“Wha…… Raios and Humbert were bitten by a crab and are now critically ill?”
When I responded with my question, Eugeo nodded with a serious look.
“Yeah, they’re currently hospitalised at the North Centoria Imperial Hospital, as far as I’ve heard.”
This raised so many questions that I didn’t even know where to start. For starters, to calm down, I gulped down the cofil tea that Eugeo had just made for me.
“Oh geez, how many times are you going to do that.”
Gulping down some cold water that Eugeo poured me from a jug with a stunned expression, I cooled down my throat. Outside the window, a bird that I didn’t even know the name of seemed to be mocking me with its cry.
Over a year had already passed since Eugeo and I became pupils at the North Centoria Imperial Swordcraft Academy.
Our Primary Trainee days, devoted entirely to practicing sword arts, studying Sacred Arts, as well as our routine duties as valets, passed by in a flash; afterwards, Eugeo and I were selected as one of but twelve Elite Disciples and gained valets of our own: I got Ronye, while Eugeo got Tiese; just when I thought we had to work harder and harder to prepare for the Four Empire Unification Tournament next spring, we encountered a slight issue. Two high-ranked nobles, named Raios Antinous and Humbert Zizek, who had been meddling with us one way or another since our Primary Trainee days had been stepping up on the frequency and extent of their harassment lately.
Just when I was beginning to think, ‘At this rate, either Eugeo or I might eventually lose it and shed some blood within the scope of the academy’s regulations!’, I heard the aforementioned shocking news.
After another sip of cofil tea, carefully this time, I voiced the greatest question I had.
“Ehm, for starters, what do you mean they were bitten by a crab……?”
Once I did, Eugeo blinked in surprise, before tilting his head.
“Kirito, do you know what a crab is?”
“……You mean, those eight-legged things with pincers for hands……”
Once I formed V signs with my hands to imitate the snipping action, Eugeo smiled, seemingly relieved.
“Yeah, those are the ones. I just had a thought that there might not have been any crabs in your hometown, Kirito.”
“We did have some…… but the crabs I know of don’t go around biting people, y’know……?”
“The Norlangarth crabs are basically all like that. They live in clean rivers and lakes and they’re delicious when you eat them boiled, but…… one species of them is pretty dangerous.”
“Yeah, it’s called the Great Fanged Crab. It’s around this big……”
Eugeo spread his hands apart, indicating a size that was about equivalent to an adult shiba(1) dog.
“It has a thorny shell, jagged pincers, and large fangs in its mouth. It lurks within still, dirty water, attacking and eating rabbits and foxes that approach the water. Though, while it is rare for them to do so, they do sometimes attack people too…… If you get bitten by those fangs, a poison will run through your body, which could lead to your death if not treated in time.”
“A Great Fanged Crab……”
For some reason, I could hear a “Wut ya heck!”(2) shout echoing in my mind, but I ignored it and asked my following question.
“……Though, there aren’t any dangerous crabs like that within the Swordcraft Academy, right?”
“Of course not. I hear Raios and Humbert went over to Ladino family’s domain for a visit during the rest day the previous day, where they approached the waterside. But since Ladino’s family just throws away all the trash that builds up through cooking and cleaning into their lake, instead of burning it in a kiln to turn it into sacred power, a Great Fanged Crab apparently began lurking where the water began stagnating.”
“……Why would those guys even approach that lake? They’re not the kind of guys to enjoy playing in the water, are they?”
“Seems like they were planning to throw out their trash.”
Littering along the highway outside the wall, let alone inside Centoria itself, was prohibited by the Imperial Fundamental Law; however, this did not apply to the personal domains of nobles. So, Raios and Humbert decided to throw away their trash into the lake, as they figured it was dirty anyway, and ended up being bitten by one heck of a crab as karmic retribution. That’s getting one’s just desserts—— though a rather extreme form of it.
“Are those guys alright?”
When I asked that question as a formality, Eugeo gave a nod.
“They just barely made it in time with the counter-poison rite, so they did narrowly make it out with their lives. Though, their legs bitten by the crab were paralysed and it will apparently take around a year till they are able to stand.”
“Oh, that so.”
‘So, everything’s fine’, drawing this cold-hearted conclusion, I drank up the cofil tea in my cup.
Honestly, now was not the time to be concerned with their well being. Seeing as they won’t be able to return to the school for an entire year, the first-seat Raios and second-seat Humbert are practically guaranteed to repeat the school year; meanwhile, Eugeo being fifth-ranked and me being sixth-ranked myself, we will need surpass two more people if we are to become the academy’s representative swordsmen.
“……Well, it is an unfortunate turn of events for those guys, but this means we’ll now be able to focus on our sword practice…… Let’s put in some effort to move up at least by one rank during the summer examination first.”
When I mentioned that, Eugeo finally gave a relieved smile.
“You’re right. In that case, let’s head out to the training grounds right away. I’d like to work on improving my jump for 《Sonic Leap》.”
“Eeeh～……Let’s do that after dinner.”
Before I could finish that, my nape was grabbed from behind.
“Oh no you don’t, you’ve got your Sacred Arts studies waiting for you after your meal! Come on, stand up, stand up!”
Standing up with an ‘alley-oop’ and getting a push at my back from my partner, I left the trainee dormitory room.
Ten months later.
Eugeo and I graduated from the academy as first- and second-ranked students respectively, won the Norlangarth Swordsmanship Tournament as representatives of the academy, and then pulled off a draw in the finals of the grandest tournament in the Human Empire – the Four Empire Unification Tournament, thus earning the right to enter the Central Cathedral.