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Chapter 1 - Prah Lancel. 18 years old. Attempted assault offender. (1)

The situation was dire. If I had possessed Prah Lancel before he caused the trouble, it might have been different, but possessing him at the very moment he was about to commit the act... they would soon be here.

The protagonist and his followers... and the executive body of the Celus Academy, where Prah Lancel was currently enrolled. Was there a way to dodge this? No, impossible.

As long as Prah Lancel was a student at the academy, avoiding this situation was impossible.

Even at this moment, they must be frantically searching for Aris and Prah, who had suddenly disappeared. They would arrive within minutes.

“Prah, just why... why?”

What, then, should I respond to that question? My mind was swirling with countless thoughts.

I recalled the flow of the novel. Prah Lancel. A quintessential villain in the early parts, a mere experience point shuttle for the protagonist’s party.

Without the character of Prah Lancel, the villain, the protagonist’s party would become excessively weak.

So weak that they couldn’t even properly face a major adversary standing at the gateway to the middle part of the story.

In other words, this deranged attempted assault offender clearly had a role to play. The role of a vile villain.

He was no mere extra or supporting character.

Prah, the final boss of Chapter 3 in the early part of the novel, becomes a formidable adversary who constantly obstructs the protagonist through a contract with a demon following this incident.

If such an opponent were to suddenly vanish, the protagonist’s party would fail to keep up with the novel’s power inflation and would be miserably killed by their enemies.

Undoubtedly, it would be arduous and difficult, but overcoming these trials would bring enlightenment that would be missed without a strong adversary in the early part.

The enemies in the early and middle parts of the novel are on completely different levels of strength. Without significant growth, it’s impossible to defeat such foes.

Even if I, as the author, were to utilize hidden pieces I had set up to support them, those pieces require a certain level of basic enlightenment to be effective. Without a foundation, they cannot truly empower them.

Why worry about the protagonist’s party when I have enough on my plate? The reason is simple. If the protagonist’s party cannot follow the flow of the novel... the world itself would be severed.

In the middle and latter parts, it’s the protagonist who saves the world turned chaotic by the intervention of demons and angels. He alone stands against the battle. While he undoubtedly possesses immense talent, part of that talent definitely includes the ability to grow through experience.

In other words, a protagonist who hasn’t properly accumulated experiences cannot overpower exponentially stronger foes, even with other talents backing him up, especially since the adversaries aren’t merely human.

At this moment, I had to make a choice. Whether to somehow ensure my own safety or to firmly establish myself as a villain.

Depending on my response now, the flow of the novel will surely change. If Prah genuinely repents, his childhood friend Aris Winslet will surely forgive him.

How do I know? Because I made it so. That girl cherishes her memories with Prah quite dearly.

To the extent that she would overlook such an incident to keep those memories as memories. 'Perhaps Prah lost his senses because he liked her too much. He didn’t want to lose her...' Merely expressing remorse in such a manner would be enough for Aris to forgive him.

However, if I truly act vilely, she will definitely not forgive Prah.

There’s no reason for her to be kind to someone who first severed the memories. After all, Aris Winslet is not particularly kind to others by nature.

If I choose the former, she will judge that there’s room for my rehabilitation. She won’t disclose my crime. But the latter... if I act cruelly towards her, she will reveal my crime. To reform me.

I had to make a choice. Whether to remain a villain and facilitate the growth of the protagonist’s party, or to somehow cling to life until the world ends.

My choice was... obviously the former. This novel is distinctly an ‘academy’ story. Since it’s an event happening in an academy, everything is decided within a short span of time.

The academy consists of four grades, and currently, at the beginning of the novel, which starts when the protagonist’s party becomes second-years... it means at most three years. That’s the only time I have to live in luxury.

Why second-years? Isn’t it obvious? Because of the connections with the junior heroines who will soon join.

After that, with this frail body of Prah, I can do nothing. I can only wait helplessly for my end to come.

Choosing to be a villain might mean getting split in half by the protagonist before that... but well. At least I won’t die defenselessly. I can gain the strength to desperately survive.

If I choose to be a villain and Aris Winslet exposes my crimes, the demon Astaroth, who infiltrated the academy, will approach me.

I can enhance my power through a contract with Astaroth. By relying on this pact and covertly hindering the protagonist’s party while still maintaining a line... I can somehow find a way to survive.

The task of filling the protagonist’s party with experiences while obstructing them becomes surprisingly easy the moment I contract with the demon.

It’s certainly better than dying in a completely ruined world.

So, it was time to play the villain.

Granted, being universally acknowledged as the worst scum in the early parts of the novel won’t make acting any easier... but since I’m the one who wrote his lines, I should manage somehow.

“Why did I do it?”

“Just why, why would you do such a thing…?”

“Because you rejected me.”

“What...?”

“I mean, what I’m saying is...”

I reveal the underlying thoughts of Prah Lancel without reservation.

'I didn’t need anything else, but I needed you. Yet, you never saw me as a potential partner.'

'I never intended to engage in a mere friendship game that could crumble at any moment with you. All the memories we built were meant to trap you within my grasp...'

As I spout such nonsense, the expression gradually fades from Aris Winslet’s face.

“Friendship game?”

“Yes. It was nothing more than a friendship game.”

“But we were childhood friends. Are all those times we spent together just something to be dismissed like that?”

“Yes.”

All expression vanished from Aris Winslet’s face.

“Even now, can’t you say it was a mistake, Prah? Then I can forgive you. I can overlook it as if nothing happened.”

Though she spoke softly, her pupils kept shaking, possibly from shock. Her legs trembled, seemingly wanting to deny what I had said.

It was to be expected. The connection between Prah Lancel and Aris Winslet had lasted for over ten years.

In fact, all the childhood memories harbored by Aris Winslet were filled with times spent with Prah. Now, I am declaring that I will sever all those times.

I’m not at ease. I never wanted to be a villain to anyone. I resolved not to live a life where I thrust a knife into others’ hearts, even if I couldn’t live virtuously.

But... I had no choice. For everyone’s happy ending, I had to become the villain. For the characters I lovingly crafted in this novel to survive, there was no other way.

The moment the roles go awry, disaster follows.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that I can steer the flow exactly as in the original. There will likely be many hitches. But if I refuse the role of the villain, I can’t even follow that flow.

I must prevent that at all costs.

It’s better than everyone dying. Without taking risks, there’s no moving forward. That’s the kind of novel this is. Because it’s the world I created.

And if I survive until the end of Chapter 3, there will surely be something I can do afterward.

I had to act with that in mind.

To ensure my narrative concludes and I secure time to build my own unique narrative.

Thinking it over again, I was furious with myself for writing such a novel.

If I had written a gentler story, I wouldn’t have had to pretend to be bad, to engage in such distasteful behavior.

...It’s about time. Time for the original protagonists to appear.

I deliberately took a step closer to Aris. Startled by my approach, she stepped back.

It’s still the early part of the story. Her abilities, not having achieved significant growth yet, are certainly below Prah Lancel’s at this point.

It’s the perfect setup.

If I’m going to be trash, better to fuel their animosity to the fullest and... spur their growth.

I rushed at her like a predator spotting its prey, seizing her wrist with a gleam in my eye.

“Let, let go!”

Only then did she realize that Prah, who used to be sometimes gruff yet kind, her longtime childhood friend, had changed.

...Though it’s true he’s changed, since the person inside is different now.

And then, at that moment, I heard the voice I had been eagerly awaiting. A voice Prah Lancel would recognize.

“Aris!”

Ruslan Ares. The protagonist of this novel.

An intimidating aura poured towards me, causing goosebumps to erupt on my arms.

Ruslan might not be very strong at this stage, but as the protagonist, he exuded a particularly sharp presence. Especially for me, facing someone’s murderous intent for the first time, it felt even more menacing.

Ruslan looked almost beside himself with rage. However, upon seeing me in front of Aris, his expression turned to shock.

“Prah?”

His surprise was understandable. Prah was as close to Aris as he was to Ruslan and the other friends. So, even with his rage flipped on its head, he was taken aback by this unexpected situation.

-Tap!

As I feigned surprise at them, Aris kicked me with her foot. It happened so suddenly, I had no time to react.

...Damn. That hurts.

“You’re, you’re trash. Prah Lancel.”

A chilling sharpness swirled in Aris’ trembling voice.

Faced with Aris’ disheveled appearance, her condition, and the contempt leaking from her eyes, Ruslan and his friends, the priest-in-training Johan and the magician Diana, couldn’t hide their confusion.

She had never shown such an expression towards Prah before.

“What’s going on here?”

“...”

“Aris. What happened? Why would Prah...?”

Johan asked with a dumbfounded look, I remained silent, and Ruslan pressed Aris for answers.

“Prah tried to, to assault me.”

She tried to sound calm, but her stuttering betrayed her shock.

The atmosphere turned icy in an instant. They looked at me as if they had heard something unbelievable.

...Damn. A chill runs down my spine.

“Is that true?”

Ruslan’s voice dropped. Trembling, Aris tried to straighten her disheveled clothes and nodded.

“Is it true, Prah?”

He asked me if Aris’s claim was true. The fact that he even bothered to verify with me was probably due to the image Prah had shown them up until now.

I couldn’t hesitate here. I had to be seen as trash by them. Only then would the demon Astaroth, recognizing me as the scum of humanity, approach me.

“...Yes.”

“Why? Why did you do it?”

“Because I had no other choice.”

“What?”

“You wouldn’t understand, being as superior as you are, but someone as pathetic as me can never win over the person they love, no matter how hard they struggle.”

Ruslan’s body froze in that moment.

“You claim to like Aris and then attempt to assault her? Are you truly insane?”

“...It’s ironic, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“How some can’t achieve in ten years of effort what others obtain so effortlessly. Isn’t that right, Ruslan?”

My mocking tone left Ruslan speechless. He had to be. He must have realized that Aris had feelings for him.

“So, all of this is my fault?”

“Who said it was your fault? It’s just... twisted. Filthily twisted. It feels disgusting. Someone spends ten years putting in the effort, and some jerk comes along and sweeps it all away.”

“Aris’s heart is for Aris to decide.”

“I know. So what? I’m so petty, I can’t stand to see others happy. If I can’t have it, then I’ll tarnish it. Thoroughly.”

Ruslan’s expression contorted further at my sneering voice.

“...Was everything you showed us till now just an act?”

An act is what I’ve been performing for you all.

“An act? Yes, an act... In a way, that’s true. Think about it. Who would be so devoted to someone they’re not even fond of?”

“What about me, Diana, and Johan?”

“You guys were just collateral. Got caught up in it because Aris liked you.”

“So, that’s what you thought.”

In that moment, Ruslan’s expression vanished entirely. It was like something out of a horror film. With every word I spoke, it felt as if the grim reaper was drawing closer to me.

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