Chapter 24 – Unrequited
If you are not the best, then your life is not worth living.
My father always said that to me.
Ever since I could remember.
Those were the words that I heard the most.
They stuck to me, just like a shadow.
My father would not acknowledge me if I wasn’t the best.
I think that back then, that was my greatest fear.
I had to be better than anyone.
And so as if I was being chased by someone, I strove to be the best.
People started to call me a genius.
However, that was not the truth.
It was merely the result of immense preparation and effort.
But I was able to be the best.
A renowned prodigy who many would even envy.
‘You’re amazing, Luke. You have so many gifts and abilities.’
‘You come from a great house and are handsome. But more than anything, your skill with magic is incredible.’
‘I wish that I could be like you.’
At the very least, such praise from those around me offered some comfort.
‘Yes. You are doing well.’
My father’s words made me happy.
He was so strict, and so I must be special to be able to have earned his approval.
And so, I could not lose.
Because if I wasn’t the best, then I would be worth nothing at all.
I passed the exam with the highest score and was admitted into a famous magic academy within the capital.
A perfect life that anyone would envy.
However, during the first regular test, I experienced what was the most shocking moment of my life.
For the first time, I was not number one for a basic magic structural study test.
I became blind with fury and fear.
I was my father’s heir.
But forgetting how a perfect student and gentleman should behave, I said,
‘You’ve really done it now. You’re merely a commoner, and yet you beat me…!’
That was how I met the strange girl.
Even now, I am not sure what I was thinking when I said that.
Perhaps there was a part of me that knew that if someone from the Waldstein family made such a threat, a commoner would surely be intimidated. Or perhaps there were no such calculations, and it was just impulse.
No, I was always calculating, so there must have been some of the former at least.
But I didn’t know.
That this was not the kind of person who would be intimidated by a name.
‘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!’
It was as if I had thrown oil into a fire.
However, I wasn’t going to back down either.
I would beat her down, head on.
She only beat me once by chance.
When it came to consistency, surely I would be above her.
However, my expectations were not met.
‘Hehe! Did you see that? You pompous brat!’
In the next test, I lost to her on two subjects.
‘If this continues, I will win them all, and it will be a complete victory for me! Just you wait and see!’
I was boiling with rage.
But the anger was more towards myself for losing.
And so I went into the test with everything I had.
I could not not allow myself to lose to such a loathsome commoner…!
The seasons passed.
And before I knew it, my life seemed to be revolving around her.
Three years later, I was still not able to be number one in all subjects at the same time.
However, it was a rare thing for her to beat me in a majority of the subjects.
‘I have never seen such a brilliant student at this age,’ the teachers would say with astonishment. But I just felt empty.
Because there was no point in living if I wasn’t the best.
I had to win.
No matter what.
However, my life took a certain turn one day.
It was discovered that my father had been having an affair, and the whole house was shaken.
As I saw my mothers tears and the pathetic excuses my father tried to make, I found myself despising him from the bottom of my heart.
How hard had I worked for this person’s approval?
Just the thought of it was enough to change my view of the world.
How much of me had been worn away for my efforts to get to this point?
And yet, I did not feel any fulfillment.
If anything, l felt like the most miserable person in the world.
If so much effort could leave one feeling empty, then maybe there was no reason to live.
It was as I was sinking in such sentiment.
“I’m sorry, you’re the last person I wanted to ask, but there is a part I just can’t figure out.”
I had no reason to refuse, and so I helped her.
And then, for some reason, the commoner began to approach me more often.
It would be too troublesome to turn her away, so I humored her without much thought.
But as the days continued, she said something unexpected.
“While you always put on this cool face, you’re actually a hard worker, aren’t you?”
“What are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“Well, it shows in the way that you teach. You clearly relate to people who don’t understand. You’re a person who had to study hard, instead of just knowing from the beginning.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
I had taken her words as an insult.
My ideal had been to become the best with ease.
That was what my father wanted.
And yet, I could not. And she was pointing this out.
However, she then continued.
“I think it’s good that you’re like that. If I must compete against a rival, I would prefer that it’s someone who is actually trying. Besides, it’s encouraging, and makes me want to work harder too.”
The light of the setting sun poured into the classroom.
I still remembered her smile on that day.
“Things may be difficult sometimes, but cheer up. Let’s do our best together, Luke Waldstein.”
As for what happened after that, I don’t really want to talk about it.
It was terribly average. A story that could and does happen all of the time.
Before I knew it, my eyes were always drawn to this common girl who would approach me.
Surely this could not be happening. I rejected the idea many times.
Not someone like her. I tried to think.
But could not.
Because it had happened. I was hopelessly fond of her.
Yes, a typical and boring story.
But I was happy just by being together with her.
“Hey, how are you?” She’d say while patting my shoulder. That alone made me happy.
However, I was also frustrated and did not want her to notice. And so I pretended to be calm.
In the first place, I was the heir of a duke, and she was a commoner.
We would never be allowed to get married, and so having feelings for her now would only result in a sad ending.
Even if she felt the same way towards me, we would have to go our separate ways eventually.
But more than anything, I did not want to hurt her due to my own selfishness.
I wanted her to be happy.
That was more important to me than any personal desires.
And so I had to give up.
I knew that. And yet…
…Here I am, doing this. I really was a fool.
I became an Adamantite-rank in no time and brought her on as a buddy, in spite of all the protestations.
By making this time that we could spend together, perhaps I was hoping that she would realize…
If by some miracle, she accepted me, then I had to make preparations for others to accept us.
But in spite of such preparations…
I also felt that even if she never realized it, and we just remained friends like this, I would still be happy and satisfied for the rest of my life.
I really was a hopeless fool.
I couldn’t help but think that from the bottom of my heart.
(But it can’t be helped. It doesn’t matter in what shape it takes. I just want to be by her side now.)
The one thing that I don’t want to give up.
She said, with no intent on setting the right mood. And so I danced with her in the night garden.
She only saw me as a friend.
It had always been that way up until now. Perhaps the time for us to be more than that had already passed.
And so this love would forever be unrequited.
Still, I could not help but have hope.
That one day, you will think of me.
I hope that that day will come.
Under the full moon, we dance.
And I am in love with you.