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The next day arrived so quickly. It was finally time to face off the unique crown prince again!
This kind of reminded me about when we were still children, about when we weren’t really friends. It felt like yesterday, but seven years had passed ever since that time.
Seven years of friendship. If he didn’t care, then he was surely heartless.
Based on what Mom told me, he cared.
So, let’s just confront him, shall we?
But I didn’t directly go to Luca. Instead, I had an audience with the king and the queen, along with my parents.
“Oh my, I really am glad you’re alright, Lyra. It really worried me when I first heard what happened. My children were really affected, too,” Queen Shaula said as she patted my head.
“Really, I didn’t expect that they were still lurking silently. It seems that they’ve changed their modus operandi. And to think that they targeted your daughter of all people…,” King Titus said.
I’ve heard from Sarri-sama. Gammians, or those who are following the false deity.
It never occurred to me before that they were so close to me. When I was Reinst, I felt like it was so far away from me whenever I read about cults and so on.
They were eradicated almost completely the last time I heard the news about them.
“If any, we are glad you are fine,” Queen Shaula seemed to notice that the atmosphere would turn sour if the conversation about the cults and false deity’s followers were to continue, so she immediately shifted the topic back.
“Yes, I’m fine now, Queen Shaula. Thank you very much for your concern,” I curtseyed again.
“Come and play with Leticia for a while after you speak with Luca, okay?” Queen Shaula said.
“Sure, I will. Is Leticia not with Luca?” I asked.
“She is currently playing with Kiri. Luca… he seemed to be rather down after the incident that befell you. He’s in the library now,” Queen Shaula said with a wry smile.
“There is no need for you to be sorry. That’s how my son is. He never really suffered any significant setback, and this is his first time. I think he’s in the middle of swallowing that setback and learn to rise again,” King Titus interrupted my words.
The excerpt of Mom’s words last time echoed in my mind, ‘Perhaps he feels like he had failed in protecting you.”
I smiled wryly remembering that.
That’s so Luca, though.
“Yeah. I will need to talk with him about it,” I said with a determined look on my face. King Titus nodded, as if my determination reached him—even though there was no way for him to know what I wanted to talk with Luca about.
But seriously… looking at the king—who was supposed to be close with me, with Reinst, in terms of age—like this, it was still weird. Even so, I was happy for both the king and the queen, for they managed to fall in love and built a happy family. And that they gave birth to Luca and Leticia who became my friends.
It was indeed such a weird turn of events, but I was grateful to get to know both children.
If the past me was alive, perhaps…just maybe…the royal couple before my eyes wouldn’t be there, and Luca or Leticia wouldn’t be there. There was such possibility as after my—Reinst—‘s coming of age ceremony, my family was supposed to talk about engagement with the royal family.
My parents talked a bit with the royal couple before we excused ourselves. After that, my parents split ways, with me following Dad and Mom going to her workplace.
“Before that, Lyra, there are some people who were so worried about you and would definitely love to see your healthy look,” Dad suddenly said.
I turned to look at him before he smiled and asked, “Detour?”
“Sure,” I nodded.
Dad then led me to an empty room.
“Here we are,” he said. I tilted my head in confusion, “Eh?”
Just right after Dad closed the door, two people suddenly appeared out of thin air.
“Eeeh! It’s Rupert and Gale!” My eyes shone upon seeing the familiar figures that I hadn’t seen in ages. They were like my family’s friends already.
“Lyra! Good to see you here! I’m glad you look fine!” Gale approached me and made a mess out of my hair by patting them roughly.
“Gale, my hair!” I complained a bit as I took off my high twintail that was already destroyed…
“You don’t feel anything out-of-place, do you? Completely fine?” Rupert asked in concern.
“Mm, yeah, I feel refreshed instead,” I answered with a smile to reassure him.
“Really…Next time you feel something is out of place or if you meet any of them, you can immediately call me. I will take a look on them immediately,” Rupert said again.
“Sure, but why?” I tilted my head in confusion. Why Rupert in particular?
“Are you tasked to investigate them?” I asked.
“Kind of,” Rupert ambiguously answered.
It was at that time we suddenly heard a girl’s energetic voice.
“No, it’s just that Rupert has a thing with them that whenever there’s a suspicion that a case is related to the false deity, he would come running even if he’s not officially tasked with it yet.”
We were silent. I turned to the source of voice only to find…nothing but walls.
Rupert sighed while Gale chuckled.
“Cynthia, come out now,” Rupert said after sighing.
“Hehe~,” the same voice resounded again as I finally saw…the wallpaper was moving! It then revealed a girl with energetic blue eyes and ponytailed caramel hair.
“Cynthia-san!” I greeted her as she approached me.
“Drop the formalities. And look at what little Gale did to your hair! You poor thing,” Cynthia said as she patted my hair to make them neat.
“You’re the one who’s little!” Gale said.
“Come here, I will fix your hair…But we don’t have a comb nearby, so let’s make it a low twintail, shall we?” Cynthia grabbed my hair ribbons and started to comb my hair with her hand.
“Thank you so much!” I thanked her before asking as soon as I remembered her words, “What is it about the thing Rupert has with them?”
Before Cynthia could say anything, Rupert’s cold voice interrupted us. I felt Cynthia’s hand that was combing me stop for a while before she finally said, “Well, yeah, I’m not someone who can talk about it. He just wants to pursue them due to his past, that’s all,” then she shrugged.
“Rupert…,” I muttered as Rupert just smiled at me.
It seemed like he didn’t really want to talk about it to me, so fine, then. I understood that we all had things we didn’t want others to know.
But the fact that Cynthia knew—and that Gale and Dad didn’t really react with questioning look proved that these spies were close enough to one another.
Then, a question formed in my head.
If Rupert’s past has something to do with them, does he know Sarri-sama well? How’s their relationship dynamic?
Perhaps I might find out in the future.
After a little talk with the royal spies, Dad wanted to escort me to the library, but I already knew the way around here and it wasn’t that far away, so I asked him to let me go by myself. So Dad could directly join Rupert and the others.
Though reluctant, Dad found my argument to be logical, so he let me be.
Which brought me here—standing alone in front of the royal library’s door. The library itself was big, but I had an idea where Luca might be. Based on my understanding of him, coupled with his mother’s testimony that he was feeling down, I could already narrow down the places.
I took a deep breath before I opened the library and started to scout for him. My best bet would be the restricted area beyond another door in the library. Sure enough, there was already a librarian waiting in front of the door. She had already received information from the king or the queen, it seemed, as she quietly opened the door for me the moment I was in her sight.
I politely curtseyed and thanked her before entering. The librarian was a quick person, as she immediately closed the door after I entered.
My guess was proven right the moment I saw the red-haired boy sitting…on the floor, with a thick book on his hands. Several books were all around the floor next to Luca as well.
He didn’t even spare me a single glance as he continued to read.
When I was right next to him, I immediately said, “Long time no see.”
Luca only glanced a bit to me before his eyes were back to the book.
He certainly looked gloomy, and that ceased any spirit to quarrel with him that was inside my heart.
I stood there for a while before I found an idea. I spared my mind no time as I immediately sat behind him—with my back touching his back.
Now, if we were to have a talk that was a bit heart-to-heart in nature, his pride won’t allow his expression to be seen. Thus, I chose this way.
“Hey, Luca. I heard about it from Mom.”
The moment I said those words, I could feel his back tensing.
“Thank you for protecting me,” I said again.
“…I failed,” He muttered.
“No, you did it well. Mom told me that…Had you not interfered along with Alt-nii, I would suffer more effects,” I said.
“…,” he was silent, but the tense back of his loosened a bit.
“But you still…,” he muttered, and I didn’t let him finish his words.
“Sorry for hiding you about my dark magic. It’s also my fault for not really mastering it diligently, unlike you. You…already found out about my dark magic, didn’t you? Yet, you chose to hide it and hide your dark magic too. Then, you asked Mom to help you hone your dark magic—just to make sure you could help protect me in the worst case, right?”
“So, thank you. Thank you for treasuring me as your very first friend. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Like I said, it was also my fault,” I comforted him as I leaned my head more.
“But if only I was more competent…If I were stronger…,” Luca muttered.
“Hey, Luca, do you know about the founder of Riviera, the hero of humanity?” I suddenly asked.
“Of course. Why?”
“He was an amazing person, but you do know that he has his friends who helped him throughout all the hurdles and founded the country with him, right?”
“…I know,” Luca said.
“So…I want you to not shoulder the burden yourself. Well, I admit I am not in a position where I can say that as I’ve been shouldering my burden on my own all this time. But I want to try relying on others too. Because I know I’m not alone anymore. And so do you, right?” I asked with a gentle voice.
“Don’t say you’re the crown prince, so you must shoulder more burden. Like I said, even the hero and founder of Riviera shared his burdens with his friends. There’s a limit to what a person can do. But with combined power, we can make greater impact and change. There’s a lot more we can do when we are together,” I said to Luca, and at the same time, I also said it to myself. To the ‘Reinst’ inside me.
“So, let’s share the burdens, okay? That goes with our friends too,” I said.
Luca’s words were followed by a period of silence before…
“…Sorry,” Luca suddenly said with a weak voice.
“For not being capable enough to protect you, despite you being my very first friend,” he said. I slightly turned my head around to see that Luca was leaning his head towards the arms that he crossed around his knees.
“…Silly, then I should be sorry as well for involving you in this. Wait, how did you find out?” I asked as I quickly rose back to my own body’s support and turned to look at him, still sitting on the floor.
“My dark magic is quite strong and yours sometimes leaked out, so I naturally noticed,” Luca answered as he did the same thing—turning around to look at me.
“Eeeh, yours is strong too?! Then, be my sparring partner!” I said as I raised my head to look at the ceiling.
“Heh, then you should train hard first,” Luca said, then I felt his back and head loosening as well.
We were currently sitting back-to-back, each of us looking at the same ceiling as we talked nonsense about rivalry again.
“Have you already overcome the darkness of your heart? Or any trials and tribulations that dark magic users have? Did you not crumble to the corrupted darkness?” I was suddenly intrigued.
“Stuupidd. My [Insight] protected me from the corrupt darkness. My mind won’t be engulfed completely by them, though some effects might still be there,” Luca answered as if it was a matter of course.
“EEEH?! That’s cheating!” I lightly shook my body in exchange for a ‘joking’ hit.
“Every power comes with a price,” Luca added.
“Well yeah…I can’t imagine what will happen if the next ruler were to be corrupted…,” I nodded as I remembered that Luca was a descendant of the hero and also the greatest magician. This cheat-like Oracle—Insight—seemed to be logical when you knew the genes that ran in his body…
“Can you tell me more about [Insight]?” I asked as I couldn’t get off my curiosity of the aforementioned power and price.
“Not telling,” Luca said teasingly.
“Aww come on…Fine then, I will eventually find out more about it since we’re friends and all. Look, I even discovered today that [Insight] and [Dark] magic affinity is a very good combo!” I said in amazement. This was really enviable of Luca!
Being the descendant of the greatest magician, it was no wonder he managed to get dark magic, right?
In the end, I managed to make Luca back to his usual self again. Though the way we often quarreled was annoying at times, I felt that it was better than seeing the ‘gloomy’ Luca, the ‘not-Luca’ Luca.
With my dark magic no longer a secret and how it was accepted without even a single bat…coupled with the presence of a fellow dark magic user, I felt like a burden had been lifted from my heart.
[Mission accomplished: Talking with Everyone After Short Comatose~]
As for what I ought to do next, there’s already a whole to-do-list, so I don’t need to worry about not having anything to do, hahaha… (⋟﹏⋞)