Lucia watched her friends fidget, especially Arista.
Arista whispered in a low voice that only Herwin could hear.
“……Is it because of me?”
Before Herwin had gone to find Lucia, Arista had asked him to speak well of her.
‘Because of Arista….…’
He can’t say she wasn’t involved, technically.
But he couldn’t say it was her fault either.
“It’s not like that, so don’t worry about it.”
His tone was softer than the one he’d used when he’d argued with Lucia.
Lucia must have sensed it because she flinched and buried her head between her arms even more.
“Now, everyone, take your seats.”
As everyone stared at Lucia, the professor walked in just in time.
The friends scrambled to their seats.
Ethan and Christine, sitting in the front row, glanced over and caught Lucia’s eye.
“Hey, look who’s down in the back.”
As the professor pointed to Lucia slumped over her desk, Lucia slowly rose to her feet, her eyes now even puffier.
Even with her hair covering her face like a ghost, Herwin could see her face all too well.
His chest tightened.
Lucia heard a heavy sigh and clenched her fists until they were white with fatigue.
* * *
The sound of inhaling through her nose echoed through the dusty warehouse.
This was the place where Bianca and Lucia shared their secrets.
Lucia told Bianca about her fight with Herwin.
Bianca couldn’t believe it, so she covered her open mouth.
“What if Herwin…… hates me now?”
Her barely-contained emotions surged again.
The image of Herwin’s first words to her replayed vividly in her mind.
The unmistakable contempt in his eyes as he looked down at her.
Lucia knew she was at fault.
The words she’d spoken, the words she couldn’t believe she’d said.
In reality, Arista wasn’t that mean, and she wasn’t a fox who’d pounce on a man.
And yet, she was disparaged because she wished she were.
‘Ah, I’m the worst.’
What a terrible human being.
Blinded by jealousy, she couldn’t find the words to say.
She had always hated people who judged others, and she was no different from them.
Herwin is horrified to see her like that.
Lucia’s insides burned.
Guilt and remorse for Arista.
And yet, she couldn’t help but hate herself for hating her.
She didn’t want to do this, but she couldn’t control herself.
She just wanted to wash away the dirty feelings.
“Herwin is a real disappointment.
I thought it was formidable to see you confess more than 60 times so far and not accept it… But how can he do that to you?”
Bianca swore on Lucia’s behalf.
“Does he mean that the girl he met for only three months is more precious than you, a childhood friend? You’re not the one who usually says that, so he should listen to you even more.”
Lucia did not respond to Bianca’s words.
“I thought he had a good eye for people, but it’s nothing.
How can he think well of Princess Lydia? I mean, what is it about her that men find so good? Her looks, her status, her personality? I don’t understand.”
Lucia, who had been listening to Bianca for a while, lifted her head.
Lucia’s brow furrowed slightly.
“Status, I suppose, since she was born to the famous Duchess Lydia, but looks, well, that’s all over the place, and personality, well, she doesn’t seem to have much of a personality either.
She pretends to have a big heart when she’s around boys, but when she’s with girls, she can’t even hold a conversation.
It’s like she’s in a different class than us.”
The complaints, once bubbling up, grew in volume.
They were no longer words of comfort for Lucia; they were complaints that Bianca had been piling on Arista for years.
The more she listened, the more Lucia instinctively sensed that something was wrong with Bianca.
She couldn’t easily judge what was going on.
No, she felt like she shouldn’t.
“Lucia, are you going to stay like this?”
Bianca’s eyes flashed with excitement as she poured out her heart.
Lucia’s shoulders slumped involuntarily.
“Are you going to lose Herwin to Princess Lydia at this rate?”
“……, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
As much as she hated to lose Herwin to Arista, it wasn’t as if she had any pointed means of removing her from Herwin’s side.
“Why not, we just need to remind him that Princess Lydia is not a good person.”
Lucia couldn’t fathom how anyone could think less of Arista when she was such a gorgeous, wonderful person, let alone prove it.
Bianca smirked at Lucia’s confusion.
“Listen, if you do this, you can…….”
Bianca whispered in Lucia’s ear, even though they were alone in the warehouse.
After listening for a while, Lucia’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Shhh, if we keep it quiet, no one will know.
You just have to tell everyone that Arista is a thief.”
“But that’s not true, I can’t.”
Lucia shook her head, her face white.
If she did as Bianca said, Herwin would be disappointed in her, but she didn’t want to do it this way.
Bianca’s face hardened at Lucia’s refusal.
“Lucia, do you think you’re going to stay behind Herwin’s back forever?”
Bianca’s emotionless brown eyes sent chills down Lucia’s spine.
As Lucia froze in fear, Bianca smiled as sweetly as she had ever smiled before.
Then she pulled Lucia a few feet away and patted her on the shoulder.
“First of all, Herwin’s priority is to pay attention to Arista, and once you accomplish that, I’m sure he’ll stop caring about her and start looking at you again.”
“You’ve already confessed over sixty times, shouldn’t your sincerity be enough for him to accept your confession, and I’m sure he’ll feel sorry for you once Princess Lydia’s nakedness is exposed?”
Her ears perked up for a moment.
“He trusted Princess Lydia today, not you, and when he finds out it’s a lie, he’ll apologize to you, saying, ‘Oh, I was mistaken, will you forgive me, Lucia?’”
The temptation was too sweet to pass up.
But Lucia found herself increasingly uncomfortable, like a bug crawling on her skin.
“So all you have to do is take my word for it, and I’ll help you.”
Lucia didn’t say anything at first, but then she nodded slowly.
* * *
It was a quiet classroom, and the room was empty because it was time for individualized lessons.
Lucia swallowed hard and stepped into the quiet classroom.
“I need to put this in Arista’s bag…….”
In Lucia’s hand was a wallet.
It was Lucia’s, her wallet.
But she was standing in Arista’s seat, not her, with her purse.
Lucia bit her bottom lip and clutched her purse tightly.
‘Put your purse back in Arista’s seat or her bag.
Then we’ll make a big fuss about your wallet being missing, and then we’ll find it in Arista’s seat.’
This was the plan Bianca had come up with to get Arista away from Herwin.
It’s been a week since she said it.
She put it off, and a week had passed.
That meant it had been a week since she’d argued with Herwin.
Lucia hadn’t spoken to Herwin in the week since the incident.
Neither Lucia nor Herwin had done anything to break the ice, so the awkwardness had persisted.
Lucia didn’t know what to do, as she had never been this far away from Herwin before.
She wanted to talk to him, but she didn’t dare to because she felt like he would say something like, ‘You’re not just talking to me without realizing what you did wrong, are you?.’
Besides, she wasn’t even remorseful right now, she was trying to bring Arista’s honor into disrepute.
Lucia’s head swam.
There was a constant battle in her mind between the part of her that insisted she shouldn’t do this and the part of her that insisted she must do this to make Herwin hers.
Lucia stood there for ten minutes, unable to decide until she finally rolled her eyes and put her wallet in Arista’s bag.
Then she hurried out of the classroom in case anyone saw her.
“Okay, this is it…….”
Lucia’s face crumpled into an inexplicable pout as she realized that if she was going to embarrass Arista, she shouldn’t regret it.
Lucia’s pace slowed to a crawl as she walked down the hallway.
She stood in the deserted hallway for a long time.
Then she started walking again.
* * *
Christine’s head snapped around at the sound of a snort next to her.
“Bianca, are you in a good mood?”
“Yeah, you’ve been smiling and humming since earlier.”
“Oh… did I do that?”
“What was that about?”
Pondering, Bianca smiled mischievously and brought her index finger to her lips.
When Christine asked again, curious, Bianca dodged the question by saying it was an open secret.
“By the way, Lucia is late, did something happen to her?”
Lucia, who said she was going to the restroom, didn’t return after 20 minutes.
As the minutes ticked by, Christine became worried about her.
“She’s not a kid, she’s fine, she must have gone somewhere other than the restroom.”
“Do you think so?”
Despite Bianca’s answer, Christine kept glancing back to where Lucia had disappeared, worried about her.
Bianca watched Herwin, who eagerly wielded the sword, and back to humming again whether Christine found Lucia or not.
The corners of her mouth drew an arc.
“Excuse me, Miss Bianca.”
A dark shadow fell over Bianca’s head.
Bianca turned at the sound of the familiar voice.
“Hey, can I talk to you for a second?”
A boy from her grade blushed and waited for her to answer.
Compared to his classmates, he wasn’t particularly good-looking, but he was charming and handsome.
It was obvious that he was about to confess to Bianca.
Christine, next to her, covered her mouth with her hand and exclaimed in awe.
Bianca, however, didn’t hide her displeasure.
She was about to yell at him to go away when she realized that not only Christine, but several people were watching her, and she glared at the boy in front of her.
“Hah…let’s talk about this somewhere else.”
The boy’s face lit up, despite his mood.
Bianca and the boy disappeared, and Christine’s eyes widened, shining through the pale walls like glass beads.
“……Christine, what are you doing?”
Lucia arrived, and she could see Christine’s excitement.
“Why are you so excited? Did something good happen?”
“Lucia, did you see that just now? I think some guy is trying to confess to Bianca!”
Lucia’s face lit up as much as Christine’s.
Both girls were as excited as if they were being asked out.
“Oh my God, a confession, Bianca, that’s amazing.”
“Isn’t Bianca kind of popular, too? She got a confession from some guy the other day.”
“Yeah, now that I think about it, she seems to get a lot of confessions.”
“I wonder if she’ll accept this time.
He seemed like a nice person.”
While Christine and Lucia were engaged in their fantasies, Bianca returned.
As if they’d been waiting for her, they immediately tugged on her.
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