༺ Only the Light ༻
“A one-act play?”
My voice was colored with displeasure.
Now, I understood. Elizabeth’s incomprehensible actions.
“Yes. A one-act play. I prepared it for the instructor… Did you not like it?”
Elizabeth observed my expression for a long while, then tilted her head in apparent puzzlement.
“That’s unexpected. I thought you would like it, considering I prepared it for you.”
“Are you genuinely saying that?”
My voice quietly fell.
Elizabeth’s pupils blinked rapidly.
“…If there was something you found uncomfortable, I apologize. Perhaps you wanted something stronger? However, you should understand that I had to consider significant political pressure for today’s events. We still lack the power to openly criticize the first prince-“
“That’s not what I meant.”
I took a step towards Elizabeth.
At the same time, Elizabeth took a step back. She seemed surprised at her own involuntary retreat.
But we were on an outdoor terrace and her back was against a wall. Elizabeth had nowhere else to go.
“So, you just wanted to show me this. That’s why you called me here.”
You invited me to a ballroom where there was no need for me to be. You called me here.
You drew the attention of the first prince, publicly humiliating him.
“Did you want me to enjoy watching that guy’s distorted face? Did you want me to fulfill a sense of revenge?”
“Don’t call me by that title. You were the one who suggested we change titles here.”
Elizabeth’s long eyelashes trembled.
With just that short exchange, she seemed to understand my intentions. That I would not treat her as a student, at least not at this moment.
She wasted such a fine intellect on such nonsense. It was a lamentable waste of talent.
I spoke with a decidedly colder tone.
“I don’t know how much you know about me, but you’ve seriously misunderstood. Did you think I came here just to see the ugly humiliation of the first prince?”
“I just meant it as a favor for you…”
“Did I ever ask you to do something like that for me?”
Elizabeth’s mouth snapped shut.
She probably had nothing to say. Because everything was true.
Everything was utterly distasteful.
“Did I ever utter a word asking you to avenge me? Is this all you could come up with, with that smart brain of yours?”
And the distaste slowly turned into anger.
I took another step forward.
Elizabeth had backed up to the edge of the railing, but there was nowhere else for her to go.
Much like when we were in the ballroom, we were close, facing each other. However, the atmosphere was considerably different from earlier.
“If there’s revenge to be had, I’ll do it. If there’s forgiveness to be given, I’ll give it. If you thought I would genuinely enjoy having that left to someone else, let alone a student… I’m truly disappointed.”
There was absolutely no reason for me to come to the ballroom. Why would I willingly step into a place filled with bad memories and uncomfortable faces?
Nonetheless, the reason I came all this way was because of a student’s request. I thought it was my duty as an instructor.
But Elizabeth repaid my kindness in the worst way possible.
…By bringing up the past of Eon Graham.
Elizabeth confronted me not as her instructor, but as Eon Graham, namely the Malevolent Star.
Therefore, my attitude in dealing with her was clear.
“Ah, Hu- Huk…!”
This was the first time I had exerted genuine killing intent towards a student.
Elizabeth, who was always relaxed and wore a mysterious smile.
Now, she was shivering, her body quaking as she clutched her shoulders, her face filled with terror.
“Instructor… I can’t…breathe…!”
She had forgotten that she was not supposed to call me an instructor, clutching her chest, her face pale as death.
“Heu, Huak…! Huk…! Haaak…!”
Her small lips were wide open, demanding oxygen without rest, but her body, frozen with fear, did not comply with her will.
Just as she was about to suffocate, I withdrew my killing intent.
“Heuup…! Cough, Cough!”
Elizabeth fell to her knees weakly, panting heavily for a while, her silver hair and luxurious party dress sullied as they brushed against the floor. Neither I nor Elizabeth herself cared about that.
With her eyes reddened from fear and lack of oxygen, she looked up at me and said,
“Instructor, I just… wanted to repay you-!”
Any words now were nothing more than excuses.
And it was not a situation where anything was worth hearing.
I left Elizabeth alone on the terrace and jumped down. It was a five-story height, but it was nothing to me.
I heard Elizabeth calling me from above, but I didn’t even bother to look back.
The place I landed was some nameless garden.
I just walked aimlessly, not knowing where I was heading.
Wherever I went within the imperial palace, unfamiliar palaces appeared, and when I looked up, only deep darkness filled the sky.
It was stifling.
I wanted to shatter everything.
Recently, I’ve seen too many things I didn’t want to see. I’ve remembered too many things I didn’t want to recall. That reached its limit today.
Would it get better if I killed the cursed prince who took Charlotte away, the emperor who stood by as everything happened, swept away the Royal Guard and the army, and slaughtered everyone in this imperial palace?
If I killed, massacred, destroyed, and wiped out everything that I disliked, that bothered me, that annoyed me, would this impulse subside a bit?
If I just surrendered to my rage and turned this palace, this empire, this world, into a handful of ashes…
…What makes me different from the Demon King that I so despised?
My heart beat violently. With a wringing pain, dark mana began to surge in my empty mana circuit.
For a moment, I felt dizzy and leaned against the wall to regain my breath. But once awakened, the impulse began to run wild inside me, as if it wanted to unleash all the resentment that had been suppressed so far.
The moment I regained my senses, dark mana was already rising from my body like mist.
The grass under my feet started to wither rapidly. The air, contaminated by dark mana, spread the aura of death all around. The vibrant and beautiful imperial palace garden was transforming into a land of death by the second.
“Clear mind… control…!”
I need to… maintain… calmness…!
A voice came from deep within me.
Become the Demon King.
It was a familiar voice.
The one I killed with my own hands, and now only his will remained.
The voice that constantly incited me.
You’re no longer human. You know it too.
I must not listen. I must not get swept away.
The more I respond to that voice, the less I can maintain my clarity and composure.
I’ll lose myself.
Long ago, the words left by the Sword Saint brushed through my mind.
‘Shake off your anger. Then you can die as a human.’
The words left by the Goddess Champion also rose in my mind.
‘Malevolent Star. If you cannot end your current self, someday you’ll become a fire that burns the world. If you think that moment is coming, come find me. I’ll give you an honorable end.’
My anger, I discard.
My resentment, I discard.
My sorrow, I discard.
I’m tired of it now.
I want to be happy.
I’m not asking for something grand. It can be small. It can be trivial. I just want to feel the joy of everyday life that allows me to live another day.
I long for a small happiness where I can remain myself.
Burn the world together, Eon Graham.
I won’t listen.
I will remain human.
I won’t destroy the world that the precious few tried to protect, the world where they lived, with my own hands.
I desperately suppressed the beating of my heart, which was squeezing out the dark mana. But the dark mana that had risen like fog was already raging around me like a storm.
It’s okay. This much is nothing. Haven’t I managed it alone countless times before?
Surrounded by thick darkness, I tamed the runaway dark mana as if it were a tug-of-war. However, calming the power that had already begun to run wild was as difficult as rebuilding a collapsed dam with human hands.
Until now, I opened a small door with Ajetus, but this time the main gate was completely shattered. Somehow, calming it would require time.
And in the meantime, the palace would turn into the land of death.
I couldn’t let that happen. I had to run far away and calm down where there was no one.
But at that moment.
From a place with only darkness, a bundle of light burst out. And without hesitation, it came towards me.
The person enveloped in that bundle of light was very familiar to me.
In the midst of the immense density of dark mana, Charlotte swayed non-stop like a small boat caught in a storm, like a flickering lamp that could go out at any moment.
But in the end, Charlotte came to me and firmly held my hand.
Only light filled my sight.
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