It’s nothing, you’re in denial.
(4)

“Leah?”

I turned around and noticed Leah’s hand, which was dripping with blood.
It looked like it had been cut from breaking the branch.
As his hand was stained red from a cut that was more grave than I thought, I left Vivian aside and hurriedly ran towards Leto.

“Are you okay?!”

At my words, Leto seemed more responsive for some reason.
He showed me his wound and shook his head.
Erasing his smile, he frowned from the pain.
I observed his hand.
Fortunately the cut was not very deep, but there were broken twigs inside the open flesh.
I had to remove them.

“Stay still.”

I frowned when the splinter appeared deeper than I expected.
It seems that we had to go to the infirmary.

“This won’t do.
Let’s go to the infirmary.”

“Are you going with me?”

At his words, I finally realised Vivian’s existence, who had been watching us.
He smiled awkwardly before opening his mouth.

“I, I’ll be fine, so you guys can go on.”

“Okay.”

I hurriedly grabbed Leto’s other hand and dragged him to the infirmary.
Unfortunately, the nurse in charge seemed to be absent for lunch break.
I brought Leto inside the empty infirmary and grabbed some medicine, cotton balls and tweezers to remove the splinter.

Although I’ve never treated other people’s wounds, I had experienced removing them since I often played around and got splinters in the past.

“Spread your hand.”

Leto calmly spread his hand.
Just how hard did he break the branch to get splinters like this? What I saw pained me.
First, I soaked the cotton with antiseptic solution, wiped the area around Leto’s wounds, then inspected the splinter.
I hope it doesn’t hurt during the removal process.

“This might sting a little.”

I warned him, but Leto didn’t even budge.

“This is nothing.”

Leto said, nonchalantly.

“What do you mean nothing? You’re hurt.”

“When I was young……I’ve been in more pain than this.”

Those words instantly made my mouth shut.
I had only read it in the book, but when he actually said it now, it made me realised that I didn’t understand the kind of abuse Leto really faced.
How many thorns were lodged in his body if he said he had been in more pain than this? I stroked Leto’s hand gently and carefully pulled out the thorns in his hand. 

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It was painful, but Leto stayed very still.
With a calm face that expressed he was unbothered by the pain.
It was difficult to remove the splinters.
When I tried to remove them, it went deeper instead.
It would be much easier if it was removed by magic, but I wasn’t an expert in any healing skills.

I wanted to remove all of them.
All the painful thorns in Leto’s body.
I wanted to remove those thorns so they wouldn’t rot and burn the skin.
Allowing the flesh to heal.
Was that also my ultimate intention?

“You guys talked for quite a while just now.”

While I was concentrating, Leto said carefully.
It was about Vivian.

“Yeah.
Did you know? Vivian appeared to come from a family that manufactures milk.”

When I spoke with a grin, Leto remained silent.

“My family owns a bank.”

“……?”

“My father is close to the Emperor.”

……Why is he suddenly mentioning that? When Leto noticed my gaze, he slowly turned his head and replied with a red face.

“I’m just saying.”

Was he trying to appeal himself because I wasn’t paying attention to him? I always thought Leto had a rather childish side to him.
It was just like now.
I burst into laughter but quickly covered my mouth.
When I glanced at Leto, he was staring at me with an even redder face – perhaps from hearing my laughter.

I hurriedly erased my smile and tried to remove the splinters again.

“So, did you only talked about that?”

Today, Leto was very interested about me.
Was he secretly the type to enjoy watching someone confess? Come to think of it, it was my first time receiving a confession, and it was all because I was told to just go for it.
To relieve Leto’s curiosity, I nodded.

“We talked about a lot of things.
It was fun.”

“……that fun?”

Was it just me or did Leto’s voice suddenly turned cold?

“Do you like him?”

“He seems like a good kid.”

“You like girls.”

I hesitated.

“T-That’s right.”

“If he asked you out, will you date him?”

Leto really had a lot of questions for me today.

Because of that, I became too distracted to grab the splinters with the tweezers, let alone pull them out.
Leto, on the other hand, only urged for my answer and seemed unconcerned if the splinters would really dig into his flesh and rot.
As I was about to answer, the infirmary door opened.

“Oh, what’s this?”

The nurse came in and took a look at Leto’s hand.

“It’s deeply embedded.”

“I can’t even pull it out with tweezers.”

The nurse said it was alright and told Leto to show his hand.
Leto held out his hand to the nurse with a grim look on his face.
The nurse drew a magic circle on Leto’s hand and swiftly removed the splinters from his flesh.

As expected of a professional.
Somehow, it felt like a waste of time struggling with that splinter for several minutes.

“It’s done.”

I thanked the nurse in Leto’s stead.
As I was about to leave, Leto caught me.

“What I said earlier……”

“Huh?”

“No, it’s fine.”

I guess it’s nothing.
After that, Leto and I headed for our major class.

* * *

Even though Professor Hartz had lab classes, his major theory classes felt entirely different.
The letters written on the large blackboard were barely visible.
The professor’s words were slowly sweeping away into an unknown black hole and my hands wouldn’t move, as if it had lost telepathic communication.

When I first entered Lexley Academy, I had made a promise to myself to study harder than anyone else to raise my rank.
Though, I guess I narrowly entered and would narrowly graduate too.
I didn’t put in any effort.
They say successful people are diligent.
Leto, who passed the entrance exam in first place, was much more motivated than I was.

“Bree!”

After class was over, I heard a voice calling out to me from behind.
While continuously yawning, I saw Vivian running from afar.
He smiled at me and ran past the crowd.
He didn’t need to run, though.
Regardless, I waited for him to arrive, and Leto, who was in front of me, slyly stuck his foot out.

At that moment, Vivian, who didn’t notice his foot, tripped and fell down in the hallway.
Unlike me, who was surprised, Leto feigned ignorance as if he hadn’t just stuck his foot out.
While I was thinking of scolding Leto in my mind, I reached my hand out to Vivian on the floor.

“Are you okay?”

“Ah……”

Falling in such a crowded place, Vivian’s face flushed red from embarrassment.
When he hesitated to grab my hand, someone lifted Vivian up.

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It was Leto.
He calmly pulled Vivian’s body up without any difficulty.

“Th-Thanks…”

Vivian stared at Leto and thanked him.
Unbothered, Leto stood beside me without responding.

“I’m glad I saw you.
You have <10 Theories of Natural Sciences> liberal arts class after this, right? I actually took that lecture too.”

“Really?”

I never realised.
Well, I didn’t exactly stared at every student’s faces during the liberal arts class either.

“Yes.
Can I go with you?”

“That’s fine.
Right, Leah?”

When I asked, Leto turned his head and walked towards the classroom first.
Vivian stared at Leto’s back and whispered to me quietly.

“I think Leah doesn’t like me.”

“She’s a kid who keeps her distance.”

I defended quietly, but in truth, I also had a lot of complaints about Leto.
Vivian didn’t do anything, but it felt like Leto kept picking a fight with Vivian.
Though, it could have just been my imagination, so I simply observed the situation silently. 

However, I soon realised that it wasn’t my imagination.
Throughout the liberal arts class, Leto kept intervening whenever I talked with Vivian.
He would cut off Vivian’s words and not allow him to finish his sentences.
I thought that was all, but even when we stopped by the library for a while after the class, Leto took over Vivian’s seat and sat on my left.

Thanks to that, Vivian became even more embarrassed.
In the end, I couldn’t even say a few words to Vivian.
When I returned to the dormitory, I stared at Leto, who was in a good mood.

“What is wrong with you today?”

When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I asked.
Leto shrugged his shoulders, feigning ignorance.

“I meant Vivian.
Did something happened with him? If you have any issues, tell me.”

“Issues?”

Leto shook his head, indicating he had no complaint.
In response to his obvious lie, I got up and approached Leto.

Perhaps noticing the atmosphere from my serious expression, he immediately wiped away his smile.

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“You mean you’ve been bothering him all day and you still don’t have any issues? Who would believe that?”

“You.”

“What?”

“You would believe me.”

I became speechless from Leto’s shameless remark.
What is he saying right now?

“Unbelievable.
That’s just ridiculous.”

“Don’t stay close to him.”

“Why the hell not?”

My inner temper appeared.

“He’s approaching you for a serious relationship.
He has an impure intention.
But you don’t want to date him, do you? So it’s better to cut it off quickly.”

“But…”

“Why? Are you going to date him?”

That’s not what I meant…… Leto kept on mentioning rational things, so my argument was easily defeated, but I was still angry.

“That’s my business.
Why are you interfering?”

“……You did that too.”

I was startled by Leto’s words.

“You’ve also interfered in my business, one by one.
So, why are you getting angry?”

“……”

“Are you telling me to get out of the way and leave now?”

Leto lowered his head.
Why am I reminded of Kazen’s words at this moment? It seems like I was really approaching Leto with a purpose. 

“I’m going to sleep, so don’t bother me.”

Leto covered himself with a blanket and turned away.
In the end, I was left standing while staring at Leto’s back.

For some reason, it felt as if I was paying the price for my actions.

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