༺ Date (2) ༻
After some consideration, I approached and placed an overcoat on Instructor Lirya’s shoulders.
Our eyes met as she blankly looked up.
“It seemed like you needed it.”
Even though it was spring, the weather in March was still cold. Especially at such a high cliff, it was noticeably chillier. A thin dress would not be enough.
Instructor Lirya nodded slightly and hugged the overcoat tightly. With traces of faint tears on her face, she felt the remaining warmth in the overcoat in silence.
I opened my mouth slowly.
I hesitated after speaking.
What should I say?
That she’s not a pitiful person? That I respect Instructor Lirya? That there are many students who rely on her?
These are all clichés. And I wasn’t sure if I was in a position to say such things.
I wasn’t familiar with comforting others, and I had no idea how much this awkward comfort would help Instructor Lirya.
However, I believed there must be a reason that Instructor Lirya revealed a story that she hadn’t told anyone else right here, to me alone.
Showing one’s hidden weakness to others.
It would have required great courage.
So, I had to show her the respect she deserved in return.
I carefully brought up the sincere feelings I had, filled with my honesty.
“I feel the same way.”
“I often feel that I am pitiful myself.”
Instructor Lirya opened her eyes wide as if she found it hard to believe.
I gave a light smile. Perhaps, it was a bitter smile similar to what she had shown me until now.
“The power, status, and even the fame I have were not things I desired. They are more like things I unexpectedly acquired.”
The desperate reason why I wanted to become stronger. It all began to protect Ella.
Then, I wanted to be with Charlotte, wanted to protect the family and friends I left in my hometown, wanted to survive and return with my Special Task Force colleagues.
When I came to my senses, all the reasons I wanted to become stronger had one by one left my side and disappeared. And what was left was just me who became strong.
The only thing left was a worthless and pitiful man who couldn’t protect anything he truly wanted to protect.
So the recognition and cheers, money, and honor I gained as a Hero all seemed pointless. Every time I embraced such things, I only realized more about the things I left behind.
I spoke in a voice soaked with regret.
“What I truly wanted… was a very trivial happiness.”
Yes, I didn’t wish for anything great.
Living a normal life with loved ones. A natural hope that anyone as a human being would have.
However, the world’s trials I had to go through to realize that hope were too rough and treacherous.
Instructor Lirya smiled a sad smile.
“It seems the hardest thing in this world is to live happily. Because a normal life is the hardest thing to have.”
Her eyes were looking far away.
“I often think about it. What if I wasn’t born into the Bennett family? What if I grew up with a family who loved me normally, even if I wasn’t a noble? What if there wasn’t a war…? Though it’s a meaningless supposition.”
I nodded and calmly responded.
“Many things are decided even before we are born. Your name, parents, social class, and even the environment around you.”
So, I think there’s one important thing.
How are we going to live in such irrationality?
“The important thing is to make a choice.”
“I chose to become an instructor at this academy. Didn’t Instructor Lirya do the same? If we hadn’t made those choices, we might never have met each other like this.”
Instructor Lirya looked dazed for a moment, then smiled and laughed with a slight smile.
“That’s true. It was my choice to teach the students… If none of this had happened, we wouldn’t have met each other like this.”
“So, I don’t care what kind of person Instructor Lirya is. On the contrary, I am glad that I can hear such a story.”
“Because I’ve gotten to know Instructor Lirya better. If today’s events hadn’t occurred, we wouldn’t have had this conversation.”
Listening quietly, Instructor Lirya sharply raised one eyebrow.
“Do you mean to say it’s fortunate that I almost ruined our date today?”
“…That’s not what I meant.”
Instructor Lirya stared at my embarrassed expression, then broke out into a playful laugh. The sadness and melancholy had disappeared from her face before I knew it.
“Hehe. I’m joking. But you didn’t deny the word ‘date’, did you?”
“I’m glad. I was worried that I was the only one thinking that way.”
I had said more than usual.
I’m not a fool either. I had noticed early on that she had a certain fondness for me.
Although I couldn’t be sure if it was just simple fondness or something more.
Then, Instructor Lirya silently leaned her head on my shoulder.
I did not push her away, and the two of us quietly watched the setting sun and the academy below it.
It seemed like the buildings of the Philion Academy were visible in the distance.
Instructor Lirya cautiously asked.
“Instructor Graham… Are you happy now?”
After a moment of thought, I responded.
“…I’m trying to be happy.”
I had spent too much time shaking off old emotions. I had only wielded my anger, regret, sadness, and hatred in my heart like a weapon.
Now it was time to fill that empty space with something new.
Instructor Lirya nodded slightly.
“You too, Instructor Graham, have had many wounds.”
“Everyone has their weaknesses.”
Suddenly, silence fell upon us. But it wasn’t an uncomfortable or awkward silence.
Instructor Lirya, while clutching my coat and fiddling unnecessarily with my sleeve, hesitated before speaking.
“Um, Instructor Graham.”
“Have you ever heard? Sometimes, women are more attracted to men’s weaknesses.”
“…Is that so?”
“They are attracted to the unexpected weaknesses of someone who seems perfect. Is it because it stimulates the maternal instinct?”
Instructor Lirya said, with a gentle smile on her face.
“And that story… I think it’s probably true.”
To be honest, the words ‘appearance of Instructor Lirya’ and ‘maternal instinct’ were a combination that didn’t go well together.
Of course, even Instructor Lirya would get angry if she knew I thought this.
Not knowing what kind of response I should give at this time, I just changed the subject.
“We should get going now.”
It wasn’t just a phrase, the sunset had almost completely fallen and the sky was gradually being covered with darkness.
Looking at the darkness slowly approaching from afar, it seemed like night would fall if we stayed any longer.
Instructor Lirya wrinkled her brows slightly. She looked as if she had expected a better answer, but she eventually sighed shortly and wore a light smile.
“Yes, let’s go.”
I got on the bike, and Instructor Lirya also took her place at the back.
Seeing her casually hugging my waist tightly, I felt a bit nervous and spoke up.
“Instructor Lirya, your hands…”
“…No, it’s nothing.”
There was no point in stopping her as it was clear that she would hold onto my waist again as we rode.
Later, I thought I should ask Dr. Brown’s student to attach an auxiliary handle.
Suddenly, Instructor Lirya asked with a curious voice from behind.
“By the way, who is this Sylvia? By her voice and name, she seems to be a woman….”
After thinking about her question for a moment, I answered seriously.
“We owe each other our lives.”
“That, you had such a deep relationship…!?”
Her voice sounded oddly threatened.
Riding the bike all the way, it didn’t take long to return to the academy. This was because after several trips, I had found a few routes that were much faster than the main road.
Instructor Lirya tried to accompany me up to the Garnet Red Dormitory, but I strongly refused because it would be too conspicuous in front of the students.
In the end, I dropped off Instructor Lirya on a road a bit distant from the tram stop.
The sky had already darkened and the surrounding area was faintly lit by the glow of magical lights.
Now, really facing the time to part, Instructor Lirya hesitated in her place, fixing her hair that had been ruffled while riding the bike.
Seeing her as if she still had something to say, I quietly waited for her.
“Instructor Graham, I really enjoyed today, thanks to you.”
“Yes, I enjoyed it too.”
It was not a formal speech but a sincere one. It had been quite a while since I felt the joy of being with someone.
“Tha, that, and this! I’ll give this back to you!”
Instructor Lirya extended my instructor’s coat that she had been wearing. It would have been okay to lend it to her for the day since the weather was chilly, but it seemed like she intended to return it right away.
Well, it would stand out too much to the students if she went back to the dormitory wearing a man’s clothes.
I nodded my head and extended my hand, and Instructor Lirya approached me, holding the coat.
At that moment, determination settled on Instructor Lirya’s face.
She closed her eyes tightly and stretched her face toward me. Even though I could have avoided it, I was taken aback and couldn’t move.
Soon, her tiny lips touched my cheek and fell away. It was a very brief moment.
Instructor Lirya lowered the foot she had been standing on tip-toe with and spoke hurriedly with a face that had turned bright red even in the darkness.
“Thi, this is an expression of affection…! Please be careful on your way back!”
Instructor Lirya didn’t wait for my reply and turned around, rushing towards the dormitory building.
I let out a short dry laugh and turned the handle, heading towards the Opal Black Dormitory.
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