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14 The Weakest Black Star [2]

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A familiar darkness embraced me.

One that disappeared with the presence of a wheel.

Trrrrr—!

It spun.

The colors alternated with one another.

The scene was familiar, and I waited with bathed breath. Yet again, I was reminded of the pain I underwent after the experience and nervousness started to creep in. What emotion was it going to stop on...?

'Don't let it be fear.'

Anything but that.

The wheel eventually stopped, and my gaze fell on the long red arrow.

'Ah.'

Blue.

Sadness.

The world quaked. My scenery slowly started to change, and my body sank in what seemed to be a... sofa?

Uh?

Gradually, an environment started to form.

My chest felt heavy all of a sudden.

"Huuu."

Enough to make me want to take a deep breath.

"....Why?"

I licked my lips.

They were dry.

My mouth trembled.

"W-why am I back here...?"

Home.

This place I was all too familiar with.

It was home.

The place I lived before coming to this world.

"H-hah."

The pain in my chest intensified. One that was accompanied by a sense of emptiness. I... missed this place. I knew it was fake. A fabric of the skill I was using.

....That's why it hurt.

Because I knew it wasn't real.

"Shit."

Click—

The door opened and a familiar figure entered.

"Noel...?"

lightsΝοvεl ƈοm

"Yo, I'm back brother."

He looked no different than I last remembered. With his usual smile, he walked up to the desk set up in the living room.

My fingers twisted.

"I've got some takeaway. Kinda expensive, but worth it. Damn Chinese place is so tasty~ ...I think I'm addicted."

"Oh."

The Chinese place.

Right.

It was his favorite place.

He glanced back and smirked.

"Ay~ I got some for you as well. Don't make such a face."

"...."

I opened my mouth but found myself unable to speak. The words just refused to leave my mouth.

All of this...

It felt so real.

'Could it be that all that I experienced was fake...?'

Deep down, I knew that it didn't make sense. The pain I felt. The frustration I felt. And everything that I experienced.

Was that really fake?

All of it?

"Brother?"

Noel turned around. His usual smile was there. Carrying the plate, he walked in my direction before eventually stopping in front of me.

"..."

I studied his face closely.

"Here."

And I realized.

"Eat well."

He wasn't looking at me.

The plate phased through my body, calmly resting on the sofa.

".....Make sure you eat well."

He then calmly went back to the table and started eating, his back facing me.

"Hah."

My heart squeezed. The emotions I felt were wholly mine. It wasn't like last time when they were injected into me.

I felt a sharp pain like my heart was being stabbed. My breath caught, as if my air passages were being crushed...

All because of the simple fact that,

"...It's good, right?"

My brother's shoulders were shaking.

It was strange. In my mind, I knew this was fake. There's no way my brother would act this way. But... was that really the case?

Was what I was seeing truly fake? ...Or was this the reality of his life now?

"Y-you're enjoying your food?"

He never looked back.

It was as if he couldn't look back.

But I could see it.

His shoulders... They were shaking. Even more than before.

".....Why?"

I was running out of breath, and my vision blurred. A pain unlike any other invaded my body.

Why did it have to be like this?

Rustle——

A rustling caught my attention.

"...!"

If not for the fact that I was rooted on the spot, I would've stood up immediately.

"Noel!"

I shouted at the top of my lungs. Panic flooded every part of me as I tried to wrestle against the chains that kept me on the seat.

But...

My voice didn't reach him.

"Stop! Stop now!!! You can't...!"

"H-hah..."

It couldn't reach him.

"....."

Against his temple, Noel held a gun.

"No, no, no, no, no..."

What was this?

What am I seeing?

How did he...

Ahhhh.

"Heyyy!!!"

It was as if a piece of my heart was being torn. Scraped off. My neck twisted, and the veins on my neck protruded.

"What are you doing!?"

Stop!

Stop....!

".....I'm tired."

Noel remained motionless.

His voice seemed to be devoid of anything. As if he had lost track of himself.

"No, don't! I... Ah!"

"Hey, brother..."

Finally, he turned to look at me.

That was when I stopped my struggles.

Drip... Drip...

His face was stained with tears. But the scariest part was his eyes... They were empty. Devoid of any of the usual spark he had.

Ah, no...

".....Why did you leave me?"

I knew he wasn't addressing me. There was nobody in the room. It was just him. He was talking to himself.

But...

I felt compelled to respond.

"I didn't choose to leave."

"Right, you had no choice."

He answered in a manner that suggested he could hear me. But I knew he couldn't.

After all, he wasn't looking at me.

"It's cold. Lonely. I have nobody. Our parents died. You were the only one left. Now that you're gone... Nobody cares."

"....Ah."

My chest pounded.

The pain seemed to strangle the words out of me.

"I-I'm scared..."

Drip.

"I don't know what to do... Why does everyone leave me...? What did I do? Am I the problem... Is that it?"

No, that's not...

"Hehe..."

A hollow laugh escaped his lips.

".....I should just end it, right? That way... I won't be alone anymore. At worst, I'll be with darkness. It's nothing different than now."lightsnovel

"No!!"

I finally snapped out of it.

What replaced the pain that entangled my heart was another emotion.

Anger.

I knew he couldn't listen, but I still spoke.

No, shouted.

"You fucking idiot...!! I stopped everything so that you could live better."

My chemotherapy.

.....I stopped it because I wanted him to live a better life. He had enough savings to survive until he finished school. So... how could he just end it?

Was my sacrifice for nothing!?

No, no...!

"Fuck!!! Stop!"

".....If you were here, you'd probably scold me. Tell me how much of a fucking idiot I am, right?"

I lost my voice then.

"Did I ask you to step chemo? Do you think I've ever cared about the money...?"

No, that's...

"That was just an excuse from you wasn't it?"

"....What?"

"You were scared."

I felt myself lose my breath.

".....No."

"You stopped chemo because you lost sight of yourself. You were afraid of spending your days meaninglessly, knowing that you had no future to look forward to. You chose the fastest way to leave. Leaving money for me... That was just an excuse you probably told yourself."

"No, that's..."

".....I know it. After all, I'm just like you now."

That...

I brought my hand toward my chest.

It hurt.

It hurt so much.

The pain was taking over me.

"Haaa.... Haaa...."

My vision blurred, and every single breath was accompanied by even more pain.

Noel's hand shook.

"...Since you can run, I can too, right?"

He looked at me.

This time, it really felt like he could see me.

"...."

Tears, uninvited, welled up, and my mouth trembled. What was this? How could speaking hurt so much...?

"You won't mind if I join you, right?"

"....No, no."

My voice came out weak.

I found that I could no longer shout. The energy drained from my body. This sense of helplessness...

It slowly carved itself into my mind.

So did the pain.

"H-hah..."

Noel smiled. In a way, his smile seemed liberating. But all I could feel was helplessness. I could feel myself breaking.

The colors started to drain from the world.

I could see the younger version of him, standing before me, asking me to buy him ice cream. It was just a couple of months after our parent's death.

It was just the two of us back then.

He had only been ten back then. I remember that day clearly because... That was the day he regained his smile.

I worked hard to keep it that way.

To make it so that he wouldn't stop smiling.

So...

Staring at the sight before me, I felt myself lose my breath.

His smile. The one I promised to keep.

It was gone.

I took it away from him.

"It... hurts."

Clank—!

"....!"

I flinched. My breath seemed to be caught in my throat as the gun fell from Noel's hand. His eyes, which appeared to be devoid of any light, lowered.

Drip... Drip...

And tears continuously poured down from them.

Biting his lips, he weakly leaned back.

"I... I'm scared."

He covered his face with both hands.

"I don't want to die."

His shoulders trembled.

"...But I don't want to live."

The world seemed to grow faint.

"W-what do I do...?"

Just before it all faded, his head turned to face my direction once more.

"....Tell me, brother. What do I do?"

That was the last time I heard his voice.

Brightness engulfed my vision and I found myself in a familiar place.

All eyes were fixed on me.

"H-hah..."

But all I could feel was pain.

My chest felt tight and heavy.

Each breath felt heavier than the last.

And my vision was blurry.

It was at that point that I closed my eyes and saw a notification.

∎| Lvl 2. [Sadness] EXP + 15%

'Level 2...?'

At first, I was surprised, but then I understood.

Unlike fear, I was familiar with sadness. It was all I ever knew in my previous life. It was no wonder my understanding of it was greater than fear or any other emotion.

And with such thoughts, I opened my eyes.

"...When was the last time that you cried?"

Words flowed out of my mouth all of a sudden. They came out smoother than I thought.

They were directed towards one person.

"Uh...? What are—Huh? Eh... Ah..."

He stopped mid-sentence.

A strange silence filled my surroundings.

One that was broken by me as I stood up from my seat. Under the eyes of all present, I walked up the aisles before stopping in front of him.

His focus wasn't on me.

"T-this... Wha-t is this...?"

Flustered, he touched his cheeks.

They were stained with tears.

Gripping his shirt, he looked up at me.

"W-what's going on? What did you do?"

I didn't answer.

Instead, I asked,

"Did I touch you?"

"Ah... H-ah."

The tears streamed with even more force as his face paled.

I clenched my teeth and raised my head. Recollections of the scene I witnessed replayed in my mind, threatening to force tears out of my eyes.

But I held them in.

I let the pain center towards my chest, where it had all accumulated.

Instead, I directed my attention towards Anders.

I opened my arms.

"....You say I'm weak."

Unfitting of my rank.

"Here's your chance. Hit me. "

"Uekh... I..."

With his hand on his chest, he only looked at me.

I looked back at him.

"So you can't...?"

I reached my hand forward to grasp his shoulder. He flinched at the touch but wasn't able to free himself from it.

"Tell me."

He seemed to be in too much pain to answer.

I could relate.

My body was being eaten from the inside. The pain was unbearable, and every second I stood felt like torture.

But I still held myself.

I couldn't show weakness.

Not yet.

I then recalled the words he threw at me before this; 'Even then, I doubt you'll be able to do anything to me.'

That was when I asked,

"....Am I doing something now?"

He didn't answer.

Squeezing his shoulder, I murmured,

"I thought so."