012 – Form a group with your close friends #1
How long had it been since I felt my heart race at those two words?
It had been quite some time since I graduated from school, and who would have expected me to become a teenager again and enjoy my youth?
“Transfer students, new students, come join the Ancient Culture Research Club. If you join now, we’ll even give you a magnifying glass and excavation set as a bonus.”
“If you’re interested in the path of the sword, come to the Swordsmanship Research Society. We even conquered the dungeon at C-2 point not too long ago, and we receive excellent commendations from the Student Council every year.”
It was a morning before the first class had even started.
Many students were laying out pamphlets on tables, trying to attract new and transfer students.
“There are so many.”
It was a larger crowd than I had imagined.
The more members they recruited, the higher the club budget they received from the student council, so everyone was quite determined.
“Is Nike somewhere around here?”
I headed towards the table assigned to “Victory’s Cook Club” before the first period started.
By now, Nike would be distributing pamphlets to students and transfer students, using her newly born charming appearance and the mass-produced 「Petit Scented Herb Soup」 that she had been researching over the weekend.
“Due to using too much water, the grade dropped to Tier 1.5, but I can make ten servings with the amount I prepared.”
She had worked hard all weekend to balance taste and quantity.
So, where would these efforts lead?
And there I found Nike’s table.
In front of it, it was as desolate as an abandoned amusement park.
“Nike, why are there no people here?”
“And what’s with that funny witch hat? Why are you covering your face with something so eye-catching? I personally told you to promote the club using your eye-catching pink hair.”
Nike was hiding her lively pink hair and her finally pretty and neat appearance with an oversized hooded hat.
“I told you that promotion was important. We just need one more member.”
“But it’s embarrassing…! To show my face in front of people and seek attention…!”
During the vacation, Nike had lived like a wild beast in the forest.
Victor didn’t have any friends to begin with.
Was it too much for Nike, who had no self-confidence, to promote herself? I never expected her to achieve such results.
“No, this should be expected.”
I had already anticipated the possibility that she might not be helpful in promoting, and she had thought about it over the weekend.
After all, the only thing I could rely on was myself.
“I’ll handle the promotion.”
Nike’s expression brightened noticeably at my words.
“Are you really okay with that? Does that mean you’ll do some hustling too?”
“I won’t stoop to such undignified actions.”
Unless it was me, Ha Seung-ri, Victor wouldn’t tolerate noisy promotion. So, I needed to use a more straightforward approach.
With that in mind, I hung up the banner I had prepared in advance.
「Free Taste Testing」
It was a plain and unadorned Human Gothic font.
But this would be different.
I poured the mass-produced soup from the insulated bottle I had brought into paper cups.
The first day of the new semester.
Students shivering with nerves and the still unseen cold. Hot soup.
This would work as promotion.
But surprisingly, not many people gathered around.
“Look at that, it seems like they’re serving soup in cups. Should we try a cup? I skipped breakfast this morning, so this is perfect.”
“Hey, stop. That guy is Victor. I heard from my sister. He’s a really scary guy. If you cross him, it means you’re tired of your school life.”
“Victor, the executive committee member? I know him too. He was famous even in our middle school. He can split a helmet with a sword in one strike, right? He’s really scary…”
It was because this stern-looking man was confidently handling the situation in front of the tasting booth that people couldn’t approach.
After all, it’s more comfortable to eat food served by a friendly lady at a big supermarket’s tasting corner.
“There’s nothing we can do. Nike, I’m going to leave this place. You can take care of this area. If needed, you can pour more from the thermos.”
“Yeah! I’ll do my best!”
In any case, the first period would start soon.
Nike might not know, but Viktor wouldn’t tolerate anyone entering the classroom just before class.
Considering his personality, he would probably arrive and take his seat at least an hour before class started. Anyway, he was very strict.
* * *
Where was my classroom now that I was in the second year?
“Don’t block the way, move aside.”
People were bustling in the corridor.
Attached to the central wall was a poster with students’ names, student numbers, and their assigned classes written on it.
“Alexto. We’re in the same class again this year! Let’s have lunch together this year too! Okay?”
“…Yeah. I’m glad.”
“Dearmid, Dearmid, where are you? We’re in the same class again this year! It’s fate!”
“Be quiet; you’re bothering people.”
“Why? Didn’t we promise to conquer dungeons and receive titles together? We might even find a crown!”
Everyone seemed to be noisy, forming pairs and talking about being in the same class with someone or other things.
But that didn’t matter to me.
“I’m in the 2nd-year class A-1.”
I had vaguely expected this.
Among the several classes divided based on comprehensive evaluations, including grades, ‘A-1’ gathered the most excellent students.
Most of the main characters in the game were from this class.
However, originally, Victor wouldn’t have been placed in this ‘A-1’ class.
Victor had hidden his presence in the story after the tutorial, and he only reappeared in midway.
Now that I think about it, maybe the Victor in the game didn’t return to the Arkwright family on the mainland, as Victoria mentioned.
What did he do there to become such a monster?
“It’s not like there are no prodigies among us.”
Anyway, as long as I was here at the Academy, I didn’t need to worry about that.
The problem was on this side.
“Miss Arkwright is definitely in A-1 class. How can she be so perfect? We’re the same age, but we’re worlds apart. If it’s Miss Arkwright, she can even find the hidden crown, right? Isn’t that so?”
“Miss Blackstar is also in class A-1. Will I be able to see it again this year? The battle between the princesses.”
Enio and Victoria in the same class?
Of course, it’s only natural.
“There’s no change.”
It’s rather conventional and comforting.
Lastly, I read a few more words that caught my attention and moved to the place where I should be.
Even in this prison-like academy, it’s the best facility for teachers.
I opened the door to that place and entered, and even though it was early, quite a few people were already seated. They must be the top students, indeed.
“Look at that, Victor.”
“He’s really attending school. Why, it’s common for those who have been demoted to ordinary students to drop out.”
“More importantly, have you heard the rumors about Miss Arkwright and Victor…?”
As I entered the classroom, the students muttered softly while looking at me. Normally, during the vacation, they would be busy talking about the “transfer student” who caused a commotion in the Academy.
“Everyone is so interested in other people’s business. If you have the time, tidy up your appearance. Hey, Daily. Did you forget to get a haircut? You’re not dressed properly.”
The brown-haired glasses-wearing student, who was pointed out to me, recoiled.
His name is ‘Daily Rumor’.
If my memory serves me right, he is the deputy head of the newspaper club and the informant type of friend character who asks for information from Luke, the protagonist, like, ‘Have you heard about this?’
“Daily, didn’t you get a haircut? Ew!”
“Go away! Don’t sit next to me!”
Amidst the screams of the female students, Daily grumbled, “I didn’t have time until last night because I was working on an article”, and grabbed his shampoo before heading to the restroom.
Now it should get a bit quieter.
I sat down in the back row by the window, the farthest seat.
Sitting there, I crossed my arms and closed my eyes.
“Alexto, if the opening ceremony ends early today, do you want to go shopping…?”
“…Sure, sounds good.”
It’s a new semester, but a few like-minded students had already gathered and were chatting away.
In the midst of all that I, Victor, was all by myself.
Well, that’s how the first day of a new semester usually goes.
That’s when it happened.
With the sound of the sliding door opening, the atmosphere in the classroom changed.
I slowly opened my eyes and saw the familiar sight of silver hair swaying.
Has Victoria arrived?
She entered the classroom with her close friend, ‘Secretary – Shady’. Then she settled in a seat in the middle and began unpacking her belongings.
Every move was flawless.
Elegant and graceful.
However, the students’ attention was elsewhere.
“Did Miss Victoria really not talk to Victor for real? This is the first time something like this has happened, right?”
“In the first year, they used to exchange morning greetings every day.”
“…They might have really broken up!”
It was quite a commotion.
Honestly, since it’s someone else’s love life, it’s kind of entertaining.
With that feeling in mind, one, two seats were taken.
With only 20 minutes left until the opening ceremony, there were only two empty seats left.
One to my right.
One in the front row in front of the teacher’s lectern.
No one is sitting next to me.
Victor, this guy, even though he had a bad reputation, wasn’t this a bit much?
Around the time I was joking to myself, saying I’d have to eat lunch alone in the restroom every day, the door opened, and she appeared.
“These are all familiar faces.”
She scanned the surroundings with her curious red eyes, and then she spotted someone and walked up without hesitation, sitting down next to me.
“Victor, it’s been a while.”
Enio was particularly kind to me.
Maybe it’s because of Victoria? She must have been intentionally pretending to be friendly to me to gently scratch at Victoria.
However, Victoria, who was sitting in front of me, didn’t look in my direction or even turn around. She was engrossed in conversation with Shadi.
Regardless, Enio started a conversation with me, sounding somewhat annoyed.
“Victor, I thought you’d come to see me at least once before the start of the school year. Why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t have a reason to.”
“Is that so? I thought you’d come because of the key. You know, the key I have to a private storage room. Since you got kicked out of the dorm, I was going to suggest you stay there for a few days.”
If I had known earlier, I wouldn’t have had to spend nights in the forest full of bugs.
I wasted my energy for nothing.
“But Victor, I found the item I was looking for at that place called the ‘3rd Pillar.’ I didn’t tell anyone, but it was a very precious item.”
“I’m glad you found it.”
“How did you know it was there?”
How did I know that the ‘Yellow Ribbon’ was there? Of course, I knew because I played the game so much. Of course, I can’t say that out loud; otherwise, I’ll be eating lunch alone in the restroom for real.
“It’s nothing special. I received various pieces of information when I was still an executive member.”
Lying made my stomach ache.
I hoped Enio bought it.
I didn’t want to lie any further.
“Hmm, is that so? I see.”
Enio nodded with a subtle feeling.
Suddenly, an ominous feeling passed through my mind.
Could it be that if Enio sits next to me like this, I’ll have to lie every day and endure stomachaches?
Raising my hand every hour and saying, “I need to use the restroom!”, and getting stamped as a liar is absolutely repulsive.
“Victor, anyway, thank you. I wanted to repay you somehow. Do you have time after the opening ceremony today?”
I’m going to be really busy after the opening ceremony.
I have to take over the club promotion from Nike and run around all day.
However, Enio seemed a bit surprised by my blunt refusal.
“Really? Well, I guess there’s nothing I can do.”
Turning her head away from me, Enio began rummaging through her bag, pulling out various items.
Maybe I rejected her a bit too bluntly.
It would have been better if Victor had been a bit more accommodating.
t was now 9.
The door at the front of the classroom opened, and a man with long, tousled black hair entered.
He must be around thirty years old, and he had noticeable dark circles under his eyes.
“Uh, don’t tell me he’s our class instructor…”
“This school year is already a failure.”
“Alright, since the class has started, everyone be quiet. You probably already know everything about me. I am Instructor Berzurak. Now, I’ll take attendance.”
Instructor ‘Black Flag Berzurak’, huh?
It matched the information I already knew.
Then it’s about time for the door to open.
“Phew, I barely made it!”
“Late. Luke, I’ll give you a penalty Point.”
That guy is the protagonist of this Prison Academy.