29 Chapter 7 - Part 1 - Night of the preparation

The night has already embraced the world with its starless darkness.

In the room lit with candles, Zoemi was preparing all the necessary things that his master, lady Miriette, will need in the Academy, and only after he checked every single thing at least three times over did he start packing up all of his own things.

At first, he was going to enter the Academy as lady Miriette's attendant and nothing else, but when he awakened to magic - even though it was the dreaded darkness attribute - it was decided that he will attend it as a student.

Although both the first prince Horeo and their magic tutor, sir Vatlo Jora Erest, had denied having anything to do with that, Zoemi actually suspected that at least one of them had something to do with his admission and acceptance into the prestigious institution where the kingdom's elites gathered...

Despite his initial shock and fear over the possibility of bringing shame to his master, the prospect of becoming a student wasn't bad at all!

Zoemi was even relieved to a certain extent, because as Miriette and Horeo's classmate he would have far more chances to interfere with the future scripted events, and with far greater efficiency at that – after all, a mere attendant is not allowed to accompany their master at all time during classes and certain after school activities – which was a problem that gets instantly resolved with how the things were going.

But on the other hand, the black-haired boy was terribly bothered by the slim chance that he will bring shame to his master.

Not in terms of intelligence, manners, or practice, mind you – the black-haired boy could hold his own in terms of knowledge and physical prowess, sure, but his magic was weak – not to mention that it was the dreaded darkness attribute that most of the magicians abhorred more than anything – and...

...then was the case of his appearance...

"..."

With a heavy heart, Zoemi caressed the specially prepared iron mask that would hide the disfigured part of his face.

He picked it up and put it on.

"Tsk...!"

He clicked his tongue as the cold metal felt alien and uncomfortable once it came in contact with the sensitive skin of the burn scar.

"...haaaa..."

Zoemi looked at his reflection in the mirror and sighed.

The mask wasn't pretty for sure, but it was still a step up from his usual look – for whatever reason, it made him look like a rejected villain character – which was quite fitting when considering who Miriette was in the game – but unfortunately, that did not boost his spirit when he looked at the healthy part of his face and saw how he could look like...

"I don't like it."

"...!"

The black-haired boy flinched when he heard a voice behind his back and as he turned around he saw his master standing at his doorstep in her nightgown, crossing her arms and leaning against the doorframe of his room and glaring at him with a strict expression.

"My lady?"

Zoemi gasped and got down on one knee before calling out to her in a surprised tone.

"That mask. I don't like it."

Miriette repeated in a stern voice.

"Umm..."

Zoemi tried to reason with her.

"But my lady, without it people will see my ugly face? Please, consider what would happen if they will think less of you because you allow such a repulsive man to be your attendant? I cannot allow such a thing to happen! I'd rather die than bring you any trouble!"

He declared not daring to raise his head and look at the black-haired girl.

"...Zoemi..."

Miriette put her arms down and her glare softened as she whispered her attendant's name.

"Still, can you at least take it off for now, please?"

"At once, my lady."

She asked and Zoemi fulfilled her wish without hesitation.

He took off the mask, though he kept it in his hand as if declaring that he will put it back on later.

"..."

Miriette moved - she slowly walked towards the kneeling Zoemi and reached her hand towards him.

"..."

The young man didn't budge and Miriette's hand touched the misshapen part of his face.

She traced every unnatural bump and crevice of the burn-mark with her fingers, observing her motionless attendant.

"Zoemi..."

The girl whispered, barely able to hide her real emotions.

"Are you... Are you ashamed of the wound you've suffered while protecting me...? Do you regret jumping in the way of that fireball?"

She asked, looking down as her shoulders trembled from guilt.

"What...!?"

Zoemi flinched and raised his head to look into his master's eyes.

"My lady, there's no way for that to be true!"

He declared while tears gathered in the corners of his eye.

"Protecting you is my life's purpose, your happiness is my deepest wish! There's no such thing as a shameful wound if me suffering it has spared you from harm!"

He declared feverishly and trembled from the burning need to explain himself to the girl so that she would not blame herself.

"...Zoemi..."

Miriette smiled weakly and wiped his tears with her thumb.

"Then... if you're proud of protecting me you don't have to hide your scars, do you?"

She asked with a soft smile.

"But the people will talk behind your...!"

"Shh...!"

The black-haired boy tried to argue with her, but Miriette silenced him by pressing the same thumb that she used to wipe his tears to his lips without removing her hand from the disfigured part of his face.

"So what if the people talk? If they are foolish enough to not see past the superficial looks and see your true worth, that will only show how blind they are! Why would I even have to care for such people!?"

"...! My lady...!"

Zoemi felt the comforting warmth spreading through his chest that Miriette's words brought.

His master was a truly outstanding person and he would do everything in his power to protect her happiness.

To show her his resolve, Zoemi threw the mask in a corner of the room.

When the clunking of metal stopped Miriette's smile widened and Zoemi had to look down or his heart wouldn't take it.

"Well then, now that it's settled, goodnight Zoemi."

The girl spoke and let go of the boy's face with hesitation as if she did not want to stop touching him.

"Goodnight, my lady."

The black-haired boy bowed down even deeper than before and spoke in a grateful tone.

And so Miriette returned to her room and Zoemi continued the preparation.

But after entering her room and laying down in her bed Miriette didn't immediately go to sleep... Instead, she was greatly focused on the hand she was touching Zoemi's scar with.

Slowly...

...very slowly...

...she put up that hand to her cheek and longingly nuzzled her face against it.

"...my Zoemi..."

She curled up into a ball and whispered into her pillow.

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