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17 Mirror Dimension [2]

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It was as if the air itself had cracked. Fragments, like that of a fractured mirror, lingered suspended in midair.

A small crowd formed outside of the shattered space. There were over several hundred students, all of them huddled together in their cliques.

The same couldn't be said for me.

Be it because they were avoiding me, or just didn't like me, nobody appeared anywhere around me.

.....I was the only one who was alone.

"Mirror Dimension..."

Not that I minded since my attention was on the cracked space in front of me.

'Yeah, I really don't want to go.'

Everything about it felt ominous.

Still, it wasn't like I had a choice. Whether I liked it or not, I had to go. Perhaps I'll be able to find answers here...

While I was in the midst of my thoughts, the instructor, Amir Wallow, showed up.

The surroundings went quiet.

"Since everyone is gathered here, I'll make things short. We will now be diving in groups of five. I'll announce the list shortly."

The noise that had previously taken hold of the space increased as the cadets grew restless.

'So we're doing this in teams.'

"It'll be random so the balance won't be right. However, that shouldn't matter since you aren't being graded for this. It's all about getting used to the environment for when you end up entering the more dangerous parts of the mirror dimension."

He then proceeded to give a rundown of the team's compositions. A team generally was composed of four to five members -- two damage-dealers, one long-range, one tank, and one support.

It generally alternated between one and two damage dealers per team.

In that sense, I was assigned the support role.

"It is up to you to decide the team leader. Be it the strongest person, or who you feel will be able to lead better... It's up to you."

The teams were announced shortly after.

.

.

.

「Team Seven�

� : 1. Julien Evenus

� : 2. Rosanne Brighton

� : 3. Aoife Megrail

� : 4. James Milner

� : 5. Adan Whitelock

"...Team Seven."

A lot of unfamiliar names appeared on the list. There were over a thousand first years, and it was hard for me to remember everyone's name.

However, there was one name that stood out from the rest.

Aoife Megrail.

The Megrail name stood out immediately. It was the name of the ruling house and one of the women that appeared in my vision.

lightsΝοvel

Taking my eyes away from the board, I met her gaze. Her expression was hard to read, and briefly, I felt a certain coldness flash in her eyes. That went by really fast.

She was the first one to approach me. Her red hair gracefully swung in the air as her beautiful lips parted open.

"We're on the same team."

"...So it seems."

My tone came out rather stiff. I wasn't quite sure how to address her. With her being a princess, I had to be careful with my words.

That was until she spoke again.

"You're weak."

She spoke in a manner that left no room for debate.

"...That's why I will be the team leader."

I didn't answer and just stared at her. She looked back at me. Straight in the eyes. It was as if she was challenging me.

Wanted me to refuse her.

But...

"Do as you see fit."

All she did was do me a favor.

I didn't want to be the leader. I wasn't fit to be one as well.

As her composed expression began to reveal cracks under the impact of my actions, a smile tugged at my lips while I lowered my head.

".....Team Leader."

*

The air was dry.

The world appeared monochromatic, enveloped in shades of gray, with the sole exception of the vivid red and orange tones emanating from the sun in the sky.

I was running through a rocky field.

The other team members were running ahead of me. Unlike me, they didn't seem to be struggling.

My stamina was starting to run low.

Was this the difference between us...?

"Let's stop here."

Thankfully, we stopped just as I couldn't hold my composure. Halting, Aoife looked around before settling her gaze over a large rock.

"Let's take a small break for now. We're almost near our destination."

Taking advantage of the situation, I sat on the rock to catch my breath. There were a total of five people in the group, and as I sat down, none of the members approached me and huddled over to Aoife.

'Can't blame them... She's a princess.'

Had I been in their position, I too would've been like them.

It was unfortunate that in the future, there was a chance she'd kill me. I needed to be careful around her.

An appropriate distance was required.

Still, from where I was, I could overhear their conversation.

"Team Leader, where exactly are we going?"

"...Gathering point. We should be able to meet with the other members there."

"Ah, is that so."

A woman with gold locks sighed in relief. Rosanne Brighton. With a long staff in hand, she was the long-ranged fighter of the team.

An elemental user with dual attributes.

Fire, and water.

She looked around.

"Things have been proceeding rather smoothly. We still haven't seen many monsters yet. Is it because this is one of the safer areas?"

"The point of this excursion is for us to familiarize ourselves with the environment. There shouldn't be that many monsters."

Standing at an imposing height of 2 meters, he towered over all of us. James Milner, the team's tanker, replied.

"Ah."

"That's right."

Chewing on a jerky, Aoife glanced around.

".....Still, keep your guard up. Always stay alert. Don't let your guard down."

"Got it."

Nodding, Aoife finished the jerky and patted her hands.

"Let's go."

We were back on the move.

The terrain shifted, and trees emerged in my field of vision, their leafless branches stretching out and gradually surrounding us as we advanced.lightsnovel

Scrunch... Scrunch...

Our group was engulfed in silence, disrupted only by the steady rhythm of our footsteps resonating against the uneven ground blanketed with a layer of damp, decomposing leaves.

Gradually, the light dimmed, and I sensed myself losing my sight. Wisps of fog clung to the gnarled trunks of the trees around us, making it hard for me to see.

"....Continue."

A sense of dread assaulted my mind as we marched forward.

From eyesight to hearing... We were gradually losing sight of all our senses.

"Haaa... Haaa...."

My breath started to feel heavy.

...Was it because I was growing tired?

A thought that accompanied my mind as I continued forward.

"Ukh...!"

My head throbbed all of a sudden.

The pain wasn't intense. It came as fast as it left. By the time I regained my senses, the light started to return.

'What was that...?'

Checking myself, I felt nothing strange with my body. Staring at my hands, I frowned but continued forward.

My mind eventually relaxed after a couple of minutes.

"....I'm probably tired."

Just as I felt my chest grow lighter.....

SHIIIING--!

Something streaked through the air, coming at me from a nearby tree. It was so fast that I had no time to react.

Before I even had the chance to gather my bearings, an intense pain flooded my chest.

Thump.

And I fell to my knees.

"Pftt."

Blood spilled from my mouth as I felt my head grow light.

The world became a blur from there.

"W-what..."

I could hardly speak and the words refused to leave my mouth.

The pain was hard to describe.

It was intense, and my consciousness grew faint.

Clank--!

The last thing I managed to see before I lost consciousness was a small creature diving from the front, right toward Aoife who just barely managed to react.

"Sh-it..."

And then the world grew dark.

Or so I thought.

"Uahp...!"

As if oxygen had been removed from my lungs, I took a deep breath. My consciousness returned and clarity returned.

Scrunch... Scrunch...

The familiar sound of my footsteps echoed through the ground, and as I looked ahead, familiar backs came into view.

'What just...'

The memory of the situation was still vivid in my mind. Although my vision was hindered, the path was familiar.

From the trees to our current location. It was all the same. Just in a couple of minutes, we should be coming out...

Indeed, as I thought, lights started to return. A familiar view.

Gradually, my feet started to slow down.

Noticing my situation, the others stopped as well. With a frown, Aoife looked at me.

"Are you tired?"

I didn't answer her.

Scanning my surroundings, everything appeared to be the same as before. So much that it felt eery.

"...Julien?"

The positions of the trees, the placement of the rocks, and the sensation of the air--every detail rushed vividly back to my memory.

It can't be, right...?

"Hey...!"

I snapped out of it when two large hands grasped my shoulders. A rough face inched close to mine.

"Someone is talking to you, pay attention."

"..."

That was when I realized everyone was looking at me. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath before opening my eyes again.

"Let go."

"You."

Raising my hand, I was just about to grasp his shoulder when he let go and cursed.

".....Arrogant bastard."

Ignoring him, I patted and adjusted my clothes. Feeling Aoife's intense gaze, I felt compelled to say something.

"There's an ambush ahead."

Maybe.

I wasn't too sure.

"An ambush...?"

Making a dumbfounded look, James's mouth dropped.

"Is that really the best excuse you cou--"

Step--

Ignoring him, I took a step forward.

"Hey, you...!"

Step--

And then another. Carefully counting each step, I closed my eyes and replayed the memory in my mind. Gradually, I arrived near the exact spot where the memory ended.

I was just one step away.

"..."

My feet stopped.

Just one step. As long as I took a step...

"Are we seriously going to waste time waiting for him? He's just trying to save himself from the embarrassment. If--"

Step--

I took that step.

And...

SHIIIING--!

Just as in the memory, the moment I took the step, the tree rustled and something fast streaked through the air. But unlike last time, I was prepared. Tilting my body ever so slightly, it passed right before me.

With a 'thud,' it came crashing toward the ground, revealing a glimpse of its features.

"..."

I didn't pay much attention to it's looks. Turning my attention toward my group, I nudged with my chin.

"...Get rid of it."