I felt a chill go down my spine—No, it felt like my very nerves themselves were frozen over.
The person in front of me was—
My younger brother.
My younger brother who was superior to me in every way, shape, and form.
Ten years ago, I remembered how Alencia looked at me with his cold eyes after I ran home from school—after I was banished from my household.
That scene was one thing among many that I didn’t want to remember.
I clenched my mouth, stifling the voice that was on the verge of spilling out.
That’s how much grief I felt. Even if my chest were stabbed by a spear, I don’t think I’d ever feel as much pain as this.
I’m probably making a hideous face—
I felt depressed while imagining my own facial expression.
On the other hand, there was no change in Alencia’s face.
He wore the same charming smile from ten years ago, which would instinctively mesmerize others the moment they laid eyes on Alencia.
There’s no way he hasn’t realized.
I wondered what Alencia was thinking—
Alencia began speaking, his friendly smile unchanging.
“You’ve done well to make it here, Baron Strahm.”
“Don’t be so tense. You can freely come closer to me. It’s difficult to chat when you’re standing by the door.”
He smiled sweetly and continued like so:
“After all, we’ve gathered here to give praise to your contributions.”
“Thank you very much!”
Lihilt’s words brimmed with heartfelt emotion.
Lihilt approached Alencia’s work desk. Looking away from Alencia’s face, I followed behind Lihilt’s shadow.
Alencia intently stared at Lihilt.
“Baron Strahm, I’ve heard of the splendid work your squad has done. Your relentless acts of courage caused turmoil amongst the enemy—as a result, the main military force was able to carry out their assault with utmost efficiency, pulverizing the enemy. I can guarantee you that today’s crushing victory was the fruit of your devotion; I am well aware of that fact. You’ve done well.”
“I am grateful for your words of praise! I’ll carry this occasion as the pride of the Strahm household!”
“Words spoken from the likes of me hold not the slightest bit of value—No, I suppose that’s not right. They mean nothing as long as I have yet to do you proud in kind. For that reason, lend me your strength tomorrow as well, Baron.”
“Yes! I’ll persevere to the limit of my power!”
Alencia nodded in agreement.
“We’re done talking. Baron, you may take your leave.”
“P-Please wait a moment, Lord Alencia!”
“…What is it?”
“Erm, I have a person I want to introduce. This is—”
After speaking, Lihilt stepped to the side and pointed his hand towards me.
“—The magician Albert!”
I felt a gaze.
Alencia’s eyes moved sharply, and he was now looking at me.
I want to run away.
If there existed a disappearance spell, I’d want to cast it on myself right now.
However, no matter how much I thought about escaping from reality, there was no meaning in it.
I needed to confront my reality—or rather, my past.
I lifted my face.
We reflected in each other’s pupils, eye to eye.
I didn’t open my mouth.
Alencia didn’t open his mouth.
I remained expressionless, and Alencia looked at me, curving a slight smile with his lips.
The atmosphere of the room froze over.
Uncomfortable with the awkward silence, Lihilt spoke in a panic.
“You see, Albert is an amazing magician! If this person wasn’t with us, then we might have been wiped out!”
Alencia responded with a thin smile on his face.
The look in his eyes told me everything.
Really? This failure did? This guy that fled from the academy did?
Can you really do such a thing?
I tightly clenched my hand.
Lihilt continued to speak.
“Albert is a magician deployed to the army as well. Starting tomorrow, he’ll work hard and contribute to the war. Right, Albert?”
Just squeezing those words out took all I had.
“Is that so. I’ll be looking forward to that.”
Then, Alencia continued like so:
“Nice to meet you, Albert.”
Nice to meet you, huh.
…I see. So that’s your answer, Alencia.
However, that answer—wasn’t all that bad of a response.
Precisely because I was talking to my accomplished younger brother, I, the exiled older brother, felt myself suffocating from my own wretchedness.
If the person in front of me was a noble I didn’t know. If I was just a commoner magician.
If the two of us had nothing to do with each other.
I didn’t need to worry about a thing.
I bowed my head.
“This is the first time I’ve met Lord Alencia. I intend to exert my limited ability to be of even slight use to you.”
“I’ll look forward to the day where I hear the news of your achievements.”
Alencia responded, his smile not twitching in the slightest.
Then, Alencia raised his right hand.
Our short conversation came to an end.
The moment we exited headquarters, Lihilt spoke.
“Maaan, Lord Alencia really has an aura to him! I hear even the king has taken a liking to him. It’s even rumored that if he successfully resolves this war, he’ll be put into a pivotal position of power! He’s amazing!”
“Haha… He really is.”
I smiled bitterly.
I couldn’t respond with anything else but that.
I told the excited Lihilt that I’d be parting ways with him, then began walking by myself. The encampment was teeming with soldiers celebrating today’s huge victory.
In the middle of the festive atmosphere, I walked with my heart frozen over.
It was at that moment.
“Heeey? Huuuh? Areen’t you Albert?”
The voice of a drunkard flew at me.
When I turned around in surprise—
There stood a young noble. He seemed to be around the same age as me. He was a noble who knew me—knew my past.
Many nobles were participating in this war.
It wouldn’t be odd if there was someone who knew my past here.
I felt sick to my stomach.
“Aah, it really iiis Albert. Weren’t you banished from your househooold?”
The drunk noble roared with laughter as he reached his arms to me.
I reflexively brushed his hand away.
“…You have the wrong person.”
Without so much as looking at the noble’s face, I left him there and ran away.
The nausea in my stomach wouldn’t go away. Frustration clung to my throat.
I wondered where I ran.
Before I knew it, I reached a place without anyone nearby. The sun had already sunk long ago, and the world transformed to that of night and moon.
It was as if the cheerful voices of laughter heard from afar, as well as the light which shined from the encampment, was the silhouette of a different world.
After finally being unable to hold it in, I kneeled to the ground and vomited gastric juice. It was a stroke of luck that I hadn’t eaten anything.
Once I finished vomiting everything out, I felt only a sense of emptiness spread throughout my heart.
Two days later—
Alencia was about to start his second offensive.
“Alright, let’s go. Albert, Laura.”
No matter how I may feel, the world keeps moving; Time ever marches.
At last, Laura and I’s first battle would begin.
Today’s second chapter. This one was pretty sad for Albert. Next two tomorrow, see you guys then. gn. EDIT: did some touch ups. Might do some more tomorrow