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23 The one the world rejects [1]

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"It's a pleasure to meet you, Princess. There are a few matters I'd like to discuss."

"Princess, it's truly an honor to have you here. May we have a moment to speak...?"

"Princess..."

It was the same as usual. Nothing had changed. The lights shone brightest her way, with everyone seeking ways to approach her.

Gatherings were burdensome to her.

It wasn't that she didn't understand their importance... she did, but... they weren't something she looked forward to. The weight of her role weighed heavily on her shoulders.

"I'll do that."

Aoife lightly massaged her cheeks.

They had grown stiff from the prolonged smiling.

It was proper decorum for her to greet everyone with a smile. Outwardly, she had to maintain perfection; there could be no flaws in her appearance.

Like a thornless rose.

"...I'll most certainly find the time later to discuss the matters with you."

"Haha~ Is that so? Thank you so much."

The man she was talking to was quite handsome in appearance. With short brown hair and deep green eyes, he stood out from the rest.

Although he wasn't from a notable household, his magic was strong. He would certainly make for a good connection.

But...

'The smell.'

Aoife felt her nose scrunch up with each breath.

His entire body was clouded with a thick plume of perfume. A very powerful one at that. The smell was so overbearing that Aoife had a hard time keeping her face straight.

"....But is it possible to talk about it now?"

Lines were slowly being crossed.

"Unfortunately, I am busy."

Aoife shook her head and made her rejection clear.

"Haha, it won't take long. Please hear me out."

"I'm sorry."

He insisted.

"It really won't take that much time. I insis—"

[The son of the third head of the Evenus Barony. A first-year cadet and the Black Star. Julien Dacre Evenus.]

A certain name resounded across the hall and the noise inside the venue quieted down.

Heads turned, and the doors swung open.

Wearing a black outfit clothing that perfectly accentuated his appearance, his entrance captured the attention of everyone in the room.

With chiseled features and calm and steady strides, he exuded an air of nobility. His dark, wavy hair framed his perfect features.

The noble's piercing gaze carried a magnetic allure, leaving an indelible impression on those who settled their gazes on him.

"He's here."

"Isn't that..."

lightsnοvεl

"That's him, right?"

Whispers spread across the hall as people talked about him.

'He's here...'

Aoife's expression remained unchanged as he entered.

As expected, only his presence could garner the attention of all present. However, unlike her, nobody approached him.

He too was a rose.

But unlike her, he was filled with thorns. One that kept those away from him. He could only be admired, but not touched.

A trait that made Aoife envious of him.

But she wasn't like the rest.

Tak——!

Her heels clicked on the marble floor as she advanced. All eyes were on her as she moved forward.

The distance between the two shrank.

"..."

And she was soon standing in front of him.

There wasn't much of a change in his expression. He simply stared at her. His gaze felt pressuring, almost intimidating.

'As expected of a rose filled with thorns.'

Just standing next to him felt daunting.

That said...

"I've been waiting for you."

Aoife's lips pulled up and she extended her hand.

".....Would you give me the honor?"

Mere thorns weren't anything Aoife was worried about.

***

"...."

Should I take the hand...?

I looked at the outstretched hand. Feeling the gazes of all those around me, I lifted my gaze to look at Aoife.

'What is she thinking?'

I struggled to understand the motive of her actions.

Was there some sort of secret agenda, or was this some sort of whim? I doubted it to be the latter.

'....How troublesome.'

It wasn't as if I could refuse her in front of so many people.

Furthermore, even though I didn't want to have anything to do with her due to the vision, I knew not to antagonize her.

Perhaps the reason she killed me in the vision was because of the way I behaved.

That wouldn't do me any good.

Distance was good, but not at the cost of them hating me in the process.

"Hmm."

Therefore...

"...It would be my pleasure."

I accepted her offer and took her hand. Her expression subtly changed to one of surprise, but she was quick to hide it. With a thin smile, she lowered her head.

"It's settled, then."

The two of us walked toward a more secluded area. Though there were still eyes on us, they were significantly less than before.

None of them seemed keen on approaching us.

I glanced at her as she walked alongside me. Apparently understanding my gaze, she pursed her lips to reply,

"I needed a little break."

"Oh "

I figured that much.

But was that all to it?

"That's all."

Her words seemed to clarify that point.

But I didn't trust her.

"...It must be tough being a princess."

"Would've been tougher if I was the Black Star."

"...."

Was it just me, or did she sound salty?

I raised my brow to look at her.

She frowned,

"I'm not."

"....I didn't say anything."

"Your face says it all."

Did it?

I grabbed a nearby cup and slowly savored the drink. But, just as I took a sip of the drink, I felt my brows crease and my tongue shrivel up.

"....."

"That's grape juice."

"....I figured."lightsnovel

I put the drink down.

Did I hate grape juice...? No, not really. I didn't mind it. However, there was something about the drink that my body rejected.

"Sweet."

It was sweet.

Way too sweet for my tastes.

"Sweet?"

When Aoife tried the drink, her eyebrow rose. She looked at me with a gaze that seemed to say, 'What are you talking about?'

I tilted my head.

Does she not feel the same?

"It's too much."

"....Uh. You are weird."

Me?

"Try this."

She proceeded to hand me a small pastry.

I looked at her weirdly.

"Why?"

"Try."

She insisted. I thought about rejecting her, but seeing how insistent she was being, I decided to go along with it and took a small bite.

It wouldn't hurt anyway.

"...."

The moment I took a bite of the pastry, my lips pursed together and I momentarily forgot how to swallow.

Regardless of how hard I tried, it just wouldn't go down.

What the...

".....As expected."

Aoife's lips pulled up in realization.

"You can't take sweets."

I grabbed the nearest tissue and spat out the pastry. When I glanced at Aoife, I noticed a subtle shift in her expression.

It was as if she found something amusing.

"....I guess you aren't as perfect as you make yourself out to be."

What does that even mean...

And, why does she look so satisfied?

"You..."

My mouth had just parted open to say something when I realized that she was already gone. 'When did she...' As I glanced around, I found my eyes tracing her back.

For some reason, staring at her back, her steps seemed lighter than usual.

'Crazy.'

"Hm?"

A sudden tug of my clothes attracted my attention.

I looked around but was left confused.

Nothing.

"Wh-ah."

I lowered my gaze and met two eyes.

Stare—

"Uh...?"

They stared at me with incredible intensity.

But...

"A child?"

They belonged to a child. A little girl with long black hair, and large crystal eyes. Her appearance was extremely cute.

'....What is a child doing here?'

Cuteness aside, I was confused.

What was she doing here? Wasn't this supposed to be a gathering of important people?

Perhaps a child of a professor?

Stare—

Her stare turned even more intense. It was as if lasers were shooting at me.

"What...?"

"..."

The child didn't reply and merely shifted her gaze.

Following her line of sight, I realized.

"Ah."

I held up my hand. The one that was holding the pastry.

"You want this?"

Nod. Nod.

Her head bobbed up and down as saliva drooped from the corner of her mouth. She was quick to wipe her lips.

The sight was an amusing one.

"Here."

I handed her the pastry which she quickly took and shoved down her mouth.

The sight left me momentarily stunned.

What sort of situation was this...?

That said, staring at her, my lips gently moved up.

"Clean up your mouth first."

Taking a tissue, I dabbed her mouth.

"Here too."

There were crumbs all over.

"Just how are you eating...?"

She reminded me of my brother a lot.

"Ah..."

I stopped when I realized what I was doing.

She reminded me of him so much that I had acted out of impulse.

"...."

Thankfully, she didn't seem to have minded as she continued to eat the pastries in peace. I sighed in relief and leaned back on the table.

I didn't know how to feel.

I was once again reminded of the fact that my brother was no longer next to me.

That there was a chance I could never see him again.

A little part of me told me to move on and give up. To forget about my old life and move on.

Such thoughts haunted me every day.

But... I couldn't. I just couldn't. Throwing away my past meant rejecting the very existence of my brother... I couldn't do it.

Even if it meant I was chasing the impossible, I didn't plan on giving up.

I lowered my head to stare at my hands.

But.

'Why can't I progress?'

Even though two weeks had gone by, and I had been practicing every day... I couldn't grasp my other magic.

It was as if it rejected me.

Regardless of my struggles, I wasn't able to make any progress.

It was frustrating.

"Haaaa..."

I knew that I had to be patient.

That I would one day get there. But... How long did I have to wait for that day to come? My days were running low, and the gravity of my situation was starting to sink in.

I didn't have long.

That much was true.