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7 Black Star [1]

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The tension in the room felt stifling.

His eyes felt intense. As if they could swallow me whole at any second.

Devour me.

But.

I never looked away.

I continued to stare back at him. I knew I couldn't look away. Looking away meant showing weakness. I couldn't do that.

Not when I knew he'd kill me for it.

Drip... Drip... Drip...

Blood continued to drip down on the ground. Softly disrupting the silence that seemed eager to envelop the room.

Then,

"What is your goal?"

He asked me a question.

One that I couldn't find the answer to.

Goal... What is my goal...

I'd like to know that as well.

Suddenly thrust into this situation, I was still struggling to come to terms with everything that had happened to me.

Why was I here...? Who was the one responsible for all of this? And why me?

For now, my goal was to find,

"Answers."

Reasoning behind my situation.

And what the end goal of all of this was.

"What I want is answers."

I repeated. Sort of as an affirmation for myself. A goal was important. It was so that I wouldn't fall astray in the future.

"Answers?"

His brows knit and the pressure that bore down on my neck alleviated. He seemed to be in deep thought, and when he looked back at me, he asked,

"What sort of answers are you looking for?"

"Who am I?"

"Hm...?"

"Where am I? Who are you? What is this place? Why am I here? What was the goal in putting me here?"

I threw one question after another. His expression gradually changed with each question, and before I knew it, the sword was no longer at my neck.

For the first time, his eyes didn't seem that intense.

"You didn't possess his body by choice?"

So body possession was possible?

"No."

I shook my head.

lightsnοvεl

"I'm just as clueless as you are in regards to this matter."

I wouldn't be having such a hard time if I knew.

"..."

He stood quietly, perhaps contemplating my words.

Step—

In the meantime, I walked toward the nearest chair and sat down. I felt lightheaded. With all the blood loss and puking, I was in no state to stand.

I had just taken a seat when something flashed in my vision.

∎| Lvl 1. [Fear] EXP + 0.5%

A familiar notification.

I felt like laughing and my lips gently pulled up. What sort of joke was this?

The room grew tense again.

Turning my head, the same two grey eyes were staring back at me. He seemed strangely stiff.

"I won't bite."

"...How do I know you're not lying?"

Lying?

I rested my cheek on my propped-up fist.

"Beats me."

And shrugged. I really couldn't do anything if he didn't believe me.

Had I been in his position, I too wouldn't have believed myself. Not only was I unaware of how things worked in this world, but the blood loss was making it hard for me to keep a clear mind.

But even so, under such circumstances, staring at the man in front of me, I understood something.

"You already know I'm not lying."

Somehow.

Someway... I had a feeling he already knew I wasn't lying. How? The expression he was making.

It was rather easy to read.

"..."

His lack of words served as a silent confirmation to me.

There was something he wasn't telling me.

But I didn't push for an answer.

"Haaa..."

I couldn't afford to.

Keeping myself level-headed was starting to prove difficult.

"What now? What are you going to do?"

Hearing his voice, I lowered my head to stare at him.

"...I don't know."

I wasn't in a state to contemplate.

Plus, I knew too little of the world. I needed to know more before making a decision. Haste made waste...

"I see."

He seemed satisfied with that answer.

Once again, the room fell silent. I took that moment to close my eyes and rest. But just as I closed them, I heard his voice again.

"Julien was arrogant. Not very talented. And someone who hated commoners with every ounce of his being..."

Is that so...?

Sounded like an amazing guy.

"The way you act is too different. When the moment arrives for you to encounter someone connected to the previous Julien, the fact that you're not him will easily be exposed. It wasn't hard for me. How hard would it be for others?"

I figured that much.

"But..."

He dragged on his sentence, enough to capture my attention.

But?

"I can help you."lightsnovel

His tone lowered.

"Let me use you."

And I opened my eyes.

Our gazes met.

"In exchange, I'll let you use me."

***

The Haven Institute, better known as [Haven], was the most prestigious and renowned 'Academy' in the Empire.

As such, the admissions were extremely challenging. Fitting for an institute of such renown.

With such a reputation, there was no social segregation between commoners and nobles. There was, however, a consensus amongst the staff.

And that was that commoners were not equal to nobles.

But it wasn't for silly reasons such as the purity of their bloodline or background. It had to do more with the Empire's law.

Commoners were only allowed to practice mana from the age of 17.

To maintain their authority within the empire, the royal family—The Megrail Family—strictly forbade the common people from practicing mana until they hit a certain age.

The same was true for nobles as well.

In contrast to the commoners, individuals of nobility were permitted to practice mana at a younger age. However, there existed an age restriction that varied based on their noble status.

Only the direct lineage of the Megrail Family was allowed to practice mana since birth.

It was therefore normal for those of the Megrail lineage to rank first whenever a descendant entered Haven.

And yet,

"You're saying there's someone better fit for the top rank. Not just one, but two?"

Flip—

A black glove delicately turned a page. The motion, though simple, conveyed an oddly graceful fluidity.

"This will be a first for our institute. For a lower-end noble to be elected as the Black Star. I wonder if there's ever been such a precedent in the past. And not just one candidate like that, but to have two of them..."

The Black Star.

A title given to the top entrant of each Academic year.

Without failure, each of them ultimately evolved into an influential figure within the Empire.

It was an important position.

"...It has to be done."

A crisp voice replied.

The tone sounded strangely calm. As if the one who spoke was dealing with a trivial matter.

But it wasn't such a trivial matter.

At least, Atlas didn't think so.

"It'll certainly bring forth a lot of headaches. Not just for me, but to him as well..."

The position didn't just symbolize status.

It also served as an index.

Someone that the cadets had to look up to and strive to become.

A goal.

Atlas Megrail sighed as he removed his glasses, unveiling his yellow eyes—a distinctive symbol of his direct lineage with the Megrail family.

"If he can't handle the pressure that comes with being the Black Star, I'm afraid..."

"That won't be necessary."

[Julien Dacre Evenus]

[Leon Rowan Ellert]

Delilah glanced at the two profiles in front of her. She thought back to what had happened back in the examination room.

Tap—

Her finger slid over to one of the profiles.

"He's not someone that will feel pressure from something as trivial as that."

She was sure of it.

After all.

She had seen him in person.

Slide—

And she pushed his profile forward.

"The Black Star."

[Julien Dacre Evenus]

"It can only be him."

***

Shaa—

Cold water trickled down from above, each droplet stinging upon contact with my skin.

My heart raced wildly, yet I remained motionless beneath the frigid stream. I clung to my composure, letting the sensation engulf me as I let my body be consumed by the cold.

Beneath the showerhead, an unusual tranquility befell me, my mind emptying.

In that brief moment, I savored a small taste of freedom, however fleeting it may have been.

My neck and forearm stung.

But under the cold of the water, the pain seemed meaningless.

Click—!

The fleeting sense of freedom disappeared as soon as the shower came to an end, and the weight of reality crashed back down upon me.

"Use me..."

It had only been an hour since I parted ways with him, and yet, it felt as if it was just a few moments ago since we had that conversation.

"I wonder if I made the right choice."

I studied the reflection before me.

Every aspect appeared meticulously crafted, from facial symmetry to eye depth and jawline definition. It was flawless.

Yet, I loathed it.

"Emmet Rowe."

I muttered aloud for myself to hear, my hands silently grasping the edges of the sink.

"Twenty-four years old. Male. Salesman. Brother, and Patient at the San Burrough's Hospital."

That was my real name, my real identity, and who I was.

I couldn't forget this.

"I mustn't forget this."

This world wasn't mine, nor was this body. Both were foreign to me. This world didn't belong to me, just as I didn't belong to it.

I needed an answer.

A reason to keep on this facade.

And for that...

Shaa—!

I turned on the sink, calmly washing my face as the water dripped from my hair.

"I'll do anything."