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    Loves Error

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    The main hall we arrived in was immense.

    It was surprising to see that, despite being taller and larger than the Ernhardt mansion’s banquet hall, the number of pillars was very few.

    A total of twelve chandeliers adorned the space, and the stairs leading to the dais consisted of seven steps.

    I had heard that the number of steps on the emperor’s dais was nine, corresponding to the number of gods on this continent, and that the dukes’ and marquises’ dais had five steps. Therefore, this must be the second-highest number of steps in the empire.

    An enormous red rug stretched from the highest point of the dais to the entrance of the hall.

    Hersey Milton, who had shown me to where I was supposed to be, bid farewell in a measly voice and moved to the left side of the hall.

    There, boys and girls dressed identically to him stood side by side in single-file lines, observing the new students.

    Using my senses, it seemed that about a third of them were students from the swordsmanship division.

    Ten of the students were third-rate martial artists, seven were second-rate, two were first-rate, and none had reached beyond the peak level.

    Having inwardly prided myself on the level I had attained after forty years of training, I was quite taken aback by the level of these young boys and girls, who appeared to have just passed the age of fifteen.

    It was a level I had only managed to reach after turning twenty myself.

    I found myself unable to tear my gaze away from them, feeling as though I were watching the promising talents of the Ten Great Sects I had seen in my past life.

    Wooong, a deep resonance echoed through the auditorium.

    The speech, opening with “Welcome, all new students of the Cieran Academy,” was neither short nor long.

    From where I stood, all I could discern was that the speaker was a woman well into her middle age.

    Her silver-grey hair was neatly tied and hung down, not meticulously groomed but arranged in a way that seemed to allow each strand to settle as comfortably as possible in its place.

    One hundred and twenty new students. To our left were about ninety working scholarship students, and to our right, about ninety teachers.

    It was quite the spectacle to have about three hundred people, myself included, standing there, all observing one person’s mouth. Even words that weren’t particularly remarkable sounded impressive in that moment.

    I shook my head, thinking this was all because my family only had about fifty-something knights. In the past, I had run alongside tens of thousands of martial artists to halt the rise of the Demonic Cult…

    It was all useless. Laughable, even.

    As the speech drew to a close, a new student stepped onto the dais as a representative.

    I didn’t have to look for long to discern that he had just attained the level of a second-rate martial artist.

    He was a boy from the same swordsmanship division as me, and I couldn’t help but wonder what made him superior to me. As I observed him closely, a red-haired boy next to me lightly nudged the back of my hand with his own.

    “Don’t glare like that. The representative for the new students at the Cieran Academy has always been a commoner, Michael Ernhardt.”

    “Mn.”

    “It’s unreasonable to grade based on titles anyone has yet to even inherit.”

    “Mn.”

    As I nodded in understanding, the boy, for some reason wearing a vexed expression, shot me a glare before quickly looking away.

    It was only after hearing the freshmen representative speak in a firm and concise voice about being diligent in our studies, holding high ideals, and dedicating ourselves to the glory of the empire that I finally realized why the boy next to me seemed so exasperated.

    I had forgotten to express my gratitude, deeming it inappropriate to speak while everyone else remained silent.

    Still keeping my gaze fixed ahead, I opened my mouth to say, “Thank you.”

    “…Are you talking to me?”

    “Because you’re a peer who informed me of something I didn’t know…?”

    “You—don’t you remember me?”

    “…Mn.”

    That was a troublesome statement.

    I was so busy with training that I even considered family vacations in the summer and winter to be a waste of time. As I hadn’t yet turned fifteen and hadn’t made my debut in high society, I only sent gifts in the name of my family to other families’ banquets and parties and never attended them myself.

    Every year on my birthday, I would reunite with dozens of boys and girls. However, it was impossible to memorize all the names of the forty to fifty who would come and go in a rush, all in one day.

    Some kids who came to my birthday last year didn’t come this year, and naturally, some who didn’t come last year did come this year.

    On top of that, among those kids, there were over ten who had red hair, like that of a fox!

    Combining my past and current lives, I was already over fifty years old, so where would I find the time to memorize the faces of children I only met once a year?

    By the time I was eight, I was already over my head trying to memorize the names of my family, our knights, and the servants within the manor, learning five names a day!

    I never forgot the strange rules of each and every formation, but I never quite managed to memorize these bizarre names all at once.

    I was even afraid of forgetting my own name.

    Even without a response, the boy seemed to notice that I had forgotten his name. He bit down on his lower lip, glaring at me.

    The boy’s eye level was exactly one chi¹ higher than mine.

    He had slightly curly red hair that cascaded down to his nape, giving him the appearance of a young fox. His eyes were razor-sharp, light yellow with a hint of green, reminiscent of a cat.

    Like most of the young boys I had met in my current life, he was a pretty boy with a fair face and a slender jaw. As I looked at his pointed expression, a scene suddenly flashed through my mind.

    “…Shi, She, We…”

    “If you don’t remember, just say so.”

    “Sorry. I don’t remember.”

    “Shayden Rose. Today makes it the ninth time I’ve taught you.”

    His sulky answer seemed to hint that there wouldn’t be a tenth.

    It was only then that I remembered. He was the boy who always left a gift with his family emblem—a rose—on top of the packaging, along with a card.

    However, as with most birthday parties, gifts were typically collected in one place. The servants would open them first, sort them out, and then hand them over after the birthday was over.

    His unspoken tactic was doomed to fail from the moment over twenty boys and girls began to write their names clearly on the cards, asking me to remember them.

    Remembering the faces of those from the central plains was easy, but the people of the Cieran Empire all had large eyes, tall noses, and slender faces, making it hard to remember unless I observed their faces for a long time.

    Thinking that I might as well take this opportunity to commit the kid’s face and name to memory, I subtly shifted my body towards him.

    “I won’t forget it now. Shayden Rose.”

    “…W-why are you looking at me like that?”

    “I’m trying not to forget.”

    If our families frequently interacted, it was safe to assume they were rather close.

    Given that Shayden Rose had been speaking informally to me first, I decided to drop the formalities as well.

    In truth, among those who came to my birthday celebration, I couldn’t remember who I spoke to formally and who I spoke to casually, so I used honorifics with everyone equally.

    As soon as I answered, the kid pouted, his lips red from biting. What surprised me after being reborn was that the people of this land, boys and girls alike, handled their faces with meticulous care.

    They narrowed their eyes like the gisaengs of the imperial capital, raised their heads with a gentle grace as if dancing, and fixed their gaze in the distance. Their lips never rested—always pouting, smiling brightly, or being bitten down on, revealing all their emotions.

    In my previous life—no, in the Murim Alliance, I had never seen anyone make such expressions.

    Most of them were silent, only slightly raising the corners of their lips when they smiled.

    The fools from the Peng Clan of Hebei and the ruffians from the unorthodox sects laughed boisterously, their uvulas visible, while the figures of the Murim Alliance, including the Namgung Clan, maintained a calm and quiet demeanour, men and women alike, as if they were monks or ascetics.

    With actual monks and ascetics from Shaolin, Emei, Wudang, Mount Hua, and Zhongnan leading the way, it was inevitable that these coy individuals would dominate eight-tenths of the righteous sects.

    I didn’t spend much time observing another man’s face and reminiscing about the past. Only after scrutinizing his face, trying to count every dot, did I finally raise my head.

    Just in time, the student representative gave some more advice, and the headmaster once again took the podium.

    [Now, the swordsmanship, magic, management, administration, general affairs, and law divisions. We’ll proceed with an explanation of the courses available for enrollment, categorized into six departments, with lectures held in different classrooms. Please follow the guidance of your respective homeroom teachers for each class.]

    [These are the faces you’ll continue to see in the future, provided you don’t change divisions, so I hope you get along. That’s all.]

    The voices echoing through the auditorium remained as quiet as they were at the beginning.

    With 120 students divided into six divisions, there would be around twenty students in each class. I calculated that I could memorize their names within a month. A sigh escaped me involuntarily.

    Haa, as soon as I let it out, a few in my surroundings followed suit, letting out sighs and laments. Their actions made me pause, and I glanced around.

    I’d never heard of sighs being as contagious as yawns before. Suddenly, I recalled the advice my mother had given me before I came to the academy.

    Didn’t she say that if there was someone I wanted to be friends with, I should mimic their actions?

    Thinking that these children were mimicking such a minuscule motion because they wanted to be friends with me, my heart warmed, akin to a freshly steamed dumpling.

    Before arriving at the academy, I had no intention of befriending these young children. However, it would seem odd for me to push away those who approached me, considering my current appearance was that of a thirteen-year-old child.

    Won’t they be the comrades and pillars who lead the empire alongside me once I reach adulthood?

    I wondered if this was the embarrassment felt by masters who had undergone rejuvenation after reaching a certain stage of martial arts. I felt awkward, as if I had needlessly reached this stage.

    While walking with the other students of the swordsmanship division, I overheard someone whispering to the girl beside them, “Ernhardt really is just as the rumours say,” and “Look, even his eyelashes are pink…” and so on.

    For a moment, I wondered what rumours about me had spread, but the ensuing shock made me forget about it.

    “Greetings, everyone. I’m Maello Sanson, your homeroom teacher and instructor for both beginner and advanced swordsmanship classes for the upcoming year.”

    A gentle voice pierced through the noisy chatter.

    “The training grounds are accessible from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Class times vary according to your individual schedule, ranging from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Remember, swordsmanship does not improve with haste. The most important foundation for first-year students is to eat well, move a lot, and get enough rest to build a proper physique. Clear?”

    He was the first powerful figure of the unrestrained realm I encountered since coming to this land.

    ¹ 치 – 3cm

    Translator’s note: sometimes i wish i had the patience to tl all the ridi comments bc some of them are hilarious. there were several comments on this chapter asking if his hair was pink “there” too 😭

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