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On A Certain Snowy Day
After the big events of the Hartmann family of this year ended, I finally tried to get myself together to face the upcoming unknown challenge.
Yes, I no longer have the cheat called as my past life experiences and memories as I’m now off to Intermediate Level.
I was on denial the whole time before Alt-nii’s coming-of-age ceremony.
After his birthday though… The real deal has finally begun.
Ahem! Let’s rewind time a bit to before my birthday. I mentioned the thing about exams before I went off to describe my and Alt-nii’s birthday parties, right?
Okay, time to narrate that matter now that I have to face the bitter reality. No use in denying it forever.
–Flashback mode: Activated–
After Leticia’s birthday party. A very important event was imminent and we had to prepare for it with all that we got.
Can anyone guess what it might be?
Time for the answer to be revealed…
We have to study for our exit exams!
Yes, we’ve spent 4 years in Basic Level’s special class. After this, we’d enroll in Intermediate Level.
I started to study more for the exit exams and for the sake of my bright Intermediate Level. Of course, me and my friends studied together.
If we couldn’t get a high score in the exit exams, we could still enroll in the Intermediate Level as long as we got a passing grade, but we wouldn’t be in Special Class and the thing is… We all wanted to continue being in the Special Class.
Not only it would be beneficial for us in terms of our education and the time length, it would also mean… We’ll be guaranteed being classmates!
Yup, we had to ace the exit exams at all cost!!
Furthermore, there was one very surprising (yet somehow I could expect it…) matter, too.
It was the fact that Ein tried to take accelerated exams so that he could finally enroll in the same class as us.
“Eh, you’re all going to graduate Basic Level and enter Intermediate Level, leaving me all alone?! No, I can’t accept this! If that’s the case, then I will enter Intermediate Level at the same time!”
Ein once said with a firing spirit reflected in his eyes.
At that time, we all only laughed it off and saw Ein as cute.
We all forgot. That he skipped a year before. Why couldn’t he do the same thing again this time?
So, after we were so delighted to see our exit exams’ results and the announcement to our Intermediate Level Special Class enrollment, we were surprised to find Ein standing next to us with all smiles.
“Big Brothers and Big Sisters! I’m going to be in the same class as you guys from now on! I’m so happy and excited! I can’t wait for the next term to start already!”
…but we haven’t even gotten our end-of-term break and manage the administration etc… Like, we needed new sets of uniforms then. So, little Ein, you had to wait patiently for that.
“Eh? W-wait a minute, what do you mean, Eine?” Iris was caught off guard and asked.
Ein smiled like an angel as he pointed at board that displayed the exam results.
I shifted my gaze towards the end of his index finger and…
[Reinell Fyunez Kronychle Loera, Passed, Special Class Intermediate Year 1]
He… He really did it!
Ein’s smile grew deeper as he said these words, “I’ll see you in class soon, then, Big Brothers and Big Sisters!”
You’re really a monster, Ein.
…though I remembered that such things occured every now and then in the Loera clan. It had something to do with them being “more blessed” and such.
Now that I know their Oracle, I believe it means that the probability of a Loera child skipping grades or being a prodigy increases with the stronger Oracle they inherit.
“Would it be okay, Ein?” I asked out of worry due to his very young age and to be honest, I was concerned about his psychology more than anything.
“? What could be the problem?” Ein obliviously asked.
“Hmmm… Like, you’d be away from children your age–from your friends of the same age and…”
“Ah, that? I’m closer to Big Sis Lyra and the others here rather than friends my age! Mummy and Daddy understood that and allowed me to try it–oh, to be more precise, they were the ones who went through the trouble of enabling me take the exams,” Ein casually answered.
Well, Nicole and Clyde shouldn’t be too thoughtless as they were now parents, right? Furthermore, Ein is their only child. If they agreed, what else could I say?
“Okay then… I guess this is reality, huh?” I asked as I half-jokingly pinched my cheek (softly).
“Ah yeah, it really isn’t a dream,” I affirmed myself as I stole a glance to Ein and…
“Hey, Big Sis Lyra! That’s not niceee!”
Ein’s cheeks were puffed as he stomped his feet on the ground.
I giggled. Really, he was still a child, and yet he was going to enter Intermediate Level along with me from now on?
“See? You’re still a child, little boy. Don’t you think that’s too early for you to enter Intermediate Level?” Carbuncle smirked as she teased Ein—but perhaps there was a hint of seriousness in her question. She seemed to be thinking of the same thing as I did.
“Well, I’m usually calm and more mature. It’s that this is different…”
Ein demonstrated his “calm and more mature” side as he took a deep breath and stopped being sulky.
But a second later…
“You’re one to talk about age, though, Big Sis Kuu! I bet you’re even much older than my parents, right? And yet you’re in Intermediate Level… Don’t you think that age doesn’t matter as well, then?”
“…Boy, I’m a dragon, you remember it yourself, right? We don’t have this kind of education system so it’s fun to learn. Besides, I’m an informal student here,” Carbuncle puffed her chest as if she was flaunting.
“You have a point. But still, you being in Intermediate Level with children my age—Big Sis Lyra’s age—proves that to you, age doesn’t really matter, right?”
“I guess you could say so.”
“Then, support me, Big Sis Kuu!”
“Sigh… Fine, you win, little boy,” Carbuncle shrugged her shoulders as she quietly muttered, “Really, I am not that great with children.”
Well, for one… You still look like a child—a teenager at most. Soon, we might even appear to be around at the same age.
…And later on, in the future… We will appear older than you do.
And much much later… We might leave her behind in this world…
I wonder if Carbuncle has realized this and how does she feel about it?
I’m sure she’s struck by this realization upon encountering non-Draconis, especially the humans.
Even so, she still wanted to befriend us.
I think that just proves how she’s strong (mentally).
Not all would want to experience that.
With that being said, the first few weeks of us being in Intermediate Level passed by just like that. There was no problem whatsoever (so far), and Ein seemed to be enjoying himself, too.
There was no need to worry about him in the first place, it seemed.
However, our classmates (some were former classmates and some were newly enrolled students) were all swarming around the youngest member of our class—namely Ein—as they all praised him for being cute and smart.
Add that Ein was using his angelic smile, charming everyone.
Just wait and see Ein’s ‘wolf-in-a-sheep-costume’ side, won’t you?
Anyway, things were just getting real after Alt-nii’s birthday party.
I didn’t want to be left behind, so I also started to study every now and then—especially for the subjects I liked.
It seemed like Alt-nii and Clavis were also studying hard. After all, they were already in Advanced Level.
Yep, Clavis wasn’t a noble, but he was still chosen as Alt-nii’s aide, so he got to have a good education. Furthermore, it seemed that Clavis was really a good choice as he was able to keep it up without any problem!
I heard that Harvey also continued his education although he wanted to go to work and help his Pa already.
His Pa insisted that more knowledge would help Harvey improve his skills and livelihood in the long run. Harvey was an only child, so I guess that was why his parents would want the very very best for him, without any doubt.
I also heard something like them wanting Harvey to keep an eye for Iris. It really seemed like they saw Iris as their own child, too.
That’s good for Iris. In the future, should anything happen with her paternal family, she should still have Harvey backing her up.
Oh, and another important thing!
The twins started going to school from this semester along with Leticia!
Since they were already tutored by the royal private tutors, they managed to enrol to the Special Class. All that was left was for them to maintain it.
Then again, Basic Level’s special class was easier to enrol to, compared to Intermediate Level’s. Some members also fell to the regular classes at some point in Basic Level. That explained why there were some of my former Basic Level classmates that were enrolling in the same class as me in Intermediate Level.
I just hoped Leticia, Freyr, and Freyja would be able to keep up with it.
If they couldn’t, it was also fine, too. As long as they were happy, it was enough.
Truth to be told, I was a bit reluctant in seeing them grow up, after all (haha)!
I really pray that everyone I love will be able to gain their happiness in the future.
But first, we got to try hard for our imminent future, which was… exams!
Exams and tasks kept coming and going, leaving me with little room to play around.
I could see that Alt-nii and Clavis were pretty much more stressed than they were, as well, with the difficulty of Advanced Level.
Perhaps due to the stress or due to the fact that they were already 13 (biologically, it meant the average age for boys’ puberty), I could see that they were pretty irritable, much more than usual.
Ah, but since Alt-nii could still suppress his irritation with a smile and stayed patient, let me correct my previous statement: it was apparent that Clavis seemed pretty irritable these days.
Like, he snapped more often due to little things.
But when Niina scolded him, Clavis would immediately turn silent, which was a good thing.
Still, there were times when Niina had to apologize, and Clavis only remained silent upon seeing his mother apologize.
Luckily for them, we didn’t really mind it as we understood that it was a only a stage in his life.
Alt-nii and Clavis’ positions were quite reversed.
Alt-nii used to be the one being so naughty that Clavis had to hold him back and sometimes give some advice to him.
But now, it was the opposite.
Alt-nii became the one to hold Clavis back and gave him advice.
Perhaps Alt-nii’s rebellion stage came early in his life, while Clavis’ came late.
It was a good balance, though.
At that time, I had no premonition at all.
Yes, until that time arrived.
It happened during this year’s winter.
After we were so happy that we could pass our exams and the first semester to Intermediate Level (Advanced Level for Alt-nii and Clavis), the blissful period of semester break arrived once more.
Just as the employers took their vacation, leaving the Hartmann family alone (with a few employers taking shifts though—some took advantage of the holiday period to work so they could earn more money—clever!), an unprecedented event happened.
Yup, I mentioned that the employers were having holiday break too, right?
That included Niina and obviously her son, Clavis.
They would be spending their quality family time together.
Or so we thought.
Until that day, when the snowstorm barely just started.
My family and I were relaxing in front of the fireplace, warming ourselves from the low temperature.
The twins were playing with Rurune, Alt-nii was talking with Dad.
I was sipping hot chocolate while reading a book with Mom. Mom and I really clicked in the way we loved reading.
It was a very tranquil moment, a moment of peace. Despite the snowstorm that was just starting outside.
Only Rurune and the twins’ laughter could be heard from time to time, along with Alt-nii and Dad’s voices.
And then there was suddenly a different voice.
We immediately discovered the origin of the sound. Why, I mean, it was quite an obvious sound.
It was the sound of the door being knocked from outside.
“Hmm? Who might it be, at this time of the day?” Mom pondered.
I turned to look at the clock—well, it was almost dusk. Time was of no matter when we were in holidays, furthermore when it was snowing like this, though.
“Are we expecting any guest?” Dad raised his eyebrows.
A maid that was on her shift quickly replied, “No, there shouldn’t be any guest on schedule… I’ll go check who it is!”
As the maid was about to go towards the front door to open it, Dad stopped her.
“Wait a minute. We shouldn’t be too careless. Let me.”
The maid was taken aback and didn’t know what to do in that moment.
I could understand her train of thoughts. It was her master’s order, but then again, a maid’s job was to ensure the master’s safety and check on the visitor…
But then, Mom also stood up.
“Wait, I’ll go.”
Mom was about to leave for the front door when the twins stood up and followed her like a chicken.
“Freyr, Freyja, wait here,” Mom immediately asked.
Freyr and Freyja tilted their heads as they looked at each other.
I guess they still couldn’t grasp the danger that might lie ahead… and they were curious on this unexpected visitor.
Perhaps we were taking too long, as the door was being knocked again. We could hear it properly as the fireplace was in the living room, near the front door.
“Kids, go inside and wait there, okay?” Dad asked.
And at that time, a familiar voice could be heard from outside.
“Uhm… Cassie-sama…? Cyan-sama…? It’s me, Niina…”
Her voice sounded different from her usual cheerful voice.
Mom and Dad looked at each other.
“Niina?!” Freyja exclaimed.
“It’s Niina, what is she doing here?” Freyr pondered.
“It’s snowing outside, shouldn’t we let her in?” I asked in worry.
Mom then nodded at me and said, “Okay, but let me check outside first. Just in case. Right, Cyan?”
“You’re right, Cass.”
As I was about to ask what she meant by that, Mom closed her eyes and seemed to be muttering a chant. I could see that magic gathered around her, as the magic glowed a bit at her circumference.
Then, she opened her eyes.
“Okay, she is really our Niina. I’ll go open the door for her.”
Obviously, to the event that suddenly happened in front of us just like that, the twins and I tilted our heads.
Alt-nii seemed to understand what was going on as he was the one who provided us with answers.
“Mom was using her magic to check on Niina who’s outside. To check whether or not she’s a fake, to check whether or not she’s influenced by someone else or not. Just in case.”
“I… see…,” I answered in a low voice as I couldn’t imagine our beloved Niina would be used by the evil ones against our family.
It was good that it wasn’t the case.
When Mom opened the door, we immediately could see Niina standing outside with her thick clothes. However, she wasn’t wearing any mufflers, gloves, or other extra clothing to defend herself from the snowstorm.
It was as if Niina left her house in a hurry, only wearing thick indoor clothes.
Though her hair was silver, the snow that stuck to her hair was quite apparent. Not to mention the snow on her clothes.
Her wolf ears and tails were all curled, the air that she breathed turned white as she let it out from her mouth, straight to warm her hands that she lifted up. The area around her nose was a bit red.
As if her condition that I mentioned above wasn’t worrying already, I could sense a great anxiety building up in her eyes. She looked as if she could cry at any time.
And it was Niina, the most cheerful and optimistic maid who had taken care of Alt-nii and I since we were babies.
“Niina! What’s the matter with you? Come inside first, warm yourself!” Mom urged Niina to come inside.
“Niina-san?! I’ll go get some towel and hot water!” The maid that offered to open the door just now immediately moved to fetch some items to warm Niina’s body.
“Add some hot drinks, will you?” Alt-nii added.
“Niina, what are you doing? Come inside already!” Mom was surprised to see Niina not bulging, despite the evidence pointing that she was feeling very cold.
After gasping for some air for a while, Niina finally spoke with a trembling voice.
“Cassie-sama… Is he not here…?”
“Eh? He? Who are you talking about?”
“He… Clavis… Has he come here at all?” Niina repeated her words.
“No… Wait, what’s the matter with Clavis?” Mom immediately caught something wrong.
I turned to look at Alt-nii. Although his face seemed to be calm, I could tell that he started to feel worried as well. From his eyes, and from the fact that his earlier smile slowly crumbled.
“Niina…?” Mom asked again since Niina was being so quiet.
“…Cassie-sama… What should I do?” Niina’s voice shook even further.
Tears seemed to faintly fall from the corner of her eyes as she continued to speak.
“Clavis… He… he’s missing! He’s nowhere to be seen…!!”
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