“I’ve never been jealous of anyone else,” I say calmly, putting a smile onto my face.
“Not even once.”
Eric-Sama just snorts.
“What’s so fun about always looking down on people When you were younger, I used to think of you as a child who always tried her best at everything she did, but now I see that I was laughably mistaken,” he spits out while looming over me, staring down at me with disdain very plainly on his face.
The fact that he knew how hard I was trying back then just goes to show how sadly far away I had been from achieving my ideal image of a villainess.
A true villainess would never let others see her working hard at anything.
Regardless of importance.
So, in summation, Eric-Sama’s words merely serve to flaunt the astounding progress that I’ve made towards my goal.
I appreciate you saying that,” I quip.
“Did you think that was supposed to be a compliment”
“Yes,” I say, smiling sweetly up at Eric-Sama.
“Or at least, I certainly took it as one.”
His eyes blaze as his gaze turns sharper and sharper.
To be scowled at this murderously is something that most people probably wouldn’t be able to boast of even once in their whole lifetime.
After all, a normal person isn’t typically capable of angering someone to this extent.
Though for me, it’s practically become an everyday occurrence.
Once again, tension grips the classroom in it’s merciless, clammy clutches.
Those poor, pitiful extras forced to attend this class….
Every time I show up, they’re subjected to such a strained atmosphere.
Not that I really feel too, too bad for them.
After all, the more onlookers there are, the better.
Even if it was only a single additional person, I’d still want to show off my villainess skills in front of as many people as possible.
“You know, Liz would never run away from any issues that have been brought to her attention.”
“What” I blurt stupidly in reply to Eric-Sama’s sudden outburst.
“No matter the hardship, Liz will stand up and face it head on.
That’s just the type of girl she is.
She’s someone who’s even willing to lend a helping hand to nobles that hate her.
And she’s someone who’s willing to sacrifice herself if that’s what it takes.
When a rabid wolf appeared in the academy, she threw herself in front of it, hands outstretched, ready to protect everyone even though she was trembling so hard she could barely stand.
Because no matter how scared she was, she had people she wanted to keep safe.”
“Wait, wait, wait… A rabid wolf appeared Here” I can’t help but interject.
His bizarre example just left me with too many questions to stay silent.
The rabid wolf, obviously, being the most prevalent thing on my mind.
It’s pretty hard to believe that such a thing could coincidentally appear on the academy grounds.
But Eric-Sama just ignores my words and like a dam burst open, floods us with his impassioned praises for the goddess divine that is Liz Cather.
“Whenever she has free time, she’ll go visit the nearby town to play with the children.
She’s constantly thinking about the good of this country,” I swear there are actual stars in his eyes.
“But what about you Going around lazily, putting in zero effort for anything, always looking down on and making fun of everyone else…..
You’re the real trash,” Eric-Sama declares, his eyes going brutally cold.
Wow, calling me trash… Throwing my own insult back at me….
Couldn’t he come up with some new material
As soon as the words come out of his mouth, the room is engulfed with a magnificent killing intent from behind me.
The bloodthirsty sensation is so heavy in the air that goosebumps break out across my entire body as a mind-numbing chill slides down my spine.
Slowly, tensely, I turn around to look towards its source.
And in that moment, when I catch sight of their expressions, I freeze completely…. I never want to have any of them as my enemy. These words naturally spring to mind as I look at the group.
The bloodlust oozing off of Henry-Oniisama, Gilles, Mel, and Duke-Sama right now is enough to overpower even my boundless will to fight.
When you describe someone with a look that can kill, this is what you are talking about.
I’m sure their killing intent is so strong that everyone in the room must have goosebumps creeping over their flesh.
Could this be some special skill of theirs A killer move
Speaking of which, I think this killer move just succeeded in killing off quite a number of Duke-Sama’s fans.
The faint of heart wouldn’t be able to like him after experiencing something like this first hand.
Don’t say anything.
And obviously that includes not getting physically involved,” I say forcing my harrowed nerves to calm down.
Whether they heard me or not and regardless of whether they’re willing to listen to my words, I turn away from them after that and bring my attention back to the blockhead standing before me.
Eric-Sama, however, is still in shock, staring wide-eyed at the furious group behind me.
In his eyes, it’s probably like I’m not even here anymore.
Though, not that I can blame him.
When someone has such a tremendous amount of bloodthirst aimed at them, of course they’ll end up focusing on that.
Being called trash is certainly infuriating enough for me to want to see blood, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.
However, their bloodlust hasn’t abated yet, despite my cautioning words…..
Do you really think that Liz-san sacrificing herself is something to brag about You’re practically putting her idiocy on full display.”
That sure brought his gaze back to me quickly.
I figured as much.
I reward his returned attentions by giving him my best villainous smile: a sweet upturn of my lips but with a wicked, mischievous gleam in my eye.
“She has an incredible talent of jumbling up priorities.
In spite of knowing just how important of an existence she is to the world, she tries to throw her life away for the sake of protecting a few noblewomen that hate her….
If she was actually smart, she never would have tried to sacrifice herself like that.
There is not one person who would be able to take her place should the worst happen.”
“Alicia-chan! There’s no one that could replace you, either!” Liz-san tells me earnestly, a small wrinkle of concern worrying the area between her brows.
“Oh, but there is,” I say dispassionately in reply.
Those pretty eyes of hers widen delicately at my words.
“There are a whole number of people who could take my place.
If I weren’t here, things could still work out one way or another,” I shrug.
“Sure, everyone would love to believe they are unique.
They all want to become someone special.
But the truth is that we aren’t.
If you are looking for someone truly wise and intelligent, you’ll be able to find as many as you’d like.
Someone who can use magic We come in droves.
However, try as you might, there is no one else that has the same capabilities as you, Liz-san.”
I’m speaking quietly, but my voice seems to echo across the whole classroom.
“If you look at people like they are nothing but numbers and abilities, then that could be true.
people aren’t just numbers.
There is something extraordinary and intangible in us all that could never be replaced by anyone else.”
I’ll give you that.
But from a greater good standpoint, the only person who is truly irreplaceable is you, Liz-san.
And considering the world that you will be forced to face in the future, you need to start hardening your heart and readying replacements.”
“What do you mean Why would that be necessary”
“Someday, if you are called upon to protect this country, what would you do if one of your comrades or advisors was suddenly injured, or incapacitated, or otherwise taken out from the line of action” I ask her with a pleasant smile on my face.
Though in her eyes and in the eyes of all the onlookers, my expression likely looks like the devil’s himself.
“Have you ever thought about why there isn’t just one commanding officer at the head of an organization Why there’s always a vice or a lieutenant or a deputy right below them as second in command”
What do you know about Liz She’s fine just as she is.
She doesn’t have to change at all.
If there’s anything she’s lacking in, we’ll step in and take care of it for her.”
Suddenly Eric-Sama’s voice erupts from beside us, quivering and emotional.
It seems that changing the saintess’s mind when her thoughts and opinions are already set is a nearly hopeless task.
Especially when her dearly beloved worshipers are ready to step in whenever I’m trying to make a point.
The task of monitoring and guiding Liz-san on her path to becoming a saintess is much more troublesome than I initially expected.
Outwardly, I keep my face carefully calm, but on the inside I’m heaving a heavy sigh.
“Liz is someone who will stand up and face her fears, even while trembling.
She’s an exceptional, strong, stunning woman,” Eric-Sama declares while staring me straight in the eye.
that’s not something he should be telling me….
That’s something he should be saying to Liz-san.
Despite the remark not being aimed at her, Liz-san’s eyes go wide at his words, her face quickly becoming like a brilliant, red apple.
I can feel my own eye glazing over at this uncalled for display of affection.
At this point, there can be no doubt that he’s a goner.
Liz-san has all but finished off this capture target.
And, as for me, I’ve said my piece….
so I’d like to head back for today.
I’m feeling a compelling desire to consume some sweets.
“I’ll be taking my leave now,” I throw out over my shoulder as I turn to go.
I can still feel everyone’s glares on me like a fierce, tangible thing, but I just ignore them and head towards the door.
I don’t feel like dealing with any of this anymore, I’d just like to get out of here and relax.
“And what do you know about Alicia” Duke-Sama demands, his tone low, his voice heavy and resonating.
I don’t know what sort expression Eric-Sama had after hearing this, though I feel like I can guess.
He probably never imagined that Duke-Sama would ever say something like that to him.
Ahh, I’d really like to see the look on his face….
but if I turn around now, I’d look so uncool.
So instead I just walk towards the door.
Gilles follows beside me, silently.
And right behind us I hear Henry-Oniisama, Mel, and Duke-Sama.
No one says anything.
We all just walk in silence.
I’m not too worried about the rest, but, up until now, Henry-Oniisama’s been able to get along pretty well with everyone…..
So is it really okay for him to come with me outright like this
I worry the thought in my head absentmindedly as we walk.
All the way home, I remain lost in such thoughts.
And though Gilles is next to me the whole time, I don’t notice as deep, crimson crescents are formed on his palms and blood begins to slowly drip.
From Gilles’s Perspective (Alicia — age 13, Gilles — age 9)
“Hey, Alicia Isn’t this enough for today” I finally said.
I couldn’t bear watching her practice magic for any longer.
She would spend every hour she can, from morning ’til night, holed up in the library practicing.
She’d practice and practice and practice without rest, but have nothing to show for it.
Her level wasn’t advancing at all.
She was clearly going through a slump….
Or, maybe it wasn’t a slump Her previous speed might have been so outstanding that this sudden standstill just felt out of place.
For all I know, maybe it normally takes this long once you reach this stage.
I really had no concept of what’s considered normal in regards to magic.
But what I did know is that once Alicia decides on something, once she gets fired up, she’ll never give in.
I can’t stop yet.
This time is crucial for me.”
“You do this every day.
Is today really all that special You can just take a break.”
“There’s no point in toiling endlessly.”
“….What do you mean” Isn’t that what you’re doing
“I mean that practicing day after day is not my end goal.
It’s not like I’m planning to work hard forever.
I just want to hurry up and raise my level as fast as I can.”
“In order to catch up with Liz Cather”
At my question, Alicia’s face looked a tiny bit sad, almost lonely.
I got the feeling that I was seeing the real Alicia for the first time.
The true emotions that she hides away behind all her layers of obstinance and bravado.
“…..No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to catch up to her.
But at the very least, I’d like to stand on the same playing field.
Even if I can’t beat her, to be able to face her in the same match.
If I can’t even do that much, then how can I presume to stand above her To guide her and advise her as a superior”
Her eyes stared straight into mine as she spoke.
And then when she had finished speaking, she smiled in a way that brought crinkles to the corners of her eyes.
A desolate yet dazzling smile.
More than anyone else, I’m sure that Alicia is conscious of the fact that her powers are no match for Liz Cather’s.
This is probably the reason that she’s always so fixated on her as well.
Because she’s trying so hard to catch up to her.
If she wants to stand on equal footing with Liz Cather, she can’t afford to waste any time.
She’s trying this hard, and still it’s uncertain whether she can keep up.
That’s likely why she said that effort doesn’t guarantee reward.
Alicia’s probably the one who understands that the most.
Since she knows that in life, results are everything.
She understands that the only thing guaranteed by effort is confidence in oneself….
She’s likely reminded of it again and again as she struggles to keep up with someone so unilaterally gifted in magic….
And she’d probably hate the idea of allowing others to see her trying so hard.
Not just because such desperation seems lame in her eyes, but also because she doesn’t think that the work you put in to gain confidence is something that you should show to others.
Of course, it’s possible that I’m completely off the mark, that Alicia doesn’t think this way.
But this is how I see her.
And from the bottom of my heart, I hope that the day will come where she’ll surpass Liz Cather.
“Don’t push yourself too hard.
Make sure you don’t overdo it, okay” I said, but Alicia just smiled.
“I won’t work so hard that I hurt myself, but I’m going to push myself as hard as I can without holding back.”
If everyone else were to see the real Alicia, they’d become her prisoners in an instant.
They’d all be charmed by her and I’m sure they’d want to remain by her side.
I really hope that day will come, and yet, somewhere in a tiny corner of my heart, I pray that no one else will ever see her like this.
I know it’s pathetic.
I can’t stand this fickle, inconsistent side to myself.
But such thoughts can’t seem to change how I feel.