Section 13: Conditions
Lou-chan’s breath was haggard, probably because she had almost exhausted her magic power in such a short amount of time.
Trails of sweat trickled down her forehead and flowed down her cheeks.
[Lou]: “Sorry, sorry…..I…..couldn’t win……”
[Iris]: “What are you talking about!? I’m so sorry for all of this. Because of me…….”
I pulled out my handkerchief and began wiping down her face.
[Lou]: “No, Airi-chan is……my friend. If someone tries making fun of you……I, I……can’t stand by……”
Lou-chan’s face twisted in regret. Tears overflowed from the corners of her eyes, mixing together with the sweat already dripping down her chin.
[Grides]: “……you aren’t here to make friends.”
I could feel Grides-san’s glare on my back. I turned around when I heard her footsteps behind me and found her looking down on us both.
Her forehead was wet with sweat as well. Her breathing was rough, and her usually neatly tied hair had become a bit ruffled.
But her eyes were full of fire. I saw it and felt as if I were staring into something divine.
[Grides]: “You are here to strengthen yourself. To learn and increase your power in preparation for your future decades of life as a noble. To come to this sacred school just so you can play with friends; you make me sick.”
Grides-san kept up her demanding stature as she looked down on both of us.
[Grides]: “The weak have no place in this school. Konfiks-san. As promised, you will leave this place…….”
[Iris]: “……hold on.”
But I, spoke up and stopped her from saying whatever she wanted. I glared back at her just as strongly as she was glaring at us.
[Iris]: “Grides-san. I challenge you to a duel.”
[Lou]: “Airi-chan, you mustn’t!”
I pressed a finger to Lou-chan’s mouth. I know it’ll just be a poor imitation, but I did my best to replicate Saluena’s smile. The one that always lets me know everything will be all right.
[Iris]: “It’ll be okay. I won’t lose.”
[Iris]: “Grides-san. I don’t know what it’s like being a noble. So I can’t say for sure whether what you’re saying is right or wrong.”
I lent Lou-chan my shoulder and helped her to her feet. She kept anxiously giving me looks, but I consciously ignored them.
[Iris]: “But, that doesn’t mean I can just sit back and watch a friend willing to fight for me suffer.”
So I repeated myself. In the open where nearly half the school could see us both.
[Iris]: “Grides Montifi-san. Duel me.”
[Grides]: “……how do you intend to fight me when you cannot use any magic?”
[Iris]: “Don’t worry. I have my own way of fighting.”
Grides-san remained quiet for a moment, giving me a puzzled look. I wondered if she was trying to figure out the reason why I am so confident when she narrowed her eyes.
The only way for me to overturn the results of this duel is with a duel of my own. I will beat Grides-san and cancel Lou-chan’s expulsion.
There’s one hole in this plan though. That is the fact that it will only work if Grides-san agrees to the duel in the first place.
But I was confident that wouldn’t be a problem.
Grides-san won’t refuse my challenge. No, she can’t refuse. Because she just called this school a “place for the strong”.
[Grides]: “Supposing that I agree, I assume you will wish to make it so Konfiks-san will not have to drop out as your reward should you win……”
[Iris]: “Yes, that’s right.”
[Lou]: “It’s okay Airi-chan! I’m okay! I’m the one who ran off on my own and did something rash!!”
[Iris]: “There’s no way it’s okay. There’s nothing about this that’s okay Lou-chan. If I let this happen, I will regret it for the rest of my life. I want to be friends with you forever.”
[Lou]: “U, Uu……Airi-chan……”
Lou-chan is my first friend to have given me a nickname. If I abandon her here now, I will feel this pain every single time I remember that name.
I will never get over that.
[Grides]: “So, what happens if I win?”
Shoot, my bad. I didn’t think about that. It’s not fair for me to be asking something without risking anything in turn. Something, something…….what in the world could possibly be worth as much as cancelling Lou-chan’s withdrawal?
[Iris]: “Is there anything you want?”
Unable to think of anything myself, Grides-san came up with an answer as soon as I asked.
[Grides]: “When I win, you will refrain from having any kind of relationship with Rosaltih Auroll-sama ever again.”
My body froze up the moment Rose-san’s name came out of her mouth.
[Grides]: “I have always thought you were not right for that person.”
Grides-san’s eyes drifted to the side. When I followed her gaze, I found Rose-san standing close by. Toslin and the others had made their way through the crowd sometime without me noticing, but Rose-san stood in front of everyone else, sternly staring right at Grides-san.
[Grides]: “The daughter of a margrave stands in a key position that could decide the future of the country. Allowing somebody with dubious origins like you to hang around someone like her will accomplish nothing but staining her honor.”
[Rose]: “Montifi-san, we already discussed this.”
[Grides]: “We did, but that does not mean I gave up Auroll-sama. You must know it as well. Your name and blood is that of a noble, and there is no escaping that. You are no different than me. So I shall do you a favor and remove this stain for your benefit. I know how kind you are, so as a fellow noble, allow me to do you this kindness.”
With that, Grides-san once again turned to me. And this time her glare was colder than it had ever been before.
[Grides]: “Now it is your turn to answer me. If you lose the duel, you shall quietly leave Rosalith Auroll-sama alone and never bother her again. As long as you accept these terms……then I will use all of my strength to crush you in this duel!!”
If I win, Lou-chan doesn’t have to drop out.
But if I lose, I won’t be able to stay with Rose-san.
[Iris]: “I accept”
I didn’t even have to think about it.
Turning her down was never an option.
If I were to abandon Lou-chan like this, I wouldn’t deserve to see Rose-san to begin with.
[Grides]: “……splendid. Odette-sensei, with that being the case……”
[Odette]: “I understand. Then I shall bear witness. The duel shall be held here, tomorrow morning.”
I enrolled in the world-renowned Eleonora Academy, got to know a bunch of well-to-do noble ladies, made friends, and now I’m even participating in a duel.
I turned my head to Lou-chan and said, “You know, this is probably one of those valuable once in a lifetime experiences.”
Then while still crying, she angrily shot back, “Stupid Airi-chan……”
And that’s fair. From Lou-chan’s perspective, I’m just an ordinary person who can’t cast any spells. Yet here I am, challenging Grides-san, somebody who has already been accepted to join the Shirayuri Knights when she graduates, to a duel.
I’m like a child who just picked up a stick and thinks they’ll be able to fell a fully suited knight.
[Iris]: “I definitely won’t lose. I promise.”
I stroked Lou-chan’s back, reassuringly whispering into her ear that everything would be okay as she cried into my chest.