༺ The Lord Is With Us (6) ༻
The Academy was vast.
It was so expansive that even the students were unable to grasp the full scale.
Most freshmen only ever remembered their classrooms. Beyond that, only a select few knew more about the school layout.
However, it became different by their second year. Whether by random discovery or by word of mouth from their seniors, they would typically find several hidden locations.
This was also when friend groups would usually form their own hang-out “routes”.
Then, by their third year, the students became familiar enough with the school to discover and traverse shortcuts as well as the alleyways. It was the time they would be able to comfortably navigate around the campus regardless of where they were.
Contrary to their third year, they were required to spend more time on their practicums outside of the Academy starting from their fourth year. Thus, it could be said that the third-years were the ones who knew the Academy campus the best.
Leto and I were third-year students. Despite not actively exploring the campus, we were still familiar with some of the hidden locations within the entangled ‘Alleyways’.
The center of the academy was clustered with various buildings, creating tight and narrow spaces between the structures. The resulting web of roads was dubbed the Alleyways.
Rumor had it that a club had even hidden its doors somewhere within that web, but I wasn’t particularly interested.
There was only ever one reason for Leto and me to visit the Alleyways.
It was the place where we could talk in private.
And today was no different.
I leaned against the damp, smelly wall and stared at Leto.
Leto was carefully scrutinizing me, and before long, he nodded in satisfaction.
“Good. You’re the Ian I know.”
I shook my head with a wry smile.
“Well, would there be another Ian besides me?”
It was a response loaded with various implications. Speechless, my mouth closed up as I looked at Leto, signaling him to elaborate.
He shrugged and continued.
“First of all, you said you lost your memory.”
“Yeah, I did.”
“You were possessed.”
Silence settled upon us as I couldn’t come up with a response.
Inwardly, I was expecting some kind of twist, but Leto was so certain that he most likely had reliable evidence.
In the first place, that ‘Ian’ used skills I had never learned, and it was only my wild imagination that entertained the possibility of him being an alternate personality.
I stared at Leto, demanding further explanation. He clicked his tongue as if telling me not to rush.
“To be more exact, you were temporarily possessed by your future self.”
“……Is that even possible?”
“Well, it’s not impossible considering you’re receiving letters from the future.”
Then, Leto lowered his voice.
“Still, it’s not that simple. Listen carefully.”
And so began Leto’s story.
It started a few days earlier when he and “I” had run into each other.
Leto was drinking tea that day as well. It was a tea known to clear the mind – a drink that most Magic Department students couldn’t live without, chugging at least one per day.
The students of the magic department suffered daily migraines from sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue. It was to the point that if they didn’t forcefully revitalize their brains, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with their studies.
It was then that Leto noticed a man while he was stumbling around with lifeless eyes.
Possessing pitch black hair and golden eyes, the man was the very image of a nobleman. Yet, there were plenty of rumors that he would become a vicious beast when holding a hatchet.
It was his best friend, Ian Percus.
Leto immediately raised his hand in greeting.
“Hey, look who it is, Sir Ian Percus, Champion of the Hunt. I hope you’re prepared for your practi…….”
At that moment, when faced with his friend’s golden eyes, Leto’s mouth involuntarily closed before he could finish his sentence.
Those golden eyes were so full of pain and exhaustion, one would think he was already dead.
Leto immediately recognized those eyes.
But it wasn’t until he heard his dry voice that Leto was certain.
It was the same guy from last time.
Back then, he’d been puzzled, but after hearing Ian’s testimony, he knew that his friend wasn’t in his normal state of mind.
Leto pondered for a moment.
He contemplated whether he should just ignore the man. If it really was a possession, there was no telling what the soul occupying Ian’s body might do.
However, it was also foolish to provoke it unnecessarily. After all, hadn’t he beaten Yurdina’s bastard to a pulp last time?
Several possibilities raced through Leto’s brilliant mind before he decided on his course of action.
“Hey, Ian. By the way, did you hear?”
A mysterious smile floated on Leto’s face when he saw the man’s weary gaze focus on him.
“You still haven’t heard? Tsk. As usual, you’re behind the times. Follow me for a second.”
“No, I’m not really interes-“
Regardless of what the man was saying, Leto dragged him away, determined to have a conversation with him. There was initially a slight resistance, but eventually, the man gave up with a sigh before following along.
They arrived at an alleyway.
Leto finally asked the man what he had wanted to all this time.
“……Who are you?”
The man’s golden eyes bore into Leto’s, but Leto discovered that there was no emotion to be found within those eyes.
Even so, this was Leto’s best course of action.
Outing him in public might have caused the possessor to act out, but here, they were alone.
Even if Leto found out the man’s true identity, the privacy left room for negotiations to keep it a secret. Although the possibility of the man going rampant still existed, Leto determined that the probability of it happening was low enough.
The current ‘Ian’ had managed to get through each day for the past week, indicating that his rationality still took precedence over his instincts.
And considering the cost to possess a body, it was unlikely for the man to give up his plans just because a single person had found out his identity.
However, these were all still just speculation. For that reason, Leto’s hands shook while drenched in cold sweat.
Leto thought of the scroll he had prepared in case of an emergency for when things went awry.
Each scroll was worth hundreds of gold, but Leto thought it couldn’t be helped since it was for his friend.
Nervous, Leto waited for the man’s response with bated breath.
Finally, the man sighed before answering.
“……It’s me, Ian Percus.”
Leto responded coldly, his green eyes alight with malice.
“Ian doesn’t walk with such a steady gait, his steps are lighter. Not to mention, Ian is so interested in rumors that he constantly nags me about them. Does it make sense that he would suddenly lose all interest in them?”
The man fell silent, remaining calm even under Leto’s piercing glare.
Sighing for the second time, he spoke.
“I really am Ian Percus, though I may not be the Ian you know.”
This was a clue. No, it was practically a confession.
By saying he wasn’t the ‘Ian’ Leto knew, he was implying that he was somehow different.
Leto’s eyes grew sharper.
“What kind of nonsense is it?”
“Then ask me anything you want if you’re so suspicious.”
The man’s voice was even with no undulations.
With a frown, Leto immediately began his interrogation.
“How old was Celine when she peed herself in her sleep?”
“Twelve, though Celine would never admit it.”
“Why did I break up with Ariel during our sophomore year?”
“I caught you flirting with her sister in a bar, though she was too embarrassed to spread the word.”
“And the total money I lost gambling when I first started?”
“Probably around two hundred gold? You told me you lost two years’ worth of pocket money.”
Leto nervously wet his lips.
He was definitely Ian. It was impossible for others to know about the memories they shared as best friends.
As confusion flashed through Leto’s eyes, the man spoke again.
“I told you, I’m Ian Percus. Just… from a little further out…..”
“……Are you from the future?”
It was a question he asked on a whim. However, the man simply stared at him in silence.
Leto felt goosebumps as the silence confirmed his suspicions.
A while ago, he would have written it off as nonsense, but recently, Ian had mentioned receiving a letter from the future.
If so, it also wasn’t impossible that the future Ian was possessing him. From a magician’s perspective, this whole phenomenon was miraculous and something he could devote his life to studying.
Leto’s breath turned ragged, momentarily unable to speak.
He could feel his heart pounding from coming face-to-face with a great miracle.
A shaky voice escaped his mouth.
“Yo-you bastard! Even if you’re from the future, you still stole my friend’s body!”
It soon turned into an outraged shout.
Enraged, Leto lost control and swung his fist.
You can rate this series here.