Chapter 58 – Never Be Shaken (1)
It was her parents that Stella understood the least. Despite their noble title, in reality they lived in poverty, but they were too proud to make the effort to change their situation and instead continued to accumulate debts. Her brothers were no different from her parents.
Out of members of the Lapis family, Stella was the only one that was special. More than anyone else, she was determined to carve out her own future. She also realized she had a gift from God. Stella was among the smartest children in her age group, and above all, she had a pretty face and beautiful hair. After realizing her advantages, it was easy to become well-liked. She won the sympathy of Professor Lassen, and so the professor decided to sponsor the intelligent young woman.
“I think you can become someone very important.”
What could be as gratifying as someone believing her potential?
“I will do my best to make sure I don’t disappoint you.”
Stella was confident. Of course she was–she had never been left behind or pushed around by anyone. She had lost count of how many teachers had said, “I’ve never taught such a smart girl before.”
It wasn’t only in academics she excelled in. All the young men who even had a modicum of status were in love with Stella, and she did her best to refuse them as politely as possible as to not be hated. She didn’t have time for romance. She only intended to live a perfect Academy life. Then, Stella Lapis believed that her life would change completely. She would shine with a light that no one else could hope to reach.
But why this? Stella realized that everything she had expected for herself was fading away little by little. Her grades, her professor’s interests, and even the interest of other men. Stella used to have everything, but now her fortune began to turn towards someone else.
At first, she thought she was being unnecessarily mean. She wondered if it was because she was feeling sick today.
“Tell me the symptoms so I can go to the infirmary and get some medicine.”
Stella’s hatred rose at that abomination.
“Don’t worry. I’m perfectly prepared. I’m pretty confident.”
Stella resented Louise’s choice of words and her easy smile.
You know, Louise Sweeney. Are all those things you have really yours? Why is all the good fortune in my life going to you?
Stella shook her head. She couldn’t think like that. Everyone had the right to work towards something beautiful and good.
But…wasn’t Stella Lapis a special person? So far, with just a little effort, she had always found success. She didn’t know what was real anymore. Her mind was raging storm, and all that was left in the aftermath was shame and cowardice.
So Stella answered what she could.
“…No, it’s not mine.”
She pushed Louise into the mud. If she were to get dirty, maybe everything would come back to Stella again.
Louise was taken to a windowless room. It was supposedly the student counseling office, but it was actually just an isolation room for punishment.
Louise nodded timidly at Professor Lassen’s voice.
She roared at Louise, and Louise spoke up.
Stretched out before Louise was a long table, with Professor Lassen and an Academy staff member seated at the head.
“What a headache.”
Professor Lassen pressed her fingertips against her forehead and scowled.
“You were the top student at the entrance examination, and you have also done quite well on your other tests.”
Professor Lassen flipped through Louise’s other exam papers, likely received from the other teachers.
“The dean’s expectations were not small, either.”
The moment Louise opened her mouth Professor Lassen slapped the table with the palm of her hand.
“I did not allow you to speak. Only answer when a question is asked.”
“I’m sure there must have been the same kind of foul play on the entrance examination like today.”
“That’s not true!”
“I didn’t ask you a question.”
“But I didn’t really!”
“How are you going to prove it?”
Professor Lassen folded her arms.
“By the time I passed you, you had hidden the notes. How will you prove that you weren’t cheating?”
“It had just fallen there. And I didn’t want to be misunderstood…”
“If it had fallen, you could have raised your hand and told me, the exam proctor. But you didn’t. “
“I was going to! But–!”
“…I only noticed it too late.”
Even if she raised her hand, Professor Lassen might have come to the same conclusion. But Louise couldn’t say that.
“And you took the bag I tried to confiscate to destroy the evidence.”
“No! That wasn’t–”
“After all, now your bag is in that state.”
The professor pointed with her chin at Louise’s notebooks and loose sheets of paper at the end of the table. The black ink stained and ruined everything. Louise’s words on the letter were probably drowned in ink.
“You must be pleased that all your evidence is gone now, right?”
“…I didn’t. Really.”
Louise whispered, dropping her head. She heard the professor laugh, and Louise cried out in spite of herself.
“Ask me anything! I can answer everything. I don’t need such worthless notes to remember the answers!”
“That doesn’t absolve you of any suspicion.”
“Bring some objective evidence. It doesn’t matter if the handwriting belongs to you or not, or if you know the material or not.”
“You looked at those notes, and those notes contained content on the exam. That is cheating as defined by the world. “
Louise was struck dumb. Any word she said would be trampled on by that logic. As Louise tried to gather herself, Professor Lassen turned to discuss further action with the Academy staff member, who had been transcribing the conversation.
“Professor, it will be difficult to decide something right now. The dean will be going on a business trip for two days.”
The trip probably referred to Ian’s birthday celebration at the palace.
“We should contact the student council and select a new student to assist the dean. That student cannot go…”
The Academy staff member glanced at Louise as the end of his sentence trailed off. Louise’s heart twisted painfully at his suspicious expression and his calling her “that student.” He believed what the professor said. Louise was already regarded as a guilty student.
“You don’t have to worry about that. My sponsored student will go.”
“A student sponsored by Professor Lassen?! Can you believe it! That’s a relief. I’ll notify the dean right away.”
The Academy staff member immediately left the office, leaving only Professor Lassen and Louise alone together. Professor Lassen, who looked was shuffling through Louise’s exams papers, finally spoke.
There was a flutter as she flipped over another sheet of paper, but she did not glance at it. She fixed a hostile gaze on Louise.
“For now I will attend a meeting to determine your guilt. I hope you will reflect your actions here until it is settled.”
And the professor rose from her seat. Soon after, the door closed again, leaving Louise alone in a dark and still room.