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   THMP. With a hard thunk, the White King’s means of escape were cut off.
   Groaning in despair, I glared at the board.

   Wasn’t there any way to make him live?

   It was too late to try and pull anything. My small brain couldn’t find a way to let the poor king escape.

   Teeth grinding, I managed to endure my frustration, and let it go with a sigh. Tipping over the piece of the king with a finger, I muttered in a small voice, “I give up.”

   Ahhh, geeez, I’m sooo pissed off!
   How many times have I had to forfeit because of my childish tactics? Actually, no need to ask. I knew how many times without having to count on my fingers. 32. My game record was riddled with consecutive losses; I was so upset I could hardly forget.

   Did I make a wrong move? I studied the board intently, and the sound of stifled laughter reached my ears.

   If you know anyone who loses and feels good getting laughed at by the winner, I’d like you to tell me.

   “It’s bad form to laugh, brother.”


   Christof slowly narrowed his light blue* eyes, the deep pitch of his laugh sounding very adult.

   My brother just turned 13 years old the other day, so it wasn’t that surprising.

   He sat with his hands folded on his lap, his body deeply sunken into the couch. He now has a maturity and sex appeal that he didn’t possess as a child.

   “Rose, you show your feelings very easily.”

   “Do you think so?”

   Hmmm. I lightly poked my cheek with a finger.

   That’s the first time anyone’s ever said that.
   Just like Chris, my facial muscles don’t really get put to work. I’m really grateful when they don’t show how unsettled I am, but I always think I’d be cuter as a girl if my expressions were a little more lively.

   “When you’re upset, it’s written all over your face.”


   “I only started noticing it when we played chess, but you really hate to lose.”

   He hit the mark so easily, I pouted and turned my face away.

   “Because I’m not winning at all.”

   I did hate to lose. I knew it, too. I didn’t actually like conflict, but so long as I was playing I wanted to win. Even if my opponent were my older brother, I wouldn’t hesitate to beat him to a pulp.
   I don’t need to be cute. I’ll knock down all of my foes with girl power!**

   “Your moves are too tame. You need to remember to be a little more forceful.”

   His reasoning made a lot of sense, so I didn’t say anything.

   Even though he was good-looking, he wasn’t excessive, and was actually a hardworking person. He seemed aloof, but he was kind to his younger brother and sister.
   Damned brother! He’s so perfect I can’t even diss him inside my heart! What a cheat!

   In his few moments of spare time, he’d come by and play chess with me as a way to check up on me.
   Last year, Johan went to our neighboring kingdom to study, so Chris has been worried that I’d be lonely.

   Damned brother! (second time)
   Not only do you have the looks, you’re also nice! Are you the hero of some freaking shoujo manga! What are you, a prince! Oh right, you are a prince!

   “I’ll practice until the day I can have an even match with you, brother.”

   Even though I was sulking a like a sore loser, my brother smiled at me gently.
   Really, he’s such a cheat.

   Worrying if there was a double meaning behind my losses, I began to tidy up the pieces. I had assumed Chris would return immediately, but he started helping me.
   Even when I said, I’ll do it, he refused.

   “I want to talk with you,” he said.

   About what?

   I tensed up nervously at the sudden change.
   Please don’t point out my flaws again, I silently wished.

   “Before long, we’ll be receiving wizards.”

   “Wizards…?” I repeated, stunned.

   A wizard, meaning that wizard??
   The one who was a love interest, liked corpses, and traumatized me? That guy?!

   I thought I still had a long way to go until we met, so it was a big shock.
   In my mind, I could clearly picture the scenario for his Bad Ending.

   Believing he had been betrayed by the Heroine, the Wizard murdered her, then froze her body. While it was not in his habit to laugh, he was smiling in ecstasy, kissing the Heroine who had been turned into an ice sculpture, and said, “I love you most when you don’t say a thing.”

   The art for that scene was extremely gorgeous, so it was really popular with some. I didn’t feel the same.
   I mean, according to his words, the Heroine’s character was completely irrelevant to him? In a roundabout way, he was saying that he only cared about her face and body??

   Furthermore, the Wizard’s Bad Route was very weird. If you wavered even a little, it was instant checkmate.

   As evidence of entering his Bad Route, the Wizard will smile and the story will become traumatizing. Even though he never once smiled in his True Route, in the Bad Route, he was grinning ear-to-ear from beginning to end. It was terrifying.

   Holding onto my stomach, which had begun to hurt again, I continued listening to Chris.

   “Their names are Lutz Eilenberg and Theo Eilenberg. No doubt they’ll start as apprentices, but they’ve been placed under the tutelage of Miss Artmann, your teacher.”

   Apprentices, huh.
   Well, for appearance’s sake, they had to be called that.

   Lady Irene von Artmann was my teacher in the study of medicine and astrology. She was also a wizard directly employed by the royal family.

   Btw, mother turned 30 recently.

   I’d like to say the the skills of a wizard was limitless, but the wizards in this world actually differed a little from the ones who appeared in fantasy media.
   There were no flashy spells like Kaboom, Ultima, or Cyclone.

   Borrowing the power naturally dwelling inside your spirit, you can call forth fire or water, but it would be weak—fire as big as a lamp, or as little as a spring of water. Furthermore, power oozes out in a small trickle, so you couldn’t build it up.

   The majority of wizards either had green thumbs and could raise all sorts of trees and flowers, studied medicine, predicted the weather, or took up jobs as doctors and healers.

   The strength of magic is gradually weakening, and will someday disappear entirely from this world. It’s quite rare for anyone to be born with the “real thing”.
   That’s why the two of them are definitely out of the norm.

   One was Lutz Eilenberg, the Wizard love interest.
   He was one of those rare geniuses, and could manipulate water magic at will.

   The other was Theo Eilenberg, a support character who deeply affected Lutz’s route, and had the promising makings of a great fire-attribute wizard.
   By the way, their last names are the same, but they’re not brothers. They both came from the same orphanage, and “Eilenberg” was the family name of the priest who raised them.

   The reason why they had been sent to the royal palace was for “surveillance”, and also, their “protection”.

   In a world where magic has largely dried up, guys like them who possessed a lot of power are seen as heretics.
   If they incited fear in the people, they might become the targets of a witch hunt. Before that happened, the kingdom intended to protect them, instruct them in the correct usage of their powers, and train them to support the kingdom in return.

   “They’ll be learning beside the same teacher, so you’ll probably have a lot of opportunities to meet. Treat them well.”

   Honestly, I was afraid of meeting them, but I can’t not meet them.

   However, if he were left to his own devices, we were in danger of corpses piling up.

   Ultimately, I’d feel guilty about knowing and pretending not to see. If I did ignore the issue, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself for the shame.
   I refuse to pay for that crime for the rest of my life.

   “Yes, brother.”

   I meekly nodded.

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