50 – Who’s Closer?
“Thank you for the kind response, Lady Selena. I’ll be the first to rise.”
Laurenti stood up and greeted Selena, slightly unsteady on his feet. However, Selena was in a state of uncertainty, unsure if she should reciprocate the greeting. Once Laurenti disappeared from her view, she hesitated again, sitting back down.
“You’re not related to me at all.”
Her chest ached. A stifling feeling, as if something were trapped inside. She wanted to scream with all her might.
But she couldn’t. She couldn’t show any signs of pain.
Because she wasn’t qualified. Regardless of the process or the reasons, the conclusion remained unchanged.
“The fact that I drew the sword is true. The sword accepted it, and the fact that we can never go back to that moment is also true. And because of that, when it comes down to it, our relationship is undoubtedly nothing.”
Even if she wanted to undo it now, would it happen as she wished?
It was greed. No, beyond greed, it was an impolite act. A behavior that showed no consideration for the other person.
Rather than contemplating ending and discussing a new beginning, what could be more selfish?
Regrettable. The emotion surged like a tidal wave, making her feel suffocated.
The feeling that no matter what she did, she couldn’t undo it.
Above all, what she couldn’t endure was the fact that, even so, she couldn’t erase her feelings for the sword.
The desire to try again keeps surfacing. Despite knowing it’s selfish, it happens.
Despite Laurenti’s words or the fact that they have no real connection, the fact that she keeps trying to create that connection herself…
“What are you doing?”
Karl, sitting across from her, leaning against the wall. Selena, who had been staring blankly at him, sighed in surprise.
“What, what’s wrong? Weren’t you supposed to go to the palace?!”
“I did go, took care of everything, and came back.”
“If it was important…”
“I met with His Highness and had a casual conversation.”
“Is it not something to be spoken of so lightly?! Hwangtaeja, speak! Hwangtaeja speak!!
One day, he will become our emperor! It won’t be long now! You know it, right, Karl?!
Selena felt a sensation as if her common sense was crumbling.
Looking at it this way, Karl gradually felt like he was both a person of this world and not quite a person of this world.
“What happened? Do you want to tell me?”
I’m curious. I want to know not what the Crown Prince said, but what happened to Karl.
I want to hear that story. I want to have more conversations, play along more.
If there’s something he’s concerned about, I want to listen carefully and give advice.
Laugh, talk. Then, a smile unexpectedly forms in an inconspicuous moment.
No one else wanted to do what Karl and no one else had done.
“…No. It’s okay.”
But Selena shook her head. She was uncertain. Can she approach him without any issues?
To push away first and now to come forward, can she exhibit somewhat selfish and self-centered behavior?
She thought she could do it someday. But, no. It seems impossible.
Today she realized it. She and Karl are colleagues or friends, but nothing more.
Yes. She wasn’t anything to Lavrenti’s words. And it couldn’t be…
“Don’t say that. Tell me, Selena.”
“Otherwise, I won’t have the right to ask what happened with Lavra just a while ago.”
What? He knows about my meeting with Lavrenti? Selena was flustered.
I thought I had just arrived; when did he start observing me?
Curious. I’m dying of curiosity. Why was Selena meeting with Lavra?
I was curious from the start, and those damn Hydra quartet teased me.
“Hehehe! Suffer a bit, Karl!”
“Mm-mm! Gotta suffer. With such beauties around.”
“Hey, who knows. More might come.”
“Is this what they call polygamy…?”
From Shulipen to Wilhelm, Alexander, and finally Joachim.
As the four of them spoke with sinister smiles, an uneasy feeling crept over me.
And to make matters worse, Selena and Rave happened to be there!
I wanted to ask about the situation, but you can’t expect an honest answer by just asking outright.
So, I offer a deal first. Hey, Selena! Ask! Ask!
“…What happened with the Crown Prince?”
“He bestowed another medal of honor.”
Selena nodded, “Ah,” in response to my answer. Just for about three seconds.
Then, she exclaimed, “Huh?” and sighed, followed by, “Uh? Uhh?” as she unleashed a torrent of gibberish.
“Wait, what?! Another medal of honor? Bestowing the Medal of Honor again?”
“Yeah, they say he’s giving one more. He even said he’d come to the academy himself.”
Receiving multiple honors doesn’t make much sense. Frankly, I even wonder if I deserve it.
Certainly, if you look back at imperial history, there must be people who accomplished far more than me. They received only one medal of honor. Yet here I am, a mere duplicate recipient.
It’s embarrassing to the point where I feel sorry for those who achieved much more.
Others may say I’m quite impressive, but… well, I don’t know myself.
“So, is Karl the sole duplicate recipient of the unique Medal of Honor?”
“Probably. But let’s exclude that uniqueness. Who knows, someone else might be eligible in the future?”
“Even this time, Her Highness the First Princess came…”
“The Crown Prince is coming.”
“It’s fortunate that even the Emperor took an interest, but I managed to prevent it.”
Cough! Cough! ―
Though we hadn’t eaten or drunk anything, Selena was coughing as if she had swallowed something.
Thinking there might be water, I reflexively patted my waist to find a water pouch. Ridiculous.
“Cough! Bang! So, does the Crown Prince plan to visit the academy?”
“Seems like it. At first, I thought the Crown Prince was somewhat dignified. But in conversation, he turned out to be quite playful. He has a lively side too.”
It would have been nice if our platoon leader had some prince-like qualities.
“Alright, that’s it for my story. Now, it’s Selena’s turn.”
“It’s my turn….”
“Why did Lav suddenly show up? The guy who said he went to see his family, why was he with Selena?”
Even to my question, Selena remained silent for a while. Just fidgeting with her fingers.
I thought about pressing her for an answer, but I didn’t really want to. I felt it wasn’t the right thing to do, and so I waited for Selena’s response with a relaxed smile on my face.
“That person Lav. What do you think about a woman named Lavrentia? What’s your relationship with her?”
Such a sudden and totally unexpected question popped up.
I wanted an answer about what had happened, so why such a question?
“Why are you saying that all of a sudden, Selena?”
“Just answer the question, Karl. About Lavrentia, what do you think?”
“It’s such a sudden question that I don’t know how to respond, but….”
Once the question is asked, I have to answer. And my answer might be somewhat connected to what Selena might say.
“Fellow soldiers, aren’t we?”
“Yeah. Even though we fought on different fronts, in the end, we faced the same enemy, suffered together, and shed the same blood.”
“Is that all?”
What more is there? Oh, there is something. Yeah, I forgot.
“Lav calls me his master, but honestly, let’s say. He just gave me a few words of advice, that’s the end of it. I think the title of master is excessive. Lav managed well on his own.”
Selena continued to look at me. As if asking if there’s anything more to say.
“That’s all, Selena.”
“Really… Is it over? Fellow soldiers, and no matter what, those who taught and received lessons from each other.”
“Yeah. That’s the end. Even if there’s something more you want to know, the time I met Lav face to face was just a few days on the front lines, and I haven’t seen him since until we met this time.”
Selena, who had been nodding constantly, throws another question.
“Then, can I ask one more thing?”
“With me… With me, what kind of relationship is it?”
I almost reflexively responded to that question.
Yeah. Friends. Friends with a history. Of course, there were some embarrassing moments in the past, but somehow we managed to work through them. Now, we can laugh about it and move on as friends.
“I’m a friend. Laev and I are comrades. Both seem similar. So, between the two, who’s closer to the sword?”
Again, I responded almost immediately.
It’s only natural. As I mentioned, Laev has only been around for a few days. This is our second meeting.
In contrast, Celestia, even before taking a break from school, and after returning, we’ve been seeing each other for a few months.
Naturally, from my perspective, Celestia feels closer than Laev.
More than that, it seems like Celestia is muttering something to herself.
“No relationship… It might not be….”
“Celestia? What are you talking about? It’s not no relationship.”
“What?! You heard that?!”
“A bit. So, when are you going to give me an answer? Why Laev was with Celestia.”
Finally, Celestia began to reveal the answer she wanted to hear.
“So, I came to ask about why Celestia and I got closer?”
“Uh-huh. That’s right.”
“And the answer? What did you say?”
“Well… I just said it’s because of academy life.”
As I pondered Celestia’s answer for a moment, I nodded my head.
It’s the right thing to say. If it weren’t for the academy, Celestia and I wouldn’t have gotten close again.