ZAP – Chapter 31: Caldia’s Holy Maiden Candidate

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◇Sara Iglesia Lodis Reminisces◇

—The 8 Holy Maidens. 

They are the most influential people of the Holy Nation of Caldia. 

I have been training myself since a very young age at learning institutions as one of the many Holy Maiden candidates.

I can only meet my parents a few times a year. 

However, I have not felt any discontent from that. 

That’s because the other Holy Maiden candidates were pretty much the same. 

“Sara, I order you to study abroad at the Lykeion Magic Academy.” 

“…Understood.” 

The one who ordered me to go to the Academy was the Destiny Oracle-sama that is in a special standing within the 8 Holy Maidens. 

The 8 Holy Maiden-samas that are the top of Caldia are elected by the citizens. 

The term of office is 8 years.

The people who have taken important posts inside Caldia and have contributed to the development of the country would be chosen. 

Because of that, the Holy Maiden-samas are mostly women in the prime of their life. 

However, the Destiny Oracle-sama alone is different. 

The Oracles are chosen by the Goddesses.

Destiny Goddess, Illia-sama. 

The Oracles have the ability to let the Goddesses descend. 

The only peerless existence in the West Continent. 

It is rumored that this is also the reason why the Empire doesn’t put a hand on the Sacred Union.

Her words are outstandingly heavy. 

“The Lykeion Magic Academy will bring you new encounters and experiences. Devote yourself.” 

“Y-Yes!” (Sara)

I ended up straightening my back at the eyes of the Oracle-sama that felt as if she saw through everything. 

The Holy Maidens have majesty and style, but the Oracle-sama is on a different level even within that. 

According to rumors, there’s apparently 6 Oracles chosen by the Goddesses in the West Continent. 

…How scary. 

And so, I ended up enrolling in the highest academic center of the South Continent, the Lykeion Magic Academy, under the orders of the Oracle-sama. 

◇◇

(…W-Wow.) (Sara)

The academy that’s said to have the talents all over the South Continent gather. 

Those rumors were no lies. 

The children of the bureaucrats from the affiliated countries of the Sacred Union, the candidate to succeed the Templar Captain. 

The princes and princesses of the many nations of the Blue Waters Federation, and the children of high nobles. 

Many candidates to become high ranked officials of the Imperial Army have come from the strongest military power of the continent, the Grandflare Empire. 

Moreover, the ones with special talent are gathered in a special class called the Legendary Hero Department. 

I noticed after observing a variety of students. 

(…Could the man there be…) (Sara)

A male student that doesn’t really stand out greatly. 

He wasn’t grouped up with anyone and was just standing there alone with a gloomy face.

But his name is famous.

Grandflare Empire’s current right arm of the Emperor. 

The only son of the strongest warrior of the Empire and is called the Sword of the Emperor.

I thought for sure he would be in the Legendary Hero Department, but he was unexpectedly in the Normal Department. 

I have been ordered by the Holy Maiden-sama to investigate the capable people of the enemy nation, the Grandflare Empire, as much as possible. 

“Nice to meet you. I am from the Sacred Union, my name’s Sara Iglesia Lodis. What’s your name?” (Sara)

“…Eugene Santafield. From the Empire.” 

The male student answered in a low voice. 

But for me, what was important was his family name. 

(Santafield household! No doubt about it. He is the son of a central leader of the Empire.) (Sara)

I successfully managed to be on the same exploration party as him with my speaking skills. 

That said, Eugene was truly lacking any sort of energy at the time when I met him. 

Honestly speaking, I felt he was a boring man.

—I soon discovered that was a misunderstanding. 

“A pack of monsters, Eugene!” (Sara)

“…Yeah.” (Eugene)

The 5th Floor of the Zenith Tower.

We were attacked by a pack of Ash Wolves there. 

As a person who trained in battle as a Sister in Caldia, I am confident in my swordsmanship. 

I cut down 3 Ash Wolves in the blink of an eye and turned around with a proud face. 

And there he was, Eugene standing there having defeated 10 Ash Wolves with a bored face. 

“Y-You are strong, Eugene.” (Sara)

“No… My weapon broke. Let’s end the exploration here.” (Eugene)

Without breaking a single sweat. 

Moreover, what he was holding in his hand was a plain wooden stick. 

It wasn’t even a sword.

“Why aren’t you holding a proper weapon?” (Sara)

“…I gave up on becoming a swordsman.” (Eugene)

He said with a sad tinge. 

That side-profile of his made my heart skip a beat. 

(…Even though he is this strong. Just what in the world happened?) (Sara)

By the time I noticed, I wanted to know more about him for a different reason than my mission.

It was only a little after that I heard the story about him being abandoned by his childhood friend.

◇◇

“…That’s the end of my report, Holy Maiden-sama.” (Sara)

I am currently in a room of the academy’s girl dorm.

Soundproof magic is properly in place, so there’s little to worry about being intercepted even if you use transmission magic to contact your homenation. 

I had finished doing the regular report I do once every 7 days. 

It is a stressful time. 

But the moment I thought it was over…

“Sara, I have a present for you.” 

The Destiny Oracle-sama from the other side of the magic screen said this. 

A magic circle suddenly appeared inside the room and a single white sword was teleported. 

“This is…?” (Sara)

“A relic of our nation, the Curtana. Also called the Sword of Mercy. I will entrust it to you.” 

“?! This is…that legendary…” (Sara)

The relic sword, Curtana, that is passed down in Caldia. 

It is said to be the legendary weapon that slayed the Giant Pestilence Beast centuries ago that was even higher than a Calamity Designation, a Natural Disaster Designation. 

Giving something like this to me…? 

When I looked, I could tell that the other Holy Maidens were flustered aside from the Destiny Oracle-sama at the other side of the screen. 

“You are not good with healing magic, right? You can make up for it with this relic. And then, transfer to the Legendary Hero Department at once.” 

“Ooh, that’s a great idea.” 

“It is true that for Sara, the top candidate to be a Holy Maiden, the Normal Department would be lacking.” 

“It wouldn’t be amusing to get looked down by the Empire.” 

“T-That’s…!” (Sara)

The Holy Maidens around follow the words of the Destiny Oracle-sama.

I was the only one flustered by this. 

If that happens, I might not be able to continue my party with Eugene.

The Normal Department and the Legendary Hero Department normally don’t form parties together. 

“What’s the matter, Sara?” 

“…No, it is nothing. I am grateful for the consideration.” (Sara)

I swallowed my words in the end. 

And so, having obtained the Curtana, I became a Paladin and managed to transfer to the Legendary Hero Department. 

I wanted to continue my party with Eugene. 

But I couldn’t go against the orders of my country and the advice from my teacher of the Legendary Hero Department, and ended up disbanding my party with Eugene. 

“Eugene, if you feel like challenging the Floor Boss, call me, okay?! Definitely!” (Sara)

“…Thanks, Sara.” (Eugene)

Eugene had no energy. 

(You must be sad that I am leaving, right…? I am too! But I am definitely going to come get you!) (Sara)

Even when having regrets, I prioritized my duty as the Holy Maiden candidate.

Impressed by my abilities, I was invited to the Student Council Enforcement Division.

I participated with Teresia-san and the other people from my own homeland, and I was luckily chosen as the student council president. 

Becoming the student council president of the Lykeion Magic Academy will serve greatly in becoming a Holy Maiden. 

I was praised greatly by my country too. 

Even so, I got separated from Eugene, and that saddened me the whole time. 

But I am sure Eugene feels the same way.

(Wait for me, Eugene!) (Sara)

Once I got through the 100th Floor, became an S rank explorer, and finished my job as the student council president, I planned on forming a party with Eugene again.

The important Eugene in question was still looking all down though.

But I believed that I would be the one by his side at the important moment when Eugene decided to get serious.

◇◇

(…And yet.) (Sara)

Eugene ended up forming a party with another woman.

—Sashiogi Sumire-san. 

The girl that’s said to have come from a parallel world. 

She is currently the partner of Eugene.

I am participating in the party of the two as a back-up.

“Hoh!” (Sumire)

Sumire-san unleashed a reverse roundhouse kick. 

The attacking Lizardman was blown away. 

Not only that…

*Boom!!!*

The monster that got kicked by Sumire-san exploded and burned. 

Dragging the monsters around and burning them too. 

(…High rank spell, Firestorm.) (Sara)

What incredible power. 

Even a specialized mage would find it hard to bring out such destructive power. 

And yet, Sumire-san is activating this automatically

(…Subconscious Magic Fist.) (Sara)

Teresia-san, who is teaching magic to Sumire-san, told me. 

She activates magic by moving her body or from a rise of emotions due to her inate constitution. 

It is a kind of realm that you reach once you have polished magic and martial arts. 

The Ifrit, Sumire-san, had that. 

Not only that…

(So beautiful…) (Sara)

I can tell exactly because I delve into magic as well. 

Clear mana that’s different from humans.

That is overflowing from her whole body. 

“Fuuh…” (Sumire)

Sumire-san wiped her sweat, and red mana sparks danced from her body when she combed her hair upwards. 

A mysterious figure like the Great Fire Spirits of ancient times.

Even as someone of the same gender, that figure of hers left me spellbound. 

“Sumire, you have improved.” (Eugene)

“Right? Yay☆.” (Sumire)

Sumire-san smiled as if a flower had bloomed and exchanged a high-five with Eugene.

(I’m so jealous, jealous, jealous, jealous, jealous…) (Sara)

My emotions must have shown in my face.

Sumire-san faced my way and made a dubious expression.

“…What is it, Sara-san?” (Sumire)

“Isn’t the power of your magic too high? You will end up dragging the people around you into it.” (Sara)

“Shut up (mumble)…. Yes~, I will be careful.” (Sumire)

“Did you say something?” (Sara)

“I didn’t~.” (Sumire)

“I did hear it though. Looks like you have bad memory.” (Sara) 

“Now now, Sara. Calm down. Sumire’s magic is improving.” (Eugene)

Just when Sumire-san and I were about to enter an argument, Eugene jumped in between us.

“Aren’t you getting spoiled by the kindness of Eugene, Sumire-san?” (Sara)

“Eugene-kun says it is fine. You are way too hung up on the small details, Sara-san.” (Sumire)

Things turning into this dangerous atmosphere is the usual. 

Sumire-san and I glare at each other.

(…That said…) (Sara)

Even her angry face is endearing. 

An appearance that I wouldn’t have been surprised if told she is the princess of somewhere. 

Emotional expressions that just switch around constantly. 

And I don’t know if it is due to her being an Ifrit, but there’s a mysterious atmosphere clad around her.

Even within the students of the academy, Sumire-san’s popularity was rising secretly. 

(That’s…she is this charming after all.) (Sara)

Even I think this as her love rival.

If not for the fact that we are fighting over Eugene, I would have wanted to become her friend.

I want to get along better with her. 

(Haah…) (Sara)

I sighed in my heart and continued sighing while maintaining my composed expression that has cut off its emotions which I was taught at the learning institutions. 

We peacefully finished the 41st Floor exploration on the surface.

◇Sumire’s POV◇

Today is the exploration of the 42nd Floor. 

The members are the same as before: Eugene-kun, me…and Sara-san.

The 42nd Floor is a swamp area just like the 30th Floor and beyond. 

However, the sludge at our feet is getting deeper and deeper. 

“Sumire, want to walk a bit slower?” (Eugene)

“No, it is okay.” (Sumire)

I act tough at the words of Eugene-kun.

We are aiming for the 500th Floor, so I can’t just go complaining here. 

“Wait, Sumire, Sara! Monsters.” (Eugene)

“That’s…a Man-Eating Eagle. Looks like it is targeting us.” (Sara)

Eugene-kun and Sara-san were conversing while looking up. 

What’s circling right above us is a big bird monster. 

Flying monsters begin to appear from the 40th Floor and on. 

Eugene-kun and I both can only do short range attacks. 

To be more precise, I can use magic, but it is so dense that I can’t hit monsters that are too far. 

“Leave it to me.” (Sara)

Sara-san took a battle stance with the colorful magic sword on her waist. 

— “Answer me, Sword of Mercy, Curtana.” (Sara)

The magic sword released a mysterious light as if responding to the call of Sara-san. 

And then, light blades releasing faint light appear around her. 

7 in total. 

That appearance of hers being surrounded by light blades was reminiscent of a light fairy. 

“Pierce…Holy Sword Magic: [Blades of Light].” (Sara)

Sara-san mutters this and the light blades flashed and pierced the monster. 

(So beautiful…) (Sumire)

Even as a girl, the sight of Sara-san surrounded in light made me skip a beat. 

The giant Man-Eating Eagle didn’t even have the chance to scream in pain as it died and plummeted to the ground. 

“Good job.” (Eugene)

Eugene-kun said this, and…

“Right?! Praise me, praise me!” (Sara)

The elegance of just now disappeared and she fawned on Eugene-kun like a puppy. 

(…The gap is truly incredible.) (Sumire)

It makes me think there’s no man who wouldn’t fall for Sara-san if she were to seriously go for it. 

That’s how charming she is. 

(Haah…) (Sumire)

I sigh internally. 

Sara-san really does seem happy being together with Eugene-kun.

An outstanding explorer that is in a special class like the Legendary Hero Department. 

And also the student council president of the Lykeion Magic Academy. 

It is obviously better if I were to get along with her. 

(But…) (Sumire)

I always end up in a dicey situation with Sara-san over Eugene-kun.

I was thinking I should do something about it. 

We continued exploring while thinking I should do something about it.

That day, we safely managed to get through the 42nd Floor. 

◇Eugene’s POV◇

Today we are exploring the 45th Floor.

“Counting on you, Sara-san.” (Sumire)

“Same here, Sumire-san.” (Sara)

Sumire and Sara were at each other’s throats at first, but it has been peaceful recently. 

They are both greeting each other with smiles. 

“……”

“……”

But there’s no conversation after that.

I can’t really say it is a party with teamwork.

(I do want to do something about it though…) (Eugene)

I feel like it won’t be solved with just me telling them to get along better. 

The source of this problem is most likely me after all.

That’s why I think there’s no choice but to continue exploring and learning about each other. 

The Fire Magic of Sumire and the Holy Sword Magic of Sara. 

We defeat the monsters with these two.

There’s no danger at all.

(At this rate, the 50th Floor is looking possible…) (Eugene)

My current explorer rank is C.

That’s the rank an explorer gets from the 11th Floor to the 49th Floor. 

The ones who get over the 50th Floor are B Rank explorers. 

In other words, the Zenith Tower goes up one level from the 50th Floor and up. 

It might be better for me to test out ‘that’ power already.

“Guuuuuuuuuuuuuoooooooooooo!!!” 

The ferocious roar of a beast made the air shake. 

“Hiih!” (Sumire)

Sumire gulped her breath.

“Eugene!” (Sara)

And the shriek of Sara overlapped. 

What rushed at us was a black eagle-tiger, a Griffin, the size of a small dragon. 

That’s rare.

A monster of that level wouldn’t be strange to be found as a Floor Boss. 

“Step back, Sumire-san!” (Sara)

“But…!” (Sumire)

“Griffin’s tend to kidnap their prey one by one! If you get kidnapped and eaten, you won’t be able to get resurrected!” (Sara)

“Will you be okay, Sara-san?!” (Sumire)

“…I have fought against it once before.” (Sara)

Sara-san said this, but her face warped from how nervous she was. 

A Griffin has high intelligence, and is feared by explorers.

“Holy Sword Magic: [Blades of Light]!!” (Sara)

Sara unleashes magic. 

But the Griffin deftly avoids this and swings down its claws to attack Sara. 

“Kya!” (Sara)

*Clang!*

I jump in between the Griffin and Sara, and deflect the claws.

“Thanks, Eugene!” (Sara)

“Eugene-kun, use my mana!” (Sumire)

Sumire runs to me. 

It is true that a sword endowed with mana is beginning to not be enough. 

I think about it for a bit and tell the two. 

“I will take over here. Step back, you two.” (Eugene)

“Eugene, fighting alone is reckless!” (Sara)

“Eugene-kun, let’s all fight together!” (Sumire)

“It is okay.” (Eugene)

I directed my gaze at the Griffin flying overhead in order to attack us with the two worried about me behind me. 

Looks like it also thinks I should be the first prey to get rid of.

(This works just fine to test it out.) (Eugene)

I take a battle stance with my sword and mutter this in my heart.

—Magic Sword: [Dark Blade].

The Red Mana I borrowed from Sumire was overwritten by the Black Mana of Eri.

(…Barrier Magic: [Steel Heart].) (Eugene)

And then, I protect my mind with Barrier Magic in order to not drown in the mana of Eri. 

“…” 

The Griffin charging here showed hesitation for a second. 

But it is too late.

(Twin Heavenly Resonance Style: Wind Form – [Wind Step]) (Eugene)

I zero the distance with the Griffin in an instant. 

“Guoooooooooooooh!!!” 

The Griffin roared after I entered its range, and swung down its claws at me. 

—(Twin Heavenly Resonance Style: Mountain Form – [Cross Slash]) (Eugene)

The next instant, the head of the Griffin separated from its body and both wings were sliced off. 

The giant body of the Griffin fell flat onto the ground. 

(The mana of Eri really is impressive…) (Eugene)

I undo the Magic Sword. 

When I did, the blade crumbled into dust. 

(I am not as exhausted as the time when I fought the Divine Beast, but…the enemy just now was several times weaker. The issue is also that the weapon doesn’t last after one use.) (Eugene)

“Eugene!” (Sara)

“Eugene-kun!” (Sumire)

While I was thinking back on the battle just now, Sumire and Sara hugged me. 

“What was that just now?!” (Sara)

“Eugene-kun, that just now wasn’t my mana, right?!” (Sumire)

“Really, Sumire-san?” (Sara)

“Yeah, I can tell.” (Sumire)

“True… It was different from the mana of Sumire-san… It felt like a fearsome power…” (Sara)

Sumire has sharp instincts.

And Sara is a Sister from the Holy Nation of Caldia, so she might have noticed something off. 

“It is a new Magic Sword I learned just recently. I managed to use it once when fighting Cerberus, but I haven’t tried it out since then. I haven’t been able to use it that well, you see.” (Eugene)

I spoke honestly. 

However, I only hide the part about my contract with Eri. 

According to Eri ‘my concealment power is perfect☆’ so I think it should be safe…

“Ooh! …That? Then, doesn’t that mean my mana is unnecessary…?” (Sumire)

Sumire looked uneasy. 

“That’s not true. See, my sword becomes useless with one attack, and my movements become dull after because of the exhaustion. It is purely a trump card.” (Eugene)

“I-I see.” (Sumire)

“…Hey, Eugene, aren’t you pushing yourself? Is your body okay?” (Sara)

“R-Right! You are looking a bit pale here.” (Sumire)

“I am okay…but let’s wrap the exploration of today here.” (Eugene)

I tell the two. 

And then, we went down the Zenith Tower with the dungeon elevator, and dispersed that day. 

◇Next Day◇

We are taking a break from exploration today. 

We have been doing continuous dungeon explorations lately, so this is in order to rest our body. 

Also, I had a different objective.

“Let’s buy swords in bulk…” (Eugene)

My sword was rendered useless because of Eri’s mana. 

I feel like that will be happening in the future too. 

It might be better to have around 10 reserves. 

I would want to use the same sword the whole time though…

Is there a weapon that doesn’t break even when clad with the mana of Eri? 

I left my room and was about to go to the city when…

“Eugene-kun!” 

“Eugene!” 

“Sumire and Sara?” (Eugene)

The two came to me. 

It is rare to see them together even though we are not heading to the dungeon.

Do they get along now? 

“Sumire-san, I am talking to Eugene here.” (Sara)

“I called him first!” (Sumire)

“I was the first one who saw him!” (Sara)

Nope, not at all.

“What’s the matter, you two?” (Eugene)

“I wanted to hang out with you, just the two of us…” (Sumire) 

“I wanted to go with you to the city, just the two of us…” (Sara)

The two had the same objective.

No, not really. 

Looks like they have a reason they can’t.

“The Dungeon Staff-san was calling for you, Eugene-kun.” (Sumire)

“The Dungeon Union HQ said you should go there, Eugene.” (Sara)

“…Hm? Why?” (Eugene)

Explorers have to obey the calls of the Dungeon Union in principle.

“Got it. I will go check it out.” (Eugene)

Looks like I will have to go buy swords at a later time.

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