“…Jas…”

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I was certain that I was making a very distorted face right now.
Or maybe I was frightened.
Either way, I didn’t want anyone else to see my current expression.

Seeing me like that… Jas didn’t lose the smile that looked like a mask pasted over his face.
In the past, it would have switched to a cold, stinging look, followed by a rant and a fist…

“It’s lonely… to be faced like that. I’ve been through a lot, but I always thought of Estenia as a friend.”
“Well said…”
“It’s no wonder you misunderstood me. But I mean it. I still consider you to be an important part of my life. Hmmm.”

The smile did not falter, but the malice was swelling to the point where it was almost visible.

“What do you want?”
“What do you want with Alto?”

Gran and Jeannie stood in front of Jas, glaring at him.

“I’m Estenia’s friend. We always had a good time together.”
“So, you’re… Cedric’s buddy, huh?”
“I’m sorry, but Alto-kun doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore. Will you leave?”
“Ah. This is strange. I’m sure you’ve been pretending to ignore this, but when did you become Estenia’s ally? It seems that you have a very nice personality, or rather a thick-skinned one, to act as if nothing had happened.”
“T-That’s… Ku.”
“We’re…”
“You’re just like me.”

Gran and Jeannie flinched, as if they had been hit in a sore spot.

Indeed, Gran and Jeannie pretended not to see it.
In a way, they were complicit in Cedric’s bullying.

But…

“It’s different.”
“Alto?”
“Gran and Jeannie are my friends. But Jas… you are not. You’re just a stranger.”

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I was able to make that clear.
The words came out naturally.

Gran and Jeannie are the same as Jas?
Don’t be silly.
These two come nowhere close to Jas.

“Tck… Estenia, you can’t talk to me like that…!”

For a moment, the mask of Jas’s smile almost came off.
However, he quickly regained his composure and put on the mask of a smile again.

“Actually, I have a few things to tell you. That’s why I was looking for you.”
“…What is it?”
“Oh, nothing much, really.”

Jas approached me with a smile on his face.
Then he gently pulled his face close to mine and murmured in a voice that only I could hear.

“…Don’t get carried away just because you’ve got a divine dragon on your side. Don’t forget. Estenia… you are our toy, you know.”
“…! You…!”
“See you later.”

Jas pulled away from me as if nothing had happened, bowed lightly, and left.
I could only watch his back as he left.

“Hey, Alto… are you okay? Your face is pale.”
“…”
“Alto? Hey, Alto!”
“Eh?”
“Are you even listening to me right now?”
“Sorry… I’m a little distracted.”
“Mmm.”

Justina had a complicated look on her face, like she was sulking, but also worried about me.

“Who was that guy?”

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“Uh… Jas Rakustin. He was one of Cedric’s cronies.”
“Eh!? His cronies!? I didn’t know that..”
“Justina was a late entrant, so it’s not surprising she didn’t know.”
“That…Jas? I’ve never heard of this guy. Is he still involved with Alto? If so…I can’t forgive him for that… I’m going to have to beat him for that.”
“No, no, no!”

Justina’s horrified expression caused me to rush to stop her.

“It was true that Jas was Cedric’s crony, but he hasn’t done anything since then. So it’s not like we should mess with him.”
“But, but, he said something to Alto earlier, didn’t he? What did he say to you?
“That’s…”

If you only look at the wording, it’s nothing more than a declaration of war.
However, if I told Justina about it, it would probably be a dragon fist sanction…

If they were attacked just because they were suspicious, she would become an unbelievable tyrant.
We need to be vigilant to some extent…
I think it’s best to wait and see for now.

“No, it’s nothing. It’s no big deal.”
“You’re lying.”

Justina bluntly put it out.

“Why do you think that?”
“I love you, Alto. I love you a lot, so I can understand what you’re thinking.”

What was with this incomprehensible syllogism?
But it wasn’t too far off, so it was far from insulting.

“Eltoselk-san, calm down.”
“Are you trying to stop me, Jeannie?”
“That’s what I think…”
“What about Gran?”
“I’m more on Alto’s side.”
“There’s no one on my side!”

Justina held her head up.

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“As Alto-kun said, he hasn’t done anything yet. And yet, if you mess with him, it’s going to end up in a bad situation. Well, there’s no one who can go against Eltoselk-san… maybe except people of your kind? If your father or mother finds out that you attacked someone who has done nothing wrong, they will be angry.”
“Ugh… that’s true…”
“You can’t just go out of control, even if it’s for Alto’s sake. Well… it’s many times better than us who have done nothing. Haha.”

Gran summarized the conversation with a self-deprecating smile.

“…all right. I’m not gonna do anything for now.”

The two of them persuaded Justina to give up chasing Jas.

“But we have to create an insurance policy.”
“Insurance? What are you talking about?”
“No, it’s nothing. What do we do now?”

For a moment, she looked like she was thinking about something bad…
However, she quickly reverted back to the normal, usual Justina.

“Even though we got interrupted… I think I’m still in the mood to hang out. Hey, Alto.”
“Yeah, I know. Let’s get back on track and continue.”
“Let’s do that. Gran was going to buy me something delicious.”
“Hey, why are we talking about this?”
“You’re the host, you should be spending a little bit of your own money.”
“Don’t be absurd… Damn it, it can’t be helped. I’ll buy you a light meal.”
“Thanks for the drink.”
“I’m not buying you a drink! You’re the one who’s getting a kick out of this!
“Ah, I can’t hear you.”
“Haha, you and Jeannie are both amusing.”

Justina laughed…
The smile spread to everyone, and Gran, Jeannie, and I laughed.

I want to cherish these moments.
This was the first place where I feel at ease that I have found in this school.

I was able to get it through a fateful encounter with Justina.
I don’t just need her to help me…

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I need to be able to protect myself.

And for that, I need to get stronger.
Not only my body, but also my mind.

 

________________

 

After talking to Alto and the others in town…
Jas went back to his dorm room and thought about the future.

“Those are Estenia’s friends…?”

He thought back to Gran and Jeannie.

Jas was in a different class… and because of Justina’s presence, he could not approach Alto casually, though he had only heard rumors…
He heard that Alto had reconciled with his classmates, made friends, and was enjoying his student life.
The symbol of this would be Gran and Jeannie.

Jas knew about them, too.
Their grades were reasonably good, but nothing to write home about.
However, they seem to be well-liked and are adored by many people.

“I’m sure he’s very happy to have succeeded in getting the twins on his side. What an abomination.”

Jas clicked his tongue.
The thought of Alto being happy made him irresistibly angry.

He was the lowest of the lowest in the academy, the one who was inferior to everything.
When he saw such an inferior being happy, he felt as if his pride was being hurt, and he was annoyed.

It was a complete blame game, and it was for an unreasonable reason that he doesn’t like him… but Jas doesn’t think he was wrong.
Basically, bullies are like that.
He was a broken person who doesn’t or can’t think about the feelings of others.

“I can’t mess with Eltoselk… But I could if I did it without that woman’s knowledge and without being found out. To that end… that man is right, the twins could be used.”

With a dark smile on his face, Jas put together a plan in his head.

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