Chapter 35: The Past (Leona’s POV)
I am a terrible person.
The day I met Sophie was eleven years ago when we were both just little girls. My father had served in the imperial army as Duke Rokan’s right hand man for a number of years so the two became sworn brothers.
He would often bring me over to play at the Peterlor estate.
I had been to several tea parties hosted by young nobles to promote socialising and networking but Duke Peterlor’s daughter had never shown up. As a child you do not notice these little details and I certainly never thought to ask.
Would everything have been different if I had?
They say that first impressions always last the longest and the little girl I saw for the first time resembled a frightened cat.
She was hiding behind her father’s legs and curiously peeking at me with a cautious expression.
“Hi,” I called out.
“Do you want to be my friend?”
I still remember the bright smile that stretched across her face as she excitedly replied,
Our fathers both smiled at the two of us and from that moment on… we were inseparable.
It was no exaggeration to say that we grew up together as close as sisters. Our families were both from the upper nobility, so the friendship was highly encouraged.
Every week I would visit my best friend at least four times and we would explore the outer areas of the mansion together.
Sophie loved flowers and would spend hours dragging me around the garden to see the new plants. I was truthfully not the biggest fan of this, but her company held a special place in my heart, so I cheerfully agreed.
There were no closer pair of friends and I always thought that we would always be together. But everything changed with a simple sentence…
“My mom calls you a freak!”
We were attending a prestigious elementary school when one of the girls came up to Sophie and started to call her names. I was naturally furious and loudly scolded her until she broke out in tears.
Sophie just looked shellshocked and I comforted her because I did not understand why a random classmate would just harass her like that.
One whisper turned to two….
Two whispers turned to four….
Sophie and I found ourselves isolated from the class, none of the girls who talked to me at tea parties would even dare to approach me at school.
In my confusion I asked my dad why was this happening… why were they targeting Sophie?
My innocent childhood mind never saw Sophie as different from me. I thought that her golden eyes made her look like a fairy.
That was when I found out the reason for the other girls to reject her.
She was considered a hybrid. My dad told me to ignore the whispers and he spoke to Sophie’s father who went to the school to complain.
The schoolteachers did not dare to offend a god stage cultivator, so the children were reprimanded severely. This just meant that the tactics changed…
Sophie no longer received the scorn and insults of her peers, but she was simply treated as nothing more than a stranger.
I was her only friend.
Still that girl continued to smile brightly as if nothing in the surroundings could affect her. She told me that as long as I was with her, that she would never be sad.
I…. I did not feel the same way.
The whispers in my ears gradually became louder and louder until I could not take it anymore.
I could not remember what argument finally pushed me over the edge, but I said something that had been buried deep in my heart.
“Why must I be punished for being friends with you?”
“You are the freak! Not me!”
For the first time that I had met her…. the ever-present smile on her face had dimmed.
I wish she had hated me.
I would have been able to live with the shame if she had hated me.
She just gave me a quiet nod of understanding and no longer tried to approach me in class. My friendship with the other noble girls got better over time and suddenly I was one of the most popular people in class.
I quietly told my father that Sophie was no longer my friend so there were no more visits to her mansion.
She was not bullied per say…. but I would always feel a heavy rush of emotions every lunchtime when I saw her eating alone.
We entered the same high school, but we were now nothing more than strangers at this point.
I saw her at the testing hall with a determined expression on her face but when her talent was assessed…the teacher just gave a disappointed sigh.
When my turn for the testing for cultivation talent happened, it was determined that I was a rare grade A talent!
I joined the prestigious class and saw my former friend wearing a black uniform in the back of the hall.
Even if I wanted to reconcile…what was the point?
We belonged to different worlds now. I would soar like a phoenix while she would remain behind due to the lack of talent.
I see her now on the stage facing me. Her image burns in mind and I cannot help but compare the little girl of the past and the young teenager before me.
Unaffected by the jeers of others.
Everything that I always strived to be.
How did this girl who experienced so much loneliness and rejection still wear the gentle smile on her face?
Why was she still looking at me with no hatred in her eyes? I could only see a fiery competitive spirit.
The familiar unpleasant rush of emotions starts to choke me and the words I always wanted to say seemed trapped in my throat.
I know that I am nothing more than a coward.
No matter how much I try…. the guilt overwhelms me, and I cannot even muster up the courage to say the simple phrase,
“Sophie…I am sorry”