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Chapter 123: The Hearing (3)“Kagan Luna, your father.”

The Chairman’s words quieted the hall, causing all sound to die out as everyone turned to stare at Deculein.Sophien was no different; this situation was unexpected for her as well.

What do you mean by a co-author?

 Wasn’t that opposite to Deculein’s personality?

“We’ve been together for more than a hundred years… yet the more you open him up, the newer he becomes.”

Sophien rested her chin on her hand, watching Epherene’s face. The emotions crossing over her face were hard to describe. Ihelm was dumbfounded.

“Deculein, you? You, what… what? Co-author?”

The broken and choppy voice proved his bewilderment.

“Still, I think we need an explanation about the co-author! Professor Deculein?!”

Deculein nodded and replied with indifference. His tone was of narration rather than defense.

“The base idea is from Kagan. It was a creative and genius idea that no one else could think  of.”

Deculein looked to Epherene, whose eyes were now sunken and teary.

“Kagan Luna established the framework for this thesis, and my share was its development and completion. Therefore, it was only right to mark both of us as authors.”

“I see! Continue your questions then,  Ihelm!”

Ihelm spoke as if his spirit had fled him entirely.

“…Hmm! I’ll do it instead! I don’t think Ihelm is in a good situation right now!”

Adrienne stepped up instead of Ihelm with a  smile.

“This isn’t the first time Professor Deculein has harassed his assistants, right? There are a lot of people that have been ruined! Some people committed suicide! So why in the world are you considerate of your past assistant now?!”

“It’s not just now. I slowly realized something, and I now acknowledge my past mistakes.”

“Is that so! Does Epherene have something more to say?”

Epherene flinched under Adrienne’s bright smile.

Epherene swallowed.

Then, she looked to Deculein, Adrienne, and Ihelm one after another.

 She was confused. She didn’t know Deculein would do this, but she couldn’t limit what she felt to a one-dimensional feeling like that.The fact that Deculein honestly admitted her father was his co-author, that he would be remembered forever in the magic world, gave rise to certain complex concerns.

She felt like… a stone-headed  fool.

“…No. I have nothing more to say.”

Clang—! Clang—! Clang—!

The Chairman swung her gavel.

“Let’s have a short break! Take a rest!”

There was a terrace in the high-level area near the meeting hall. Standing at the guardrail decorated like trees, one could see the entire university spreading out below them. 

Right now, that whole world was soaked in the light of the full moon.Not long after, there was the sound of someone approaching, stepping so as to be heard. Their greasy blonde hair fluttered in the wind, and the thick scent of cologne wafting from them tormented my nose.

“…I don’t know what your ulterior motive  is.”

Ihelm. He walked slowly and spoke while looking over the same scenery as me.

“Did you know? Whether there was hidden magic in the thesis or not?”

I nodded. I had found out while I was developing it; it was a very clever  trap.

“What did you do?”

“I left it as it is.”

It would have been easy to dismantle; it didn’t take a little more than gently adjusting the circuit bit by bit.Ihelm grabbed the railing tightly until it made a sound.

“Why? Didn’t you hate Luna?”

I looked back at Ihelm. This guy was once the closest to Deculein. Therefore, he would have known Deculein better than anyone else.

“You must have hated Luna… and Luna’s daughter.”

Suppose I had lived as Deculein. Sometimes, memories that weren’t familiar rose to the surface, triggered as time went by, or sometimes by certain experiences. However, since all of them were mere fragments, cross-verification was needed.

“…Decalane couldn’t be satisfied with me.”

I spoke to Ihelm as if I were talking to myself. Ihelm’s deep red eyes stared back at me.

“My talent must be lacking, as I didn’t grow as much as he expected. Or, perhaps, the greed of his departed spirit was too great.”

“Whatever it was, Decalane was dissatisfied. I was not at the talent of the Archmage he wanted.”

Ihelm nodded a couple of times. Then, he answered.

“That’s right. If Decalane hadn’t died, you would’ve lost your seat as the head to Luna. But it’s still dubious. Would it have been that easy to put a child of a different family line at the head of the Yukline household?”

No, Decalane didn’t intend to make them the head. He just needed a container, one suitable for carrying someone’s dying mind.

“Decalane is already dead. Everything has changed.”

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“Still, the you that I know must have hated Luna’s daughter. You wouldn’t have been able to forgive Kagan.”

“Kagan and you, there was enough reason for both of you to hate each other. If that guy hadn’t kissed Decalane’s ass….”

I looked into the sky far away, where the full moon hung  heavy.

“It’s in the past anyway, and this study hasn’t been completed yet. Its completion is up to Epherene, not me. And also…”

“His suicide is my fault.”

Ihelm’s jaw dropped, making a rather goofy expression.

“I can’t hate the daughter after killing the father.”

Ihelm managed a response, a layer of cold sweat forming over his forehead.

“Did you feel sorry for Epherene?”

“Then? Then, why in the world?”

I thought, unmoving. Presumably, it wasn’t sympathy or compassion. However, it wasn’t easy to know. My emotions couldn’t be seen with [Vision].

“I don’t know.”

But, I read it in a book some time ago, and got the impression that a wizard must feel like this at least once in his life.

“I guess I think of that kid as a  disciple.”

I had found that feeling without even knowing.Ihelm was speechless.

 His hand that was holding the railing loosened its grip. A surge of wind cooled him down, and a feigned smile found its place on his lips.

“Ha… ha. It doesn’t make sense.”

“What do you mean?”

“Was it a few years ago? When Glitheon tried to exterminate all of the Luna, wasn’t it you who stopped him? You couldn’t have had this kind of change of heart.”

It was a fact that I truly didn’t know, but Ihelm frowned like he was dumbfounded.He didn’t respond. He just shook his head and sighed.

“You know what? This is my last struggle.”

Then, he looked out onto the night scene with a peaceful  expression.

“Co-author? I can’t attack you further than this. No, I don’t even have the will to continue.”

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Ihelm bent down. His drooping body was like laundry hung across the railing.

“…You’ve changed. If the Deculein now is no longer the Deculein from the past, if I don’t want to tear you down….”

I looked at him. The moonlight permeated his deep red eyes, which had always been rotten. Yet now, there was an unknown vitality glowing within.

“I don’t want to be the only one who’s trapped in the past.”

At that very moment, Ihelm shouted.Someone at the entrance to the terrace began to move.

“Hurry up and run. Before you get caught.”

The sound of someone running away.The sound of someone who fell while running and hit their knees against the ground.I glared at Ihelm, who only shrugged.

“…I didn’t bring her here. I just told her to follow me if she wanted to know. That’s why I purposely didn’t say anything useless.”

Ihelm turned his gaze away, as if now looking far off into the past.

“Kagan wasn’t a normal person. The fact that he didn’t love his daughter, or that he was resentful… it’s too cruel to say those things, right? But still, she’s my testifier.”

“I’m also a gentleman.”

The alarm clock went off, and Epherene blankly opened her eyes.Today as well, she had the same dream.

—This study hasn’t been completed yet. Its completion is up to Epherene, not me. And also…

—His suicide is my fault.The conversation between Deculein and Ihelm replayed in her mind.

—I can’t hate the daughter after killing the father.Every word Deculein said was repeated in her ears.

—…I don’t know. I guess I think of that kid as a disciple.She turned off the alarm clock that was still ringing, and slowly stood. 

She glanced at the piece of paper sitting on her desk: the resignation form.

Deculein’s hearing was still going on after three days, but she heard it wasn’t as intense as the first day.

Maybe, Ihelm had given up, too.

— Was it a few years ago?

When Glitheon tried to exterminate all of the Luna, wasn’t it you who stopped  him?

Epherene thought about the relationship between Luna and Yukline.

It was a worry that continued from the moment she opened her eyes in the morning until she fell asleep at night.

—If that guy hadn’t kissed Decalane’s ass…

If the previous head of the Yukline wanted her, and if it’s what her father wanted… and if Deculein was under the stress of having the Yukline household taken away…

Epherene sighed and looked around the room one last time. 

A clean and tidy interior greeted her.

She threw away what she didn’t need and packed everything that might prove useful.

“This much is…”

She wouldn’t cause any inconveniences because she had cleaned the room. She took up the letter of resignation and put on her backpack that was about to explode from being stuffed to the  brim.

“Let’s go~, let’s go back home~.”

Epherene, readying to leave as she muttered, stopped suddenly.She found an envelope under the door.

It wasn’t there yesterday, had it come this morning?

Epherene picked up the thick envelope, opening it to reveal a letter and certificate inside.

She read it without much thought, her heart sinking.

Epherene let out a small scream.

Her whole body was rigid; not only her arms and legs but her head had also stopped.

Dumbfounded, she read the contents of the certificate.

[Tower Sponsorship Certificate]

■ Subject: Solda Epherene Luna

■ Amount : 100,000 ∃

The anonymous sponsorship that started from the day she entered the tower was fulfilled again.

The date on which the sponsorship was set was yesterday, and the letter’s content was just one  line.

—I’m cheering for you.As soon as she saw the letter, Epherene flung away her backpack. She sprinted out of the dormitory. 

Her body knew the destination, so her legs moved on their own.

Running, running, and running like crazy, she arrived at the tower, stood in front of the slow elevator, got in, and pressed the button to the 77th floor…When she came to her senses, his nameplate was already before her eyes.

[Head Professor’s Office: Deculein]

Epherene read the plaque, heart pounding like it was about to break. Tears were flowing down her cheeks.

—I’m cheering for you.That one sentence she read earlier ripped her heart from her chest.‘I was going to betray you.

 I was going to stand on the other side. I acted hastily despite not knowing anything, and I still, to some extent, resent you for killing my father.’This hatred would never disappear.

Epherene knocked on the door with trembling hands. After waiting a moment, the door opened on its own under the power of Deculein’s [Psychokinesis].

“Epherene. You haven’t been to the laboratory lately.”

 “5-point penalty for stopping work.”

He reprimanded her as usual as if nothing had happened, with that same unchanging and cold  expression.