Orisa saw no point in hiding both Mira's real situation and the twin's attack, so they spent quite some time talking during breakfast. While the boys were shocked by the news about Mira, the second part of her recollection garnered way more attention.
"I can't believe you," Iten was so flustered that he even spilled water from the cup over his plate, "what is inside this head of yours? Another Mana reserve?"
Astonished by Iten's joke, Orisa and Kanai looked at each other with round eyes. His phrase quickly broke the scolding tone of the discussion, allowing Orisa to mention another thing that has been bothering her ever since:
"This Lieutenant is giving me chills. There is something deeper behind his attention, I'm telling you," she was chewing on veggies during her speech, and a few pieces of corn that fell out of her mouth in the process lowered the level of severity of their discussion even further.
"Maybe they want to kidnap you and sell to the Nobles, you know, to make more Nobles?" Kanai giggled but quickly shut up under their shocked gazes, "sorry, this was a strange thing to say."
Orisa smiled a few minutes after, remembering another topic:
"Guys, actually, you are brilliant. Did you know that?" Judging by Kanai's grinning face, he probably already knew what she was going to say, but Iten was looking at her warily, expecting some prank. "Thank you so much for the food you left. A miracle achieved by my awesome pals, indeed."
"If not us, then who?" Kanai said with a warm smile.
Orisa still felt bitter from yesterday's ordeals, but her mood began to gradually turn for the better.
"Let's meet and talk after the briefing with the Captain?" She suggested to the boys while the trio moved to the pre-exam guidance session.
"Isn't that obvious?" Kanai chuckled before opening the classroom door.
"The day you've been sweating hard for is finally here," the Captain gave eleven cadets an intimidating look after they all gathered in the class. "De facto this is your last day of training, kids. Show something good and you'll probably end up in a nice and rich spot if you sign up for the Military. Or you can leave and go wandering for all I care."
Youko Satou made a step forward and began her part:
"The day of combat skill showcase finally upon us, and I will explain everything that you need to know about the event, including your possible actions from this point onward."
Orisa noticed that she has been missing the strict and competent woman all this time. It was an unexpected feeling, considering their general lack of interactions. While the last time she talked to Youko was during the Foundation celebration three days ago, her life was so packed with events that it felt like three weeks passed already.
"Exam will take place at the central training ground. Representatives of different divisions will be observing your skills. Their goal is to hunt talented fighters or people with specific skills, for example, archers or defenders and so on." She took out chalk and pressed it against the board. "There are four divisions in total. Engineering tech, Defenders, Police, and Army."
Engineering tech's tasks were the most diverse, from building cities, castles, and outposts to inventing and maintaining new weaponry. Representatives of the EnTech division visited the exams to view profile cards provided by the squad's captains and teacher, as they were obviously less interested in combat skills.
Profile cards included all the information on cadets, like their stats, achievements, preferred skills, and so on. Of equal importance was a recommendation letter that the captains may or may not have included.
The second, Defender division was in charge of protecting cities, training camps, arrival chambers, and various other strategic places.
Police division's tasks were obvious from its name - to keep order, investigate crimes and such.
The last division, Army, was almost as diverse as EnTech, and the largest among all four. It served as an all-purpose unit tasked with everything except defense and policing, such as scouting, escorting, patrolling, large-scale military operations, training. All teacher and captains were obviously signed up for Army division.
"Inside every division, there are different groups with various specializations. Their prestige varies greatly, too, and you can tell them apart by their additional tag, being base, special and elite. For example, elite groups among all divisions respectively are called Elders, Guardians, Inquisitors, and Crusaders."
Orisa cringed on her seat from such pretentious names. They stunk with Nobility and fake purpose. Another question came to her mind, and Orisa instantly raised her hand:
"What are the chances of not getting anywhere at all?"
"Less than having a shit build like yours," the Captain answered rudely. "Leave all the questions for when the session is over."
"Almost everyone gets invited into a basic group, as the Captain said," Youko was slightly irritated by both Orisa's question and Captain Pain's reaction. "Since the country needs the soldiers, one must be extremely inept to be left without a single letter of invitation. Getting a letter from a special group is rare. And almost impossible to get one from elite."
She paused to add that information on the chalkboard, and Clemen used this moment to add a 'witty' question:
"Speaking of inept, where is Mira?"
"One of the greater Noble houses made Miss Rahna an offer that she graciously accepted," the Captain said with a huge grin on his face, "so she won't be joining us on the exam."
"You will be fighting alone. To speed up the exam, however, up to four cadets will be performing simultaneously. The exam itself is quite simple. The Summoners would conjure already familiar enemies one by one, or in rare cases in waves, and the further you get, the better it is. Even healers and engineers required to pass at least one wave. One important thing to note is that it is up to you to stop the exam. When you feel that you are nearing the limits of your skills, give a signal."
In the next twenty minutes, Youko told them more about the invitation letters from various divisions and described their possible choices based on that.
As was previously stated, the path forked tomorrow. Cadets were free to leave the camp, taking a month worth of money and basic gear. If their choice would be to stay, they'd need to sign up for any division in one week. During the sign-up week they were free to do whatever they wanted, even leave the camp.
Two main benefits of joining the Military were, of course, salary and additional equipment. While most of these would depend on a specific contract, one thing was guaranteed for everyone - the third Seal. As the cadets grew stronger, their bodies became able to hold another Seal of their own choice. The price of the Seal, if they were to get it by themselves, would be astronomical.
Contracts were signed on an annual basis, and the more was the time one had served, the better the conditions of the next contract would be.
"You have until tomorrow's noon to make the first decision," the Captain finally had something to say, "and by the evening you'd leave the camp if that is what you'd choose. Questions?"
"Two questions, sir," Orisa immediately raised her hand and waited for the Captain to nod. "What are the survival rates during the first year among both Military and free hunters?"
"All depends on your division, of course. Army and Defense, as the most dangerous, would give something around sixty to seventy percents." Cadets began to murmur in a somewhat scared tone. Even people unfamiliar with math could count with their fingers that out of eleven people, at least three might end up dead by the end of the year. "As for the hunters, nobody counts them, but my guess is somewhere around ten percent."
A shocked silence dawned upon the room. While the Captain's words were to be taken with a grain of salt, the difference was still glaring.
"The second question is about rare cases and fighting waves," Orisa shattered the quiet and gloomy atmosphere with another phrase.
"Usually noble kids fight waves to speed up the test. Also, because it's too easy for them otherwise. There are exceptions among normal cadets, too, and usually, they are related to their unconventional fighting styles. More questions?"
They wrapped the discussion up and ended the class, leaving everyone with two hours of free time. After the squad members left the room, Orisa asked the boys to wait for her and turned to Youko:
"Miss Satou, can I use items and equipment during the exam?"
"Since nobody ever stated otherwise, you can. Are you talking about your gloves?"
"Not only them, Ma'am," she said, pulling earrings out of her backpack. Youko's brows shot upward with the speed of a sound. She looked at the earrings, then back at Orisa, moving her gaze back and forth a few times.
"Do I need to know the source of these items?" She asked carefully.
"Lady Kavenfenn gifted me these along with other useful items."
"I see..." she visibly relaxed and let out a long sigh. It made Orisa frown, pondering what reputation she now had that Youko was so concerned with her new items.
"So..." Orisa looked down shyly, "I've never done piercing before... Could you help me put them on?"
"Um... Well, I'm sorry, but I have never done so myself either," Youko said with a red face, deeply embarrassed.
'Well, this is awkward,' Orisa turned to the Captain after bowing to Youko and cringing on the inside:
"Sir, can I ask you to let me fight waves, too. Due to my, well, complication, you know."
"Sure, kid," Captain Pain let out a dry laugh, "but it would cost you something."
Seeing her perplexed expression, the Captain chuckled even more and explained:
"I'll have you be the last in the queue, even after the Nobles. Deal?"
Considering her fighting style and how her shields drained Mana, the longer she fought, the worse it was for her. So Orisa had no choice but to nod to the Captain, instantly dashing away from the room.
"I'm not done, please wait a bit more," she muttered, passing by the surprised boys. Her target already left the building, but Orisa quickly caught up on her:
"Onuki, please, can you help me?" She guessed that Onuki was irritated by her constant guilt-induced tone and tried to sound natural.
"What is it?" The girl in question turned around and looked at Orisa calmly. There was no hostility or discontent in her even voice.
"I have earrings I need to wear now, but I have never done piercing before. No one else to ask for help, too."
"I see. Sit down then," Onuki spoke with the same even voice, but Orisa saw anticipation flash momentarily on her face, which made Orisa shiver internally. The girl took out a handkerchief and a bottle of water. "It will hurt since I don't have any tools, only earring's own needle lock."
She sat by Orisa's side and took both earrings. Orisa felt a soft and cool touch of Onuki's fingers on her ear. The girl's breath tickled her skin slightly, and the fingers kept brushing over it, sending pleasant waves across Orisa's body. Caressing the ear gently, Onuki's hands occasionally touched that sensitive spot at its back. Orisa closed her eyes and relaxed.
She felt Onuki's breath on her neck as the girl shifted to get a better view and aim. Orisa imagined Onuki's lips a few millimeters away from her skin and a chill ran down her spine. She started getting horny.
Onuki started using both hands. She placed her left hand directly under the earlobe, and the back side of her fingers was touching Orisa's neck lightly. Her touches grew more aggressive and intent as she began probing various spots of the ear. Onuki's breath became hotter as the fingers of her right hand kept moving alongside Orisa's ear, occasionally moving to its sensitive back.
Orisa's hands were clamped between her tightly pressed thighs as she began figetting on the bench. She was constantly licking her dry lips. Each and every of Onuki's hands, every time her fingers ran along Orisa's ear or neck, it all made Orisa even hotter and filled her with desire.
And then she felt pain.
Something between scream and moan left her mouth, startling the people around them. The earring's needle was the worst instrument for the job, and Onuki was no professional. Both parts combined together made the pain ten times greater of what it was supposed to be.
Onuki quickly sprayed the bleeding ear with water and wiped it with her handkerchief.
"I think I'm gonna die..." Orisa complained in a pitiful voice and wiped away tears. Onuki quickly moved to the other side and pierced Orisa's second ear in one swift motion.
"Wuaaah!" she yelped again and turned to Onuki with teary and pleading eyes, "that's all..?"
"Yes, what were you expecting?" The girl answered calmly and cleaned the ear before chanting:
After she was done, Onuki stood up from the bench, ready to leave.
"Well... it was so quick..." Orisa's face reddened under Onuki's questioning gaze. The girl's brow shot upward in a mocking manner, daring Orisa to say what exactly she wanted Onuki to do longer.
"Anyhow, thank you for saving me again. I only wish that you had a painkiller spell in your arsenal." Orisa said with a slightly hurt expression.
"I had," she said with the same blank expression. Orisa, however, clearly saw devils dancing in Onuki's green eyes as the girl finished the phrase, "but then we would have missed all the fun parts."
Onuki turned around and slowly walked away. It might have been Orisa's imagination, but it looked like the girl was moving her hips more actively.
'How dare you tease me like that, you cocky chick.' She was more amused than angry with the girl. 'If all this time you were not upset with me but were building yourself a ground for the second try, I’d applaud your persistence and stoic character.'
Orisa decided to get back to the boys but finally saw them standing some ten meters away. They looked dumbfounded.
"You should have seen your face," Kanai spoke first shaking his head, "it was priceless. No porn could ever compare to that."
"I am not sure what to make of your voice, too. Was it painful or pleasant?" By the look on Iten's face, it was hard to tell if he was serious or joking.
"Betting my future salary on both."
"Jerks!" The biggest pout this world has ever seen appeared on her purple face.
"Speaking of salary, what is our plan?" Iten saved her by returning the conversation to the right track.
They slowly embarked to the canteen while discussing their possible course of action.
"Leaving aside the warning about a tough life of free hunters, I see problems in both directions." Orisa made a V-sign and looked at it thoughtfully as if seeing for the first time. "If we leave the Military, we'd lose access to a huge chunk of information, be it libraries or teachers. Also, there won't be any access to technologies, resources, and plans, and probably to something else we don't even know now. On the bright side, we would be free."
"And if we were to stay," Kanai took the initiative and grabbed one of Orisa's V-sign fingers, "it would probably be hard to get into the same group. We'd have to follow the rules, and all this service stuff would probably eat most of our time."
"Both directions are filled with complications." Iten sighed and looked at a clear midday sky, "I'm not sure how we are supposed to research everything related to the end of the world. Not even talking about its prevention, this is another kettle of fish."
The moment Iten finished his depressed thought, they heard an outraged cry right behind their backs:
"Oi-oi, Supreme Demon General Overlord Orisa, what are you three talking about!?"