Since that day, Riett became even more isolated at school. Now, even the fleeting glances disappeared, and even the few girls who were around avoided Riett.
She admits to reacting emotionally to Samuel’s proposal. However, she didn’t regret it because she knew she would have acted the same way no matter how many times she turned back time.
And in truth, this didn’t affect her much. She had prepared herself for this kind of situation.
“Riett, why is your home-packed lunch always tasteless? Maybe your cook has no skill.”
There were still those who dared to speak.
“Then don’t eat it. But as for your home-packed lunch…”
Riett stopped speaking as she looked down at Lucas’ lunchbox.
Lucas was the son of an unnamed noble family. However, Riett’s reason for pausing was not to criticize Lucas’ poor lunchbox. Rather…
“Why is it so fancy all the time?”
Lucas’ lunchbox was excessively luxurious. It was probably even more extravagant than Evan’s lunchbox, which employed a first-class chef.
“Oh, we value the quality of our food at home.”
Riett glanced at Lucas with a casual answer.
‘No, it’s just that… I realized something. His clothes and belongings seem quite expensive.’
“Come on, why are you looking at me like that? It’s embarrassing.”
“Why do you care? Anyway, our food is not tasteless… it’s healthy.”
Riett moved her fork as she averted her gaze.
“By the way, a lot has changed while I was away, hasn’t it?”
After the incident with Jackson, Lucas hadn’t come to school for a week, claiming there were family matters. Riett didn’t inquire further, assuming it was personal.
“Riett, I heard you played a game with Samuel.”
“It wasn’t a game. I just rejected his trashy proposal.”
Riett spoke with disgust as she reminisced about that day.
“But still, it was impressive. Samuel can be scary.”
Lucas added nonchalantly, seemingly curious.
“What did he propose?”
“He wanted me to help him come in third place.”
Riett said, taking a bite of her low-sodium, healthy stew. However, a voice of excitement came from beside her.
“Riett, you don’t mean… because of me being in third place…”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t like his attitude, and besides, there’s no way someone like Samuel could come in third place just because I help.”
Riett pushed the bread into Lucas’ mouth, blocking his words. He mumbled with the bread still in his mouth.
“Samuel in third place? It’s a possibility.”
“What? He and his gang just wander around and bully weaker kids.”
“Riett, you really don’t care about other people. Samuel is in fourth place.”
…So that’s why he made that proposal.
She thought it was an utterly ridiculous suggestion, but it seems like it wasn’t completely unreasonable after all.
Still, she didn’t want to support someone like him.
“…Anyway, that doesn’t matter.”
“I also think Riett did the right thing, but I was worried, that’s all.”
Looking up at the blue sky, Lucas said.
“They’re just lousy people.”
It was something she could relate to, but until then, Riett hadn’t fully grasped those concerns. Like a fluffy cloud drifting alone in the sky, she had vaguely assumed that her quiet school life would continue uninterrupted.
However, on that afternoon during the swordsmanship class, Riett came to realize how despicable and cunning they truly were.
* * *
After finishing their lunch, Riett and Lucas changed into their training uniforms and headed down to the swordsmanship training grounds. As the students formed a line, the teacher shouted,
“Alright, today we will practice sparring.”
He then pointed to the training swords next to him and said,
“Everyone, switch to the practice swords.”
Following the teacher’s instructions, the students moved accordingly.
While all the swordsmanship lessons were conducted using real swords, sparring was the only time they used practice swords. These practice swords looked no different from real swords on the outside but were much lighter and blunter, ensuring minimal injuries from strikes or stabs.
“Now, let’s form teams.”
As the students gathered with their switched swords, the teacher paired them up in twos. Typically, sparring teams were composed of students of similar skill levels to avoid one-sided fights and allow proper swordsmanship training.
The teacher began, but Samuel raised his hand swiftly.
“What’s the matter, Samuel?”
“Today, I want to spar with Riett.”
A murmur could be heard from the side.
“No, you can’t. There’s a significant skill gap between you and Riett.”
“Teacher! Riett has surpassed all the boys and achieved an A in swordsmanship class. I believe we need to raise the difficulty level to match Riett’s exceptional skills,”
Samuel said, glancing smugly at Riett.
‘Transparent, so transparent.’
Riett thought, observing Samuel’s obvious intentions.
“Riett, are you okay with it?”
If he wanted to provoke her, she would let it slide. Riett knew she could easily defeat Samuel in a one-on-one sparring match unless he relied solely on brute force. After all, she had been sparring with Evan since childhood.
Riett opened her eyes wide and stared at Samuel. He appeared quite relaxed as if he believed he could win. The teacher hesitated for a moment but eventually changed the pairings as requested.
Everyone received their sparring partners, and the sparring began. The rules were simple: either successfully strike a vital point or surrender to end the match.
The sparring practice started with Lucas. As he was tall and well-built, his opponent was similar. The boy seemed frightened even before the start, knowing of Lucas’ swordsmanship skills.
Lucas swung his sword a few times, stood up, and politely bowed to his pre-duel opponent.
At the teacher’s signal, everyone focused on watching the sparring, including Riett. Observing others was as crucial as handling the sword directly when it came to learning swordsmanship.
Lucas was always an excellent example.
The sound of swords colliding echoed in all directions.
“Wow, his movements are completely clean.”
Compliments burst out from the surroundings. Riett felt the same way. He was amazed by Lucas’ movements. It wasn’t just a simple admiration.
‘Did he always move like that…?’
Lucas’ swordsmanship felt strangely different. Did he receive special private lessons during the week he didn’t come to school?
Usually, Lucas’ swordsmanship had a polite and calm feeling, just like his considerate personality, but now it was much more aggressive and fierce.
Come to think of it, he also showed a different side during his fight with Jackson.
“Match over, Lucas wins.”
The match ended much faster than expected. While Lucas appeared calm as if he had just taken a walk, his opponent was drenched in sweat and looked exhausted.
“I did well, Riett, right?”
Riett’s praise made Lucas’s expression soften.
But as Lucas was about to return to his seat, he glanced at Samuel and whispered to Riett.
Riett understood what Lucas was trying to say, but she shook her head. There were too many eyes watching to do something treacherous.
He probably wanted to win easily and break the opponent’s momentum, but he would soon realize that he chose the wrong person.
As Riett’s name was called, she confidently stepped forward. Then she greeted Samuel with proper dueling etiquette.
“Riett, go easy on me.”
Samuel said as he adjusted his grip on his sword. A deceitful smile was drawn on his face.
As soon as the match started, Samuel swung his sword. Riett easily evaded the attack with light movements. Avoiding it wasn’t difficult.
She had been observing the duels of her classmates in the same class and had grasped each of their swordsmanship patterns. Samuel belonged to the group that used a more standardized approach. It was textbook-like.
While skillfully evading, Riett counterattacked and stabbed Samuel’s chest.
However, Samuel staggered to the side, narrowly avoiding the tip of Riett’s sword. He quickly corrected his posture and swung his sword again.
It was easy to dodge, but something was off. Why was his swinging speed so slow?
Frowning, Riett carefully examined the sword. At that moment, a sudden scream came from the spectator seats.
Instantly, everyone’s attention turned in that direction, including Riett. However, the boy soon laughed casually, defusing the situation. The familiar-faced boy was one of Samuel’s lackeys.
“Oh, sorry. There was a bug.”
When attention was briefly diverted by the commotion,
“You shouldn’t lose focus during a duel.”
Samuel’s sword sliced Riett’s side.
She instantly felt a sharp pain. Riett hurriedly looked down. Blood was flowing along the path where the sword had grazed.
Riett blinked slowly. Seeing the blood, her mind went blank.
‘It’s a wooden sword, why is there blood…?’
Before she could grasp the situation, Riett collapsed under the assaulting pain.
Lucas and the teacher were seen rushing toward her. However, her vision blurred as if everything was swaying.
It was a trigger of trauma, just like when she hurt her foot while playing hide-and-seek with Evan when they were young.
In the end,
With Lucas’ urgent voice as the last sound, Riett lost consciousness.
* * *
When she opened her eyes, she saw a man with a pale face.
It was déjà vu.
‘I’ve seen this before when I was young.’
But back then, it was Evan, not Lucas.
Recalling the last face she saw, Riett was convinced that the person standing there was Lucas.
Riett weakly opened her mouth, struggling against the gentle touch that removed the strands of hair stuck to her sweaty forehead.
“Lucas… thank you.”
However, a chilling voice echoed. It was only then that Riett realized that the man wasn’t Lucas.
Lucas wouldn’t speak to her in such a cold manner.
‘Then who is this person…?’
…The last person she saw before collapsing was Lucas. Riett struggled to lift her eyelids, trying to focus on her blurred vision.
Because of the white skin, she mistook him for Lucas, but what entered her sight was not Lucas’ bright platinum hair, but black hair and eyes like the night sky.
The person she was seeing was undoubtedly Evan.
‘Why does his expression look so grim?’