Thanks to Dre for the Ko-Fi and this chapter, enjoy~
In the training grounds of the academy, within the instructor’s room.
“Ain, I will give you the exam first thing in the morning.”
The owner of this room, Kaizer, said to Ain, who had come to visit.
“Why only me…?”
“Why only you, you ask? I’m the one giving the exam, of course.”
“Huh, is the exam going to be like fighting against Instructor Kaizer?”
“The other students are different. You know that we had a magic tool to create illusory monsters, right? I will have them fight a real battle with that and then have the sixth-year swordsmanship majors compete against each other.”
“Oh, so you’re going to rank them at the end?”
“That’s right. Do you want to join in too, Ain?”
“Aren’t you going to join in, or don’t you want to?”
“You don’t have to tell me why. The hero who slew the sea dragon, saved the adventurer’s town of Baltic, and the crown prince who saved the port city of Magna. I understand why you would avoid participating since you’re called that. You’re worried that you’re going to be a distraction in front of the other students, right? Although that’s not something you need to worry about because it’s an exam. But you need a reason for not participating.”
For that reason, he suggested that they finish the exam first thing in the morning.
Ain thanked him for his concern, bowed deeply, and replied that he would be happy to help.
“In fact, I’ve been helping the others while they’re taking their exams. I’ve been depressed every year at the end of the year because I have to take care of everyone from the first to the sixth grade. This year, thanks to Ain, it will be a lot easier.”
Then he said as if suddenly remembering.
“Speaking of the end of the year, your birthday is coming up soon, isn’t it?”
“Thanks to you, it looks like I’ll be able to make it through another year without a hitch.”
“I didn’t do anything to help you, though. It’s still a happy occasion, but they’re throwing another party at the castle this year, aren’t they?”
“I heard that only those in the castle will attend the party.”
Ain looked at the calendar propped up on the wall beside where Kaizer was sitting and thought back to the exam schedule that had just been set for today.
“It looks like the party and the exam are on the same day.”
“Just in time for you to stretch your wings.”
Ain looked at his watch and saw that it was almost time to go.
“Thank you for taking care of me today. I’m going home now.”
He bowed his head again and said he was going home.
As Ain left, Kaizer turned to Ain’s back and said.
“I’ll tell Luke what we just talked about, too ー have a safe trip home…”
As he left the room, he saw many students outside. From the first year to the sixth year, there is no limit to the age range, and everyone is tuning up for the exam.
He then heard the heat and the sound of swords clashing.
He saw his classmate working on his training and decided to call out to him.
When he heard the high-pitched shouts, he decided not to call out to him.
Ain didn’t want to bother and interrupt him during training, and from what he said this morning, Batz was nervous about his promotion exam.
He was out of breath, dripping with sweat, and completely absorbed in his work.
So Ain wished him success from the shadows and left the training ground.
◇ ◇ ◇
Outside the academy, there was Chris. And next to her was Krone.
The spotlight seemed to shine on the place where they were, and the snow was falling.
As they were dressed in their coats, Krone let out a white breath and said to Ain, “Welcome back.”
“Sorry to keep you waiting. It is unusual to see you here, Krone.”
“I had to come to the academy district to do some work. Since I wanted to go home with you, I came here.”
After hearing the simple reason, the three of them immediately started walking.
The footsteps were light and then quickened by the cold.
Even the slightest breath was indeed white, and the cheeks of the two walking next to Ain were a bit red from the cold.
“It’s winter, isn’t it?”
Ain said something so obvious.
“What’s wrong all of a sudden?”
“Everyone’s breath is white, and everyone is wearing coats, so I guess it’s just happening. This reminds me of when we went to Baltic.”
“Fufu, it was cold in Baltic too, wasn’t it?”
Chris heard this and said with some bitterness.
“I have no particular memories of that…”
“At the time, I remember being relieved and then pleased to hear that Ain-sama had defeated the Upashikamui. I was worried that you forced yourself again.”
“…Ah, look! We’re already at the station!”
Arriving at the station in the academy district, Ain started to walk faster.
“Ah! You fooled me, didn’t you?”
“There was nothing to fool around with; it was an unavoidable situation! I received permission from Lloyd-san at the time, though!”
“But, but, but! I was so worried about you!”
Of course, Ain felt terrible for making her worry.
However, Ain, who was moving ahead, made a straight line to the station to avoid further questioning. Once he eventually arrived at the platform, he was relieved that there was no further pursuit.
──It goes without saying that the water train was crowded at this time of the day.
It’s what was known as the rush hour to get home, partly due to the fact that fewer people want to walk outside and travel during the winter months.
All that reaches their ears is the creaking of the rails and the sounds of people talking in the surrounding area.
Occasionally, the sound of the wind whipping through the air or the hard, heavy thud of the brakes pierced their ears.
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment.”
Chris said as they were almost at the White Rose station.
“What’s the matter?”
“I had a schedule I wanted to check… I’ll be right beside you, so don’t worry!”
The “right next to him” was the train’s coupling.
It was convenient that the three of them were in the immediate vicinity.
After Chris opened the door and headed for that space, Ain noticed eyes looking up at him and lowered his eyes.
It was Krone, who was standing by the wall, turning her eyes on him.
She opened her mouth to ask Ain.
“Have you grown taller again?”
“Yes, I feel like it. I feel like my head was a little closer to your head before.”
“Now that you mention it, maybe you’re right.”
However, the difference that had widened should be slight.
The discomfort was not so great.
“I guess it looks easier to hold on to the strap when you’re tall.” [T/n: I do not really understand what she means here, it’s probably about holding the train’s strap or something like that.]
“Actually, there have been some inconveniences since I got taller.”
Ain recalled those days.
“I had to change all my clothes, I had to get a new chair to replace the one that was too small… and I also had to change my bed to a bigger one.”
It was certainly easier to hold on to the strap, as Krone said. But the memory of the inconvenience of not being accustomed to it prevailed.
──Ain, feeling fed up with the situation, looked out the window of the train.
He suddenly realized that the building he saw belonged to the August Trading Company and said as if he remembered.
“How are you and Elena-san?”
“We had dinner with my grandfather, and we talked a lot.”
“That’s good ── but…”
It was hard to remain positive.
This was because Krone’s father and brother were still left in Heim.
“No, don’t worry about it.”
Krone realized Ain’s concern.
“Father and brother who remain in Heim will be fine. I heard that there hasn’t been a single assassination since the military dispatch, and in fact, I received a letter from my father once.”
“I-I’m surprised that you received it under the current circumstances…”
“Fufu, actually, Lily-san met my father the other day in the port town of Roundheart.”
The reason why they didn’t meet in the royal capital was because they wanted to reduce the risk and also because they thought that in the port town of Roundheart, they could escape immediately in case of an emergency.
“My father and the others decided to stay in Heim.”
“Why, when the situation is so dangerous?”
“He told Lily-san that he didn’t want to depend on the Ishtalika and that he would try to find out what he could do to support Heim.”
“It would be nice if he didn’t have to worry about being taken care of.”
“…Auguste family is an archduke family, and I think that my father is proud of that.”
Krone’s brother also agreed with him.
“Actually, there was a letter for Ain and His Majesty as well. I think Ain will be approached this evening since Warren-sama said he would check it out first.”
Even if he wanted to express any opinion, he would have to read the letter first.
Rather than being tactless about the spirit that Krone’s father showed here, it would be more appropriate to say what he thinks again after reading the letter that has been approved.
Ain let out a sigh, easing the tension that had been building up.
He noticed that a thin layer of sweat was floating on his neck. The heat from the crowd and the tension from earlier also made his heart beat a little faster.
“Unfortunately, you’ve calmed down.”
“What do you mean by unfortunately?”
“I could almost hear your heartbeat.”
She looked up, smiled, and teased him.
Then the train came to a sudden stop.
It was just as the train was about to arrive at the White Rose station.
“A-are you okay?”
Krone, who had been lightly shaken from her position, fell forward and leaned against Ain’s chest, who was standing in front of her.
After all, she said, she could hear the heartbeat.
Or should it be a straightforward thank you?
After some hesitation, Krone smiled daintily and recalled what she had said earlier.
“I wonder if it’s thanks to you getting so big?”
When she mentioned that it wasn’t a bad thing, he felt embarrassed and blushed, even though it was something he had said himself.
While Krone stayed at his chest and exchanged glances with him as he looked down at himself.
“…..It seems surprisingly useful, maybe not so bad.”
“Yes, it’s not so bad.”
They could not keep doing this all the time.
Krone felt a sense of regret but hid it and kept a distance from Ain.
When she saw that he immediately turned his eyes away from her, it meant that he was embarrassed, and a pleasing look appeared on Krone’s cheeks.
But just as the two were enveloped in a friendly atmosphere, a distressed voice unexpectedly arrived.
“U-ugh… it hurts…”
Chris, who had bumped her head on the window of the door leading to the connecting section, was holding her forehead, and tears were forming in her eyes.
“At any rate.”
The train should be arriving at the White Rose station by now.
“We have to ask Chris if she is okay.”
Hearing Ain’s murmur, Krone nodded with a wry smile and reached for the door leading to the connecting section.