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Chapter 2 - Prah Lancel. 18 years old. Attempted assault offender. (2)

Despite everything, it seems my performance was successful. Contempt and disgust began to rise in their eyes. I couldn’t decide whether to breathe a sigh of relief or tremble at the thought of what was to come.

I immediately tensed up. If my guess was right, Ruslan’s anger would soon explode. He might lash out with a kick or throw a punch.

Fortunately, the current me, as Prah, was nearly on par with Ruslan, the protagonist. A single misstep could mean my defeat... but the gap in our abilities was negligible. That was comforting enough.

As expected, he moved.

He closed the distance in an instant. But that movement alone was enough. With Prah’s memories and his experiences flowing into me, I was quite skilled in combat now.

At the very least, Prah was a seasoned warrior compared to my inexperienced self, who had only known childish brawls. Though Prah was average at best, his diligence and effort were not to be underestimated.

Above all... at this stage, even his average abilities were needed.

I couldn’t afford to start this saga crippled. If I took a hit from him, I’d be done for.

Ruslan chose to kick.

Whoosh!

His foot, whipping through the air, came at me with a tear through the atmosphere. It was a vicious kick, capable of rupturing my insides if it landed squarely. I had to block it.

No, merely blocking it wasn’t enough. I needed to look for an opening, to turn the tables on him. A moment’s weakness could lead to a beating severe enough to kill.

My decision was instantaneous. I grabbed his approaching foot. The force behind the kick was heavy in my hands, and soon a numbness enveloped them.

But I couldn’t show any sign of it. Ignoring the numbness, I gripped his foot tightly and infused it with my magic power.

I had never handled magic in my life, but Prah’s body and his ingrained habits allowed even a novice like me to wield magic. It was only basic-level magic manipulation, but in this situation, it was more than enough.

Ruslan seemed taken aback that his kick was blocked, his reaction delayed by surprise. That brief moment was enough for me to twist his ankle.

Crack.

“Argh...!”

Despite his twisted ankle, he suppressed a groan and immediately aimed another kick at my head. A direct hit would be fatal. I dodged his kick by moving my head and retracted the hand that had twisted his foot.

Whoosh!

The mere air pressure was enough to whip my hair around. A direct hit would have surely resulted in a concussion, or worse, had me writhing on the ground. It was a strike filled with undeniable intent.

But ultimately, I had evaded his off-balance strike, and the advantage was now decidedly in my favor.

At this point, the gap between Prah and Ruslan wasn’t significant. Over time, that gap would widen, but right now, I had a chance to compete with him.

And now, I had twisted his ankle first? This essentially meant my victory. With one foot out of commission, his current skills weren’t enough to defeat me.

Prah Lancel was certainly a villain, but before his fall, he was a hard worker. His accumulated efforts made this possible.

I stood up and kicked him in the torso. He had attempted to harm me first, so this was self-defense. The kick he had aimed at my head could have been fatal, depending on the victim.

“Cough!”

The thought crossed my mind that this could disrupt the narrative, but I dismissed it. Such a minor deviation wouldn’t alter the grand scheme.

Defeating him here wasn’t a major issue. He wasn’t particularly strong in the early days of the academy. Moreover, Ruslan and his group making it this far meant they had likely reported to the academy’s authorities.

Eventually, I would be subdued by the academy’s guards, and they would be in shock from witnessing my transformation. As long as the story’s core remains intact, there’s no risk of derailing the narrative.

Of course, their hostility towards me would intensify, but that was inevitable. Surviving the upcoming challenges wouldn’t be easy if I were crippled.

Even the original Prah, before meeting Astaroth, was bedridden... Preserving my physical integrity now seemed preferable, especially in anticipation of future events.

“Kyaa!”

As Ruslan fell pathetically, Diana screamed, and Johan tried to stop me in vain. Being a healing priest and not a battle priest, his frailty rendered him incapable of stopping me.

Aris was no different. Her kick had only affected me earlier because I was focused on Ruslan.

Diana couldn’t even think to use magic. It was inevitable.

Despite appearing delicate and fitting the mold of a gentle woman, she was in fact quite rational and decisive.

Even she must be enveloped in considerable turmoil right now.

She wouldn’t have expected the usually polite and kind Prah to commit such madness.

Her rationality made it all the more unexpected.

In other words, there was no one here to stop me from beating Ruslan down like a dog. Aris tried to stop me by shouting, but would I really stop at just that?

Ruslan is a tough one; a twisted ankle wouldn’t make him give up. He’d probably try to hit my head with his broken foot. It was necessary to crush his spirit completely.

The academy has its own unique body to prevent disputes among students. But I’m not worried.

The authority of the Lancel family, to which Prah belongs, is above the academy.

The reason Prah survives until Chapter 3 of the novel might partly be due to the power of the demon Astaroth he’s contracted with... but fundamentally, it’s because he’s born with a silver spoon, or rather, a diamond spoon in this novel’s context.

Lancel. A meritorious family of the Talantis Empire, enjoying the emperor’s boundless trust. Prah is the sole heir to such a family.

Moreover, the Lancels have been supporting the academy financially in accordance with the wishes of the empire’s founding emperor since its establishment.

With such a family openly intervening, Prah Lancel was practically an entity outside the academy’s rules.

He could make serious offenses like attempted r*pe and assault on a student who tried to protect her seem ‘trivial’.

Attempted r*pe, assault... Under normal circumstances, these would warrant expulsion under the academy’s strict rules, but my status would shield me. The strict rules become lenient when the Lancel name is involved.

Furthermore, Prah Lancel’s usual demeanor would prevent severe punishment.

Prah, who didn’t let the power of the Lancel family go to his head and treated others with respect. He even helped students who were too poor to afford the academy, ensuring they didn’t have to give up on their studies.

So, this incident... might be dismissed as a young man’s folly in love. Of course, this would be the conclusion drawn by the academy’s executive body and the academy itself, but it would inevitably attract scorn for suppressing crimes with authority.

How long had it been? Right after Ruslan was beaten to the point of being unable to resist properly, I sensed someone’s presence.

There was no need to look. It was the executive body of the Celus Academy, responding to the report.

The situation was over.

* * *

Everything that followed unfolded exactly as I had anticipated.

My punishment was merely a month of confinement. Since Prah’s memories already contained the academy’s curriculum, exams posed no problem.

Aris, Ruslan, and the others protested vehemently. It was to be expected. Aris would have hoped for my rehabilitation from this incident, and Ruslan would not be inclined to forgive me for scarring Aris emotionally and assaulting him.

However, the story doesn’t proceed as they wish.

The protagonist must face trials befitting them, and this is no exception for those by the protagonist’s side. The inner turmoil, pain, and frustration that Aris, the main heroine affected by Prah Lancel, experiences are narratives meant solely for her.

So, what am I doing now?

I’m diligently organizing future events in my dormitory room. My anonymously authored novel might be mediocre, but its volume is substantial, so I must jot down what I remember to avoid confusion about the plot later.

Fortunately, having poured over each chapter countless times, I could outline the story’s flow without issue. My focus, in particular, was on Prah Lancel’s story.

Having already decided on my course of action, all that remains is to wait.

For Astaroth, Prah Lancel’s greatest ally and the demon who will torment the protagonist and his group until Chapter 3.

* * *

Astaroth, under the alias Astira, was attending the academy.

In the original story, the contract between Prah Lancel and Astaroth takes place in a church.

It’s an overly sacred location for a pact with a demon, but Astaroth is a powerful demon. The church’s sanctity couldn’t suppress her.

When you think about it, it’s quite a preposterous setting. The mere fact that Astaroth, a high-ranking demon, can freely roam the academy is enough to suggest that something is amiss with the story.

There was a reason I set up the novel this way.

Astaroth differed from other demons who sought to tear apart humans and angels.

She was, when it came down to it, a demon who loved humanity. Not in the sense of loving an individual, but in her affection for what humans had built and achieved.

Above all, what she cherished most were the intense emotions derived from humans.

The reason she took an interest in Prah and entered into a contract with him in the original story was precisely because of such reasons. The affection Prah harbored for Aris was intensely profound.

Thus, there was no reason for her to despise humans like other demons did.

Moreover, emotions were the source of her power. She grew stronger by feasting on delicious feelings. There was no need for her to tear humans apart.

Therefore, Astaroth could be considered significantly less dangerous than other demons who actively sought to slaughter humans.

But there was one issue. Currently, I don’t harbor intense emotions towards Aris. If I wasn’t careful, Astaroth might not take an interest in me.

What to do? The dilemma was brief. In fact, it wasn’t something worth pondering over. Currently, a far greater emotion was swirling within me than any affection for Aris.

The fear of this unstable situation. The fear of not knowing when my life might end. The fear that the narrative of this novel might not progress correctly, leading to everything’s end.

Fear, in essence, is one of the most primal emotions humans possess... a feeling incomparable to the affection Prah felt for Aris.

Fear is Astaroth’s favorite delicacy. If my predictions were correct, she wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to feast on me. Definitely.

In the end, there was only one thing I needed to do. I sat diligently in the church every day, praying. Despite the scorching scrutiny of those around me, I fervently attended church.

Occasionally.

“Disgusting. I thought he was a good person... but it was all an act.”

“Does he think he can receive absolution after doing such things?”

I heard murmurs like these... but honestly, since I had anticipated such reactions, they didn’t bother me much.

In any case, I even obtained permission from the priests to stay late in the church.

Whether they were moved by my apparent desire to confess my sins to God, or by the substantial donation I subtly offered, the priests allowed me to pray late into the night.

How many days and nights had I spent like this? Today, as always, in the silent church emptied of people, suddenly, someone’s footsteps echoed. The clacking sound resonated unusually loud in my ears.

I was getting a bite.

“Hello.”

To me, sitting quietly in a church pew offering prayers, a girl with black hair grown long enough to cover her face, her appearance belied by her cheerful demeanor, initiated a conversation.

“My name is Astira. You’re Prah Lancel, right?”

I turned my head to look at her.

Beneath the obscured face, a deep smile was etched on her lips. I, too, smiled inwardly.

Caught you. Astaroth.

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