Standing on top of one of the many terrace balconies that Akademeia held was a man named Kurasame Susaya, who was in his mid-twenties with grey-blue hair and icy blue eyes. He wore Rubrum’s standard military gear, a long dark coat with golden outlines fastened with numerous red belts, a long cape, and a mask that covered the lower portion of his face. Standing in front of him was a girl, Cater, with short, flared auburn hair and steel-blue eyes. She wore a cadet uniform consisting of a black jacket with gold-padded shoulders, a checkered red pleated skirt, knee-high black socks and a red cape along with a red satchel backpack. Standing next to her was another male, Nine, with messy blond hair with long bangs covering the right side, and light blue eyes and a scarred face. He wore the same black jacket and gold-padded shoulders left unfastened with a black belt, a red buckle and white trousers.
“On the battlefield, there’s no guarantee anyone’s coming back alive. But don’t worry. If I die, the crystal will erase your memories.” The Icy eyed man said to his two cadets.
“I doubt we’d forget you, seriously. I mean you’re Class Zero’s commander.” The blonde haired teen countered.
“Okay then. I’ll pray you guys remember…that your commanding officer was a pain in the ass.”
“Yeah, you got that right! We couldn’t forget an annoying guy like you if we tried!”
“Good. Now go use that energy out on the battlefield.”
“Ha!” The red haired girl grinned slightly at her Commanding officer, “As if you need to tell us.” The two cadets turned and walked off of the terrace and into the red portal. Kurasame couldn’t help but watch their backs as they left. ‘Such an awkward pair of cadets. But what does it say about me, that I need my cadets to coddle me before heading into battle?’ He thought as he turned to look up at the clouded sky. ‘Class Zero is strong. Where do they find that strength? Even though the young ones are paying for the adults’ stupidity with their lives…They still face life head on. How do they do it?’
‘They’re much stronger than someone like me.’ He couldn’t help thinking as his mind began to wonder back to the other cadets of Class Zero. ‘Honestly, I’m not worried about them. They’re survivors, no matter what’s thrown at them. They’re skilled, lucky, and determined. They have an aura that summons victory. There is one I worry about though.’ The newest cadet Machina Kunigiri. He noticed the sudden change in his attitude when the cadets came back after escaping Milites; the boy had started to isolate himself from the others.
“Machina has excellent grades, and people like him. He’s such a kind young man.” Machina’s former commanding officer had told him this shortly after the teen was transferred to Class Zero.
“Kindness…” Kurasame said to himself aloud, his eyes sharpened into a harsh glare. “What good will that do him?”
‘Machina is afraid of loss. Since his brother’s death, he’s afraid of losing the memories of the people closest to him. But loss is inevitable for us. Once something’s gone, we can never get it back. There’s nothing I can do to help him, He has to beat this on his own.’ He closed his eyes as a cool wind swept through the air, rustling his hair softly.
‘If he can’t…He’ll suffer the same relentless emptiness I do.’ Kurasame’s mind started to drift back. Back when he was still a cadet, back when he still had everything…
Back when they were still alive.
Standing in the center of the forest clearing with his eyes closed in concentration was a boy with the same grey-blue colored hair but this time he didn’t have a mask covering his face, he was wearing the standard cadet uniform with a purple mantle hanging around his shoulders. The trees started rustling faintly behind him as a massive snake like dragon reared up from them slowly, its jaw began to unhinge itself and gap open wide as it quickly made a lunged for the teen. He snapped his eyes open and within seconds, the cadet was holding a katana and the dragon were sliced into pieces. The vast corpse dropped to pieces on the ground and the teen sheathed his sword.
“Kurasame! You’re not hurt, are you?” A short raven haired girl with a worried look in her dark grey eyes asked him, she was wearing the same uniform and a purple colored mantle around her neck. Kurasame glanced over at her as she walked towards him. “How could I possibly be hurt in this situation, Miwa?” Behind the two, the rest of Class Three watched the swordsman’s stiff back with a small look of admiration in their gaze. “We’re a team of almighty Agito cadets and their commanding officer is there any way to get hurt?”
“But this is a real battle!” Miwa argued. “You never know what could happen.”
“It’s a ‘Battle Drill’. The chances of getting injured or killed on this mission are zero.” But even so the worried look in Miwa’s eyes didn’t subside.
‘…This is pathetic.’ Kurasame sighed to himself. ‘The name “Agito Cadets” weeps to see us like this.’ He turned and looked up towards the large castle that sat on top of the high mountains. The Castle of Concordia could be seen perfectly clear through the opening in the tree tops.
“And now we will go over the military history of the Milites Empire…” Their Commanding Officer’s voice droned on in the class room. Kurasame sat in his seat and tried to make an effort to pay attention to the lecture but he couldn’t help but get distracted by his other classmates.
‘Young warriors aiming to become Agito, the pride of Rubrum. Experts in strategy and tactics, that is who we are. The cadets of Akademeia the Vermilion Peristylium. We cadets have dedicated our lives to intensive training to become Agito…’ Glancing at one of his classmates, he saw the familiar shaved light brown hair of Kotetsu. One of the very few people in Class Three who took his own studies just as seriously as he did. He could see Kotetsu’s eyes moving rapidly behind his black rimmed glasses as he followed along with their Commanding Officer. ‘The legendary force that will bring salvation to Orience. We risk our lives for our Dominion and our Crystal.’ Kurasame moved his gaze from Kotetsu to his other classmates. ‘…Or that’s the idea.’
He could see Guren’s spikey wind swept black hair peaking from the side of his book that was standing up, hiding his sleeping face from view. He could see a line of drool coming from his mouth as he snored away. Next to him was Miwa talking to a girl with long blonde hair and short bangs with a braid wrapped around the crown of her head, her dark blue eyes were entirely focused on Miwa as she spoke. Kurasame could vaguely remember that her name was Sayo. A few rows a head of where the girls were sitting was a shaggy and short blonde haired teen that was playing with a small fire spell in his hands. He had also made a stack of books in front of himself to hide it from view; he could hear Oruto muttering and laughing quietly to himself. He looked at the rest of the cadets in the classroom and saw that almost all of them weren’t even paying attention to the lecture either.
‘But this is my reality, Class Three. All of them think “Cadet” is just a great title to stick on a resume but not me.’ Kurasame turned his attention to the window and stared down at the training grounds. ‘I should be with them.’ Down in the training grounds he saw the familiar light blue capes of the elites of Akademeia sparing with each other vigorously.
‘Class One, the cream of the cadet crop. Word is that the Military sometimes asks them to go on real missions for the army. Those missions are nothing like the drills this class goes on. They’re on a real battlefield, with lives on the line. I will get into Class One. I’ll prove I’m not like these sorry excuses for cadets.’
“Let’s have a Guts Challenge!” Miwa suddenly announced.
“As a farewell party for Guren!” She explained. “He’s moving away.”
‘A Guts Challenge? Like a test of courage? Why would anyone play along with that nonsense?’ Kurasame thought, he could hear everyone in the class talking about it now. “I envy them and their ability to get so excited over a stupid kiddie ghost adventure, like they don’t have a care in the world.” He opened his journal and flipped it to a blank page and began to write.
“Why am I here?
I will never fit in with these people.
But it’s no cause for mourning on my part.
It just means I’m special.
Never forget that, Future Kurasame.”
Behind him, the swordsman never noticed Oruto coming up behind him until the journal he was writing in was snatched from under him. “Oruto!”
“Oruto! Give that back!”
“Wh-what are you writing?” Oruto started snickering as he read over the page. “This is hilarious.”
“Stop that! Give it back!” Kurasame tried to snatch the book back but the blonde kept moving just out of his reach. “If you have time to steal my notebook, use it to study, Mr. ‘Last Place’!” The teen tried to make one last attempt to grab for the book until Oruto suddenly tossed it to Guren’s still sleeping form. “Guren, catch!” He yelled.
The raven haired man jerked awake just as the notebook landed on his face. “What’s this?” But before he could get a good look at it; the notebook was immediately snatched back by Kurasame. “Hmph, terrible reflexes. And you call yourself a cadet.” The swordsman taunted. “You’re not getting my notebook.” The book was still open to the page.
“That’s okay. This page is all I need.” Oruto snuck up behind him again and hurriedly tore the recent entry out of the notebook and started running. “Oruto!” Kurasame yelled after him. He quickly grabbed a hold of the wrist that held his paper, but he wasn’t holding it anymore.
“Terrible reflexes.” Guren mocked, holding up the paper in his hand. “And you call yourself a cadet.”
“Stop messing around! Give it back!”
“’Why am I here?’” Oruto read aloud from the paper, Kurasame gritted his teeth in anger. “Stop It!”
“Later Kurasame.” Was the last thing Guren said as he and Oruto disappeared through the portal that lead to the outside of the classroom. Kurasame was running closely behind them. “Come Back!”
Back in the classroom the girls were giggling to themselves as they watched them go. “It’s hard to tell if Kurasame is cold-hearted or Hot-headed.” Sayo giggled. “He’s actually a pretty funny guy even if he doesn’t know it.” Miwa said with a sigh. “Anyway forget about them, back to the Guts Challenge.”
“Does anyone realize that we are still in the middle of class?!”
“I said give it back!” Kurasame yelled after Guren and Oruto as they ran through the schools vast courtyard.
“’Future Kurasame’? For a guy who’s always quiet, you got some personality!” Guren teased as he read the paper. “’Why am I here’?”
“Come on, Stop it!”
Guren looked up suddenly and seen two familiar looking girls standing off to the side. He quickly skidded to a stop in front of the two cadets from Class One. “Hey, didn’t we have a date? You promised we’d get lunch together in the Ready Room.” The two girls just smiled at him, already used to his flirting habit. “Oh if you keep talking like that your true love will get away, you know.” One of the girls said.
“Huh? Oh, you know about that?” Guren asked them.
“Everyone knows about that. The girl in Class Three with the long hair…” Seeing that Guren was currently being distracted, Kurasame continued to make a run for him from behind. ‘I have you now, Guren!’ Unfortunately he didn’t notice Oruto sticking his foot out to trip him up until it was too late. He started to stumble harshly at first until he ended up rolling and sliding right towards the trio. Guren noticed quickly enough to immediately step out of the way from being collided into.
“Hahaha! What are you doing Kurasame?” The spiky haired teen asked laughing. The swordsman could only growl at him from his place on the ground, his eyes twisting into a harsh glare.
“Class Three cadets are all such good friends.” One of the female cadets said. “I hear that’s the class all the trainees want to get into.”
“Does this look like friends!?” Kurasame protested as he got himself off the ground, dusting off his clothes. ‘No! Class One is mocking me!’ He thought. He saw Guren and Oruto taking off again with his paper and he hurriedly followed after them, leaving the two girls behind. “Get back here!”
“…Every class has its own share of bullying and sabotage.”
In Akademeia’s Sorcery Division, Class Eleven were working as hard as ever. One of the male students was working alone at one of the stations in the back. He was tall with glasses and short brown hair and long bangs in the front that were swept to the right side of his face nearly covering his right eye. He also had on the customary white mantle of Class Eleven.
He could hear footsteps growing louder and closer from outside of the room until-
Guren crashed through the window and landed onto the table in a rush, knocking over papers and making the chemicals spill and shatter on the ground.
“Kazusa! Stop him!” Kurasame shouted towards the brown haired cadet. Just as Guren made to run past him, Kazusa stole the paper right out of his hand making the raven haired teen stop in his tracks.
“Ergh! It’s the four-eyed fruit cake!” Kazusa ignored the name and just glanced over the contents of the paper in his hand curiously.
“Thanks Kazusa.” Kurasame said as he was walking towards them. “These idiots were…”
“Here you go.” Kazusa handed the paper back to Guren.
“Huh? I thought you’d be on Kurasame’s side.” Oruto said to Kazusa.
“I am. But I just love seeing him in distress.”
‘Kazusa!’ Kurasame sulked angrily in his head and glared at the scientist.
“Plus, I think it would be much more fun to expose that subline piece of literature to as many eyes as possible.” Kazusa said, gaining a thoughtful look in his eyes.
“Wow four-eyed fruit cake! You really get it.” Guren praised before taking off again with Oruto by his side, the chase was still going.
“This isn’t over, Kazusa!” Kurasame yelled from over his shoulder as he started running after them again.
“I’m just happy to see you having so much fun.”
“Come on, that’s enough! You’re so immature!” Kurasame shouted at Oruto as they ran down Akademeia’s hallway.
“Yup, I’m only fifteen. Definitely still a kid.” Oruto replied back to him.
“Well, grow up! And give me that paper!”
“What’s going on over there?” Asked two of their classmates. “Is that Kurasame?” Guren was currently holding Kurasame back by his shoulders as Oruto took the paper and started to walk towards the other guys. “Well, you see…Written on this paper is the most sublime piece of literature…” Oruto said as he gained a mischievous smile on his face.
“Stop! No! It’s nothing!” Kurasame tried to struggle as hard as he could against Guren’s hold but he couldn’t break free no matter how hard he tried.
“Well if you’re going to react like that, now I have to see it!”
“Let’s have a look.”
The blonde made to hand over the paper to the others until the page was suddenly plucked from him. Miwa was standing off to the side with the paper grasped tightly in her own hand. “Miwa!” Kurasame cried in shock, his eyes lit up a little at seeing her coming to his rescue.
“Come on, Miwa! Stay out of this!” One of the other cadets complained.
“I’m not getting into anything.” She said. “Here, this is what you wanted, right?” She laid the paper on the table for the others to see. Kurasame could feel his hope shatter into pieces as he collapsed to his knees. ‘It’s over…Everything…my whole life is over.’
“Oh! It’s the pairs for the challenge!” One of them said, attracting the entire class’ attention.
“What? Let me see!”
Miwa moved away from the beginning crowed and over to Oruto and Guren. She looked up and gave them her nastiest glare making the two freeze up and start trembling before tugging on Kurasame’s cape, pulling him into the back gardens.
“Here. This is yours.” She handed the original notebook entry to him and he immediately took it back from her.
“...Did you see it?” He asked her. Miwa just shrugged her shoulders and turned her back to him.
“Maybe.” Was all she said as she went back into their classroom, Kurasame smiled at her from behind.
Miwa didn’t give any indication that she acknowledged him, but he didn’t see the small smile and the light blush that she had on her face as she walked away.
Looking down at the slip of paper in his hand he noticed that something else was written down underneath one of the sentences he wrote.
“Why am I here…?’ It read. And underneath it in small feminine handwriting a short reply said:
“To enjoy the present with your classmates!”
Kurasame couldn’t stop the soft grin from forming on his face.
“All things considered, I’d say you really enjoyed that.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Kurasame was back in the Sorcery Department sweeping up the broken glass pieces and shattered caldrons on the floor. He and Kazusa were the only two there as the rest of Class Eleven had left earlier because of the commotion and the mess.
“No, no. You looked like you were having fun. I’m glad you have such good classmates.”
“Them? ‘Good’?” Kurasame scoffed. “They’re a bunch of immature brats. Thanks to them I’m stuck cleaning all by myself.”
“You’re getting out of the Guts Challenge. But now you owe Miwa a favor, there’s no way…”
“Ugh, why must you torment me?”
“Frankly, I’m jealous. I wish I could go to a test of guts,” The scientist picked up a beaker and started to swirl the liquid inside the container. A dark smile started to take over as a creepy gleam crept in his eyes, his glasses glinting weirdly in the light. “Preforming various experiments on the internal organs of one’s beloved. Could a better event ever take place?”
“Kazusa,” Kurasame stopped and gave him an exasperated look. “That’s not what it means.” He was already used to the scientist’s weird behavior after knowing him for so long. ‘Even I don’t know how I came to be friends with this four-eyed freak. I can’t even remember what started it. I guess we just hit it off because neither of us fits in our class.’
“I know, I know. It was just some anatomy humor.”
“What kind of humor is that?” The teen bent down to sweep up the rest of the glass shards and disposed of them in the trash ben.
“But if you ask me, you’re not so mature yourself Kurasame.”
“What? You’d put me on the same level as those kids who are all worked up about some cheap dare?”
“A Real adult can pretend to enjoy himself.” Kazusa said. “He can laugh at stupid jokes and be impressed by unintelligent comments. He can act excited about something he cares nothing about. That’s what it means to be an adult.”
“So you want me to pretend to have fun so I can fit in with my class?” Kurasame asked.
“No, I don’t think you need to give yourself that kind of useless stress. There’s nothing wrong with you not having fun.”
“So…What are you trying to say?” Kazusa gave him a side eyed glance. “I think I’m trying to say that it wouldn’t be bad if you would be more honest with yourself and sincerely have fun. Nothing good will come of trying to act grown up and cool. You’re always looking down on your classmates, saying they’re immature. But they have a desire to have fun. And they’re going to have fun. If they didn’t do that, life would be pretty dull.”
“If what you’re saying is right…Then I’m the most childish of the bunch.” The swordsman said with realization.
“And that’s why I love you so much I can’t stand it.”
“Don’t make it creepy.”
Kurasame finally stopped sweeping and looked down at himself thoughtfully. ‘If I were a child, I could sincerely enjoy it. If I were an adult, I could pretend to enjoy it. I can’t enjoy it or pretend to, so what does that make me? A rebellious adolescent?’
‘That…is really immature.’
“Why not actually try to have fun once in a while? I hear Class Three is a pretty friendly group.”
‘Up until now, I thought they were a mob of immature brats. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe they’re actually putting effort into making our class a good place to be.’ “Your tastes are really messed up, but your ideas are surprisingly sane.”
“That’s what it means to be a genius.” Kurasame leaned back against the wall and sighed, ‘A guts challenge, maybe I will try to enjoy it.’
Back in the forest there were two Rubrum foot soldiers that were clearing the cave of wild monsters lurking inside. They were there only for the sole purpose of setting it up for the Guts Challenge that Class Three was planning later that week. The daylight had started to recede behind the mountains as the sun was setting, the night slowly took over.
“Okay, nothing unusual about this cave.” One said. “No monster outbreaks. There was a request from the administration to let some cadets use this cave, right?”
“Yeah, something about Class Three using it for a drill or something.”
“Just between you and me, I heard it’s not a drill. They’re having a courage contest.”
“What? A courage contest? Ugh, those high-and-might cadets! Must be nice being elite. And we’re out here doing a safety check just because they want to play a game.” One of the soldiers complained. “They don’t pay me enough for this.”
“We’re just lowly little foot soldiers. It’s our lot in life to be slaves to fifteen and sixteen year-old brats.”
As the two traveled deeper into the cave, they never noticed a lone woman following behind them silently. She was wearing a floor length white kimono with green embroidery detail with an obi cinched at the waist along with an elaborate headpiece and a solid veil covering her face from view. But within the small side opening of the veil, you could see the macabre smile stretching widely across her face, her chuckles resound lowly off of the hollow cave walls, her eyes looked empty as they were over shadowed by the darkness of her headpiece.
“Ha ha ha ha ha…”