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15 The Weakest Black Star [3]

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Drip. Drip.

Tears stained the floor.

Their gentle drip echoing throughout the otherwise quiet room.

Those tears...

"Ah... I..."

They weren't my tears.

"...Do you still think I'm weak?"

Every word that came out of my mouth seemed to liberate me from the pain that was engulfing my chest.

But it wasn't enough.

That's why I squeezed his shoulder. It helped me alleviate the pain further while, at the same time, keeping me from falling. It was hard to remain standing.

"Ukh... Ah... W-what did you do...?"

Helplessness marred his features as he looked at me.

I clenched my teeth. My eyes felt moist. The tears were trying their best to escape my eyes. But I didn't let them.

I kept my eyes fixed on him.

"There's only a weak person. No weak path."

I repeated the same words I said before.

His expression changed, and the tears continued to pour down his face. But... I could see anger interweaving with the sadness.

"You, you..."

His lips quivered.

He struggled to make eye contact with me. That didn't last for long and his jaw clenched tightly, and his expression twisted.

Then...

Bang—!

My face stung, and my head turned. His fist reached my cheek, pushing it to the side. Even so, even as my head turned, I didn't look away. I kept my eyes on him.

It hurt.

But I was already being consumed by pain.

This was nothing compared to what I was currently experiencing.

It tickled.

"...Am I weak?"

I asked again.

His eyes faltered, and the anger seemed to fade. A new emotion started to invade his mind.

One that I was responsible for.

Fear.

The effect wasn't as powerful as the first time I used it. Nor was it as strong as sadness, but under the current circumstances, it was enough.

"H-hah."

Anger was slowly being replaced by fear.

lightsΝοvel

His lips quivered, and his fist lowered. Finally, he looked away from me.

And that's when I finally muttered,

".....Pathetic."

***

"....."

Coming out of the classroom, Aoife stopped by the statue that stood at the front of the Dorset Hall. Towering over her, it was an imposing statue. One that every student who passed couldn't help but notice.

It was the statue of the first emperor.

Dorset Gaius Megrail.

Her ancestor and the first Zenith.

Indeed, the blood of a Zenith flowed through her. A great honor that came with heavy responsibilities.

It had been centuries since a Zenith had been born into their family.

Their efforts at nurturing a Zenith had been in vain, and despite all their policies to keep others in check, the other houses were catching up.

In particular...

'Delilah Venice Rosemberg.'

A name stood out in her mind. She was the closest to the Zenith and the one with the power to end their reign.

"...I won't fail."

To become the Zenith.

Aoife was willing to do anything.

It was her duty as a princess and her goal.

"..."

Students flowed out of the hall, with many of them glancing in her direction as they passed by. Ignoring them, she lowered her head to stare at her hand.

It was trembling.

Slightly.

"Why?"

Aoife's only question was 'Why'.

But at heart, she knew the reason for this.

She shut her eyes, allowing her mind to delve deep as she rewound the events that had unfolded earlier.

Anders Maddison.

...He was one of the cadets to look out for. Ranked within the top hundreds, he was a very talented individual, and someone Aoife kept in mind.

He was a talented person she thought of recruiting for her faction.

She was especially pleased by his boldness.

"Simply put, you're not fit for the role. You're weak."

His bold words back then echoed the thoughts of everyone present.

The weakest Black Star.

That was who Julien Dacre Evenus was.

'Weak.'

He was truly weak.

To the point where one might wonder how he had managed to get himself into the position. It was a thought that consumed Aoife's mind over the past week.

How could someone as weak as him become the Black Star?

She could recall his expression back then. Under the barrage of Anders's words, he seemed calm. Unfazed, almost.

It was as if he truly didn't care.

But was that the case...?

Did he truly not care?

At the time, when she saw him close his eyes, Aoife thought, 'He's running away.' His actions again made her ask the question,

'Just what is so special about him...?'

His attitude was trash, his mana flow was weak, and he wasn't of high noble birth.

".....Why?"

She was confident that if the two of them were to fight one-on-one, she'd beat him with a simple flick of her finger.

He was that weak in her eyes.

The only one whom she truly deemed strong was not Julien, but his knight.

Leon Rowan Ellert.

He was ranked second, and unlike Julien, Aoife could see that he was strong. She couldn't see herself beating him easily. If she wanted to beat him, she'd have to pull out every card she had.

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

Even now, she could remember his voice. The tone, the smoothness, and the fluidity of it. It wasn't something she could forget.

Never.

"Uh...? What are—Huh? Eh... Ah..."

The way Ander's face changed at his words, and tears flowed out of his eyes...

She could also remember.

The change was so abrupt that hardly anyone was able to react. Aoife was one of the few who was able to understand what had happened.

By the time she did, however, Julien was already standing in front of him.

"Did I touch you?"lightsnovel

He didn't.

His every action seemed calculated. As if he were evoking a certain flow.

First he evoked sadness.

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

Then, he evoked anger.

"Here's your chance. Hit me. "

"You, you..."

Bang—!

And then...

".....Pathetic."

He evoked fear.

"Huuu."

Aoife opened her eyes.

"The entire time, he was in complete control."

It was an unmistakable fact.

What made Emotive Mages so scary? It wasn't their strength. Far from it. They were weak. Even the weakest mage could kill them.

.....But that was only on the premise that they didn't fall for their words.

Through the exploitation of a single emotion, Emotive Mages could evoke and manipulate other emotions. Though different, they were all intertwined together. And the more emotions am Emotive Mage could manipulate, the stronger they were.

Emotions were a weakness.

It was something that Aoife understood all too well.

Aoife's fist slowly clenched.

"He's weak."

That was undeniable.

But...

".....He's strong."

Weak but strong.

"Julien."

A new name crawled its way up in her mind.

It stood right alongside Delilah's.

***

A familiar feeling.

One that I had grown accustomed to.

My legs were weak.

"Haaa..."

Each breath felt tiring.

And the world felt empty.

Colorless.

It was just.... meaningless. There was nothing that excited me. Every one of my actions felt mundane. A chore.

The tears that were threatening to spill from my eyes before were long gone.

"....Tasteless."

The food was tasteless too.

It didn't even look appetizing.

I placed the spoon down and looked around me. I was sitting alone in the canteen. Several eyes were trained on me, sneaking glances whenever I wasn't looking.

I would've normally not minded.

But...

It perfectly reflected the reality of my situation.

I was a stranger to this world. An outlier. A pebble drifting in the raging sea, doing its best to keep itself from sinking.

The world...

It was suffocating.

'I want to go back.'

There was nothing more that I wanted.

....I was struggling. I truly was.

Picking up the knife near me, I lightly traced my finger over its edge.

"...."

A red line formed on my finger.

But.

"...It doesn't hurt."

What if I cut it off...? Will it hurt then?

Thoughts started to cloud my mind. They became more dangerous with each passing second. My mind was clear. I knew that my thoughts were stupid.

But... My insides were empty.

Just because my mind was clear, it didn't mean I cared.

Right now.

I just wanted to feel something.

Even if what I felt was pain. Something. I needed something. This emptiness that was consuming me... I wanted it to go away.

"H-hah."

My eyes continued to trace over the knife, just as my finger did.

It seemed tempting.

Just a little...? It's not like this body is mine anyway...

"Just..."

I balled my hands into a fist and clenched my teeth. Every part of me tensed.

'I can't.'

Just like fear, sadness was consuming me. It was threatening to devour every part of me. An after-effect of the skill I used.

But unlike fear, pain couldn't save me.

Right now.

I wanted to feel pain.

Something.

"Hah."

I took a deep breath and reminded myself of my goal.

'.....Noel.'

Right.

There was someone waiting for me. He was struggling too. Perhaps even more. I didn't care about myself, but I cared about him.

For him.

.....I could take on the pain.

Taking a look around me, the noise finally entered my ears.

I could hear again.

Color also started to return.

Alongside it was an intense pain. It squeezed tightly at my chest. Covering my eyes with both hands in a way that nobody noticed, I felt something wet brush against my finger.

It took a while for me to realize what it was.

Finally, my lips quivered.

"S-hit."

My tears.

They had finally returned.

***

As promised, there will be another chapter soon.