My old friend Flin stared at me, rooted to the spot.
I stared at my old friend Flim, rooted to the spot.
We suddenly reunited after ten years, so it was no wonder that it took us time to process what was happening.
“…Um, would you two happen to be acquaintances?”
Laura, who was out of the loop, timidly asked us a question.
“Huh, ah, yeah.”
It was Flin who responded.
“I know Albert from our school days—”
“Wait a second.”
I interrupted Flin.
“Sorry, Laura. Could you step out for a bit? I’ll tell you some other time.”
“Yes! It’s alright! Well then, I’ll be on my way!”
Laura quickly exited the cafeteria after speaking.
I did something awful to Laura…
However, I still couldn’t bring myself to tell her about it.
To talk about my relationship with Flin meant that I’d need to tell her I was once an academy student.
I’d need to tell her how I failed the first time around—
Deep down, I still had yet to get over it.
I probably need to tell her one day.
Laura told me about her own lineage, after all.
I have an obligation to do the same.
However, I didn’t want to do it today. It’s not something I wanted to readily talk about out of nowhere.
Flin sat in the seat where Laura once was.
“It’s been a while, Albert.”
“I guess so… I never thought… I’d meet you here…”
“It’s not that surprising, you know? There’s a surprising amount of cases where graduates work at their former academies.”
Flin changed the subject.
“So you came back to the academy, huh.”
“…Yeah. Lot’s of things happened…”
“You haven’t told Laura about it? Your return?”
“I haven’t… My past isn’t something I can talk proudly about, after all.”
Flin nodded her head in agreement.
“I understand. I won’t say anything then, not even to the academy. There are still teachers from ten years ago, but—I don’t think anyone’s caught on yet.”
“However, I know how you tried your best back then. I don’t think it’s something to really be embarrassed about, you know.”
“…The reality is that I ran.”
I shook my head.
“I’m sorry—I couldn’t live up to your guys’ expectations ten years ago.”
“It’s fine… I’m glad that we got to meet again—and I’m glad you didn’t give up on magic.”
Flin gave me a sweet smile.
Then, she presented the envelope to me, which was left on the table.
“That’s right. I forgot, but here. Make sure you come along to the water quality investigation too.”
“…You’re not gonna ask me if I can fit it into my schedule?”
“Yup, since you’re being forced to participate.”
After telling me that with a smile, she stiffened her face and spoke in a whisper.
“…They mean business by this, you know.”
“…What do you mean?”
“I’ll tell you because it’s you, but keep this a secret, alright?”
Flin pointed her index finger upwards.
“Laura was just an accidental omission, but you were suddenly forced in on orders from the higher-ups—make absolutely sure he participates, they said.”
“This is the Royal Magic Academy—meaning, it’s an order from the kingdom.”
Flin shook her head.
“I don’t know any more than that, though. Did you do anything that’d get the attention of the kingdom, Albert?”
“I wonder… It’s always been my intention to lead a pure, proper life.”
This was strange.
A student as mediocre as myself would be added to an elite unit of surveyors—not to mention by orders from the kingdom.
…I didn’t get what was happening in the slightest. I couldn’t think of anything that would’ve made this happen.
Flin laughed with a chuckle.
“Well, who cares! A chance is a chance, after all! Capitalize on it and spread your wings!”
“I’ll try and give it my best shot.”
I put the envelope aside.
“By the way, is Lucard doing alright?”
I spoke the name of my other friend.
I’ve severed ties with Lucard, but I was hoping that Flin would still be in touch with him. However—
Flin shook her head with a sad expression.
“He’s gone already.”
“Lucard died five years ago.”
Lucard… is dead?
“Just as he wished for, he became a Magic Knight. He had talent and a good track record—he was the pride of our generation. However, he took part in a certain mission—and he never came back.”
I couldn’t imagine it in the slightest. That same Lucard, with his huge, sturdy physique… To me, Lucard was an existence that lived in a separate plane from death.
That same Lucard…
He was only 21 years old.
“I can’t believe it…”
“Yeah. No one knows what life has in store for them. Who would’ve known that a disaster like that would befall Lucard…”
Flin breathed a long sigh.
“You should be careful too, Albert. I’m worried about what we just talked about.”
“You’re right. I’ll be careful.”
There laid a sanctuary, the insides dimly lit.
A large, black flame burned violently on top of an altar.
A single man stood in front of the flame.
Standing in front of the flame, he single-mindedly chanted an incantation. With every word that escaped his lips, the jet-black flame grew stronger.
It was as if the flame was consuming the incantation itself—
After finishing his incantation, the man took a step backward.
He clad himself in a black robe adorned with silver and gold threads. His face—
The upper part of his face was concealed by a mask.
Thud—The sound of footsteps echoed throughout the sanctuary, and a presence materialized behind him.
“My, you’ve been making quite the effort, day after day.”
It was a small-statured elderly man. He wore a snug hood as if to cloak the absolute entirety of his head.
“The time is nearly ripe—We of Darkness will no longer lurk in obscurity. There’s no time for fun and games.”
“Those are welcome words.”
The elderly man bowed his head with a snap.
“Lord Lucard—have you resolved yourself to bathe the kingdom that once raised you in darkness once more?”
“Do not call me by that name—I’ve cast it aside. I’ve already resolved myself since five years ago.”
“My oh my. I’ve done you a discourtesy by testing your powerful resoluteness. Do forgive me, oh Son of Darkness.”
Then, the elderly man continued.
“May the Age of Darkness befall anew.”
“May the Age of Darkness befall anew.”
After responding like so, Lucard turned around and walked to the interior of the building.
For some reason, the figures of Lucard’s two friends from his school days suddenly floated to the back of his mind. They were engulfed by the smoldering flames of darkness.
It was a sorrowful spectacle, but—
Lucard felt nothing.
Today’s first chapter. Next chapter coming later today.