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Chapter 8: The Magic Turmoil (4)

Throughout the lecture, the back of my head tingled with the unmistakable sensation of being watched. I didn’t need to look to know whose gaze it was—certainly, it was Ruslan’s, surely Ruslan’s.

Ever since Aris subtly expressed her fondness, the one who used to hover around her, even more than Prah, has probably been itching to tear me apart. The original Ruslan in the story gnashed his teeth at Prah over the incident last time, after all.

It seems I might be in for some inconvenience for a while.

Especially during tomorrow’s swordsmanship class, I expect he’ll try to knock me down, subtly or not.

But I wasn’t concerned. With the power partially transferred to me by Astira, Ruslan’s chances of defeating me were virtually nil.

Unless Ruslan gains several opportunities for growth in the future, he stands no chance against me as he is now. Astira’s power, although it may seem precarious, is genuine.

A month ago, after Ruslan took a beating from me, he must have put in considerable effort. However, given my use of a certain ‘cheat,’ there’s no chance he’ll get the better of me until at least the end of the first chapter.

Speaking of which, it’s about time for the first chapter to begin.

My novel adopts a game-like format, dividing the narrative into chapters, each culminating with a final boss... Currently, we’re in Chapter 0, the prologue of the story.

In other words, Prah’s harassment of Aris and the ensuing chaos are all just part of the prologue. And it’s essential to strengthen Ruslan during this prologue so he can face the final boss of Chapter 1 with his own power.

So, my task is... to use Astira’s power to torment Ruslan and his companions in various ways.

I plan to follow the original Prah’s methods, though I’m not sure how well I’ll manage. Drawing their hostility seems to be going quite well, but the real question is how to torment them effectively.

Tormenting Aris in the upcoming magic turmoil by the demon realm rift might seem like a plan, but it’s hardly a move that connects to the hidden piece.

In other words, it’s an event that serves no purpose in strengthening Ruslan. It’s merely a minor incident at best.

Still, I’ve got a lead. In the original story, Prah and Astira actively used magic to heighten the sense of unease within the academy.

So, I should be able to do the same. There’s no use worrying about failure. Instead of fretting, it’s about choosing the right moment. Even if I fail, handing over the hidden piece to Ruslan would be enough.

The first hidden piece is a fairy fruit that significantly enhances Ruslan’s senses. Even this single hidden piece can make Ruslan noticeably stronger.

For someone without talent, the fruit’s effectiveness is no joke, but for Ruslan, whose talent is undeniable, the effects are self-explanatory.

Celus Academy’s Department of Magic has its fair share of secretive spaces, and among them, naturally, are those harboring hidden pieces.

The location of the fairy fruit is precisely such a place. It’s a kind of secret space where fairies are kept captive.

It’s a place where mischievous fairies are all set to torment people, but where the magic portal or demonic realm rift Astira opened has unsealed the fairies’ captivity.

And Ruslan and his group happen to encounter this situation while escorting Diana to that place.

In essence, to feed Ruslan the fairy fruit, all I need to do is open the demonic realm rift to the place where the fairies are kept.

It’s not a difficult task.

I’m not sure about the timing, but the sooner he consumes it, the better. The sooner the fairy fruit is consumed, the more beneficial it is, especially for someone with monstrous talent like Ruslan.

The ‘sense’ mentioned in connection with the fairy fruit also encompasses adaptability to magical power. In other words, the sooner it’s consumed in the early stages, the more its efficacy is maximized, making it crucial for Ruslan to eat it as soon as possible to become stronger.

The problem is that he might use this newfound strength against me, so I’ll have to find a way to endure it somehow.

In short, my mind isn’t focusing on the lecture at all right now. I’m just blankly staring at the blackboard, taking copious notes without processing any of it, my mind filled with distractions.

Considering the world is going to end anyway, whether I repeat a year at the academy or not seems irrelevant. I don’t have the time to cling to such matters.

And thanks to the culmination of Prah’s efforts, their glow still bright, I won’t need to allocate time for study just yet; merely taking notes in class will suffice.

...And yet, the back of my head still tingles.

Sure enough, they were still staring at the back of my head. Aris Winslet, in particular.

Her gaze was so intense, it was as if lasers could shoot out of her eyes, so I averted my gaze in moderation. Aris, being the main heroine I painstakingly crafted, held a special place in my heart, filled with various emotions, though I never showed it outwardly.

Rather than spoiling things out of sympathy for her, it seemed better to instill a clear sense of hostility in her. Indifference, showing no interest whatsoever, would ironically provoke her more.

After all, isn’t there a saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference?

Aris, too, harboring a grudge against Prah that’s not quite a grudge, will surely transform that sentiment into anger soon enough.

If Aris grows stronger driven by that anger, it would be a welcome development for me, as she needs to be the one closest in supporting Ruslan.

In any case, my task was straightforward. Just take Astira to the mansion, release her into the secret place where the fairies dwell, and open the magical portal. That’s all.

...If magic turmoil occurs back to back, surveillance will undoubtedly tighten, but that’s hardly an issue for Astira.

“With that, today’s lecture comes to an end. Thank you all for enduring what I’m sure was a tedious session.”

Lost in thought, the lecture had ended before I knew it. The history professor, seeing students who seemed half-asleep now stirring, gave a wry smile and left the classroom.

There were more lectures to follow, but my mind was preoccupied with upcoming events, failing to absorb the content. Time passed, and soon, all lectures for the day had concluded.

Everyone stretched, relieved, chattering about how they nearly died of boredom, and made their way back to their dormitories.

And just as they returned to their dorms,

Whoosh -

A strange vibration swept through the entire classroom. A surge of powerful magic. I immediately sensed that Astira had stirred something up, feeling the pulse of that magic.

Several students sensitive to magical power glanced around and blinked, startled by the sudden surge. It was a well-known sign that a magic portal was about to open.

“Wh-What?”

“Wait, isn’t this a portal opening?”

“Are you mistaken? What portal? Do you realize how vast the academy’s church is?”

Confusion struck the academy, understandably so, given the extraordinary nature of the event.

It defied common knowledge that a portal couldn’t open where the church’s influence lay.

Celus Academy itself housed a church of immense scale, one of the largest in the Talantis Empire, hence a portal had never opened within the academy before.

It was only natural they found it hard to accept this situation.

Of course, the ‘common knowledge’ they believed in was, in fact, incorrect.

It’s true that it’s difficult for a portal to appear where the church’s influence is strong. However, if an entity beyond the church’s influence opens it, even the church’s power can’t prevent the portal from opening.

Take Astira, for example, who might seem unimpressive but holds a high rank among the demons in hell. And not just any rank.

Archangel Astaroth.

She was once a seraph, one of the highest-ranking angels in the celestial realms.

However, after her fall, she weakened significantly, becoming just a high-ranking demon instead of a grand demon... Yet, at the current early point in the story, there were hardly any beings capable of stopping her.

Naturally, a portal opened by such a being would render the church’s influence irrelevant.

Of course, the demons emerging from within weren’t of high rank... but the mere news of a portal’s appearance was enough to throw the students into panic.

Soon after, news spread throughout the academy that a portal had opened in the Maronie Hall, reserved only for the most exceptional female students.

And from this portal, demons emerged, though they were swiftly subdued by Celus Academy’s enforcement division.

As expected, there were no casualties. No one was harmed.

The demons were so weak that the enforcement division was almost confused by their feebleness.

After all, this was all done to legally extract Astira from the dormitory; numerous casualties would have only complicated matters for us. Unnecessary investigations into the cause of the portal’s opening would have only troubled Astira and me.

In the end, the initial step was perfectly executed. I left the academy with a satisfied smile, and upon exiting, I encountered Astira, who wore a similar smile.

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