It’s supposed to be a normal, mundane evening. All sorts of homework with ranging topics from the meticulous military offensive strategy, outright inefficient military logistical operation procedure according to modern standards, to the complex and arcane《School of Wits Magic》runes that makes even advanced calculus formulas pale in comparison are all done. I even recently agreed to join the archaeological expedition. What remains are the few exams left needed to be prepared.
Same as always like in my previous life. Which I unsurprisingly enjoy. The boring routine gives me peace of mind, something predictable to do; the focus of achieving a goal, the engrossment of learning, the spent energy after crossing the finish line brings me a sense of accomplishment, a high of some sort.
The heart. A small organ. Fragility is one of its known characteristics, further proven with the skeleton ribs encaging it. Protected it must, for if it’s destroyed, its carrier will follow. So when the heart alerts its presence with its monotone, yet shattering beats, vibrating to the very fibers of my ribs, after the supposed normal one-to-one mentoring session with Instructor Smush, I start to remember. The fragility of the heart.
All of the things I did in this life. Practicing the way of the sword numerous times, getting every swing, movement, and sway right, to the point of extreme exhaustion. The countless hours studying the wonders of this world’s magic, memorizing the very letters and syllables of its chants, grimacing the agony of a failed spell cast. Everything is just a way for me to get myself busy. Occupied. Away from the unsettling truth.
The exhaustion and agony are a very good price to pay compared to embracing the deep hole in my heart that has left its mark upon coming to this world.
The ironic peace it brings was all that. A facade. A mask. Beneath a calm, stable, and strong mountain of appearance is an unstable magma flowing around.
Empty heart. It feels so… unsettling… Unlike exhaustion or pure agony, it doesn’t occupy your mind to the brim, it leaves you alone, for you to be solely occupied in its intolerable feeling. It’s just there. The void doesn’t fill your mind to the brim but barely enough to warrant you to constantly think of its presence. Slowly eating you alive. That’s why filling the mind with mundane routines that bring you to the edge of exhaustion and agony is way better.
But why does it also feel… familiar? As if I experienced this before…?
It emanates loneliness. A life without love. The very thing I always try to fight against.
Damned to eternal loneliness… The unsettling truth; my biggest fear.
The heartbeat slowly but surely causes my unsettling anxiety to float to the surface until it stands out like a sore thumb in my mind. The very thing that I try to keep hidden away, never to be seen and felt again, now it’s causing havoc and unrest in my mind.
It made me doubt myself on whatever I’ve been doing this whole time. Like how history always repeats itself, it makes me realize how I’ve been doing almost exactly the same thing as my past life.
The study, study, and study. Head bound on a book, sitting for an uncountable amount of hours, posture leaning forward to get a better angle on the book, right hand holding a pen, writing notes, or solving practice problems. Always has been.
Will I follow the same mistake as my past life? Am I fated to eternal loneliness?
Are all of my efforts in becoming worthy of love are always doomed to be a failure from the beginning? Will I always be… alone…?
With nobody to share warmth?
With nobody to confide with?
With nobody to accept for who I truly am?
With nobody to grief within my times of despair?
The inevitable loneliness…
O̵u̸r̶ ̸i̶r̴r̶e̷v̶e̶r̷s̵i̶b̸l̵e̴,̷ ̷u̸n̸b̶r̸e̶a̷k̶a̵b̸l̷e̶ ̶f̵a̵t̶e̴.
A cool breeze sweeps the quiet campus, chilling my heart that craves warmth, awakening me.
I should go back home right now. I’m done for the day and it will do me no good to loiter around on campus, being depressed at that. By the time I hit the bed, I’ll be fine and everything will go back to normal. I can’t risk further burden Instructor Smush and especially the mother. Who knows how much it will impede my progress if I tell them their son is depressed and the possible cost to get treatment if that even exists of course. Following the ideal mundane routine while feeling under the weather is my forte anyway.
The night is coming. The sky is not in complete darkness, the sun still barely shining its light to the surface. A glimpse of the full moon, however, can be seen in the sky horizon. Manaritium lamps all around the campus slowly start to shine their bright light on the faintly darkened campus. The air is quite heavy.
How long have I been trying to calm myself down and control my emotions?
I start walking back home, an unfitting solace but will do for now.
The steps feel heavy and slow, similar to the near exhaustion I felt after finishing the six-mile run training from that fucking drill sergeant. I guess they weren’t lying when they said mind to body connection exists, for I’m mentally… or should I say emotionally exhausted.
I come to cross again with the Bosart statue, its bronze surface doesn’t shine its usual bright reflection from the sunlight, gone was its magnificent aura, replaced with the horrifying solemness of the near soon dark night.
With no warnings or signs, the regal beauty princess comes to my view along with what seems to be her group of friends. Her charm brings a small warmth to my frozen heart. I know there’s a huge disparity between us, but I can’t help but dream of being loved by her. If I can’t have her then at the very least she’s my source of motivation in becoming a better person, one who’s worthy to be loved.
I stare at her, the soon dark sky doesn’t obscure her awe-striking details in the slightest. I notice how her face is beautifully heart-shaped, her lips as red as bloomed rose. Diamond jewelry as blue as her eyes dangling in her ears, adding more depth towards her magnificence charm.
「 Hey you. 」
Amidst my silent appreciation of her beauty, she stares directly at my eyes. I didn’t even realize it until now. Something awfully wrong. Her blue sky eyes are so different right now, filled with more scorn and wrath than I knew eyes could be. The lovely princess is gone and instead, it is the eyes of a predator preying on the weak.
Out of shock and at the worst of time, I trip and fall to the ground. Damn, at least I didn’t fall with my head first.
「 How dare you have the audacity to gaze at me with those lecherous eyes of yours?! 」
Wh-what?! Lecherous eyes?
「 I-I’m… I’m sorry… 」
「 If you were so sorry then prostrate yourself! 」
My already worse mood plummets. Frozen heart shattered. My limbs feel like leaden weights. Even breathing becomes quite a chore. Legs gave out, knees thudded into something very hard.
「 Does anybody know who he is? 」the princess asks scornfully.
「 I know, 」a familiar feminine voice sprung out, 「 he’s the failure of my family. The youngest idiotic son of the Count Alderhide family. Renald Alderhide. I’m ashamed to have him as my younger brother. 」
How does she know my name?! I look up and see her… Cefre Alderhide. My sister. Does she get along with the princess?! How come I didn’t know…
「 So a bastard? A count nobility one at that. 」
「 You would be correct, Hime-sama. 」
「 Hmph! Of course… 」the princess sounds annoyed,「 why do I even have to go to the same academy with the likes of you. 」
「 What? Got nothing to say…? 」I say.
Why am I even on the ground?
A swift kick hit my stomach. Stars burst in my vision, all of my senses wired to the stomach. My hands make it way shielding the stomach, grimacing the painful agony.
「 You lowly bastard speak too much! Hime-sama hasn’t given you permission to speak! 」Another one of her followers says.
F-fuck… it fucking hurts… I want to throw up…
Why is she acting like this? All I ever did was observe her from afar. That’s hardly a crime! Is this the price I pay for sticking too close to the rose?
I can’t think. I can’t comprehend at all. Is this reality?
「 People like you I hate the most 」
Hate. Hate. She clearly said that. She hates me.
My most beloved crush. The royal princess.
How could you really hate me this much?!
I didn’t even start anything… All I did was to look up at you from a far distance.
「 So… Cefre-san… What should we do with this little brother of yours? 」
「 He’s not my little brother, 」disgust apparent from Cefre’s voice, 「 father didn’t outright abandon him purely because he loves his mother more than my own mother. A leecher bastard fits him more. 」
Multiple Shadows fell on me, engulfing me to nothing but darkness. They encircled me. Their laughter is sinister and sickening.
And then all I can feel is pain, pain, and pain, the world spinning around, the ground by the atomic distance inches closer and closer to my face.
I can’t scream. The world no longer makes sense.
Pain. Agony. Inside and out. My heart, my body, everything fucking hurts.
I can’t fathom it. She was so beautifully innocent, so pure, so… clean as I observed her from a far distance. But up close right now she exhibits the end of the spectrum. Malice. Is this the price I pay for sticking too close to the rose?
Why?! Why?! Why?!
「 Pardon my intrusion, Hime-sama, 」Amidst my anger, I look up towards the direction of that voice,「 could you tell me what’s going on here? Why does Hime-sama use her spare time to bother a lesser noble? 」
That harsh remark on lesser noble bores deep into my heart. The young man as he walks closer towards us has fiery red hair with equally red eyes. He folds his hands tucked near his chest as he approaches the princess.
「 It’s none of your concern, Noxburg-san, 」an irritating smirk making its way on the princess’s face.
「 Oh it is, Hime-sama, 」he insistently continues, eyes staring daggers at her,「 It doesn’t fit the royalty image to harass lesser nobles. A united nobility is what we are in dire need of right now Hime-sama. If your harassments towards him come to light to the nobility community, or if worse, the commoners, hell will let loose. Do I have to remind you of the great unrest that’s happening in the international community? 」
「 It wouldn’t come to light if it weren’t for you showing up, 」one of the princess followers says.
A hand raises to the sky, it is the princess’s hand, prompting her followers to stop whatever protest they are about to raise towards him.
「 You bring up a good point, Noxburg-san, 」the princess continues, 「 however, you forgot one rather small, but nevertheless quite an important detail. That pathetic man dares to offend me, Vivienne Veinard, the second royal princess of the Veinard kingdom, the white flower of the royal family. After knowing this, are you still going to defend this lesser noble? 」
He looks at me, raising a disturbing eyebrow.
「 It might be improper to say this as the son of the great Duke, Dran Noxburg. However, you need to give some leeway to this one, or else you will put more coal to the fire. I’m doing this for your own good. 」
There is an undercurrent of the meaning behind his words, as soft-spoken as it is. He’s judging me, and he’s simply helping me escape from this situation not out of kindness nor sympathy.
「 Ugh… Fine, 」the princess replies hatefully,「 remember, I’m only giving this lesser noble a leeway with the Veinard Kingdom stability in mind, not on your so-called “noble” advice. 」
An engulfing silence follows as she walks away, maintaining her ever-gracious posture, I would’ve appreciated it if it weren’t for the shame I went through. Soon, it’s only me and Orwen Noxburgh as multiple figures leave this place, following the princess.
「 My job is finally done, 」he lets out a relieving sigh,「 I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced, but please keep this situation a secret. This is not a request, by the way, it’s an order. There will be major consequences if you ever spill this out. 」
Without ever having the chance to spill a single word on my side, he left this place, leaving the once angered, now devastated me behind in this cold, dark place. Sunlight doesn’t shine to this place any longer, only the manaritium lamps shedding some light on this gloomy place.
My shortly-lived crush with the royal princess is destroyed that easily huh.
I know it’s an impossible dream. She’s a princess for fuck sake, of course, I’m not that of a fool. But she’s right, is there even a person out there who will even love me…
Another chill breeze sweeps its way to me, refreshing me to the present moment in the dimly lit campus.
Oh yeah… I need to go back home…
I didn’t think much on my way back home. The insidious insult she throws at me, the humiliation, the shame I experience truly shattered my frozen heart.
Ribs broken, heart shattered. Inside and out.
Out of habit, I check my mailbox as soon as I’m in the housing dorm. Surprisingly there’s a letter, what’s worse it’s from my mother. When was the last time I received a mother’s letter? I just bring it together with me to my room. Thankfully, Elras or Aaron isn’t present in the lounge, I don’t know how to interact with them in this pathetic state of mine.
As soon as I close the door, I leap towards the bed, still holding the letter. Ah fuck it, I should read it now, maybe it will give me some solace…
Dear Renald Sweetie,
Congratulations on reaching intermediate mastery of《School of Wits Magic》Renald! I wasn’t expecting you to be able to comprehend the immense intellectual challenge it takes, considering how you are always such a silly boy back then. I miss the days how I always need to give you a stern lecture to get your head down to the books. Oh, how you’ve grown my baby boy hehehe…
I heard that you’re still adventuring around with the son of the Reinhardt Marquis family. Elras Reinhardt was it? I hope you get along with him and nothing bad happens with you in your friendship with him. I’ve personally met the Reinhardt family, and I must say the rumors of them being a rough and barbaric noble family weren’t far from the truth.
But I should’ve known you will get along with people like him, I know how you love the idea of adventuring and exploring the world. I remember how when you’re twelve you always come back home with weird items you found interesting from the city’s antique market.
This should’ve been a surprise, but I can’t help but tell you how I really miss you so when you’re reading this letter I will be already on my way to visit you! And since it’s a surprise I won’t give you any fixed date for my arrival. You miss your mother too right?
Can’t wait to see you Renald,
Your lovely mother
Mother is coming huh…?
It doesn’t matter — none of it matters anymore…
Darkness soon surges, embracing me… I welcome it with open arms.