『Three, two, one…… Now!』

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Shouted out Aikawa.

The B-class Devil Spider, no, in this time it would be the medium-sized high-level monster “Onikumo”, was opening its mouth, about to shoot out its venoms when
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Bang!

At that very moment, a mana bullet flew right into the monster’s mouth, hitting it in its most vulnerable spot, the venom glands, and causing an explosion.
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EEK!

The Onikumo, now missing half of its head, staggered, failing to gain its balance, and eventually, its legs gave up, and it fell right to the bottom of the valley.
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Splash-…!

We did it!
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As soon as the Onikumo was downed, I shouted.

『I’ll check the monster.
You guys, help the captured people!』
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I shouted as I started to run towards the Onikumo, stepping through the ankle-deep shallow valley stream.
I took my sword and thrust it into its belly.
Fluid started to gush out as it made a deflating sound.

As I put my hand through the slit I had just made, I felt something solid, wrapped in a thin membrane and subtly warm.
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Unlike the mana stones of the small, low-level monsters we had hunted, which were about the size of a fingernail, this one was almost as big as a basketball.
I grabbed onto the mana stone.

‘Ugh……!’
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An incredible amount of mana flowed into my body.

The difference in values and number of uses for mana stones was endless, but they were at their essence, much like mana batteries.
They were a kind of ore-like material that existed within monsters’ bodies and preserved their mana.

And as soon as the monster perished, the mana in the stones started dissipating.
The mana stone was going to get discharged, and the mana would disappear anyway, so absorbing it wouldn’t reduce its cost.
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The mana I was absorbing right now was more than this body, Baek Cheol-yeon, could hold, so it was overcharging me, but the restoration of the status window system was eating it all up, so I could absorb all of it.

‘Gulp.’
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Indeed, when I checked the progress of the restoration of the status window, I could see that the rate at which the percentage bar was increasing was noticeably accelerating.
With this amount, it was likely that the status window would be completely restored in a few days without having to absorb any more mana.
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Having finished absorbing the mana, I walked towards the spider web.
The squad members had already completed the rescue, and about 20 students had been brought down from the spider web and were lying down or sitting.

I approached Aikawa, who was replenishing the students’ energy and asked.

『How are they? Are they okay?』
『Ah, yes! Fortunately, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them……!』
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Onikumos spray anesthetic poison on their prey, temporarily paralyzing them, and then capture them in their web to slowly suck their energy.

Therefore the students that had been captured didn’t have any external injuries, and since it hadn’t been too long since they were caught, most of them were fine enough to get up and walk by themselves.
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Even the few that seemed to be in a worse condition because more of their energy had been sucked out would get better after some sleep.
If we had been even a few hours late, some of them would have been dead.
It was fortunate to have been able to rescue them early.

『Hey…… You.
Was it Shirabayashi?』
『Huh?』

I turned around at the sound of someone calling me, and there were about six students, some of the ones that were in perfect condition as they had been rescued a few moments before we rescued them.
The one that seemed to be their leader scratched his head and said.
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『Hmm, thanks for saving us.
I thought I was going to die on the first day of school.
So, to show our gratitude, we…… wanted to give you some of the monsters we captured…….』

As he said, they lifted their cages.
The number of monsters in there was nothing compared to the amount my squad had captured under my command.

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‘Hmm…….’
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Until a few minutes ago, I had been eager to at least catch even just one more tiny monster, but now that I had absorbed the mana from that huge monster, this was the kind of thing I wouldn’t accept even if they paid me.

How could I just take these monsters off some kids…….
I turned the guy’s offer at once.

『I’m good.』
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I continued saying, pointing towards the Onikumo.

『Rather, would you help us carry that?』

***

『Cadet Shirabayashi and the squad report to the principal’s office.』
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After the pre-field study was completed, the students, apart from the few that had been transferred to the school infirmary, returned to their classrooms in the school’s main building and held their day-end assembly.
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After the assembly, where it was stated that due to the need to address the accident, the school would resume the day after the next, the professor in charge of our class ordered my squad and I to go to the principal’s office.

As we walked down the hallways, Yang Bok-ja came to my side and said.
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『Hey, hey, Shirabayashi-kun! Why do you think they called us? Maybe they’re going to give us an award? I’m so excited!』

An award!
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Indeed, while returning to the classroom from the practice grounds, the professors’ opinion, let alone the students, was very favorable towards us.
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Although Renka was the only one that looked at me as if she had just seen a ghost……

Anyway, we had just gotten rid of a monster that had broken in during the practice session and rescued the students that had been captured, so I expected the school to at least reward us or something.
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『Hmm, what will they give us? I hope they give us tickets for a trip to Kyoto! I’ve always wanted to go to the mainland!』

…I’m not so sure.
I would rather get a weapon or equipment than a travel ticket to Kyoto.
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However, Yang Bok-ja, who had been so excited and walking ahead earlier, stood frozen in front of the principal’s office and just looked at me, unable to go in.

『What? Why aren’t you opening the door?』
『No, no, it’s just that…….』
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It seemed that she had suddenly gotten nervous at the thought of entering the principal’s office.
It was to be expected after all, normal students wouldn’t get called to the principal’s office during their whole school career.
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‘When you’re a student, a teacher, a professor, and especially a school’s principal, you can look like a very high-ranking person.’

『Excuse me.』

So instead of Yang Bok-ja, I knocked on the door and opened the door at the sound of someone saying, “come in”.

Sitting on the sofa around a table was the school principal I had seen earlier at the entrance ceremony, and a bearded middle-aged man wearing a silk hat.
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『So you are the cadets that brought down the Onikumo.』

The first person that opened their mouth as we entered wasn’t the principal but the elderly man with the moustache.
I answered.

『Yes.
That is correct.』
『I’ve heard about it.
The Daedonga Yeopsa Foundation I represent would like to present you with an appropriate reward for your contributions……』
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I looked closely at the middle-aged man who said this.
He was wearing an eye patch over one eye, and even one of his legs was artificial.

The one-eyed man glanced at the six of us standing in a row facing him, and I knew right away.
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‘This man is the big shot.’

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The half-bald principal just sat next to the middle-aged man, adding on by saying things like “yes, yes.
We should do that!” I had felt it during his speech at the entrance ceremony, but this old man felt like he could be an ordinary school principal at any school, regardless of what kind of school it would be.
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On the other hand, the middle-aged man in the silk hat I remembered seeing him on the stage during the entrance ceremony.
When all the different important people were giving their congratulatory speeches, this was the person who had said he was a director at the Daedonga Yeopsa Foundation.

“Daedonga Yeopsa Foundation”, huh…….

The name “Daedonga” seemed quite presumptuous to me, but if they were a “Yeopsa Foundation”, did that mean that they were a foundation that financially supported this school? (note: Daedonga is a reference to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, an imperialist concept developed by the Empire of Japan)
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『…So, after discussing with the principal here, our foundation has decided to fund scholarships for you for the next semester.
Would this be a reasonable reward?』

A scholarship!

As this was a Yeopsa Vocational School or Hunter Academy, I had expected them to reward us with weapons or equipment, but surprisingly, they were offering a realistic reward.
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I mean, after all, it would be strange that they would open up the school’s treasure trove – which I wasn’t even sure if they had one – for something this small.
They probably thought that a scholarship would be a fitting reward.

And it wasn’t that bad of a reward for me either.

‘Money is always good.’
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Of course, I was a noble Joseon who was the son of a baron family, so I wouldn’t have any financial difficulties in attending school even without any scholarships, but……

‘Personal money I can hide away and use as I please!’

I didn’t know how much money my family actually had, but it wouldn’t be mine anyway; it would be the fathers.
It was not money I could use as I wanted.
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So, I thought it would be perfect to receive the tuition money and use it as my personal funds without telling my family about the scholarship.

Of course, I accepted it without hesitation.
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『Thank you!』

I had managed to get unexpected results from the very first day of school.
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The amount of mana I had absorbed today would be enough to restore my status window within a few days.
And on top of that, I was about to receive a scholarship, and we had an unexpected free day.

‘That’s awesome……!’

When I left the main building in a great mood, the day was coming to an end.
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『Alright, guys! See you the day after tomorrow!』

Yang Bok-ja rode away on the rickshaw that she had called in advance, which was waiting for her in the parking lot, and Murasaki went off without saying a word.
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Song Byung-oh talked to me.

『Are you taking the bus back to Donamjeong? We’re going the same way, so let’s go together.』
『Hmm…….』
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I looked at Lee Yu-ha walking towards the school dormitory and thought.

‘If I can, I would like to clear the misunderstanding today.’
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I was hesitating in front of the main building when,
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『Ah! Cadet Shirabayashi! Cadet Lee! Are you still here?』

A window opened in the main building as a voice called out to us.
To be precise, they were talking to Lee Yu-ha and me only.
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Lee Yu-ha, who was heading towards the dormitory, also turned around to face the direction the voice came from.
The person that called us was a middle-aged professor.

‘What’s this……?’

『You go on ahead, first.』

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I bid Song Byung-oh farewell and went into the teacher’s office with Lee Yu-ha.
On top of the professor’s desk who had just called us, a plaque read “Head of Cadets, Kanakawa(金川)”.

“Head of Cadets” probably was this period’s equivalent to the present’s “Dean of Students”.
Why would such a person call us?
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The middle-aged Head of Cadets, who had a buzz cut that resembled a soldier’s, sat down and twirled his fountain pen as he opened his mouth.

『It’s not a big deal, so don’t worry.』
『…….』
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The Head of Cadets opened the school register and said.

『Let’s see…….
What I wanted to tell you is this.
You two got into the school due to your excellent grades in magic power, and on top of that, today, you made an outstanding contribution to this school.
However, this does not mean that you can break school rules.』

Huh……?
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What? I thought hard about it.
What rule did I break?

I sent my brain into overdrive to track back on everything I had done today, but there was nothing I could think about that I had done wrong.
Rather than doing something wrong, hadn’t I made an incredible contribution by defeating that monster that broke into the practice grounds?
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I was thinking when the Head of Cadets continued speaking.

『I heard that you two talked in the Joseon language frequently during the pre-field practice…….』

What?
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『You’re not kids anymore, right? And you’re already past the age of using the Joseon language at school by mistake.』

So, this was the reason he called us over……?

Now that I thought about it, earlier in the afternoon, when Lee Yu-ha and Yang Bok-ja had been fighting, Lee Yu-ha got so flustered that she spoke in Joseon.
And when I was trying to stop their fight, I did as well.

It seemed someone had told on us.
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Then, who could it be? Yang Bok-ja would have ratted out Lee Yu-ha but not me as well, and Aikawa wasn’t that kind of person, either…… Then who……

‘It must have been Murasaki.’

It seemed that he had been pretty upset about getting slapped by me, but he didn’t want to say he got hit, so instead, he had told them that I had spoken in Joseon.
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‘On the outside, you acted all tough, saying he would settle this like a man, but instead, he goes and stabs me in the back like this…… I seriously have to get him beaten up……’
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As I was thinking this, the Head of Cadets said.

『Anyway, since we got a report that you used Joseon, we have no choice but to reflect it into your conduct evaluation.
It might be a small mistake, but if it continues to accumulate, it could lead to your suspension or expulsion from school, so be careful.』

Expulsion!
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『……!』

At the word “expulsion”, Lee Yu-ha’s already pale face became even whiter.
It wasn’t to that extent, but I couldn’t help getting nervous inside either.
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Shit, this is ridiculous.
Are they going to expel a Joseon person for speaking in the Joseon language?

Of course, this Head of Cadets had only said this as a warning, and we shouldn’t have accumulated enough negative points to get expelled yet.
But still, it didn’t make sense that they would penalize us for something as trivial as this.
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And more than anything, I couldn’t stand the fact that Murasaki had done us over.

My brain started to work faster than ever.
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『But, professor, please listen to me.』

I opened my mouth.

『There was an unavoidable circumstance that led to this.
If you listen to us, I’m sure you would understand as well.』

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『Oh?』
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The professor looked over in my direction as if something had piqued his interest.

『Let’s see then.』
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I put my thoughts together.
I planned to use Lee Yu-ha, who was standing right next to me, for my own safety.

『Well, you see, first of all, Ms.
Lee here did not attend elementary school or a regular school when she was younger, and she instead studied in a noble family, so she is not as proficient in the “national language” as the other students or I.
Hence, we were in such a hurry that she accidentally spoke in Joseon, and it was most probably not intentional.』
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This made it seem like I was defending Lee Yu-ha, but at the same time, it was my building up for my defense that would follow.
I wet my lips with my tongue and continued.

『And I, of course, am very fluent in the national language, but I had no choice but to use the Joseon language to calm Ms.
Lee, as she is not very fluent.
Especially since we were in quite an urgent situation, it would have been easier for her to understand the Joseon language she is familiar with rather than the national language.』
『Hmm, I see.
That makes sense.』
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The professor seemed to take my words seriously.
I bowed down at 90 degrees and quickly added.

『As a classmate, I will take responsibility and guide her to make sure this doesn’t happen again.』
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I laid out the groundwork by blaming my classmate’s lack of experience, telling him that I couldn’t help it due to my classmate’s inexperience, and then showing the necessity of keeping me to lead this inexperienced classmate.
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It seemed that my strategy had worked.
The Head of Cadets was deep in thought for a moment twirling his fountain pen and then asked Lee Yu-ha.
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『Cadet Lee.
Is this true?』
“Yes, it……”

Lee Yu-ha almost answered in the Joseon language but soon realized and fixed this by saying 「So desu」 in Japanese.
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The professor closed the conduct evaluations file and said.

『Okay.
I’ll let you off the hook this time.』
『Thank you!』
『Well, as Cadet Shirabayashi said, not all Joseon cadets are fluent in the national language after all.
Cadet Shirabayashi, help Cadet Lee so she can fluently speak the national language, and Cadet Lee, get used to it as soon as possible.』

I bowed at him and answered.
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『Yes, sir!』

Lee Yu-ha also bowed and answered.

『……Yes, sir.』
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So, by the time we had managed to solve the issue of breaking school rules and were exiting the main building, the sun was already setting, and the sky was painted in a deep scarlet red.

In front of the main building, I glanced at Lee Yu-ha, who was still standing around, avoiding my gaze.
She seemed to be deep in thought.

…What could she be thinking about?
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While defending myself in front of the Head of Cadets, I had been able to defend Lee Yu-ha as well, but I couldn’t get around to telling her that I was personally not a pro-Japanese.

‘Right now is probably not a good moment to talk about it.’

On the contrary, the misunderstanding that I was pro-Japan probably deepened since I kept saying “national language” to refer to Japanese in front of the Head of Cadets and even told him that I would teach the “national language” to Lee Yu-ha.
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I told Lee Yu-ha,

『……See you the day after tomorrow.』

And bid her farewell as I started walking across the playground towards the school gate when,
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“……Baek Cheol-yeon!”

It was Lee Yu-ha calling out to me.

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