Chapter 2 – Reuniting with a Friend and A Surprising Request
I first met Luke nine years ago.
It was during the entrance ceremony of the six-year magic academy that I had been admitted to.
“As students who have been given the honor of enrolling at a school with such rich history and tradition…”
Luke had passed the exam at the very top, and so he stood on the podium as a representative of all the students. He had looked so strong and mature to me.
He was the oldest son of Duke Waldstein, and was a model student. Someone with no visible flaws.
Someone that would have nothing to do with me, as I was born a commoner.
However, after our first regular exam after enrolling, things went quite contrary to that expectation.
“You’ve really done it now. You’re merely a commoner, and yet you beat me…!”
He had called me out to the back of the school building, and now seemed to be a completely different person.
He hated to lose and had the worst personality.
He was proud, and the model student facade was just a mask.
This was the real him.
On the other hand, I was hopelessly out of touch with the real world.
“Who are you calling a commoner! I was able to attend this school because my mother worked hard all by herself! That is something I’m very proud of, and I don’t care if you’re a duke’s son! I’ll beat you a hundred or even a thousand times!”
And in order to do this, I put everything into my studies.
I had always loved magic to begin with, and would have studied all day regardless. But I started to study with an extra fervor.
Luke Waldstein was a formidable enemy.
As the tests continued, it was one step forward and one step back. Attack and defend.
Really. What a vile, self-important noble boy…!
However, our relationship started to change when we entered our third year there.
“I’m sorry, you’re the last person I wanted to ask, but there is a part I just can’t figure out.”
I said, and while Luke looked incredibly annoyed, he explained it to me carefully.
“I told you to understand it after the first time. But this is the fifth!”
What I noticed then is that he also loved magic.
And he did have a pleasant side, and liked to look after those who relied on him. He could not refuse a request for help.
Surprisingly, he wasn’t that bad a person after all.
And since we had our love of magic in common, it did not take long for us to become friends after that.
We studied together in the library every day, and whenever there was a test, we would compete with everything that we had.
Now that I think back on it, it was the best part of my youth.
But after graduating, my mother became ill, and I had to return home in order to take care of her.
I had heard that he had passed a difficult exam with the highest score and became a royal magician.
And so now that I was seeing him for the first time in three years, he seemed to have grown into quite an important person.
“You really are an adult now, Luke. And to think that you used to be such a wretched brat with a terrible personality.”
“You’re one to talk.”
He said with an exasperated expression that made me feel nostalgic.
“Well, I suppose losing so much has made me an adult.”
“I see. So things haven’t been easy for you either. I suppose it’s to be expected. The palace must be filled with great magicians.”
“No, I haven’t lost once since graduating.”
“So you still hate to lose?”
“I’m not lying. It’s the truth.”
That’s one side of him that hadn’t changed. I felt quite happy about it, but then Luke’s expression suddenly became serious.
“And how is your mother?”
“Ah… My mother…”
I lowered my gaze.
“Don’t tell me…”
But I interrupted him and shook my head with a, ‘No, it’s not that.’
“If anything, she is shockingly healthy. After nearly dying once, she’s come back stronger than ever. And every day she tries to talk to me about suitors.”
Right now, I wanted to focus on magic, not marriage or love. But my mother had other ideas.
“Things are not well at work, are they? You should get married then.” She said nearly every day. I could no longer relax when I was in the house.
But in the countryside, people sometimes married as early as fifteen, so I suppose she thought I was very late…
Of course, I was happy as long as I could use magic, and had no complaints about that.
“…I’m glad that I came here as quickly as possible then.”
“Hmm? What did you say?”
Luke said as he shook his head.
“By the way, have you heard the stories of a certain genius who was the youngest ever to be promoted to an Adamantite(holy gold) level magician?”
“Ahh. I’ve been too busy to focus on other things, but I vaguely remember that. Rumors about some amazing person in the royal capital.”
“Good. Then that will make things easier.”
Luke nodded and then continued.
“That genius happens to be me.”
“Luke. I understand that you like to boast, but it will just make things harder for you later on, so I wouldn’t advise it.”
He looked at me with cold eyes.
Then he brought out a small pocket watch from his pocket and placed it on the table.
“What is that?”
“A golden watch that is given to royal magicians for identification. See, it’s been treated with Adamantite. Read the name that is carved on the back.”
“Luke Waldstein… Then it’s…”
“I wouldn’t tell such a ridiculous lie.”
He said simply, and I was at a loss for words.
“…I see. You are then…”
The royal magician who was the talk of the capital was my old friend.
I suppose I should congratulate him and celebrate.
However, I found it difficult to smile.
“That’s amazing. Congradulations.”
“It’s written on your face. You’ve always been easy to read, Noelle.”
Luke said as he looked at me with serious eyes.
I tried to tell him that nothing was wrong.
But I already knew that my sad attempts at lying would not work with someone I had known as long as Luke.
With resignation, I decided to tell him everything.
“Actually, things have not been going well with work.”
That I had only been given odd jobs and chores that anyone could do, and then I never got any days off.
That I was treated as someone who was worthless, and was eventually fired.
I wanted a job where I could use magic, but no one in the town would hire me.
“I suppose I can’t help but compare myself, which makes it hard to be as happy for you as I should. I’m sorry. It’s really terrible.”
“It’s fine. Anyone would feel the same in your situation. Besides, the very idea that someone would treat you like that. I’m not so much shocked at their blindness, but feel a murderous rage towards them.”
“Thank you. For defending me.”
“I’m not defending you. I’m just saying what I really feel.”
“Still, I suppose I’m also a little grateful for their lack of taste.”
“Once you have the Adamantite rank, you can choose a buddy to be your subordinate. But there is no one that I want to choose. None who I can trust to have my back. After all, I want to become the greatest magician in the country by the fastest route.”
“I see you haven’t lost your confidence. Really…”
I realized then that I had been competing against someone amazing during that time.
“And so I decided, why not choose the only person in my life who has ever beat me?”
“I doubt there is such a person. Someone you can’t beat.”
Luke saw my surprise, and he said,
“In order for me to become the greatest magician in this country, I want your help, as the one person who I could not beat.”