◈ Episode 332: Wall of Relationships (2)

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Rudger and Rine sat on the same bench, keeping a slight distance between them.

Rine sat upright with a straight back, tightly gripping the edge of her skirt on her neatly folded knees.

Her sidelong glance captured Rudger's appearance.

With his hands clasped and his upper body slightly inclined, he seemed as calm as the surface of a tranquil lake.

His appearance was so mature, unlike her own.

Perhaps because of that, Rine couldn't take her eyes off his profile.

Rudger's subdued demeanor was captivating, and it was undeniable.

However, there was something fundamentally different.

Every time Rine saw Rudger in that state, she felt a sense of longing and wistfulness simultaneously.

She didn't know the clear reason why.

She was certain she had never met Rudger in the past, yet whenever she saw him, she couldn't help but feel as if they had met long ago.

Nevertheless, it seemed like an invisible wall existed between them.


"Yes, yes?!"

When Rudger spoke, Rine was startled, thinking that he might have caught her secretly staring him.

"Why are you acting like that?"

"Oh, no. It's nothing."

Seeing Rudger's puzzled expression, she didn't think he had caught on to anything.

Only then did Rine realize that Rudger also had something to discuss with her.

"Rine, I think you have a vague idea why I wanted to talk to you."


"You must have seen it that day."

Instead of answering, Rine nodded her head.

"The appearance I showed you that day is one of my magic spells. Specifically, it's a summon magic that I control."

Rudger said so and summoned his familiar, [Aether Nocturnus].

Since it would undoubtedly attract attention if he summoned the whole thing, Rudger minimized it and presented it.

A crow-like creature appeared on the garment on Rudger's right shoulder.

The crow swiftly turned its head to look at Rine, and Rine, though her shoulders trembled at the sight, didn't avoid the crow's gaze.

"This... This is your magic summon?"

"That's right."

"It's... quite unusual?"

"It's called Aether Nocturnus. It moves through shadows, and right now, it takes the form of this animal, but its primary form is closer to a garment."

"If it's a garment... Ah."

Only then could Rine recall the appearance Rudger had taken that day.

Literally, it looked like he had draped a cloak made of shadows over himself.

Moreover, he was wearing a crow-shaped mask on his face.

What did he call it again? Plague Doctor's mask?

She had seen it in a book, and the mask evoked a considerably somber atmosphere.

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Now, looking at the shadow crow perched on Rudger's shoulder, she couldn't erase the thought of its similarity.

"So, does that mean it's the ability of this magic summon to suddenly emerge from nowhere on an empty ground?"

"More precisely, it emerges from the shadows. Since Aether Nocturnus is composed of shadows, I can also move through them as a medium."

"Wow, I see."

Only then did Rine realize how Rudger could come to her rescue in that fleeting moment.

That's really impressive, isn't it?

Rine exclaimed in pure admiration and asked, "Can I touch it?"

"Feel free."

Rine naturally extended her hand toward the magic summon in the form of a crow.

The crow stared at Rine with its red eyes, but Rine only paused her hand for a moment.

With a gentle smile, Rine reached out her hand, and Aether Nocturnus tilted its head to the side for a moment.

Then, it lightly brushed its beak against the approaching hand.


Rine exclaimed without realizing, struck by the peculiar sensation she felt from the palm of her hand.

Indeed, even the touch itself was different from that of an ordinary crow.

It felt as if the sensation of touching smoke.

Considering that it was not simply a shadow but manifested through magical power, it wasn't an incorrect expression either.

Rudger observed Rine's fascinating gesture of touching his familiar for a moment and then released the summoning of Aether Nocturnus.

Rine felt a twinge of regret at the familiar's form vanishing in an instant.


"It's not something I can keep for long. Even though it appears like that, it's very greedy, so it consumes a significant amount of magical power. Especially under this bright sunlight."

"Ah, I see."

"Is the familiar fascinating?"

"Yes. I've heard about them, but it's my first time seeing one in person."

"Indeed, familiars might be unfamiliar to first-year students like you. The proper lessons on summoning familiars are part of the third-year curriculum."

"Ah, it takes quite a while, then. I wanted to learn it quickly."

"You don't have to worry too much about it."


"Starting from this incident, there will be significant changes in the academic curriculum soon. Among them, there is a possibility that the summoning lessons for familiars will be moved to the first-year curriculum."

Although Rudger said it was a possibility, he was practically certain.

Familiars are like companions of the soul possessed by wizards.

When summoned, familiars consume a significant amount of magical power, but in that moment, they guarantee tremendous stability and combat prowess.

Even though only certain individuals can naturally learn Elementalism, there is a reason why wizards are interested.

Learning about familiars will undoubtedly be helpful in the future if one takes the time to learn.

The implications were quite significant.

However, summoning a familiar was not merely a theoretical process.

It required a bit more instinct, intuition, and enlightenment.

That's why usually students in their first and second years do not learn how to handle familiars.

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It is because they lack experience and proficiency in magic.

The foundation of familiars requires one's own magical power and a deep connection.

In that sense, it was quite revolutionary for first-year students to learn the summoning of familiars.

As students learning it, they would be filled with excitement.

Summoning a special being born from one's own magical power carries dreams and romance, which are not characteristic of a wizard.

Of course, the teacher who would teach it would already be struggling with the dilemma.

"I have no idea who will teach it, but they will surely have a hard time."

Rine nodded vigorously, indicating her apparent understanding of Rudger's comprehensive explanation.

However, the explanation he had just provided merely scratched the surface of her curiosity. There were still numerous inquiries lingering in her mind.

For instance,

The actual essence of the black mist that had assaulted her that day.

Or the state of Flora, who had selflessly taken her place.

"Um, is Flora senpai... is she okay?"

"Flora, you mean?"

"Yes. That day, because of me, she... in my place..."

Whenever Rine recalled that moment, her heart sank.

It was clear that she was the target of that black mist.

If anyone was to suffer, it should have been her.

"Flora is fine."

"Oh, yes. I'm relieved."

"So, you don't need to worry about it."

Rine pressed her lips together tightly, feeling as though Rudger's words had glimpsed her innermost thoughts.

"Do you blame yourself?"

"...It's because I tried to protect you. I ended up in that state. I was even consumed by that eerie mist."

"A demon."


"That was a demon."

Upon hearing his words, Rine's eyes widened, and she gazed intently at Rudger's profile.

It was as if she was asking if it was okay for him to say that to her.

"Didn't you already know?"

"Yes, yes?"

"I'm asking if you had any inkling. Why do you think that demon took an interest in you in the first place?"


As Rine attempted to speak, her own iris flashed into her mind.

The black mist. If Rudger was correct, it must have been a demon.

It was evident that the demon had singled her out as its target.

It could vaguely be speculated that it was because of her awakened iris.

"Moreover, that demon said something about a saint to me."

When he mentioned the saint, the illusion magic she had seen at the museum came to mind.

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It was called divine magic. A woman who used that magic, praying.

Strangely, that sight lingered in her mind. Could it be related to that?

"You seem to have many questions."

"Yes. There are so many things I don't know. I wonder why I suddenly got involved in this kind of situation. But still..."

"You want to know."

"...Yes. Because I don't know, I feel like I need to know more. So that I can understand even a little about what I should do. That's why I want to ask. Do you know about my condition, Teacher?"

Rine stared at him with an unwavering gaze.

Her irises were sparkling with a much more beautiful light than before.

Just by looking at them, one could lose themselves and be drawn in by their charm.

Rudger, who had resisted the enchantment of the headmaster, found himself momentarily but blankly observing those eyes.

Even though she hadn't fully awakened yet, if she was in this state...

What would happen when she possessed a complete judgment eye?



"...Well, at this point, it's impossible for you to remain unaware."

Rudger pondered where to begin his explanation, but he decided to start from the very beginning, telling her everything.

In the past, he had intended to keep it a secret, but now that more than half of the awakening had already occurred, Rine needed to be informed as well.

"Rine, have you heard of the judgment eye?"

"Judgment eye? It's the first time I'm hearing that term."

"The judgment eye is the ability to discern right from wrong. I believe it extends beyond mere intuition and encompasses perceiving something more intrinsic."


Rine nodded, as if she could grasp what Rudger meant.

She had believed that she could detect people who posed a threat to her like a ghost from the beginning of the semester.

Conversely, she also thought she could distinguish those who wouldn't benefit her.

The reason Rine could freely ask Rudger about things she didn't know, unlike other students who were still afraid of him, was because of that.

"And that judgment eye is said to be the unique ability inherent only in the saints spoken of in Lumensis Church."


Although the demon, Basara, had referred to her as a saint, hearing it directly from Rudger felt different.

"But, how can someone like me be a saint...?"

"It doesn't matter how you perceive it. Most past owners of the judgment eye were probably the same. It's just that there are rarely cases like yours where awakening occurs."

"T-Then, is Lumensis Church going to take me?"


"W-Well, because I might become a saint..."

"That won't happen."


"Yes. I won't let that happen."

Rine swallowed her breath at Rudger's words.

She was probably saying it out of concern as a student, but hearing those words directly confused her.

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"B-But why...?"

"You have placed Lumensis Church on a pedestal. Instead of revering and honoring the birth of a saint, they would rather shackle and manipulate the saint as a pawn in their hands."

Rine contemplated questioning how he obtained such knowledge, but when she observed Rudger's earnest countenance, she found herself unable to inquire.

Considering Rudger's knowledge of Lumensis Church, the judgment eye, and the existence of saints, it was clear that Rudger knew something that Rine didn't.

"W-What should I do then?"

"For now, conceal it."

"Just because I conceal it, does that mean it will remain hidden? My eyes are too conspicuous no matter how hard I try."

"Well, that's true. Rine, let me take a look."

"Ah, okay."

Rine followed Rudger's instructions.

Rudger stared fixedly at Rine's countenance.

His sapphire-like eyes captured his own reflection.

It felt as if he was beholding his own face in the tranquility of a still pool.

As Rudger silently gazed at her, Rine sensed a tingling sensation.

"R-Rudger, teacher?"

"Just stay still."

Rudger uttered these words and cautiously extended his hand towards Rine.


As Rudger's touch drew near her eyes, Rine involuntarily flinched, causing her shoulder to tremble.

Rudger's hand was firm yet gentle, emanating warmth.

His touch on this side was as cautious as handling an ancient relic.

Rine didn't particularly dislike that sensation.

If she had to choose between liking or disliking it, it leaned towards the positive side.

She thought it would be fine if it continued like this for the rest of her life.

'M-My heart is racing too much.'

Rudger's presence was close. His perfectly sculpted face and the warmth of his hand touching her cheek.

Rine worried about what would happen if Rudger realized that her heart was beating like this.

Her heart was pounding so loudly that she couldn't control it, and it felt like it would resound clearly in Rudger's ears.

How long did it last like that?

"That's enough."

With Rudger's short statement, his hand that touched her cheek moved away.

Rine felt a sense of regret but still asked, "What just happened?"

"Do you want to see?"

Rudger conjured a metal magic in the air, creating a thin plate.

The smooth surface of it reflected Rine's face clearly, like a mirror.

Rine looked into her own eyes through the mirror-like gap.


Surprisingly, her eyes, which had sparkled like starlight, had returned to their original state.