A day after the opening festival.
Cla.s.ses at Solminati Academy were cancelled, and Nozomu was alone in the craftsmen's district.
His motive was to make a bell to be presented to Irisdina.
The bell he had previously given to Somia was made using the furnace in Shino's hut, Nozomu's master, but unfortunately, the entire hut had been completely destroyed in a previous battle with the mechanical dragon.
Therefore, Nozomu was thus looking for a store that might lend him their furnace, but...
"Ha? Let you use the furnace? You've got to be kidding me!"
"I'll think about it after you do three years as an anvil cleaner."
This was how he had been turned down right away.
It was inevitable. Craftsmen tend to be stubborn because they would never compromise on their work.
In particular, the craftsmen in Arcazam were generally skilled.
They were so confident and dedicated to their work that there was no way they would accept Nozomu's proposal to allow him to use their furnace.
After being kicked out of the thirteenth blacksmith shop, Nozomu returned to the main street of the craftsmen's district and began looking for the next store.
While walking along the main street, he could hear the sounds of hammering and shouting coming from all over the place.
Nozomu could almost hear his master's voice scolding him, and his mouth relaxed as he recalled his own master amongst the shouts of abuse.
However, there was no way he could just sit back and relax. Fortunately, he had managed to prepare the materials, so he had just to find a place where he could borrow a furnace.
"I wonder if Iris going to be okay..."
The head of the Waziart family suddenly approached him at the party during the opening festival. Vitora had shown a clear interest in Nozomu.
Furthermore, the Francilts have begun to close the distance between them and the Waziart family.
Knowing about the secret agreement that once caused quite the uproar, Nozomu's heart grew uneasy.
"I think I should ask Mena-san about it..."
Nozomu was tempted to to do such a thing, but at the same time he knew it was impossible, so he shook his head and shook off the thought that had popped into his head.
Nozomu was just being warned by Jihad to stay away from the Francilt family.
This was due to the relationship between Nozomu and Irisdina, as well as Nozomu's own problems with Tiamat.
The worst-case scenario that Jihad feared was that the Waziart family would go out of control as a result of the Nozomu's involvement and that Tiamat would be resurrected resulting in the destruction of Arcazam.
Nozomu himself could understand Jihad's concern, as he has had two previous out-of-control experiences.
Currently, he has repeatedly trained to control Tiamat's power with Zonne, the White Dragon's guardian, but he has only been able to extend the time in which he could release his power to around 20 seconds.
And the surroundings of those whom Nozomu wanted to help were already beginning to be filled with a disturbing sense of uneasiness and tension.
Nozomu's frustration was fueled by his own slow growth in response to the rapidly changing situation around him.
"For now, let's just focus on fulfilling my promise..."
Shaking off the thoughts that were about to get into his head, Nozomu took a deep breath, trying to concentrate on making the bell he had promised to Irisdina.
The design was already in his mind.
One of the materials was a bit rare, but not impossible to find, and he had already obtained it and placed it in the pouch on his hip.
All that remained was to find a furnace to melt the essential material.
The question is whether there is a blacksmith who is willing to lend a furnace to Nozomu, who is an inexperienced blacksmith.
As Nozomu looked around for a new place to search, he heard a somewhat slow and languid voice.
He looked in the direction of the voice and saw Anri, dressed in neat, well-tailored clothes.
She was dressed nicely, and it seemed that she was still at work.
However, her workplace is the school. Normally, she would never leave the school.
"What're you doing in a place like this, sensei?
"Of course, it's for my job~. You know, like returning the things used at the opening festival~"
"... I see."
According to Anri, many of the costumes, tables, plates, and other furnishings rented by the students were borrowed for a fee from stores that own many of these things.
Since parties as large as the opening festival do not happen very often, it is cheaper for the school to rent them than to buy them.
However, the furnishings used were all of high value, so in order to prevent loss or theft, Anri, a regular staff member of the school, was responsible for returning the furnishings.
"Why are you here, Nozomu-kun~?"
When he told Anri that he had been looking for a store with a furnace that he could use to make the bell that Irisdina had asked him to make, but had been turned down right away everywhere, she nodded as if she understood.
"I see~. And you still haven't found the essential furnace yet~"
"Yes, I wonder what should I do?"
In response to Nozomu's question, Anri tilted her head and put her hand on her cheek and began to think.
Perhaps attracted by her beauty, which reminds one of an innocent lady, and her somewhat childish gestures, people pa.s.sing by on the street glanced at Anri with sideways glances.
As Nozomu was thinking that Anri was still a charming woman who could attract men without realizing it, Anri clapped her hands in front of her ample bosom, as if she had just come up with an idea.
"Then, shall I do something about it?"
"Is that okay?"
"Yes, leave it to me~"
No matter where the place was, if he could use a furnace, Nozomu would be very grateful.
Nozomu bowed to Anri and said, "thank you for your help".
"In return, I need your help with something~."
"Is it carrying a load?"
In exchange for showing him where he could use the furnace, Anri had something to ask of Nozomu.
Considering that Anri had returned the borrowed items from the opening festival, Nozomu wondered if Anri wanted Nozomu to help carry the borrowed items, but Anri shook her head in denial at Nozomu's words.
"I'm done returning borrowed items, so no~. For the time being, come with me~."
Anri casually took Nozomu's hand and began to walk away.
The gazes of the men around them turned murderous toward Nozomu, who was having a conversation with a strikingly beautiful young woman.
(Lately, I've been getting a lot of murderous intent and hostility directed at me...)
With a wry smile on his face over his own situation, which he was beginning to get used to, Nozomu left the craftsmen's district, still being pulled along by Anri's hand.
Anri brought Nozomu to a school building adjacent to Solminati Academy.
Although much smaller in scale than the Solminati Academy, the school building itself was still quite large, with two three-story school buildings built in a north-south alignment.
The building was a school affiliated with Solminati Academy, which Somia attended.
"Is this Ecross?"
A school affiliated with Solminati Academy, where Irisdina's younger sister, Somia, attends.
It is a school for gifted children gathered from all over the continent to provide them with education from an early age.
Naturally, Nozomu has never set foot in this school building.
The main gate is guarded day and night, and the school is surrounded by high walls with detection magic.
The only gate into Ecross is the main gate, and only students, teachers, and others involved in the administration of Solminati Academy and Ecross are allowed to pa.s.s through the main gate.
"You know~. The teacher who teaches here said that she really wants you to come, Nozomu-kun~."
While saying so, Anri confidently pulled Nozomu by the hand and pa.s.sed through the main gate of the Ecross school building.
It was natural that Anri, a teacher at Solminati Academy, could pa.s.s through the main gate of Ecross, but she seemed to visit Ecross quite frequently as she waved her hand to the gatekeeper in a light manner as she pa.s.sed through the main gate and the gatekeeper waved back with a wry smile.
On the other hand, Nozomu could not help but be bothered by the fact that Anri was still holding his hand.
"Umm, Anri-sensei, your hand..."
"Hmm? What is it~~?"
"... No, it's nothing."
It was embarra.s.sing for Nozomu to have his hand held by an older, beautiful teacher, but even if he wanted to let go, Anri's strength was stronger than he expected.
He wanted to ask Anri to let go of his hand, but Anri's big smile made it difficult for him to do so.
However, the figures of Nozomu and Anri were too conspicuous in Ecross.
Moreover, Anri was casually approached by staff and teachers who pa.s.sed by her from time to time, as if she knew many people in Ecross.
At the same time, the eyes of those who greeted her turned to Nozomu, who was holding hands with Anri, and for some reason the way they looked at her, as if they were grinning, stirred Nozomu's sense of embarra.s.sment even more.
The hostility of the men was not the same as when they were walking around town, but for Nozomu, the embarra.s.sment was many times worse.
"Anri-sensei, why me? I don't know the reason."
"Now, now~. Just come with me~."
Anri kept walking, dodging Nozomu's question, which was an attempt to disguise his embarra.s.sment.
Anri led us to an outdoor training area adjacent to the Ecross school building.
The size was a bit smaller than the training grounds at Solminati Academy.
However, compared to the training grounds in the academy, the training area was quite impressive, as it was surrounded by a simple, but efficient, magic barrier like the one in the martial arts garden.
At the edge of the training area, about 30 boys and girls of about 10 years old were sitting in a row.
In front of the children stood a b.e.s.t.i.a.l woman, who appeared to be their homeroom teacher, and a man and woman whom Nozomu also knew well.
"...Huh? Mars and Tima-san?"
Mars and Tima, noticing Nozomu's figure, look surprised.
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"Why is Nozomu here?"
Nozomu felt a twinge of embarra.s.sment at the thirty pairs of eyes that were suddenly directed at him.
"Everyone, I am here with someone who is going to partic.i.p.ate in our cla.s.s today and show us a very unique technique. He is a senior student. He is Nozomu Bountis, a third-year student at Solminati Academy."
"Everyone. Please say h.e.l.lo~"
"" Nice to meet you ""
"Nozomu-san is a master of the Mikagura-style katana technique, which is a revered and respected technique in the East. You all already know of his abilities, don't you?"
The Ecross students had previously watched the combat training that Nozomu had performed with Jihad at the martial arts garden.
Therefore, they responded in a cheerful voice to Veri's question.
"In today's cla.s.s, we will first study this Mikagura-style katana technique with Nozomu-san. Doesn't it sound great~?"
"" Yes~~ ""
"Then, Nozomu-san, please..."
"... Eh, I thought it was just a demonstration!?"
Being suddenly made to stand in front of the students and asked to give a lecture, Nozomu involuntarily raised his voice as if to confirm what she had said.
Nozomu, who has never been good at teaching, was a little troubled by this turn of events.
"Before you demonstrate, please give us a brief introduction to the Mikagura-style. Don't worry, a brief explanation will do."
According to Veri, a brief introduction was enough.
Hearing those words, Nozomu changed his mind.
"Umm. I'm... no, that's not it. The Mikagura-style I use is a katana technique originally derived from the sacred rituals of the East. It has been refined in the harsh and rugged eastern lands, with the aim of taking on and surviving against both humans and beasts alike."
First, Nozomu began with a brief introduction to the art of katana technique in the Mikagura-style.
He wondered if he had used too many difficult words. Nozomu felt uneasy, but the children did not seem to mind.
The children, though young, were promising prodigies, having been admitted to Ecross.
"The weapons we use are forged weapons called katanas. It is a weapon specialized for slashing and thrusting, characterized by its gentle curves and the ripples that appear on the blade during the forging process.”
Nozomu pulled out the [Mumei] from his waist and held it with both hands to support the handle and the pommel, then showed it to the children.
In front of the katana, the children, especially the boys, seemed to be quite interested and their eyes lit up at once.
"The Mikagura-style fundamentally does not use shields. If you are facing a powerful demon beast, a half-hearted defense is meaningless. The majority of the techniques used are techniques capable of inflicting fatal wounds, such as one-point penetration and internal destruction, even against demon beasts, which have a much stronger killing power and a life force that is much higher than that of humans."
While nodding his head at the sparkling gazes of the children, who were strangely interested in him, Nozomu proceeded on with his explanation.
"At the same time, in terms of defense, this style is more vulnerable than those used by swordsmen on this continent, since many of the techniques emphasize parry and evasion, and there is a wide variety of techniques, so it is a style that is very dependent on the ability and strength of the user."
At this point, Nozomu cut the explanation once and turned his attention to Mars.
"Mars, can you help me?"
Nozomu and Mars moved a little away from the children and faced each other, readying their respective weapons.
Then, just like they always did in their training, they began to clash their blades.
Mars' greatsword roared and swung down toward Nozomu.
Nozomu deflected the blade's trajectory by hitting the side of the approaching blade with his katana, and then used the returning momentum to cleave Mars' torso.
Mars also swiftly drew his greatsword back and intercepted it.
The two blades crossed in every direction: a diagonal slash, a reverse cleave, a sweep up, and a thrust.
Watching Nozomu's effortless, confident strike against Mars' greatsword, which was overwhelmingly superior in terms of physical strength and power, the children who were watching him let out a gasp of admiration.
This contrast demonstration between the continent's swordsmanship which emphasized brute strength and the East's swordsmanship which emphasized flexibility was a sight to behold.
The children's eyes were glued to the two different techniques unfolding in front of their eyes.
Eventually, the two swordsmen, who had been striking each other with their weapons, stepped forward at the same time, as if to make a sign to the other, and with a single flash of their blades, they crossed their positions to each other.
After switching positions, they slowly retracted their weapons.
"Umm, would this be about right?"
"Yes, thank you very much. Today we have third-year student Nozomu Bountis demonstrating the Eastern katana technique."
"" Thank you very much! ""
"Thank you, Nozomu-san. If you would like to observe the cla.s.s with Anri-sensei, please do so."
"All right. I guess I'll observe for a bit then."
Nozomu bowed to Veri and stepped back.
Then Tima stood next to Veri, as if replacing Nozomu.
Nozomu decided to watch Ecross' cla.s.s from a little distance with Mars.
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