PROFESSOR GLORY’S POV:
I’m too late! Damn it! What happened to her? Why did she suddenly collapse? Is something wrong with her mana core? Why now?
I could only watch in horror as Prince Curtis’ breath attack made its way towards Princess Tessia. With absolute no defenses around her, would she live? If so, would she even be able to continue being a mage? Forget mage—she might have to live crippled for the rest of her life!
I could feel tears well up in my eyes as I desperately made my way towards them, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it. What would the consequences be? I would be happy if it just ended with me getting fired. I was more concerned that this would start a civil war. During this important time in the continent, was I going to be the cause of the split between the three races?
As Curtis’ World Howl engulfed the princess, I screamed in dread. A look of shock crossed Prince Glayder’s face as he realized after releasing his attack that Tessia was already unconscious. There was no way, though. There was no way to stop the attack.
After what seemed like hours, the beam slowly dissipated, and what I saw shocked me even more than the worst possible scenario I imagined.
In utter incredulity, I just stammered. “A-A-Arthur Leywin?”
How the hell did he get there? Just moments ago, he was occupied with Lucas inside Inferno’s Cage. Instant teleportation? Was that even possible?
No… no no… no… that wasn’t possible.
I jumped off of Torch as soon as I got close enough and rushed towards Arthur and Princess Tessia. Arthur was in bad shape. Most of his clothes were disintegrated, with only patches of his uniform intact and a strange bandage around his left arm. He was bloody all over and I could see deep gashes near his sides where a rib bone was visible. His body was wrapped around the princess and from what I could tell; he’d used most of his mana to protect her. Thanks to that, she was almost unscathed.
The rest of the students all rushed out of the viewing platform and made their way here. Fortunately, the princess was okay, but Arthur needed immediate attention. But as soon as I got close enough to try and help them, Arthur’s little bond stopped me in my tracks.
“Grrr…” Normally, I’d find the small white fox that rode on top of Arthur’s head cute, but right now, the killing intent it was giving off was anything but. The amount of pure menace radiating from that little fox was no joke. It seemed to be protecting its master and Princess Tessia.
“It’s okay little buddy, I’m only trying to help.” I tried to slowly ease my way closer but its growl only got louder. Torch, who was normally unafraid even in the chaos of battle, held me back with her beak clutching the back of my shirt.
“P-Professor, I-I didn’t mean to. I mean, I didn’t think Princess Tessia would suddenly faint.” Curtis ran to me, his face pale in fright.
“It’s alright, I know. I don’t know how, but Arthur managed to protect the Princess. His bond won’t let me get close to them though.” I clenched my fists in frustration. Arthur needed immediate attention. Why was his bond risking his master’s life by doing this? What was it trying to protect?
Curtis tried to get to Arthur and Tessia but failed as well, so we all just stood around the two of them. Every attempt at getting even a step closer to Arthur and Tessia resulted in the bond lashing out at us. “Someone get Director Goodsky!” I barked out. Some of the students regained their senses but when they were about to leave, a loud screech filled the air.
From above, a green owl soared down and landed in front of Arthur’s bond.
“A-Are they communicating?” Prince Glayder couldn’t help but stammer out in confusion.
“I-I think so?” I scratched my head at this. Could mana beasts of different species communicate with each other?
As we all stood there, watching a white fox and a green owl ‘talk’, a couple of minutes later, Director Goodsky arrived looking quite flustered.
“Oh my.” She kneeled in front of the two of them but this time, Arthur’s bond didn’t do anything to stop her.
“Director Goodsky…” Before I had the chance to tell her what happened, she stopped me.
“Please. I’ll hear what happened later. Taking these two to the infirmary is top priority. I will take them myself. Go contact Guild Hall and have them send over their top healers,” she said while levitating Arthur and the princess.
I gave her a nod before getting on top of Torch.
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
“COUGH! COUGH! Aughh…”
I woke up to a jolt of searing pain throughout my side, causing me to erupt in a fit of coughs. My whole body felt immersed in a concoction of different kinds of pain, from the stabbing pain to the burning pain to the throbbing pain with the occasional tearing pain radiating over my entire body.
Without the strength to even scream, I was left gritting my teeth as I clenched the side of the bed I was lying on.
They really needed to hurry up and invent anesthesia.
A few minutes later as I got a little more used to the agony my body was in; I feebly turned my head to see Sylvie sleeping next to me.
“How are you feeling, Arthur?” Director Goodsky’s familiar voice came from the other side of the bed.
Without the strength to turn my head again, I whimpered, “Never better. Why do you ask?”
“If you have the will to answer sarcastically, I’m sure you’ll be okay,” she chuckled
If I had the strength to roll my eyes at her, I would have.
“How’s Tessia?” I asked, my voice hoarse.
“Well, good news is, Tessia is in a much better state than you.” She let out a sigh.
“…Her body can’t handle her beast will, right?”
“How did you know?” Director Goodsky came around so she could face me completely.
“Because I was the one that gave the beast will to her.” I tried to sit up but the pain from my body made me stop almost immediately.
Continuing what I was saying, I gritted my teeth to bear the pain. “Make sure no one knows that Tessia has a beast will, at least for now. I’d help Tessia with the assimilation myself if I was able to but I’ll leave her to you.” I could tell she wanted to ask more questions but she held back for my sake.
“Once I got you both back into infirmary, I didn’t let anyone else see either of you besides the healers. I contacted the royal family, as well as your own, though. They should be coming soon. I assumed that she acquired the beast will from Virion but to think it was from you…Get some rest, Arthur. Though your body is unusually strong and I don’t think there will be any repercussions from moving around soon, it’s better to be safe than sorry.” She headed to the door but turned back before leaving. “Thank you for saving Tessia.”
I gave her a weak smile as I slumped back to sleep.
The next time I stirred awake was from Sylvie licking my cheek. ‘Papa, are you feeling better now?’
I must’ve been having a nightmare because I was drenched in sweat.
“Honey! Art is awake!” I heard my mother’s voice to my left.
Turning my head was a lot easier if I ignored the pain.
“Hey Mom, when’d you guys get here?” I gave her the best smile I could muster up.
“Are you okay? Director Goodsky didn’t really tell us what happened yet. How did you get hurt so badly on the first day of school?!” I could tell she wanted to hug me but she held herself back after realizing I probably wasn’t in the best state for that.
My sister rushed to the other side of the bed and leaned forward. “Brother!! Are you okay now? Does it hurt?” My eyes widened in horror as I noticed that she was about to place her hand on my body to probe me but before she was able to, Mother stopped her.
“You’re already getting into fights, Son?” my father smirked.
“You should see how the other guy looks,” I grinned back, making him laugh.
My mother just gasped at this and started actually imagining what the other person must look like.
“He’s only joking, Mrs. Leywin.” Coming in through the door was Director Goodsky with the whole Eralith family, including Tess, who was looking a lot better.
“Th-This…” My father took a step back in surprise as my mother gasped, covering her mouth.
“Pleased to finally make your acquaintance, Mr. and Mrs. Leywin,” Alduin Eralith, Tessia’s father and the former king of Elenoir, grabbed my stunned father’s hand and shook it.
“We have always wanted to meet the parents of Arthur. It is such a pleasure to meet you in person.” Merial, the former queen of Elenoir and Tessia’s mother, Merial Eralith hugged my mother, who still had her hands over her mouth in disbelief.
Merial then went to Ellie and patted her head gently. “You must be Arthur’s little sister. You’re so adorable!”
“I-I saw you guys at the announcement a couple of months back…” My father’s speaking skills seemed to drastically decline in front of them, which I found surprising since they didn’t react this much even towards the king and queen of Sapin.
“Greetings. I go by Virion Eralith, and I am your son’s former teacher.” He shot me a cheeky grin as he grasped my father’s hand.
Without the energy to even retort, I just smiled helplessly back as my father and mother’s gazes switched back and forth between the Eralith family and me.
“H-H-H-Hello! My name is Tessia Eralith. It’s a pleasure to m-meet you! Please take care of me! I’m Arthur’s childhood f-f-friend and I’m not sure if he talked about me with you but I really am!” Tessia bowed so her body was at a full ninety-degree angle, her voice a mixture of respect and panic. She quickly got back up with her hair draping over most of her face and as she tried to fix her hair, I could see her face becoming more and more red.
At this, my parents became a bit more surprised, but my mother looked at me with a coy smile that suggested she was onto something and kneeled in front of Tess.
“I see. Well aren’t you the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. Please take good care of my son. As you may know, he’s the type to get into trouble a lot, so it’ll really help me if I know he has someone like you next to him, now and in the future.” My mother shot her a wink as she stroked Tess’ hair.
I wasn’t really sure what Tess really heard but she was definitely overthinking everything. Eyes widening as her already red face turned a shade brighter, she responded in a voice that was an octave higher than usual. “Y-YESS!!!” she beamed while nodding vigorously.
My father was still clueless as to what was going on but I could only internally groan. Leave it to my mother to instill misleading thoughts like this in a thirteen-year-old girl.
After getting back up, both my mother and Merial broke out into a fit of giggles while my sister began pouting, presumably because our mother said that Tess was the prettiest girl she’d ever seen.
“How are you feeling, brat?” Virion took a seat on the edge of the bed as he gave a pat to Sylvie who went back to sleep. Tess, regaining her senses, walked up to me too with a worried expression.
“Heh…I can beat you in a fight right now, Gramps.” I tried to hold in the coughs that were about to come out but I couldn’t.
“I’m so sorry, Art. If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have been…” I stopped her mid-sentence and poked her gently between her eyebrows with my finger.
“Don’t furrow your brows, Tess. Your face will turn ugly.” As the strength in my arm gave out, I slumped back down and took a deep breath.
“Gramps, did you take a look at Tess’ mana core? How’s everything looking?” I couldn’t help but be worried since I knew exactly what she was going through.
He gave me a soft smile. “Luckily, her body seems to be a lot more compatible with the beast core than your body was when you first integrated. By the way… How the hell did you manage to pick up an elderwood guardian’s beast core?” He leaned in forward and spoke in a hushed voice.
“By killing one, of course.” I gave him a weak smirk.
“You’re joking…no…you’re joking, right? You’re telling me that you killed an S class mana beast?” Grampa’s usually stern face was round in astonishment as he got even closer, our faces almost touching.
“You’re too close, Gramps. I can smell what you had for your last meal…wait. How long have I been out for?” I couldn’t get a grasp on how much time had passed.
“From what Cynthia told me, it’s been a bit more than a day since you passed out. You missed your second day of class.” He let out a sigh.
“Oh no… I guess I can forget about shooting for perfect attendance…” I gave a weak elbow to his arm, making him chuckle.
Tessia giggled as well as she took a seat on the bed too.
“I’m telling you! I’m Arthur Leywin’s best friend! We’re like brothers! If I can’t visit him, then who can? I’m telling you, it’s true!!” I heard a familiar voice echo in the distance and I couldn’t help but chortle at my friend.
Director Goodsky, hearing this as well, signaled to the security to let him through.
“ARTHUR! You okay, man?” He rushed towards me, totally oblivious to the other people in the room.
“You’re late. And you didn’t even bring any food with you?” Letting out an exaggerated sigh, I just slightly shook my head.
“Haaa… I guess you’re fine if you can talk like that.” Elijah let out a sigh as relief washed over his face.
I started smiling as his head came back up and recognized who the other people in the room were. My friend’s face contorted from relief to terror as he realized that, besides my family, the Director of the academy and the whole Royal Family of the Kingdom of Elenoir were also in the room.
“Uhh…oh my…” His slack jaw failed to form words.
“Pfft, Hahaha…oww…haha!” My stomach felt like it was being wrangled as I couldn’t stop laughing.
“Gramps, Mr. and Mrs. Eralith, I’d like you to meet my closest friend, Elijah.”
“P-Pleased to meet you! Sorry for being so rude just now!” Elijah immediately bowed, almost dropping his glasses.
After everyone got acquainted with each other, my parents continued to chat with Tess’ parents at the other side of the room. Gramps finally left me alone and started catching up with Director Goodsky after wringing me of all the details and telling me to make time for him once I’m better to further discuss everything else.
“Brother. Who’s prettier, me or her?” Ellie pointed at Tess and gave me a serious look.
“You guys are both pretty ugly to me.” I just shrugged helplessly but I regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth.
“OWW! That seriously hurts right now!” I groaned as the both of them pinched and twisted the skin on my arm.
“Tess, like I said, Elijah is a close friend of mine. You guys should get along.” I said through gritted teeth, my arm still throbbing, moreso from the state of my body than the power of my sister and Tess’ pinches.
“Sorry, I never formally introduced myself to you. I’m Tessia Eralith, Arthur’s closest friend.” She stuck out her hand and as Elijah accepted her handshake, he responded, “I’m Elijah, Arthur’s best friend. Nice to meet you.” Sparks flew between them as they glared at each other in competition.
I just rolled my eyes as my sister giggled. I was getting tired from being awake for even this long, my eyelids beginning to weigh down heavily.
Director Goodsky, noticing this, announced to everyone, “Now! I think we should give Arthur some more time to rest. His life isn’t in danger but he should be very tired right now.”
“Son, come visit home after you’re all healed up, okay?” My father grasped my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze before herding my family out.
“Get plenty of rest. Okay, dear?” my mother said as she headed out. Tess’ parents said their brief goodbyes while patting me softly on the arm before following out after my parents.
“We’ll catch up soon, brat.” Virion ruffled my hair, making me wince, and towed Tess and Elijah out with him.
“Haa…” I looked at Sylvie, who was still fast asleep.
As I was about to close my eyes, the door squeaked open once more.
“Did you leave something, Tess?” Spotting from the corner of my eyes, I didn’t bother turning my head.
“Hey Arthur…” She arrived next to me and glanced back at the door.
“You said you couldn’t really move your body, right?” I could see in my peripheral view that she was fidgeting a little.
“I can probably only turn my head and lift my arm for a little bit, why?” As I turned my head towards her, my eyes widen in surprise as I realized that Tess’ face was just inches away from mine. Her eyes gazed at me with an expression I’d never seen in her ever and before long, I felt her lips as she closed her eyes.
The soft, warm sensation of her lips on top of mine caught me by surprise but my body didn’t let me react. Instead, I spotted a small mole in the outer corner of her left eye that I’d never noticed before.
As she pulled away, her eyes locked onto mine. Then she quickly turned her head and ran out of the room, leaving me more dazed than when I had first woken up.