23 – Gutter Rat (Aize Lilieth)
My name is Aize Lilieth.
—Baron Lilieth and his house were called gutter rats.
During the war, the Lilieth house had been the first to submit to the Empire and betray their country.
Like that, my family earned its title.
However, we were still not accepted as equals among the other noble houses of the Empire.
Here, those with darker skin were already persecuted.
As nobles who were seen as traitors, it was even worse.
Not black or white, but gray.
An opportunistic house of greed. Without class or intelligence.
A gutter rat.
When I heard that, I laughed.
Yes, indeed. Because even I had thought that my family were like that.
“We are a noble house. Unlike those others, who just have darker skin.”
“Our family is what connects old Yugrile with the Empire. As we continue to succeed, the others will become free in the truest sense.”
They would say such things. Never doing anything for their people. My father and mother only cared about appearances and luxury.
They fixated on being nobles, and did not hesitate to lick the boots of other nobles.
As a result, their debts increased.
Eventually, my younger sister and I had nothing to eat but scraps of old bread and tasteless soup.
“Aize! Rejoice! For you are to be married!”
They said, and then introduced me to a man who was thirty years my senior.
Apparently, even among nobles, he had a reputation for being a deviant.
Without hesitation, he would make mistresses out of commoners and immigrant women… And there were rumors of how they were tormented into madness.
He seemed like a man who was every vice of the Empire rolled into one. The thought made me nauseous.
But I understood, as I saw my mother and father clap with joy.
To me, I was nothing but a tool.
My sister as well.
But I was only ten years old at the time.
And I had no way of resisting them.
…Or I shouldn’t have had.
“Do you know Gileus Marion?”
The young man in front of me shook his head.
“He is from Yugrile like me. But he won the tournament and became a noble. To me, he is a living legend.”
His existence gave me hope.
Unlike my family, he had been acknowledged by the Emperor, and was a great nobleman who controlled parts of the military.
If I could do the same at the tournament, I might be able to follow in his footsteps.
“Even my parents have promised to reconsider my arranged marriage if I do well in the tournament.”
No, to be precise, I had made them promise. I threatened them. Saying that if they did not, I’d see that we were all dead.
Becoming independent as a noble, discarding the name Lilieth, and taking away my younger sister.
That was the only hope I had left.
“…And so, I must win. No matter what.”
However, there was a wall standing in front of me.
She was younger than me, but considered to be a genius.
I had fought her many times, and tasted defeat over and over.
“If I don’t defeat her and advance in the preliminaries, I won’t even be able to compete in the main event held in the capital.”
Especially in the new term, she had grown unbelievably strong.
It felt like she was leaving the rest of us behind every day.
The more I struggled in the fog, the heavier I felt.
I know. It’s not her fault.
She is also desperate, and fighting for something important.
But still, I must win no matter what. If I can’t win, then I will have no hope left.
“This year is my last chance. And so…”
Yukito said with a quiet nod.
He was also unbelievably strong.
I could not hit him once. Not even for a moment did I think I could win.
If only I had such strength too. I could not help but feel jealous.
“Come back here. In three days.”
He said, and turned his back to me.
Somehow, his back seemed broader than before.