria’s back.
In the blink of an eye she had gained complete control over Kiruru.
“…What does she mean by ‘saw me naked’, I wonder?”
Sherry inquired with a penetrating cold voice.
Hayate got the feeling that he wanted to hide behind Aria’s back too.
“I see. Well, please calm down for now, Sherry-kun. I’ll tell you the details.”
As expected of the head of the Rivaldi class. Maybe because she was used to mediate disputes, she began to speak to intercede between the parties.
“First of all… right, let me introduce her. Her name’s Kiruru Demeter. The Demeter Family’s oldest daughter – my childhood friend.
“…I’m in your care.”
The scared Kiruru popped her head out from behind Aria and bowed.
“Well, as ya can see, she’s a shy kid, but good at heart. So could’cha not glare at her like that?”
“Why did that shy-but-good-at-heart kid suddenly propose to my manservant?”
Ignoring Aria’s request, Sherry kept showering Kiruru with cold-hearted glares. The girl shrieked and hid herself behind her childhood friend’s back again.
Expressing a wry smile, Aria continued with her explanation.
“The Demeter House… well, how ta put it, the parentage has’n extremely strong sense of virtue. They have a law which says that one can’t be seen naked by anyone but their fiancée. Originally, there wasn’t a need ta worry about this law in an all-girls academy, but… Hayate-kun took a peek at her naked body in the baths not too long ago, right?”
With that, Hayate finally understood that the naked girl, whom he had seen in the baths in which he had been brought to by Aria on his very first day after being summoned, was the Kiruru in front of his eyes.
“Well, it’s somethin’ like that. If things stay as they are, it’d worry Kiruru. That’s why she wanted Hayate-kun ta take responsibility.”
“And so the theory is that if she married—… if he’d become her fiancée, the ‘seen naked’ incident wouldn’t count?”
After she understood the circumstances, Sherry sighed anew.
“Simply put, all of this is my horny manservant’s fault. I’m sorry for not disciplining him enough.”
As Sherry crushed him underfoot with all her strength, Hayate spat out all of the air in his lungs.
“No, it’s about half Aria’s fault too…”
“Well, that’s right, ain’t it? It’s my responsibility too. It’s because of my inexhaustible interest in Hayate-kun, but I couldn’t refuse Kiruru’s request to mediate the relationship b‘tween the two of ’em. I’ve caused trouble, right?”
Aria bowed her head.
After such a meek apology, one would normally want to forgive them, but… his back was being grinded down with twisting movements from his seemingly completely unforgiving master, so she wouldn’t just say ‘Oh, it’s all good’.
On the other hand, the still scared person in question, Kiruru, kept hiding behind Aria’s back. She looked like a little sister clinging to and relying on her older sister, while not knowing what to do in the troubling situation.
Or to begin with, what was Aira thinking, driving Kiruru into a situation where she had to marry due to family rules?
“Listen, errr… Kiruru, right?”
Kiruru’s voice cracked and her shoulders cowered in anxiety.
The moment he had called her name again, Sherry’s killing intent resurrected. He thought he felt the pressure on his shoulders increase, but he ignored that for now. Though his spine was already groaning.
“That’s, you know… I for one don’t really care about family laws or whatever, but wouldn’t you hate marrying for such a reason?”
Kiruru seemed to hesitate with her answer.
One more push, huh?—— When he thought that and was about to open his mouth again…
“I don’t disl… I think I don’t like it, but I don’t dislike it.”
He thought he heard an awfully confusing reply.
“W-Which is it now?”
“Ehm, family rules are important, so I don’t dislike them, but… when I think about what we will be doing after we get married, it’s a bit scary… and what things I’ll be made to do, right…?”
Well, that is a bit scary, but don’t you have other things you should worry about here?
When he thought that and looked at his counterpart’s face… he didn’t understand why, but she seemed to be giggling.
“B-Being seen naked and then forced to get married… if that happens, these things and those things would be done to me and… A-Aaaah, you can’t! Don’t! So suddenly…!”
“Err… Hello, you still there?”
He tried confirming with her, but there was no reply.
“Yeah, sorry. She seems to have gone on a quick trip.”
Aria apologized for some reason as she noticed Kiruru’s state.
“…What’s wrong with that kid?”
Even Sherry seemed a bit worried.
Aria returned a wry smile.
“Yeah. Well, Kiruru’s a bit of an ‘intense assumption’ type, you see. Since Hayate-kun saw her naked, she kept havin’ the illusion, ‘What kind of things will I go through after I’m forced to get married to Hayate-kun’, day after day.”
Sherry nodded with a bit of wariness about her.
“By the way, in Kiruru’s delusions, Hayate-kun’s frequently actin’ like a brute, you know?”
Hayate could only reply the same way Sherry did.
With nothing more to say on the situation, an awkward silence ensued, broken only by Kiruru’s uncontrollable giggles in her questionable trance.
Originally, he had thought that she seemed like a very young and fragile girl, but she too, was a pretty strange kid.
Well, that happened on the day he had received a sudden proposal. There probably hadn’t been any other cases of girls proposing to him before he had lost his memories.
This uncommon experience happened yesterday. This morning Hayate had been hung from the ceiling and now he felt tired even though it was just after a holiday. But the working schedule didn’t wait for anyone. Once he was dressed, he hurriedly seated himself on the window seat next to Sherry on the other side of the classroom.
Noticing the collar on his neck, the girls in the class whispered to each other, but he just gazed out the window and tried not to let it get into his ears as much as possible until the teacher, Lela, entered the classroom.
“Well then, the midterm examination is only ten days away. The results there will influence the [Internal School Ranking] and come into use for the ranking of you lowlives.”
Lela, standing on the podium, announced at the very beginning of her speech.
Midterm examination… The thing Sherry mentioned yesterday, huh?
It’ll surely be something like the practical test.
Hayate listened carefully to the words of the black-clothed teacher.
“This year the examination will involve eight-way battle royales. To fit the number of first-years exactly, the number of people per group must add up to eight.”
His exclaimed by reflex as he heard that the test would be more dangerous than expected. Lela glared at him and he quickly covered his mouth.
“This time, for your first examination, the first-years in the same class will draw lots that will divide them into groups. After the midterms, the groups will be based on the top, mid, and low ranks—— in other words, students close in ability will be put into the same group regardless of their year.”
To put it simply, this time the test would be carried out between the students of the Rivaldi class, but afterwards, their opponents would be decided according to their rank.
And so, they would be able to catch a thorough glimpse of their real abilities.
“The examination will be held on an outdoor battlezone in a territory that is under the direct control of the Queen, like every year. There might be those who don’t know about it, so I’ll let you know just in case. The examination grounds contain a lot of mithril underneath. Therefore, the entirety of it is under the [Divine Protection of Valhalla], so you can rest assured.”
Following Lela’s explanation were some relieved sighs.
Hayate was one of them. For now, he didn’t have to worry about getting injured, if the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] was present.
He suddenly noticed that beside him, Sherry didn’t look happy at all.
But he couldn’t think of a reason. To him, Lela’s explanation hadn’t had any disheartening elements…
“Now then, we’ll now carry out the lottery to decide the examination groups. Come and pull the lots according to your attendance number.”
It might be a given, but it was Sherry’s role to draw the lot.
The lot that she had drawn had a red seven written on it.
“Everyone has drawn, right? Now, look at the blackboard.”
Lela said and prompted everyone to pay attention.
She then began to mutter something, and five or six pieces of chalk suddenly began to float.
“That’s [Automatic] magic. She’s coupling the lots, see?”
The [Automatic] magic operated the pieces of chalk to write the names of the grouped students on the blackboard one by one.
Sherry’s name was put into the red group, of course.
In the same group as Aria, Kiruru… and Victoria, huh?
While confirming the names listed in the red group, Hayate sighed in his mind at the grouping of these various hard-to-deal-with members.
For some reason or another, he looked in the direction of Victoria’s seat, who above anyone else seemed to be an opponent he was bound to by fate.
At exactly the same moment, Victoria had looked his way too. Her eyes met with Hayate’s and she quickly averted her gaze.
“It should be fine, but please confirm yourselves whether your name’s on there just to be sure. If you’ve been overlooked, report it at once.”
For a short while, Lela surveyed the classroom, but no one raised their hands.
“…Alright. Then that’s it for the midterm grouping. From tomorrow onwards until the examination day, classes will end in the morning. Give your everything in self-training or arrange your condition.”
After that, Lela added something else.
“As you lowlives know, the first- and second-placed in the [School Intern Ranking] will each be handed a medal for the [Reginleiv Cup] held by the Diaspell Royal Academy.”
Instinctively becoming attentive at the word that had come up, Hayate whispered into Sherry’s ear:
“Could the [Reginleiv Cup] possibly be related to the [Walpurgis Night]?”
“Yeah, that’s right. The [Reginleiv Cup] is one tournament of the [Eighth Big Walpurgis Night]. The tournament that decides Starfarm’s strongest hexenritter.”
He had vaguely guessed from the name, but it was like that after all.
“For the sake of polishing the next generation, the kingdom gives the academy two medals to let young and talented hexenritter earn experience as fast as possible—— That’s the reason why I chose this academy.”
Sherry’s number one goal – dominating the [Walpurgis Night] and acquiring the peerage of [Glanzweisen].
To take the shortest route to her goal, she did the unreasonable and entered this academy.
But, above all, it’s a rugged road to try and take either first or second place in the [School Internal Ranking]… Hayate thought, but Lela added some more.
“There are probably those here thinking that it’s too soon for them, but there have been many instances of first years winning a medal in the past. Combat experience is important, but it never comes down to only that. Talent, senses—— and more than anything, I consider the will to never give up and tenacity as the most important factors that will distinguish the victor from the loser. If you’re my students, then go for the moon without ever giving up—— That’s all.”
Following what was said in the morning, the classes on that day ended before noon.
However, for some reason Sherry didn’t stand up to leave, but instead looked like she was deep in thought as she watched the other girls file out of the classroom.
“You’re not going to the training grounds?”
He had thought for sure that she would without doubt leave to go and train in a flash, so this came as somewhat of a surprise.
“I’ll go… but if possible I want to make use of the outdoor battlezone.”
Sherry frowned and murmured that as if speaking to herself.
“If I remember correctly, there is a training ground which simulates an outdoor battle, isn’t there? …Can’t it be used freely?”
“Using the outdoor battlezone is the worst. You have to get at least three people to apply for it, you know? It’s different from the solo training area and mock battle arena, a whole group has to occupy such a vast place.”
If one was by themselves, they used the solo training area. If there were two people who wanted to have a match, they would use the mock battle arena. It was like that.
“And, after all, you don’t have any friends, huh…”
“It seems that you’re insulting me on purpose because you want me to punish you more and more.”
“LIKE HELL I AM!”
Sherry completely ignored his tsukkomi.
“The exam will contain a battle royale, so I’m assuming it will be like the [Walpurgis Night].”
“Yeah, that’s why the exam is using an outdoor battlezone, right?”
“In an outdoor battle, factors such as using obstacles to your advantage and tracking down your enemies become important. Especially in our case. Both of us are human and that will likely force us into a disadvantage.”
In a battle royale, which will take place on a vast battlefield, not only was your fighting ability important but also the ability to spot the enemy first. If one found their opponent first, it’d grant them a vast selection of actions choose: like a preemptive attack, a surprise attack, or avoiding the battle completely.
“And then there’s the most crucial weakness of our pairing in contrast to others.”
“Eh? What weakness do you mean?”
“Myself. I’m only a hexenritter in name, so my battle power is inferior to others’.”
In the case of normal pairings, the hexenritter held the battle power through the [Wand] and the contract beast had strength by nature. However, in Hayate and Sherry’s case, it greatly leaned to just one person.
“The battle is decided when the hexenritter faints: so even in the case that you’re fine, if I suffer damage, it’s all over. That’s why we must improve our teamwork to compensate for that disadvantage together.”
“Hmm, so wouldn’t it be better to train at the outdoor battlezone after all?”
“Sure would. I’d even say that we must.”
He understood Sherry’s thinking. And also the reason.
However, the problem hadn’t been settled—— Namely, not having companions to train with.
“We need a group of three in order to receive permission for the outdoor training zone, so one more, huh?”
“No, two more. You’re not included.”
“…Now that you mention it…”
Hayate was basically treated as a contract beast. He didn’t count as a person.
Every time Hayate was reminded of that fact, it saddened him.
“Yoo, you two.”
At that time, they suddenly heard a voice from behind.
When both of them turned around, Aria was standing there waving her hand openheartedly with Kiruru, who was once again hiding behind Aria’s back.
“To what do I owe the honor of this visit, I wonder?”
Sherry inquired in a business-like tone.
“Don’t’cha wanna use the outdoor battlezone at the training grounds?”
“…Why would you ask that?”
“‘Cause the test’s around the corner. Everyone feels like usin’ it, you know?”
“Just kiddin’. Truth is, this little one here was eavesdroppin’.”
Aria, without a shred of shyness, pointed at the mechanical owl that was sitting on her shoulder.
Her Miming contract beast Miria let out a cry and puffed up its chest. ‘Ehem’, she then said.
“So, how ‘bout it? With Kiruru and me, we’d be exactly three people. We’re in the same red group for the midterms and it’s a rare chance, so why not practice together?”
It seemed to be the most perfect proposal one could ask for.
But Sherry made a complicated expression.
“Isn’t another way to think about this that we’re competing against each other, so we shouldn’t practice together?”
“Hmm, wouldn’t it still be fine if you’d just think about that some more? If you go by that, then all students around here are rivals. Wouldn’t that way to think lead our precious student life into a strained atmosphere?”
“Actually, right now, we’ve been talking about how to… GYAA—!”
He received a blow from the whip. His back hurt big time.
“What a learn-resistant manservant.”
“…What an ever-merciless girl.”
When Hayate glared at Sherry in bitterness, someone suddenly caressed his back gently.
“Are you alright?”
It was Kiruru with a worried expression.
So gentle… seems like she only gets weird those times when she runs wild with her delusions.
It subconsciously touched Hayate’s heart.
Seeing the two like that, Aria let out a small giggle.
“Truth is, Kiruru said that she wanted to practice together with Hayate-kun, ya see? So please think about it.”
When Aria played her trump card, the face of the girl caressing Hayate’s back suddenly grew red.
Sherry looked at Kiruru’s and Aria’s faces in turns and… finally let out a sigh and stood up as if she had no other choice.
“Fine. In this world there are things one has to do and things one can’t be stubborn about.”
This time, it was the latter.
Sherry accepted the proposal to practice with Aria and company.
The training grounds. Outdoor battlezone.
This was an area whose sole purpose is to simulate outdoor battles – consequently, it was vast by nature. It was just like the mock battle arena, but additionally, it confined the field of vision with obstacles like artificial forests, rocks, and similar things. For that sake, they had piled up soil to create different ground levels. One didn’t know how far they would have to advance until they’d hit a wall.
That alone made the outdoors area look spacious already, but during this period of time, there wasn’t just one group that used this whole area by themselves, of course. The time limit that each group could use it was decided beforehand. Furthermore, it had been divided into four channels side-by-side. Thanks to that, four different groups could practice on it at the same time.
Hayate and company had been told to use the northernmost one of those four pieces and in the other fields to the south, respectively three other groups did their own training.
“Not only will it be vaster than this, the real testing ground won’t have walls either, instead the borders will be decided on the range of the [Divine Protection of Valhalla], and chasing the enemy to the end of this range —— although in the training grounds case it’s the walls—— will be an effective strategy even in the real deal.”
While Aria explained that in a smooth way, the others carefully did their stretches.
“So, should Sherry-kun and Hayate-kun start from the eastern, and Kiruru from the western border? I’ll be the referee.”
“Eh? Are you fine with that?”
He reflexively asked. Would it be alright for Aria not to practice herself?
“I only entered the academy ’cause I love contract beasts, I can’t fight at all. I don’t care about the [School Internal Ranking] either, you know? Plus, Miria’s great at scouting and gathering intel, so I can show you guys everything about how you moved and how you fought after you’re done, alright?”
“I see… Though I still feel somewhat bad about making you do that…”
“It’s fine, it’s fine.”
Aria saw Hayate and the others off with a smile.
“She’s a good girl, huh?”
“Good girl? Aria-san? Or Kiruru-san?”
“Well, I meant Aria just now. But I think Kiruru’s a good girl too, isn’t she?”
“…You seem to be really pleased with those two, don’t you?”
Just when he thought ‘Huh?’, Sherry had already tripped him up.
He tumbled, but she took his arm as he fell and gently absorbed the impact, so his butt didn’t hurt as much when it hit the ground.
It didn’t really hurt, but naturally there was a gap in height between them now.
When she looked down on Hayate, she… narrowed her gaze into something even colder than permafrost.
“Don’t misunderstand, Hayate.”
Sherry extended her long index finger towards Hayate’s neck… and pulled the collar up while it hung on her first knuckle.
The pressure caused by the collar on the other side of his neck forced him to raise his face up.
He was brought so close to her that he almost hit the tip of her nose.
“You’re my manservant, so being swooned by another woman is outrageous. If you, by any chance, dare to wag your tail at anyone else without concern, then…”
“I’ll pull it out.”
“I’ll put it out.”
“You said it twice?!”
In the end, she hadn’t said what, but her eyes were serious.
He did wonder whether that was jealousy talking, but if he asked that now, whatever it was would be pulled out on the spot, so he only nodded.
After that, the two of them resumed their walk to the eastern wall.
Before they knew it, the artificial forest had come to an end and they reached terrain that consisted of nothing but rocks and sand. It appeared that they had constructed a variety of outdoor environments.
“Oh, I can see the wall.”
Thanks to the decreasing number of things that obstructed his view, he could see the edge of the training area.
“Speaking of which, Kiruru’s…”
“No, please don’t speak with such an overbearing voice… I mean, we’re about to start our practice fighting with her, so I wanna know what kind of hexenritter she is. And about her black contract beast.”
He remembered being struck by lightning yesterday, but it probably had other abilities too. Since Hayate would soon head out and fight it, he wanted to prepare counter-measures all the more.
“Kiruru-san’s contract beast is a Black Beast. It’s also called Hell Hound. Or even the personification of death and lightning. Its abilities are extremely powerful and on top of that it’s good at everything.”
“First of all, it has the agility of a wolf. Fangs and claws. Sharp instincts. Plus, it generates electricity from its fur and can either clad its whole body in it or fire it off. It is even able to use long range attacks. It’s an opponent you can neither keep close nor far.”
“That alone makes it scary enough for me… So, what about the main [Wand]?”
“…If I remember correctly, then Kiruru-san has a gauntlet, but I don’t know the details of its abilities.”
“Its abilities are of the lightning school, if I’m not mistaken. But I’ve never seen it in practice, you know?”
“That girl wasn’t that enthusiastic during practical lessons. She was absent in the last mock battle too.”
Simply put, they didn’t know how Kiruru fought.
Although he had really gotten into polishing his own skills, in reality Hayate still wasn’t too familiar with fighting himself.
“Well, shall we try it without getting too serious for the time being?”
“Nope, if we’re doing it, we’re doing it right. Turn everything into charcoal, don’t spare a speck of dust.”
“…Ever wondered whether you not having friends is because of that personality of yours?”
Well, people had also been biased due to her family incidents in the past.
Or did she get this personality because people were holding these prejudices to begin with?
Offensive speech and conduct to defend herself from the surrounding malice.
Offense is the best defense.
Defeating her enemies crushingly.
That’s why she bares her fangs at anyone without a concern…
At least, they were able use the outdoor battlezone now, thanks to these girls.
He thought that it’d probably be fine if she opened her heart to other people – even if it was just a bit.
As he pondered, a bolt of electricity went to the ceiling on the edge of the western wall.
Kiruru had arrived at her starting point.
Almost simultaneously, Hayate and Sherry had also arrived at the edge of the eastern wall.
“We have to send a signal like that too, right? Hurry up.”
Sherry presented her contract mark in her cleavage to Hayate.
Saying that, he extended his hand near her breasts while getting nervous as expected.
Hayate stiffened his contract-mark-bearing right hand and placed it on Sherry’s breasts.
He yelled the same phrase as before and pulled out the flame sword while Sherry’s suffocating voice echoed.
Similar to the time when he battled Victoria, power flowed into him from the sword again, but…
“…? What’s wrong?”
What’s going on… Something feels out of place.
Something like a strange ‘gap’, which he hadn’t noticed in the battle with Victoria—— Had it been there from the start? Or was it the first time now? He couldn’t tell.
However, it was weird for sure.
It was a feeling that something was lacking.
He didn’t know what it was yet, but… for now, Hayate decided to ignore this out-of-place feeling. He had to concentrate on the combat practice at hand.
“Let’s start then.”
“Ready any time.”
Hayate pointed the flame sword to the heavens and released a pillar of fire.
That was the starting signal.
“O those who dance in the wind, bestow thy blessing unto me which doth releases my link with thy earth—— [Himmelsschritt].”
First of all, Sherry secured her own mobility through magic.
Once he confirmed she was ready, Hayate shouldered his sword and sprinted off. Before long, Sherry caught up to him him with her feet slightly floating above the ground as she glided with her magic.
Next, to proceed head-on, they rushed into the artificial forest that they had passed through in the blink of an eye moments ago.
“How do you think they will attack us?”
“The Black Beast excels at close and ranged combat, so their tactical freedom’s diverse.”
“Trying to get into close combat as much as I can would be fine, right?”
He might’ve been able to send flames out of his sword, but it lacked accuracy.
“Well, first of all we have to locate Kiruru-san’s whereabouts.”
Hayate and Sherry were without doubt inferior to normal contract beasts when it came to their tracking abilities.
If the Black Beast didn’t just have the agility of a wolf, but also its sense of smell, then surely the first move would be made by Kiruru and company. So the problem was how to brace themselves for the preemptive attack and how best to counter it.
Going by that, the artificial forest was a troublesome place as it made it hard to secure a clear vision, but…
“Should we burn the obstacles to ashes, I wonder?”
“Wouldn’t that make people angry?!”
“But it’d be fine if it was a real fight, wouldn’t it?”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if we could turn them to ashes in an instant, but burning down real trees takes quite some time, right…? The path would be blocked by the fire and our vision would be hazy, wouldn’t that just cause another problem for us?”
“When you put it like that, it might be true.”
“Hayate is pretty audacious for his social standing.”
“Huh? Are you insulting me?”
It’s so absurd.
I seem to have gotten used to it…
While he was running and clearing away the branches, he saw something bright in the corner of his eye.
He pruned it with his flame sword by reflex.
Light and fire collided, a thunderous roar scattered.
“Was that lightning just now?!”
He had expected to be attacked by something like that, but he didn’t expect it to be that powerful!
One light after another flickered.
The lightning attacks came at the speed of light and consequently exceeded sound of the cracking lash.
Even with his intensified kinetic vision from [Seele], the best he could do was react and deflect.
“Why can they see us, when we can’t see them?!”
“Probably thanks to the Black Beast’s nose, right? It can track our whereabouts by smell.”
Plus, it seemed that Kiruru was firing thunderbolts on the move, as the attacks didn’t come from the same direction twice.
He was probably about to have his whole body pierced by tens of thousands of volts in the next instant and collapse.
“Just as I thought, isn’t it? Completely relying on long-distance attacks. She intends to not let us get close.”
Sherry’s gaze grew grim while she was safe behind Hayate’s back.
“Does this look like the time to be calmly analyzing them?! What are we going to do?! If this keeps up, we gonna get sniped!”
“Her method’s good, you know?”
“Even if the Black Beast is a superior contract beast, keeping up mobility while aiming at the opponent and releasing lightning attacks creates a lag effect. On top of that, they bend the lightning to hit us and avoid the trees, so any return fire we send won’t reach them in time.”
So were the lightning attacks just now not travelling at the speed of light?
Thanks to that, Hayate had a chance to react.
“Everything else is just a guess, but Kiruru seems to be moving together with the Black Beast.”
“She’s riding on the back of the dog?”
“Yeah. If they’re making separate actions, it doesn’t matter if Kiruru’s [Wand] is short-range or long-range, it will have greater affect with her contract beast if they remain close together”
Speaking of which, the attacks from earlier seemed to have been long distance thunder.
“I vaguely figured out that girl’s ‘disposition’.”
“…It’s fine if you gloat, but… WHAT AM I GONNA DO HERE?!”
Hayate screamed while still defending against the oncoming lightning attacks.
“Wait a second.”
Sherry commanded and started to chant a spell.
“O those who doth reside in the crowns of the giant tree, by thy eyes that foresee all creation, reveal to me the paths of my enemies——”
With the sound of freezing air, a globe out of ice formed in front of Sherry.
When her chant ended, the completed ice mass floated lightly in the air and started to revolve slowly.
“[Hræsvelgrei]. Like its name suggests, it’s magic to detect the enemy.”
Apparently, in the sphere exactly 12 faces could be seen. Once the enemy’s presence—— temperature, respiration, static electricity, and so on—— was detected, the caster was informed about their whereabouts by a light.
“What’s with that? So there’s magic that can properly track down the enemy too? Then…”
“The problem is that [Hræsvelgrei]’s effective range has a ten meter radius.”
“…Only that much…”
No matter how he looked at it, the enemy was attacking from farther away. It was utterly useless.
“Well, if [Hræsvelgrei] was such a convenient a spell, then no one would be bad at tracking their opponents. So pray that Kiruru-san steps into the effective range by chance while you’re putting up with it.”
“PUTTING UP WITH IT ISN’T MY ROLE HERE, IS IT!”
Just telling me to is easy, damn it!
While repelling the lightning attacks with his flame sword, he moved randomly and simply prayed that [Hræsvelgrei] would detect Kiruru.
His eyes had gotten used to seeing a good deal of lightning attacks, but it felt like they were being cast from far away.
Although a good deal of the opponent’s attacks came from the contract beast, Hayate was alone to…
Hm? Wait a sec.
At that moment, a genius idea came to Hayate’s mind.
Aria was sitting on a well-shaped rock on the edge of the outdoors battle area while Hayate, Sherry, and Kiruru carried out their fight.
The current situation between Hayate, Sherry, and Kiruru was reflected on the screen in front of her, which the Miming projected into the sky. The picture was more vivid than what [Clairvoyance] magic could do. And besides that, the angle of the [Clairvoyance] broadcast was fixated, whereas the Miming could move freely in the area and follow their movements.
This broadcast was possible because of a mechanism called ‘Machina’, that was arranged in the body of the Miming – her contract beast—— For instance, the Black Beast could shoot lightning and used who-knew-how-much of Kiruru’s magical power. But Machina moved without magical power. So assuming Aria completely ran out of magical power, Miria would still be able to completely display its ability.
However, there was a downside too. For example, it was possible to increase the strength of the thunder attacks by increasing the amount of magical power the Black Beast received, but that wasn’t the case for Machine Spirits. In exchange for not consuming magical power, its scale was fixed. That’s the reason Machine Spirits were called special among contract beasts.
In a certain country, attention had been drawn to the mechanism that could always put out the same results, and human-like devices that imitated the construction of Machine Spirits were being developed, but…
Back to topic.
Thanks to the Miming’s ability, even with Aria sitting in the corner of the zone like this, it was perfectly possible for her to observe the fight between the two teams.
“Hayate-kun is thinking up something interesting, huh?”
Aria expressed a pleased smile as she was watching Hayate and Sherry’s movements on the main screen.
They were trying to refine the [Hræsvelgrei] magic while they were taking cover at the roots of a tree.
“In that case, what does Kiruru do…?”
In an instant, Aria revealed a solitary wry smile.
“You’ll lose like that, you know…”
Kiruru saw the ice mass in the sky and made a puzzled expression.
[Hræsvelgrei] remote control…? But something like this…
Kiruru knew that it was possible to send [Hræsvelgrei] flying into the distance.
However, [Hræsvelgrei] was magic that notified the user about the whereabouts of the enemy by using light. In that case, it was of course meaningless if the user couldn’t see said light. Even if they sent [Hræsvelgrei] flying into the distance inside the artificial forest, the tracking light would be blocked by the trees.
Capturing Kiruru and the Black Beast in its effective range, [Hræsvelgrei] twinkled glaringly bright. However, the others were in no place to see the signal light.
Well, just to make sure…
Kiruru signalled the Black Beast to leave.
In keen and nimble movements the [Hræsvelgrei] couldn’t follow at all, they were nowhere to be seen in the blink of an eye.
——But that relief lasted only for an instant.
“…! [Hræsvelgrei] here too?!”
A new [Hræsvelgrei] had materialized ahead, twinkled, and started to signal Kiruru’s whereabouts.
It looked like several [Hræsvelgrei] had been created, and as they spread out, several of them were about to discover their position. However, spells were limited by the magical power humans could put out at once. The number of [Hræsvelgrei] that can be deployed at the same time should be limited to around ten.
But first and foremost, if the light couldn’t be seen by the caster, it held no…
At that time, Kiruru discovered more and more [Hræsvelgrei] floating in the air. Two more ice masses opened in space and were being deployed, and the light of the [Hræsvelgrei] that had detected her was reflected by another [Hræsvelgrei] positioned fairly distant from the first. That light, on the other hand, was dispatched to another and another…
They were using [Hræsvelgrei] to look for other [Hræsvelgrei]…?!
It was a way to use [Hræsvelgrei] that she had never dreamed of.
——Hexenritter neglected magic to begin with. They used [Wand]s and contract beasts as the far superior weapons after all. The idea of scheming magic, was unnecessary, to be honest.
After Kiruru had wasted several seconds being dumbfounded, she finally realized that she should destroy the [Hræsvelgrei].
However, the conclusion came too late——
“DAA—! That’s the wrong direction!”
A boy’s voice she had heard before.
[Hræsvelgrei] signaled the location of the enemy by the frequency of its flickering light—— Going by what he had said, he had likely messed up the reading and where to go.
However, he had caught up with her.
As Kiruru watched, the leaves and branches above her incinerated instantly, then, through the clearing, a boy landed in front of her eyes.
It seemed like he had moved by jumping from branch to branch, as he had leaves and spider nests sticking to his face. Hayate then focused on Kiruru with the flame sword in his hand.
He probably didn’t have any ill intent, but Kiruru couldn’t help but let out a small scream.
She knew that it was nothing but training. And she knew that the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] operated inside the training ground facilities. However, her hands and feed stiffened and she unconsciously started to cling to her own contract beast. That inhibited the Black Beast.
The Black Beast stood ready to defend its master and risk its life, but it was an impossible task with that kind of luggage.
Then. Hayate shortened the distance one step at a time, approaching the girl with a sword that emitted sparks——
“——And that’s enough, right?”
“The training’s over, that’s what I mean.”
Hayate drew back his sword just before it hit Kiruru and dispelled the tension.
Maybe because she understood the meaning of those words several seconds later, the strength suddenly left her arms and legs and the stiffness in her expression vanished.
I stopped just before doing it, did I scare her more than I intended to…?
“Are you alright?”
With a small nod, Kiruru tried to dismount from the Black Beast, but strangely, maybe because her strength had left her, her knees gave in when her feet touched the ground.
Not missing a beat, Hayate slid to her to help.
He hit his head on a tree root…
However, Kiruru was safe, so it was worth it.
Her small body was fidgeting in Hayate’s arms.
She really was as cute as a small animal.
While he was thinking something along those lines…
“——I wonder, what are you doing – having a secret affair once your master isn’t around?”
Before he knew it, Sherry had appeared, folded her arms, and looked down on the two of them who were embracing each other.
“That’s not it! I just wanted to save her!”
“When we get back to the room, you will be punished.”
Hayate realized that his explanation was ignored and heaved a ‘can’t help it’ kind of sigh.
“Eeehm, what’s going on here?”
Aria, the judge, appeared and tilted her head at the downhearted Hayate, who had won the mock battle in one way or another.
——After all of the battles were over, it was time for the next group to use the area, so they wrapped up practice for the day.
“Well then, shall we head to the ‘Berry-in Café’ once we wash off our sweat?”
He had completely forgotten that there was still more work to do.
For the next week, since classes were finishing before noon, they went to the outdoor and mock battle area with Aria and Kiruru and practiced like crazy everyday. And once practice was over, they headed straight to work. It was a tight schedule, over and over again.
They dropped dead every night, but… thanks to the training, he gotten used to [Seele], and on occasion he had been able to serve up food in about three seconds – the fruits of his labor, in a way.
Sherry also succeeded in improving her [Hræsvelgrei] surveillance network, so as the midterms drew closer, their preparations were making gradual progress.
Swinging the flame sword around feels familiar in my hands… but something’s still lacking…
That weird out-of-place feeling he had when he drew out [Seele] hadn’t disappeared.
On another day after training, Hayate strolled in the dorm’s courtyard. Sherry was taking a shower in her room right now, so he had time to kill.
While he was at it, he thought about that ‘lacking’ feeling, but he still couldn’t find an answer. This whole lacking matter was just a feeling, so even if he consulted someone about it, he wouldn’t know how to explain it.
Maybe the answer to it was among his lost memories, but… in any case, as Hayate was right now, he wouldn’t know.
When he was about to return to Sherry’s room because it was almost time for work, he suddenly discovered the shade of a familiar face sitting in the shadow of the stairs, hiding themselves.
They had only just parted ways after their training session.
What is she doing there…?
When she raised her voice, Kiruru stood up flustered and stepped out of the shadows.
The area around her eyes seemed to be red…
Kiruru started to get flustered, her hands were shaking.
She had tried to dodge him and was caught out.
“If you’re fine with it, you can consult me, okay? You see, as thanks for the training and stuff.”
Kiruru seemed to hesitate for a moment, but when she saw Hayate not budging an inch, she soon seemed to give up… Nervously, she opened her mouth.
“That’s… I couldn’t beat you during practice today either, so I’m feeling uneasy with the test in three days…”
Hayate had been really worried about that.
Indeed, it was hard to talk about it…
This week, Hayate and Sherry with Kiruru and Aria—— Or rather, Aria had stuck to being the referee, so they had basically done their combat training with Kiruru only. And Hayate and Sherry had won for the most part.
With the test in only three days, it’d be weirder not to worry about it.
Hayate could be said to be the cause of Kiruru’s worries in a way, so he didn’t know what to say to her.
While he was like that, she continued from where she had left off.
“I’m no good after all… When I fight, I get scared. My head knows that there’s the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] so I should be fine, but once things get serious, my legs turn to jelly and…”
While expressing a self-torturing smile, Kiruru stroke the head of her Black Beast.
Like that, her contract beast raised a worried wail.
Fighting is scary… huh?
It was related to the effect the [Divine Protection of Valhalla] had to ‘people without the intent to fight’.
If one faltered at the sight of injuries anyway, were they who were afraid of fighting really warriors?—— That doubt invited even more fear and weakened one’s will to fight. A downward spiral.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t neglect a worrying girl in front of him.
Scratching his cheek, Hayate searched for the right words.
“Well… that’s… somehow… I think it’d be fine even if you didn’t rush it.”
“It’s only natural to be afraid of fights, right? Even I was afraid at the beginning.”
“Natural…? But I’m a hexenritter.”
“Hexenritter or not, aren’t you still a girl? Being afraid is only…”
Wait, women aren’t the weaker sex in this world. Talking about my own value system of men and women would miss the point…
Hayate got flustered for a moment, but Kiruru had heard those words and stared in amazement.
She was probably shocked by his value system which was totally off from common sense in this world.
“Ehm… Then how did Hayate-san overcome his fear?”
Hayate thought about it for a second…
“By finding a ‘reason to fight’, I guess…”
“If you find it too, I’m sure your fears will disappear.”
At the time of the mock battle, Hayate, with his wobbly legs, had broken into a run to save Sherry.
“Hayate, what are you doing? Let’s get going already.”
At that time, Sherry came down the stairs and raised her voice – Hayate turned around.
It appeared that while he was in deep talk with Kiruru, she had finished taking her shower.
“My bad. Looks like it’s time to work.”
“Ah… is that so…”
Kiruru hung her head in plain disappointment.
When she hung her head like that, it left him with a complicated bad aftertaste: like she was some forsaken and incomplete figure.
Hayate secretly brought his face close to hers.
“You can come ask me for advice until the exam is over. Come to my room any time.”
“EEH—?! T-TO HAYATE-SAN’S ROOM?!”
Surprised by the somewhat loud voice, Hayate distanced himself from Kiruru by reflex.”
“No, I did say my room, but it’s not mine, it’s actually Sherry’s…”
Hayate corrected her just to be sure, but Kiruru didn’t hear him as she had already left on a journey.
“Being called into a boy’s room… a young boy and girl, in a locked room… just the two of us…”
She muttered something in a very small voice.
“HAYATE! Hurry up already!”
“Y-Yeah! Well then, I’ll be going.”
Hayate was afraid to be late and consequently be scolded by Sherry, so he left Kiruru in a hurried manner and chased after Sherry, who had already gone ahead.
Behind him, Kiruru remained where she was, but she already fallen inside her usual dream world.
“Ah—! D-Don’t, not there… It’s my first time…”
The Black Beast, who had worried about his master for some time, gave an anxious cry for a vastly different reason this time.
Watching over them from the shadows of the dorm was a duo consisting of a human and small animal.
“Why am I even doing this…”
It was Victoria and Lindis. Though, one could say that Victoria was the main culprit here; the winged serpent was just following its master.
On that point, somehow things had turned into Victoria having been spying on Hayate and the others like that for one week.
If one asked why a girl of nobility would commit such an unbefitting deed…
It’s all that man’s fault…!
Victoria resented without voicing it aloud.
The reason was that one week ago – in other words, on the day everyone had been divided into groups – Victoria had thought about trying to call out to Hayate and Sherry.
But before Victoria could do that, Aria and Kiruru had already talked to them, and in the end she couldn’t voice her deeply merciful proposal, but… it had kept bothering her for some reason and she had ended up observing them secretly like this.
As a matter of fact, Victoria didn’t know herself why she had gone this far.
Maybe because she didn’t want her head to acknowledge that emotion which was perhaps beginning to sprout in her heart…?
“N-Never! I simply wanted to invite that man precisely because I want to return the favor from the mock battle during the test! And for that sake, my chivalrous heart thought that I should then prepare him neatly for that matter, I’ve done nothing to feel guilty about!”
Therefore her current deed should be just.
Shouldn’t he rather praise her thoughtfulness, bow his head, and rely on her mercy?
I’m racking my brain like this for him! And yet when it comes to that man, he just won’t understand me, goes with Sherry-san and… it’s not just that, he’s even getting along with Aria-san and Kiruru-san!
The more she thought about it, the angrier she got.
“If it’s like this, then I’ll definitely do it! I’ll teach that man a lesson in the test!”
The girl had started a soliloquy all of a sudden and received a worried look from her contract beast.
Translator notes and references
Please note that the sound of this is suspiciously close to “saa” which means “Dunno…/Beats me…”.