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10 Black Star [4]

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It felt like I was standing on the cliff's edge, my feet inches from the abyss that stood behind me.

Ready to swallow me the moment I moved.

That was how I'd describe my current situation.

One that I brought myself in.

'Yeah, this is it...'

I stared at my hands. They were trembling slightly.

I was playing with fire.

A deadly fire.

But what could I do? There was no way back for me.

I had already set my bed.

What were the chances of me coming on top if any of the people in front of me challenged me?

Realistically speaking, close to zero.

I could hardly evoke or control my magic, and my knowledge of the fundamentals was close to zero.

Yet, despite all that, I did what I did.

It felt almost thrilling.

"Hah..."

Crazy... This is fucking crazy... I think I've lost it.

But of course, it wasn't as though I did this out of impulse.

I knew that the institute wouldn't allow first-years to challenge each other just yet. It was something I learned through Leon and my research.

Still, my time was limited.

It wouldn't be long before everyone came at me.

My back was against the cliff.

I could only step forward from this moment forth. Stepping back meant the end of me.

Desperation was slowly creeping up on me.

I could feel it.

There was no backup plan.

But,

'It has to be this way.....'

I sought desperation.

Desperation pushed people to their limit.

To points where they'd normally not go toward.

I was now in such a place.

"...You've created quite the stir."

Leon appeared. He walked toward me with an air of casualness. The speech had ended up causing a stir, forcing me to leave early.

He was probably just coming out of it.

lightsΝοvel

"You're the one who made the speech. Why does it seem like you're surprised?"

"I didn't think you'd go through with it."

"...And why is that?"

So he was expecting me to say something else...?

"No..."

He pursed his lips and shook his head.

"It's nothing."

"Hm?"

What was up with this guy?

Closely looking at him, his expression seemed unusually stiff. As if he was holding himself back.

"Are you okay?"

He really didn't look so good.

I inched closer to get a better look, but...

"..."

He took a step back.

"Let's keep things cordial."

Cordial? What is this guy on about?

"No, no..."

I shook my head and moved closer. Something felt off... I couldn't quite explain it.

That's when I finally noticed it.

This fucker.

I pressed my hand against his shoulder to stop him from moving and tilted my head to get a better look at his face. He was looking away from me.

Why was that...?

"You're trying not to laugh, aren't you?"

"..."

"No way?"

This motherfucker.

"You find the situation amusing?"

"...No."

"Hah. Then why are you looking away?"

"..."

I raised my brow. His shoulders were slightly trembling.

"...Kh"

Kh?

"You..."

"Julien."

I stopped and turned my head. The trembling on my hand stopped, and my expression stiffened.

"You've changed a lot."

A voice reached my ears.

She stopped a few meters ahead of me.

Her appearance was amongst some of the best I've ever seen. Long flowing purple hair and crystal blue eyes. An image overlapped with hers.

One that was filled with nothing but hatred toward myself.

"...It's been a while."

Evelyn J. Verlice. This body's childhood friend, and someone who knew Julien extremely well.

I hadn't spent the past week doing anything outside of practicing magic.

To make sure everything flowed smoothly, I had Leon provide me with details on all important characters related to Julien and their relationship with him.

It was why I knew who she was.

"I see that you've become the Black Star."

An empty compliment. Her tone was cold and lacked any form of praise. She was also not looking at me.

Her eyes... They seemed to be glued to my hand.

The one grasping Leon's shoulder.

She softly whispered,

"Maybe you haven't changed, after all."

Her tone was laced with disappointment.

"..."

Only that I had no idea what she was talking about.

I only pretended to understand her, and her expression pained.

"When will you stop...?"

She couldn't meet my gaze at all.

The disappointment seemed to be too much for her to handle.

In a situation like this, the only way I could respond was,

"Stop what?"

"...Yeah, right."

She smiled weakly.

It was as if she expected such an answer from me.

"I waited for you. I really did. Even when you changed, I waited. I thought you'd come back to how you normally were, but...."

Stopping herself, she shook her head.

Softly, she mumbled in a voice that I could barely hear, 'It's not worth it. There's no point.'

"..."

I thought she'd give up from that point, but yet again, her eyes fell on my hand.

And then toward Leon.

"Why do you let him treat you like this?"

"..."

Leon stood quietly. He seemed to be chewing on his words, seemingly thinking about how to respond.

She spoke before he could,

"I know you're loyal to the family, but why let yourself be treated like this? You're better than thi—"

"It's none of that."

Leon cut her off mid-sentence.

Her expression froze.

"He wasn't doing anything to me."

"Ah."

She stepped back and made an incredulous look. She seemed even more disappointed.

"...Do you take me for some sort of fool? I saw all of it."

Saw all of it?

I couldn't help but speak out.

"What did you see?"

I struggled to understand what she was trying to say.

"Seriously...?"lightsnovel

Her expression seemed scornful.

"It was obvious what you were trying to do. How many times do you think I've seen the same scene in the past? You were using him as your test dummy, as usual."

Test dummy?

I looked at Leon who looked back at me. His expression didn't say much, but his subtle nod told me all that I needed to know.

Ah.

So that's how it is.

I was just about to speak, when all of a sudden, Leon spoke.

".....It isn't the case this time."

Her eyes widened.

"You're still defending him? Even after-"

"He told me a joke."

Uh?

Both me and Evelyn were taken aback.

A joke?

I looked at Leon who looked back at me. What is this guy on about?

Though his expression seemed indifferent, his eyes seemed to say, 'Roll with it.'

Roll with it...?

"...A joke?"

I felt Evelyn's gaze on me. She was staring at me with a face of utter disappointment.

I didn't understand why she was looking at me like that, but I felt like I needed to play along.

So,

"Yeah, I did."

I went along with it.

"..."

All it brought was silence from her. One that she broke shortly after.

".....Do I look that easy to you?"

I felt my skin crawl all of a sudden. If before she looked at me in disappointment, she was now looking at me with scorn.

"I'm seriously asking. Do you take me for a joke?"

".....No."

"Hah."

Her expression was overcome with distraught.

I don't know why, but I felt like I needed to do something.

So I did,

"Why don't they play poker in the jungle?"

Evelyn seemed to have been about to say something when her mouth closed.

"...."

I used to chance to say,

"Too many cheetahs."

Regret came quickly.

"..."

My face burned, but I kept it from changing. On the outside, it was as if I had said something trivial.

But.

Evelyn didn't seem to think of it the same way. After a brief moment of silence, she managed to force a weak smile.

".....I guess you truly do think of me as a joke."

Turning to look at Leon, she bowed her head. Then, without looking back she left.

Her back seemed rather frail when I looked at it.

***

At first, they were slow.

Tak, tak.

The sound of her steps as her heels tapped against the marble floor.

Tak, tak, tak.

But they soon hurried.

Her head was lowered the entire time. She could see her expression through the polished floor of the campus hall.

"Hah..."

The burning in her chest didn't seem to ease no matter how long she walked. Her vision blurred and her lips stung.

"B-bastard."

Her feet eventually came to a stop.

A person stood in front of her.

"....Are you okay?"

It was her knight, Natasha. Standing tall, her platinum hair and crystal eyes made her stand out from the rest. Nobles had a unique perk when joining the institute. They were allowed to bring a personal attendant.

In Evelyn's case, she was able to bring Natasha with her. It was a precaution the noble houses took considering the political importance each child held within their houses.

The Verlice family was one of the five Viscount families within the Empire. They naturally were able to provide her with a powerful knight as her escort.

"Was it him?"

And as her knight, she was naturally aware of her circumstances.

"..."

Evelyn's silence told many things.

Natasha's grip on her sword tightened.

"So it was..."

Julien Dacre Evenus.

A name tingled the tip of her tongue.

His relationship with Evelyn was hard to describe. At one point, the two were close. Almost inseparable.

But things changed after a certain point.

His personality changed, and his lust for power started to display. He changed, and his spiral started to affect Evelyn who could do nothing but watch.

It eventually ended with her cutting ties with him.

That was five years ago.

"....You know, I thought he could've changed."

Evelyn let out a strained laugh.

"I was naive, wasn't I...? In the end, it's always like this... H-hah."

Her chest trembled.

So did her lips.

"Disappointment after another."

Her lips were tucked under her teeth.

"...In the end, I was made fun of by him."

She looked up to face Natasha. Unlike before, her eyes seemed a little clearer but they were still a little misty.

Natasha's grip on her sword tightened.

That bastard...

"Do you know what he said to me?"

Natasha shook her head.

"....Why don't they play poker in the jungle?"

"Yes?"

Natasha blinked, unable to understand what was going on. Poker? Jungle...?

But Evelyn continued.

"Too many cheetahs."

"..."

Evelyn's shoulders trembled as she lowered her head. Natasha's expression changed all of a sudden.

"Young misss...?"

Fearing the worst, she approached her.

"Are yo-"

But stopped herself halfway.

That was because,

"Uht."

Uth...?

"Young miss...?"

Holding her mouth, a strained sound escaped Evelyn's lips. Natasha was taken aback. What's going on...? And just before she could do anything, Evelyn's shoulders trembled even more.

"Young...?"

"....Kaht."

Khat...?

Another sound came out of her mouth.

Natasha felt her stomach drop.

"What-"

Her hand reached out for her, when...

"Puchi...!"

Evelyn's cheek's deflated and a laugh escaped her lips.

"Hehe-he"

Even her laugh seemed strained. She looked up at Natasha, tears rolling down her eyes.

"I do-n't even know what is happening to me..."

A sharp pain pierced her chest as she continued to laugh.

Her hand reached to her shirt and clenched it.

"W-why am I like this...? Hehe... The joke is bad so why..."

She looked helplessly at Natasha. The tears continued to roll down her eyes, and the pain in her chest intensified.

"He... Hehe, why can't I stop laughing...?"