༺ Luce (2) ༻
“Bello, go back.”
As I watched Luce unsummon the killer whale familiar, Bello, I organized the situation in my head.
While I was experimenting with the Elemental Bracelet, I passed out and collapsed. Even though my body was exhausted, suddenly losing consciousness was unexpected.
I fainted and was seemingly saved by Luce, who happened to be passing by.
On the surface, there was nothing unusual about this sort of situation. However, the problem was that it involved Luce.
Unless you took the Luce route, she would display her true nature as an outsider by living the entire first semester her way, without caring about anyone else. She wasn’t the kind of character to get upset when she sees a person like me lying on the ground.
It would have been much more in-character for her to just say, ‘He must have fallen asleep.’ She was the kind of character who left people alone, dead or alive.
This made me feel uncomfortable. I opened Luce’s status window.
Attributes: Water, Lightning
Psychology: [Relieved that you seem to be okay.]
Her level was 5 higher than when I first saw her, but that wasn’t important right now.
Her psychology was strange.
‘Why are you worried about me?’
Even if she had saved me because of her mood today, why would she feel relieved?
That couldn’t be the case. As Isaac, the only interaction I had with Luce was when I gave a passionate performance worthy of winning the Best Actor of the Year award during the class placement evaluation.
Then the conclusion is…
‘Could it be that I was caught?’
My face became pensive at the thought.
─ ‘What’s your name?’
─ ‘Greung. (Greung)’
I recalled the events of the class placement evaluation. Had Luce realized that I was Greung, the one who saved her?
If so, the pieces would fit together like a puzzle.
I touched my forehead with my right hand. Oh my god.
“Does your head hurt?”
“I was just passing by and ‘accidentally’ saw you pass out, so I used magic to bring you with me.”
Luce emphasized the word ‘accidentally’, her tone as gentle as the moonlight.
Ah, now I’m stumped. How did she realize…
The reason I brought a magic cloak of disguise during the class placement evaluation was because of Luce’s perceptive eye; if she had realized my identity, she would have reported it to the academy’s administration.
There was also another reason. It was to cover up the fact that ‘Isaac saved Luce’.
In ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, one of the conditions to win Luce’s favor was to protect or save her during the class placement evaluation. And if that happened, the player had one more thing to worry about.
‘Because even Luce’s likability is a bad ending factor.’
Luce was the type of person who, once she opens her heart to someone, opens it fully. Maybe that was why the speed at which her likability increased was speeding up like a runway train. Even without doing anything special, the likability meter would rise.
If the player didn’t regulate her likability by behaving appropriately, the likability meter would eventually burst.
Then, the player would face ‘Extra Bad End N.13’.
An ‘Extra Bad End’ referred to a bad ending that had nothing to do with the main storyline. It was similar to getting killed in a car accident while walking down the street.
Among them, N.13 「Bird Cage」.
The main character, Ian Fairytale, was kidnapped and imprisoned by Luce, who had become his psychotic lover.
It was an ending where he helplessly met his end in her loving care.
Therefore, Luce’s likability was one of the factors I needed to be wary of.
“…Is this your room?”
Anyway, there was really no other way to explain this other than that my identity was revealed…
All the bruises on my body were healed. When I pointed out the wounds on my body, Luce explained.
“I’ve healed most of them myself. I know how to use healing magic too. I think you’ve been pushing yourself too hard… Lie down some more, I’ll wet a towel and give it to you.”
Don’t be so nice. You are not that kind of character.
I pondered while Luce picked up the towel off my leg and soaked it with water magic.
I hadn’t realized there would be such a variable. How and when did she find out?
“I’m ready. Lie down some more.”
The bad end variable with rose-gold hair was wringing the wet towel into a bowl placed next to me, then folded it neatly and approached me.
Startled, I reached out and stopped her.
“Wait, hold on.”
Luce looked at me with a puzzled expression.
“I’m grateful that you saved me, but why did you bring me to your room?”
“Then where should I have taken you?”
“There was the academy hospital. And the infirmary was also close…”
“… I didn’t think of it. I’ve never been to those places before.”
It seemed that a hospital room as an option was hard for Luce to imagine, since she had a strong body and high mana.
“How did you manage to get here without being noticed?”
“I didn’t run into anyone on my way here. Why, is there a problem?”
Perhaps it was just good timing.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I just took the towel. It was cold.
I touched my forehead and felt a definite fever. I placed the cold towel on my warm forehead like a hand warmer.
“Lie down. I’ll bring you some warm soup.”
As Luce slid off the bed, I weighed my options and decided to ask her, “Do you know me? Why are you taking such good care of me?”
Luce’s shoulders shook as she stopped dead in her tracks.
Ah, never mind about that. I’m just curious what kind of feelings Luce has towards me…
“…I do not know either.”
Luce’s cheeks flushed and left a meaningful remark.
An inexperienced response. It was a reaction that would only appear in a youth romance story.
Luce turned around to look at me. She even called my first name… I had never even told her my name before.
Luce hesitated, trying to figure out what to say, with flushed cheeks.
“To be honest, I’ve known you for a long time…”
‘This is not good.’
Not that introduction, stop…!
This uneasy air. The romantic atmosphere. And a mood where a confession without context wouldn’t be out of place.
From the moment Luce confessed her feelings, she would quickly become obsessed. It was a case where the fact that she confessed would make her feelings grow stronger.
But… it was too soon.
Could it be that my face was more to Luce’s liking than Ian’s? Is that why the likability was increasing much faster than in the original game?
“I saw you the other day by chance, and I’ve been watching you ever since. And I’ve been wondering, why do you train so hard…?”
Luce spoke in a calm voice, barely above a whisper.
I’m sure she must be curious. When I was Greung, I displayed immense power. It was incongruous to see a guy like that practice magic to death that Luce found so questionable.
“The other students train hard, too.”
“They don’t push themselves to the point of nosebleeds every day like you do.”
She saw, ‘Every day’.
“So, I’ve been watching you and thinking a lot. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is….”
“Ohhh, what is that?!”
A very unnatural change of topic. I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t ready to hear her utter those words.
My head was still hurting because of the early appearance of Act 6, Chapter 3 final boss.
The last thing I needed was one more bad end variable to worry about.
Luce was kind enough to explain the names and uses of the objects I pointed at.
Each time, I would point to a seemingly mundane object and exclaim, “Wow, that’s amazing! What’s that?” and ask questions.
“What’s this? It’s luxurious.”
“Chessboard. I got it as a present once.”
“What’s this? It has a nice design.”
“It’s my family’s ceremonial knife. It was in my luggage when I came to the academy, so I left it here for now.”
“What’s this? It’s beautiful.”
“It’s a grimoire I received from someone special to me. It’s made of human skin.”
“What’s this? It’s cute.”
“It’s a cursed doll used in black magic. I’ve heard that if you put a human’s hair in here and poke it with a needle, that person will feel pain. It’s probably superstition, but do you want to try it?”
Before I knew it, Luce was leading me around the room, pointing out and explaining to me all sorts of mundane objects.
“Oh, there are a lot of books here.”
“You can’t touch those.”
As I spoke while looking at the bookshelf, Luce’s voice, which had been as soft as the moonlight, turned cold.
For a moment, I felt a murderous aura. I quickly turned my head away from the bookshelf. Yes, of course it was because I was scared.
The bookshelf was lined with things she was too embarrassed to show me. Nothing special, just books with titles such as “How to Make Friends,” “What is Friendship,” and “How to Open up to Others.”
…You really made up your mind to open up your heart.
“But are you okay with walking around?”
“I’m fine, thanks to you.”
I had been looking around the room with the towel on my forehead from earlier.
My head felt light-headed, but it wasn’t serious enough to be noticeable.
Again, I almost reflexively asked, “What is this?”
What caught my eye was a small cylindrical box. It sat on her desk while it bathed in the light from the luminescent lamp, showing off the color of black pearls.
Luce stood next to me and narrowed her eyes. As if to say, don’t ask me what it is.
There was a moment of silence, and I was about to pretend I didn’t see it.
Luce spoke to me in a soft, yet almost seductive voice, as if drawing me in.
“Do you think the ‘Witches of Calamity’ are all bad?”
…Why set the mood by asking something like that out of nowhere?
“Why is that?”
“Just… I suddenly felt like asking.”
Luce stared at the small, black cylindrical box, and then subtly lowered her head.
Witch of Calamity.
That was how history referred to the vilest of witches, those who possessed natural magic talent and committed inhumane crimes against humanity.
They’ve done unspeakable acts of cruelty, so it was only natural for anyone to consider them as ‘bad’ existences.
But it didn’t take me long to realize why Luce was asking the question.
Inside that black box were Luce’s eyeballs. A Witch of Calamity had plucked out Luce’s eyes, preserved it, and handed it to her. Luce kept the box on her desk because she wanted to remember the witch at every moment.
Luce’s current eyes were implanted by the Witch of Calamity, and that seemingly cruel act was done to protect Luce’s life.
Which, incidentally, explains why her eyesight was beyond that of humans.
I shook my head and replied indifferently.
Because I had seen all the stories in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱.
I knew what kind of person the ‘Great Witch of Heaven’s Wrath’ was like, she was the Witch of Calamity that Luce missed so much.
Contrary to her unfair notoriety as the Witch of Calamity who lured many children into a candy store and brutally murdered them, she was someone who had sacrificed everything for the sake of children.
Although I knew I shouldn’t attempt to use my knowledge as an advantage to increase Luce’s likability, I didn’t want to deny the person she missed so much.
“I don’t think they’re necessarily all bad.”
Luce shook her head in disbelief.
“But it could be a story made up by people. I haven’t actually seen a Witch of Calamity myself. How can I be sure?”
Luce stared in my direction, wide-eyed, obviously surprised by my answer.
I deliberately pretended not to see, and looked at other objects.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Luce’s voice was a little teary, and a deep sense of loss could be felt.
The Great Witch of Heaven’s Wrath was a very dear person to Luce along with her biological brother.
However, the witch was falsely accused of sacrificing many children to a Mythological Demonic Beast and had been sacrificed in front of Luce.
The people and the country have placed the blame on the Great Witch of Heaven’s Wrath for all their sins.
Luce fell apart that day. She closed her heart towards people. The world that she had tried to see as beautiful, even after being abandoned by her biological parents, was so cruelly exposed to the 10-year-old girl.
There was an air of awkwardness. Did I make things weird…
No, what should I do about her sniffles? How do I react to her forcing back tears?
“Ah, I suddenly have a headache…”
I can’t help it. I’ll just pretend to be in pain. It actually hurts, but I have to act like it hurts even more.
I swayed gracefully, yet naturally, and moved towards the bed. It was a brilliant gesture, even in my own opinion.
As I sat on the bed, I tilted my head back and pressed the towel against my forehead.
“Are you okay?”
“My head feels dizzy… I guess I must have overexerted myself.”
“Lie down. Oh, I’ll bring you some warm soup.”
I was not hungry, but I nodded because I wanted to buy myself some time to think.
Luce looked at me with a look of concern for a moment before going into the kitchen.
Suddenly, she poked her head around the corner and glared at me.
“I want to be friends with you.”
Upon hearing the words that contained a slight hint of amusement, I looked straight ahead again.
Luce was staring at me, a pure smile drawn across her face. Soon, as if embarrassed, she blushed and scratched her cheek while avoiding my eyes.
It was bewildering.
In ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, there was no option to be friends with Luce. Her likability just meant ‘romantic love’ from beginning to end.
“E-ever since I saw you training so hard, I thought I wanted to be friends with you.”
Come to think of it, didn’t she say she’d been watching me train every day? That doesn’t necessarily mean she realized that I was Greung, does it? There was no mention of me being Greung either.
Yes, it was a separate issue.
Luce simply happened to stumble upon me, was impressed by the way I trained while nosebleeding, and began to feel friendly toward me…
I was not sure what kind of psychological change led to this, but it was just a matter of accepting her words at face value.
In the first place, I should have suspected something when I saw a plethora of books on Luce’s bookshelf titled ‘Friendship.’
‘She doesn’t know that I’m Greung, did she just want to be friends with me?’
I felt like I had been hit hard in the back of the head. It was a feeling similar to betrayal.
I had gone through all sorts of thoughts and emotions alone… I felt embarrassed.
I couldn’t let my guard down just yet, but being friends was not so bad.
‘It’ll be fine.’
In the beginning, I was reluctant to be friends with someone like Kaya Astrean.
But after I became friends with Amy Holloway and Mateo’s gang, I thought about it and realized that it was okay to have a somewhat limited approach to friendships.
I stand out when I meet Kaya, so we would meet in inconspicuous places, although I rarely run into her these days.
Anyway, I was open to welcoming such a relationship.
I set the towel I’d been holding to my forehead aside, climbed out of bed, and approached Luce.
My second favorite character in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, Luce Eltania.
I flashed her a bright smile and held out my right hand.
Luce’s eyes started to sparkle with life, and her rose-gold hair began to rise slightly, as if electrostatically.
She tried to maintain her cool, keeping the corners of her mouth from rising.
She took my outstretched hand.
To be friends. It wasn’t a big deal to me; it’s just something I have to accept when asked to be friends.
But it must have been very difficult for someone like Luce.
She spent so many years of her life building walls between herself and others, she may have had vague fears about what it meant to have a friend.
She probably tried to understand the concept of friendship by reading countless books on the subject, and even in her recent words, there were likely a lot of worries and concerns.
In the game ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱, whenever I spoke to the NPCs wandering around, Luce’s dialogue was always “…….”. She always went around alone, ate alone, and studied alone. She spent the first semester of her freshman year alone like that.
However, there were moments when she, too, laughed with others. No matter how skeptical she was of humanity, and no matter how hurt she was, her true feelings were different from her outward behavior.
The crackling sound of the fireplace lasted for a long time, like a lingering afterglow. After what seemed like an eternity, I broke the silence.
“But you stand out too much, and that’s a little overwhelming for me. So just because we’re friends doesn’t mean we can hang out all the time, you know?”
Luce’s voice trembled slightly. She couldn’t even make eye contact with me. Was that the right answer? Did she even hear what I just said?
Well, she must have heard me.
“Anyway, I should probably go now.”
‘Luce didn’t realise that I was Greung’. Now that I knew that, I had no reason to stay here any longer. Even if it hurts, I would just have to toughen up. Even if I said I was going to rest, I couldn’t stay in the girls’ dormitory forever.
“Oh, it would be nice if you had some soup before you go…”
“It’s okay. I appreciate the thought. Oh, do you have a cloak or something by any chance?”
“A cloak? Yeah, I have one, why?”
Luce gave me a black cloak, and I draped it over my head and body like a hijab.
Light brown mana gathered right besides me, and took the form of a small golem familiar, ‘Eden’.
It landed on the floor while cheering with a cute cry.
“Luce, I have to go.”
Eden and I approached the window, and as we got closer, the scenery four stories high appeared in front of my eyes. It was terrifying, but I had no choice but to escape this way.
“Eden, create some rocks to land on. Make them in a stair-like formation.”
I created a crude ice ladder leading from the window to the ground beneath it, Eden’s boulders surged up, creating a makeshift staircase.
“Luce, see you tomorrow!”
I waved at Luce before climbing over the edge of the window.
Suddenly, Luce’s eyes widened. Did I greet her in a weird way? Well, I must have looked weird wearing the cloak like a hijab.
Eden immediately jumped out of the window, and I started descending the ladder.
“Kyaaa! It’s a man!”
“Pervert! A pervert is here!”
Damn, my worst fears were realized.
I unsummoned Eden and hurriedly ran away from Charles Hall.
Luce stood still for a long time after Isaac left.
The window was open and the cool night breeze gently rustled the curtains.
Isaac’s greetings drifted through Luce’s mind like a lingering memory.
It was a greeting exchanged between people with a close relationship who looked forward to their next meeting.
“Kyaa─! Catch the pervert!”
“Stop there, stalker!!”
Luce’s lips quirked into a smile.
She couldn’t even hear the sound of the riot outside the window, she felt a thrill that felt as if her body was floating in the sky.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
The voice that expressed her innermost thoughts drifted away in the night breeze.
Beyond the window, the shining moonlight seemed exceptionally bright tonight.