Tepid darkness. The atmosphere clung to my body as if I was floating in water.
I suddenly found it hard to breathe, so I raised my head and slowly opened my eyes.
I heard a beastly coo fawning over me close by. I had apparently fallen unconscious on top of Eru, who had steel-colored fur. At first, I could only see the darkness, but my surroundings eventually became clearer.
The scene reflected before my eyes——was a ruined, lifeless world colored by an unsettling faint darkness. A fog, stagnated in a different way than the fog in heaven had been, hung over the area.
“……Where are we?”
My foolish-sounding voice, free from any hint of caution, was swallowed by the faint darkness without leaving any echoes behind.
“Eru……do you know where we are?”
I was so perturbed by the strangeness of the world before my eyes that I could not help but subconsciously ask the beast who could not talk. Eru looked back at me for a bit and twitched his lion-like nose, and I felt that he was troubled and did not know what to do with me even as I was riding on his back.
“Is this Evelier, by any chance?”
I dropped word after word into the darkness as I talked to myself. I couldn’t stand the anxiety if I didn’t.
Thank goodness that Eru was with me, even if he couldn’t speak. If I had been left behind in this ominous place all alone, I might have gone crazy from fear.
Eru growled quietly from time to time and fidgeted cautiously, likely because he was stimulated by the ominous air around us. He looked back multiple times and shook his slightly stiff fur as if he wanted to leave this place as soon as possible. I guessed that Eru was anxious too, after having been separated from his master, Olin.
Since I, the person accompanying him, was not only unreliable but was actually more of a burden, it was no wonder that he was scared.
Still, Eru seemed like he was an intelligent and loyal beast and did not try to move before I instructed him to. It was probably best to trust his bestial instincts and move away from here as fast as possible. After I made my decision, I lightly pat Eru on the back and signaled him onward. Eru obeyed, noticeably relieved.
I let Eru, who seemed to be able to sense the danger in the air, decide on where to go and devoted myself to observing my surroundings. There was probably no doubt that this was Evelier.
“Olin brought me down to the surface before he was caught by the silver cage……”
That would mean that, just like Silvai, Olin had infringed upon the covenant between the gods. He had refused to tell me what kind of terrifying punishment awaited them no matter how much I had begged. Was the penalty so cruel that he couldn’t tell me?
My entire body stiffened under the weight of the responsibility that had been bestowed to me.
Two gods had sacrificed themselves in order to pour their power into me. I had to answer to their expectations, no matter what.
Eru and I were apparently in a thicket. A dull, greyish moon floated in the sky, but it’s light was so sorrowfully weak that I couldn’t see into the depths of the woods.
The dusty stars that studded the night sky, too, only gave a weak shine as if they were on the verge of death. If I strained my eyes, I could just barely make out an outline of the area around me. That was how weak the light was.
“It’s too quiet……”
The air was heavy. It was as if the sky, the trees, and the earth had gone silent from fear of the despair and death that spread across the world. There was no wind to carry over a cool breeze, and, apart from Eru’s surreptitious footsteps echoing as we moved on, only silence prevailed.
“The world is rotting away,”
I subconsciously whispered. The world was so broken down that it would be difficult to save. The trunks of the trees scattered around us were thin and dry. The leaves that feebly hung limp from their branches had already withered.
A grave of trees. A stupid idea came into my head.
“I wonder if other places are desolated like this too?”
——Can I really save this place?
My feelings suddenly plummeted. I felt like this job was too much for me.
——……This might be impossible, Olin.
To think that the world was this dark. No matter how hard I thought, I couldn’t believe that I had the power to return this ruined world back to its true form.
Sensing that I had lost my nerve, Eru turned around and growled softly to cheer me up.
“……This isn’t the time to be a coward.”
I encouraged myself my taking repetitive deep breaths. If I threw the towel here, there would have been no point to Silvai and Olin breaking their covenant. I didn’t want to do anything that would disappoint the two gods who had entrusted me with their wishes and had granted me power. If I was going to give up, I could do it when I truly had no more cards left to play.
“But, I at least wish I had a bit more detailed information about this world……”
My real feelings leaked out a little. In all honestly, I had basically zero knowledge about Evelier.
In any case, according to Olin had said, I just had to cut down the revenants with this sword……but I didn’t know how to wield the all-important sword in question. It was probably going to be different from preparing fish.
“Besides, will I be able to tell if something’s a revenant just by looking at it?”
If I couldn’t figure out where in Evelier I was right now, then I’d have no idea where I was supposed to go from here on out. My anxiety increased with the mysteries I faced. Just as I was about to lose heart and bury my head in my hands, Eru went on guard and lowered his posture. He was preparing to dash. I grabbed on to Eru’s mane in a panic.
Eru didn’t let out a single growl as he readied himself to move at any moment’s notice. What should I do; should I grab my sword and prepare to face danger?
Still nervous, I ran my gaze down to the long sword that was fastened to the luggage behind me.
“Is someone there?”
There was no way there was. There were only supposed to be revenants left in this world.
Besides, what do revenants even look like to begin with? ……Like slimes?
Just as I had tilted my head to the side, unable to imagine what revenants looked like.
I abruptly sat up straighter and looked all around me. There’s something here!
A black shadow squirmed next to the skinny tree that was to the left and in front of me.
The intelligent beast sprinted vigorously as if he had understood when I quietly called out his name. I desperately grabbed on to Eru’s mane so that I wouldn’t get thrown to the ground. I would be hit by the wind resistance if I sat up straight. I realized this along the way and pushed my upper body forward. I somehow still managed to keep my head up so that I could check on our surroundings.
I heard the sound of multiple footsteps kicking away the dried wild grass. We were being chased.
When I looked back, I saw pronounced shadows crossing over to us from between the scattered trees.
I grew even more nervous as my heart began to beat furiously. Round golden lights floated in the darkness. They blinked like fireflies. They weren’t revenants. They were probably wild dogs or wolves or something like that.
——We’re being attacked.
The black shadows had closed in the distance between us and were in line with Eru by the time that I clearly discerned this.
Eru ran even faster. I burned the image of the black shadows firmly in my eyes when we dodged them as they drew closer, searching for an opening to jump us. They weren’t regular wild dogs.
They were creatures with limbs that I had never seen before. They were quadruped monsters with hideous faces at the end of their long necks. They had mouths that were cut open all the way to their long, rabbit-like ears. They looked like they were sneering at us.
They cried jarring, metallic threats as they chased after Eru.
Eru was at the absolute disadvantage since he had to carry me, extra baggage, with him. All of the monsters were starved. I felt their intense drive prickling on my skin as they refused to lose their prey……us.
“What do we do……?!”
——I didn’t know that it would be this dangerous!
I felt unwanted sweat on my palms, forehead, and down my back. The monsters’ breathing was ragged. We had no other choice but to turn our backs and flee. It would be the end of the road if they caught up to us. This wasn’t some kind of game where I could just reload and try again.
Eru lived up to his title as Olin’s beast and knew precisely what he had to do even in a tense situation like this. We were going so fast that my hair was flowing horizontally in one clump, but unlike a horse, he wasn’t swaying in the slightest.
He ran as if we were literally sliding across the ground. There was no hesitation in his footsteps when he kicked against the earth as he could apparently see well in the dark. He jumped left and right, changing directions constantly while trying to throw off the monsters behind us. The monsters could evidently see in the dark as well, but they apparently weren’t as intelligent as Eru was. Eru toyed with them marvelously by changing course in irregular directions. We grew farther away from the monsters thanks to his efforts. I looked back multiple times to peek at the monsters running behind us.
“Good job, Eru!”
I called out to Eru before I knew it. Eru didn’t slow down even though we had put enough distance between us and the monsters that I didn’t think they’d chase after us anymore.
It was when we arrived at a clearing in the thicket that I felt a presence that was different from that of the monsters. Even I found it strange that I could perceive it.
It might have been the power that Olin and Silvai blessed me with at work.
Eru was obviously hesitant when I told him to stop. Considering that he shook his mane and continued running, he probably thought that it was best to keep putting more distance between us and the monsters.
But still……there, just now, I most definitely heard a beast’s death cry from somewhere else.
“Eru, did you hear that voice just now?”
Eru shook his head and growled. His urgent cry seemed to be saying, we don’t have time to care about that!
“——Go to where the voice came from.”
Eru balked quite a bit at my unreasonable order. Still, he gave up and turned around once he realized that I was stubbornly refusing to back down.
He seemed somewhat desperate, or maybe he was mad at me……no, he was probably disappointed in me. He was running in a somewhat rough manner that was clearly different from before.
He probably thought that going back when we had finally managed to safely get away from the swarm of monsters was suicidal, and it made all of the effort that Eru had put to run this far to waste.
But if, just maybe if, my instincts were right.
Indeed, I had heard the monsters’ unnatural death cries before.
That’s what I decided to bet on.
“It smells like blood.”
The thick scent of blood smelled like rusted iron. Eru, whom I was riding on, probably noticed it too.
Eru continued to run in a straight line through the stifling faint darkness.
“Wait, Eru, over there.”
A beast’s fierce cry, fierce enough to make the trees shake, echoed from in front of us. It was close.
Eru didn’t stop moving as he followed my instructions, but he did let out a small, bitter growl. He was probably complaining about how we were purposefully going back into danger.
“Oh! Over there!”
The place where I pointed Eru to veered sharply off to the right from where we had been earlier.
There were a few more trees that laid their roots in the ground here. Eru deftly slipped through the trees and dashed to where the noise was coming from.
Before long, we saw the black figure of a beast that towered like a huge rock in the pale darkness. The beast howled violently enough to make the atmosphere tremble and attacked something else. Eru slowed down and crept closer to the giant beast that continued to roar.
I squinted and observed the other shadow as it held back the ferocious beast.
——It’s a person!
I know that person. I subconsciously made a fist.
It was the man whom I had met once before in the forest. He was fighting the violent howling beast.
His large sword drew an arc underneath the feeble light of the dull moon. Its cutting edge was unsteady, as if to indicate the waning stamina of its wielder.
At this rate, the beast would push it aside and it would fall to the ground.
The gigantic monster that was attacking the man had extremities that didn’t exist in my world. Its face looked like a bear’s and its arms and legs were long like a spider’s. The way it lowered itself to the ground, as if to gather up strength, and sprang up to attack was eerie. Its movements weren’t particularly clever, but its arms whipped through the air as it swung them in an attempt to defeat the man and just one swing was strong enough to cut down the trees in its path.
The man, who had been fending off the beast’s persistent attacks with his sword, finally became unable to beat it back and staggered painfully. He fell to the ground on his knee.
Upon closer inspection, the beast was wounded and the man looked dreadfully tired. Numerous beast corpses littered the ground around them. Had he defeated them all on his own?
“Eru, let’s help him.”
Eru lowered his body to the ground as if he was about to pounce on his prey as I rode on his back.
The ferocious beast re-oriented itself and brought up its long arm with a ragged breath. The man was unable to brace himself properly for its visually simple attack.
Eru leapt the moment I shouted. He landed forcefully in between the beast and the man.
Both parties were surprised by the sudden intrusion and stopped moving in such perfect sync that it was like they had arranged it in advance.
The man’s golden eyes that looked like they had sealed the moonlight within them were opened wide in shock.
The man abruptly got up and moved as if on reflex.
The beast grasped the situation the moment that the man jumped on behind me and closed in on us in a panic.
Eru nimbly moved away and circled around the monster as it brandished its long and tough arm at us. The man, seated behind me, failed to react in time to Eru’s sudden movements and nearly fell off.
Eru changed directions before the irritated beast could and vigorously ran forward. But then, he suddenly stopped and warily braced himself.
——The beasts from before caught up to us!
Appearing between the trees before us was the swarm of monsters will dull gold eyes. Behind us was the wounded ferocious beast. Eru turned around without hesitation and ran back to where the gigantic beast was waiting for us, but I didn’t know why.
The monsters that had finally caught up to us drew closer to where Eru was——in other words, to where the giant beast was waiting——as if they were being drawn in.
“You’re gonna make them fight each other!”
I was impressed once I realized what Eru had meant to do. Eru, you’re amazing!
Apparently, the monsters had decided that it was a better idea to go after the wounded beast, which was in a similar condition as them, than it was to chase after the smart and quick Eru. Likewise, the gigantic beast reacted more strongly to the monsters that were brimming with the intent to kill than it did to us, especially when we had already proved that we were hard to bring down.
Eru didn’t slow down in the slightest even though he carried both the man and me on his back and kept sprinting farther away from the monsters.
The hideous howls of their fight reverberated after us.
Eru continued to run in silence. He kept running until we could no longer hear the monsters’ howls and I could no longer see the thicket.
Eru finally stopped running when we were deep inside a basin far away from the thicket.
We stopped right next to an old tree that had lost all of its leaves. Its branches were spread out nicely, making it possible to hide ourselves from the monsters’ prying eyes if we sat on its roots.
I jumped off from Eru’s back thinking that it was the perfect place to rest.
“Thank you, Eru. Good work.”
I caressed Eru’s face as if I was trying to console him. I was worried that he was still mad at me, but Eru narrowed his eyes and purred, and then he nuzzled his lion-like nose against my shoulder.
I think he understood that I made us go back to save the man. It looked like I had regained some of his trust.
“You should come down too,”
I said to the hesitant man as I pat Eru’s ears.
He obediently climbed down to the ground with his moon-colored eyes glued on me.
I beckoned to the upright man after I unfastened the luggage from Eru and sat down on the roots of the old tree. Eru laid down next to me as if it was the natural thing to do.
It was like he was guarding me. Truth be told, Eru looked just as ferocious as the monsters, but I strangely found him cute now that he’d cozied up to me.
I pat at the dried earth next to me. The man approached me in a daze and sat down with his sword still in his hand. Yeah, he really is pretty big. Putting Olin aside, he was probably had the best body out of all of the people I’d ever known. But he was now covered in more wounds than he had been when we first met.
“Let’s get you patched up.”
I thought that he couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I reached out for my bag without waiting for him to reply.
“——Who are you?”
I thought that Eru had spoken for a moment.
But that wasn’t possible. My hand stopped moving as I turned to look at the man’s face.
——Why can I understand what you’re saying?
But I couldn’t before!
He blinked, similarly baffled.
I remembered how Olin had kissed me in the middle of my confusion at this inexplicable situation. Was I suddenly able to understand what he was saying because of that kiss?
The man stared at me blankly as I suspiciously went pale and then bright red.
“Uh, umm, can you really understand what I’m saying?”
The man nodded slowly as his bewildered gaze wavered.
“Who are you?”
he asked again in a gentle low voice. I was strangely impressed by how nice his voice was.
“Erm, we’ve met once before?”
Did he remember?
“Yeah——in the Forest of Warz.”
Warz? I’d never heard of it before, but I ignored it for now.
I composed myself and looked back at him.
“Are you……the last person of this country?”
He abruptly straightened up as if he’d been shot at when I asked.
Deep solitude exuded from his eyes. The flames of craving lit them from within. The torturous flames of deprivation burned so brightly that I was afraid that they would hurt him. I felt like the story of the suffering he had endured all alone were written in his eyes.
I was rendered speechless. It was the first time I’d ever seen such crazed eyes.
he whispered hoarsely. Marked anguish was visible on his mien as he worried if I was an illusion, but desperately wanted to believe otherwise.
——He really was alone all this time.
I crawled closer to him as he furrowed his brows in pain.
He stiffened up cautiously. I wanted him to relax, so I touched his large hand that was still tightly gripping his sword. His shoulders jerked. He wasn’t calming down at all.
“I’m alive. And I’m right here.”
I was lost at what I could say to get him to trust me. He had probably devoted himself to fighting monsters, piling up one cruel experience after another, while watching the revenants, who had once been human, in his loneliness. It was my turn to take up that role now.
I silenced the alarm bells in my heart and smiled. I think I might have stiffened up a bit.
“I’m not an illusion. I’m human, just like you.”
The look in his eyes changed with what was almost an audible click. An intense emotion welled up from within him——like a dried fountain that had been turned on once more. His face twisted and he let out a small groan. He trembled slightly once and turned away as if he was ashamed of himself.
“It’s okay; it hurt……to be alone all this time, right?”
I found it troubling that I was about to cry too for some reason. I felt a painfully profound sorrow from him.
I felt like I’d fall deep into solitude just by brushing upon it. I squeezed the man’s hand.
His large and warm hand, which was covered in wounds and moist with blood.
The man slowly raised his head. His face was filled with fear and agony. Transparent drops of liquid suddenly covered his moon-colored eyes. Tear after tear flowed down his tanned skin. He groaned once again while biting his lip.
I got up to my knees in a panic and placed a hand on his moistened cheek.
“Don’t cry. Please, don’t cry.”
I felt like my heart would get crushed just by watching him cry while clenching his teeth.
The man let of his sword, which he had been tightly holding on to, and held me as if he was clinging to me. His embrace was so strong that I almost couldn’t breathe. His loneliness slowly permeated into me. But, I was sure that he was hurting more.
He was warm enough that I was worried he might have a fever. I ended up clinging to his hard chest, and I found myself strangely flustered despite the situation.
It was like someone who was drowning was clinging onto me. The man continued to weep silently. He pressed his cheek against my head and caressed my shoulders and back over and over again as if he was making sure of what he was feeling. ……I understand why you’re doing it, I really do, but if you keep touching me like that…!
But I couldn’t do something as cold as pushing away someone who was crying. I endured it despite my panic and let him do as he wanted. Eventually, I lost the ability to tell if it was my heart that was beating so furiously or if it was the man who was trembling. It was all so crazy that I felt like my breathing would grow ragged any minute now.
It was Eru who saved me when I began to grow dizzy.
The man noticed Eru clawing at the earth and growling in displeasure and abruptly looked up.
I said quietly with my eyes still closed. I really wasn’t in the state of mind to look up at him.
“Oh, um……I’m sorry.”
The man returned to his senses and released me in a hurry. I felt a little lonely as his warmth gently disappeared.
I was pulled backward all of a sudden. When I turned around, I saw that Eru had bitten onto my sleeve and was frantically pulling me back closer to him.
Eru only released my sleeve after he had dragged me a decent distance away from the man.
I guess that my loyal bodyguard didn’t like the man very much. After glaring at him in obvious intimidation he nuzzled against my knee like he wanted to be spoiled. Yeah, I mean it’s cute, but still…….
“Oh, right. Let me treat your wounds.”
I wanted give Eru, who had played the star role in getting us away from the monsters, some water too.
The man casually wiped away his tears with his fingertips and smiled a faint wry smile. Eru kept his eyes glued on him.
“Eru, stop, don’t threaten him like that.”
Eru sourly looked away in a huff when I cautioned him. Yeah……
I checked through the contents of my bag although I was still worried about Eru. Olin had said that he had prepared everything I’d need, so I was curious about what was inside.
“Oh, thank goodness.”
My water bottle had been refilled. I opened the lid, placed my hand in front of Eru, and slowly poured water into it. Eru peeked up at me once and licked the water up.
He looked like he’d had enough after just a few mouthfuls. Did he not need that much water to begin with? Or maybe he was just holding back?
I gave up trying to get Eru to drink more water after hesitation for a little while and offered my water bottle to the man. I laughed as he tilted his head to the side in confusion and urged him to drink. He politely gave me his thanks and accepted it. I checked through the rest of the luggage while he drank. Olin had prepared more things apart from what was in my bag. Let’s see, a change of clothes? Or something that looked like it, at least. I had to admire Olin’s level of preparation after seeing that there were clothes that were too big for me too for some reason. Had Olin predicted that this would happen?
Otherwise, there was also a sack of bread, a small package, and a leather waterskin. To be honest, most of it was stuff I didn’t know how to use. Perhaps the man would know if I asked him?
I wondered if the leaf-like package had medicine inside of it. It smelled a bit like traditional Chinese herbal medicine.
“I wonder if this’ll work for external wounds……, take this.”
I gave the man a change of clothes, something that looked like a towel, and the package too for good measure.
“……You don’t mind?”
He looked down at the things I handed him before modestly looking back up again.
“I don’t. Besides, I don’t really know how to use it.”
He hesitantly opened the small package. Then, he immediately looked back at me in surprise.
“Isn’t this Furon powder?”
Yeah, I have no idea.
“It’s a valuable herb that’s not easy to get ahold of.”
Oh, so I was right —it was medicine.
“Well, use it.”
He looked back at me with a complicated expression that betrayed his amazement at my light-hearted reply.
“Just who are……no, may I please inquire as to who you are?”
he asked, correcting both his facial expression and his tone of voice.
I decided to treat his wounds first before answering his question.
Evidently, you used the powdered herb called Furon powder by mixing it with water. We didn’t have a suitable container to mix the medicine in, so he used a sturdy-looking leaf that we found instead.
After mixing a pinch of the dark green powder with water on top of the leaf, it turned into something with the viscosity of potato starch and increased in volume. The medicine became all the more pungent, perhaps because it had absorbed the water, causing me to subconsciously scrunch up my face.
It would stop the bleeding if your applied enough of the paste on your wounds. The man taught me how efficacious the medicine was and that it would even cure deeper wounds in only a few days.
I applied the medicine on him despite that he had tried to hold back at first and wrapped cloth around his wounds in the lieu of bandages.
“You have so many scars……”
I gasped. He was covered in several large scars that patterned his sturdy body like a clumsily embroidered handkerchief. Old scars and new ones. Both his body and his soul were covered in countless inerasable scars. My mood naturally dropped as the thought occurred to me.
“……I hope these robes fit you.”
I had him change clothes after I finished treating his wounds. The clothes that he had been wearing were so worn that I didn’t know what to do with them and smelled horrible because they had been drenched in blood.
The man looked calmer to a degree, as if he was feeling refreshed, after changing. And, though I hadn’t put it to words, I was honestly starting to feel hungry. When was the last time I had eaten? I couldn’t get a sense for the passage of time.
We fried the bread-like food that was hard and light in color from Olin over the fire. It puffed up like mochi and increased in volume.
It was a little lacking to only eat that, so we also had something that looked like raisins on the side.
……Actually, I disliked raisins and dried persimmons. Which was why I only had one and gave the rest of my share to Eru, while I only ate the bread. Eru seemed to like it.
We finished our simple meal and shared a short moment of peace around the fire.
The man, who was sitting a little away from me, looked at me with a serious face that told me that he had a mountain of questions he wanted to ask. I, too, had a lot of things that I had to learn about this world from him.
But, for some reason, I felt more awkward than I had when we had first met.
It was because he was being weirdly formal.
“You know, I’d be happier if you acted normally around me like you did before……”
I should be the one who was polite toward him instead. He was older than me no matter how I looked at it. I wonder how old he is? He had a mature air about him, but he looked quite young when he smiled.
“May I ask you for your name?”
The man asked with inquisitive eyes as he upheld his courteous attitude.
“It’s Hibiki. Hibiki Mishima.”
He fell silent with a strange look on his face. I’m sure my name sounded unusual to someone from this world.
“Er, so what’s your name?”
“My name is Louie Marvell.”
It looked like he was on his guard again. It was a little depressing.
“Excuse me, but you have quite the unusual name…… Where do you hail from?”
“I’m not telling you.”
The man……Louie was rendered speechless when I answered while purposefully looking away. I continued,
“I’m not gonna talk until you start acting and talking normally.”
Sorry, but I wouldn’t be able to handle it psychologically if the stiff formalities continued.
——I won’t be able to be open with you that way, Louie.
The thought whispered itself in my heart.
“But……are you not a princess of high social standing?”
Louie looked around hesitantly and drew in a leg closer to himself.
I was completely taken aback by his unexpected image of me. Just how had he come to that conclusion?
I wondered if he simply had extremely poor eyesight before it dawned on me.
“……Is it because of my clothes?”
I looked down at myself in a hurry. The clothes that I had been changed into in heaven were certainly eye-catchingly gorgeous. But there was a simple reason as for why I hadn’t notice it until now.
The garments that Olin and Silvai had worn were much more flamboyant. And they had also been wearing so many ornamentations that you could hear it when they walked.
Now that I had taken another look at myself, I realized that my clothes might look a little too extravagant for a world on the brink of destruction like Evelier.
I had a delicate, sand-colored ornament on my ear and I was even wearing a pendant that was strung together with little jewels.
I also had a bracelet with a complex pattern to it. Its fretwork design, too, was inlaid with jewels. Even I, with my untrained eyes, could tell that it was expensive. I finally began to panic. Just how much was all of this worth?
My actual clothes consisted of a tunic made of smooth fabric. It was the type of tunic that was held together by an obi sash, like a Japanese kimono. Its long sleeves didn’t bother me because they were comfortably light.
The men’s clothes that I had given Louie weren’t that different from mine. The only real difference was that his didn’t have the sleeves.
“Do I look like a princess to you? That’s one scary misunderstanding.”
Did this world really have princesses that wore dresses and princes and nobility?
“However, I cannot say that you look like the average village girl……well…”
Louie grew flustered because I had glared at him a little. I mean, he was still talking all formally and everything.
“I don’t have any social standing, you know.”
“I’m not a princess or a village girl; I’m just a normal girl.”
Louie looked a little confused by my flat refusal.
“Do you mean to say that you are a commoner? However, is your appearance not closer to that of royalty?”
I shut my mouth and kept my silence. Louie finally let out a soft sigh after I outlasted him in our short-lived staring contest. This time, he asked,
“can you explain what you meant?”
Yep, much better.
I flashed him a grin and told him a story that I had made up hurriedly on the spot. I couldn’t just tell him everything as it was. Besides, if I told him that I came from a far-off land called Japan from another dimension and that I was here in this world because I’d met two literal gods, he’d probably think that there was something wrong with me.
I felt a little guilty about lying, but I turned a blind eye to it because there wasn’t anything else I could do about it.
I told him that I was from a really, really far away country that was closed off to the rest of the world. I couldn’t tell him what country it was because of certain reasons ——actually, I just couldn’t think up of a name—— and I was here to investigate how the world had begun to break down after a natural disaster had occurred on the orders of some important noble. I used to travel with an attendant, but I had unfortunately been separated from them and was currently in a pickle because of it.
——Argh, I’m so bad at lying!
Louie looked obviously suspicious. I guess it was a stretch to think he’d buy such an inconsistent story to begin with.
“And so, there’s no real distinction between social ranks in my country. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they don’t exist.”
“There are no social ranks?”
Louie said in amazement as he looked increasingly more suspicious.
“But I’m the only one talking here. I’d like you to tell me about your situation too.”
I tried adding on a bit about how my objective was to obtain intelligence about the world.
Louie tried to hide his confusion as he failed to mentally organize what I had told him, or rather, he looked like he wasn’t satisfied by the sloppy story I had told him. Even still, he reluctantly began talking when I complained to him with my eyes. Louie was apparently a knight! What?
Basically, this world was like a foreign country that was still in the middle ages……no, it was more fantasy-like than that. Not only were their knights and nobles, but there were also court sorcerers and mages.
——W, well, I’ve met gods before. I shouldn’t be surprised my mere mages!
Louie didn’t talk much about himself, perhaps because he was being wary of me. While it made me feel a little lonely at first, I knew that I was reaping the seeds I had sown by lying to him.
In return, he carefully explained what condition the world was in and how it got there.
He said that in the winter of the year 6701 on the Holy calendar……just about three years ago, the dark banquet heralded the beginning of calamity.
“At first, everyone believed that the epidemic, which comes and goes every few years, had come a little early. Every country was able to predict how the epidemic would spread and implemented a plan of action to deal with it. That was why no one took the issue too seriously.”
Louie subconsciously brushed away a strand of hair that was stuck to his cheek and looked into the distance. He continued,
“but, the people who had been complaining about light fatigue suddenly lost their senses and grew violent. Then, even their bodies began to transform. The strange disease that had infected them moved from family to family, town to town in the blink of an eye.”
“How long did it take……?”
“It didn’t even take two months. It was too late by the time that the royalty realized the situation was so grave that they needed to take immediate action. There was nothing that could be done as people turned into revenants one after another and entire towns fell. The ‘End’ began and spread with our kingdom, once called the <Eyes of the Majesty>……New Queen Gallè, at its center.”
“What about other countries?”
Louie let out a lonely, gentle sigh when I had hesitantly asked him my question.
“There were many people who, fearing this threat, planned to escape the kingdom, but even the countries that they escaped to soon began to fall into ruin. As proof that this wasn’t simply some strange new disease, several prominent sorcerers and mages failed to bring back the peace even after utilizing their rare talents. To think that I’d see the closing chapters of humanity’s history with my own eyes. Our lament never reached the gods. We weren’t granted even the smallest miracle……”
Louie’s shoulders began to quiver slightly. He continued,
“the vivid colors of the seasons were lost and the weather ran wild. Only three years. That’s all it took for the world’s time to stop. It’s like a nightmare——I still can’t believe that this happened.”
I was rendered speechless by his brutal story. Had Fortune really created this extreme fate just because of his hatred and despair? Something about it bothered me a little.
I feel like this isn’t the kind of thing anybody can carry through just because of their personal feelings——.
“Is your country alright?”
“Huh……? Yeah, I think there was some pretty bad water damage.”
I replied a beat late because I had been deep in thought. If I recall correctly, Silvai said that this world and my world were two sides of the same coin. That, if Evelier was facing a drought, the water veins in my world would get disrupted and a calamity of water would befall it.
“Hey, Louie. Do you have a map? I’d like to see a map of the world if that’s possible.”
“A map of the world?”
The traces of distress vanished from Louie’s face and was replaced by blank puzzlement. Did I ask something weird? But I wouldn’t know where I was supposed to go if I didn’t have a map to see where I was. Louie continued,
“there are maps of the kingdom, of course, but I’ve never heard of a map of the world.”
It was my turn to be surprised by his answer. So then, did the inhabitants of Evelier not know what shape their world was, or how far the continent stretched?
For starters……is this planet even spherical like earth is?
“Did New Queen Gallè not interact with other countries by any chance?”
“No, we did trade with others. Still, why do you need a map?”
“I have to go to all sorts of countries.”
My goal was to return the world to its senses, in addition to turning back the people who had been turned into revenants. I continued,
“but I wanna start with this one for now. So, there are maps of the kingdom, right……? Are there maps with all of the towns and villages recorded in detail?”
He looked at me as if I had asked a bizarre question.
“Well……how much detail are you looking for?”
“One that has compass directions on it, has a scale for distance measurements, and routes……large roads that people travel on. It’d also be nice if it showed how large each town was. Even better if there are residential maps too.”
It’d be easy to get my hands on a map like that if I was in Japan. But, after hearing what Louie had to say, things that were a given in Japan didn’t necessarily seem to be considered common sense here.
At this rate, I probably shouldn’t expect to be able to get my hands on a family registry.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen a map that detailed before.”
“But there are maps, right? Then, do you know where I’d be able to get my hands on one?”
There didn’t seem to be much of a point in obtaining a map at this point, but I at least wanted to check and see how detailed they were.
“You’d probably be able to obtain one if you went to a town.”
“Where’s the closest town from here?”
“Let me see…… There should probably be a village about a hundred odes southwest from here.”
I was lost because I didn’t know what an ode was.
“Erm, how long would it take to walk there?”
“——You would require at least two full days. No……for a lady, you might need three.”
I calculated the distance in my head. Two days on foot. I could probably get there in a day if Eru let me ride him.
Louie reluctantly pronounced my name when I glared at him. He continued,
“do you plan on going to the village?”
I instinctively drew back under his strangely forceful gaze. Oh, his expression just now, it reminds me a lot of Uncle Miharu. Which means……that this was the bitter look he makes before giving a lecture. Louie continued,
“do you really plan on going?”
“Erm……I’m maybe thinking of going……as long as it’s possible.”
Louie looked straight at me with a gaze as sharp as a knife when I tried to dodge the question.
“……I, I’m scared?”
“Of course you are. Not only will there be monsters, but Reims will be lying in wait in the village as well.”
Judging from the flow of the conversation, I gathered that ‘Reim’ must be the proper name for the revenants.
Though, I’d meant that Louie was scaring me just now.
“I’ll tell you everything you wish to know about this kingdom, if that’s why you’re going.”
“I’d be happy if you did, but there’d be no point unless I go in person.”
“Why is that?”
“They say that seeing is believing, right?”
Did this kingdom not use idioms? Louie continued,
“you……don’t seem to understand how dangerous it would be to go to the village.”
Of course I don’t understand. I was born in a peaceful Japan, I grumbled to myself as I let my eyes wander elsewhere.
“Alright, I’ll do my best not to go anywhere dangerous.”
I couldn’t honestly promise him anything. But I felt like Louie’s strict eyes would remain on me until I at least said that much.
I froze in shock at the extreme grief in Louie’s voice. He continued,
“…don’t understand anything.”
Louie smiled a bitter smile. His moon-colored eyes were dark, as if they had swallowed up the darkness whole.
“Please answer me honestly. Are you planning to go to the village?”
I couldn’t decide on whether I should lie or not. I’d undoubtedly hurt him if I did. But he’d probably stop me from going if I told him the truth.
“You know that I am the last survivor of this kingdom. And even still, are you saying that you want to go somewhere so dangerous you might not come back alive?”
I felt like I’d been slapped across the cheek. Right, he’s the only person in New Queen Gallè.
——If I disappeared, would Louie be alone again?
But, was it okay for me to drag Louie around with me? I recalled what Olin had said. Normal blades would not work on Reims. Even if they did work somehow, it would destroy their souls as well. ——I wonder what that means.
“Listen, Reims attack people. If they get you, you’ll be turned into a Reim as well. And, most spells and blades have no effect against them.”
Oh, I think I’ve kinda figured out Louie’s personality. He’s generally pretty open-minded and kind, but when push comes to shove, he’s stubborn enough to put you at your wit’s end. He was the same personality type as Uncle Miharu. I was the opposite, so while I looked serious at first, I was actually fairly irresponsible and just went along with the flow, plus I changed my mind pretty easily.
The fire crackled. The red flames that fluttered in the darkness twisted around my shadow on the ground.
I turned my gaze to Louie’s face, which reflected back the radiance of the flames. The shadows on the bridge of his nose and brow looked so dignified that I thought I could get lost in them. Even his eyes had soaked in the colors of the flames and were a deep red as they looked back at me. He really did have beautiful eyes.
“I have to go visit a lot of towns and countries no matter what.”
“Because of circumstances.”
I grew irritated at my own limited vocabulary. At this rate, anyone, and not just Louie, would be less than satisfied with what I said.
Louie smiled cynically as I desperately wracked my brains.
“Am I truly that untrustworthy?”
“……That’s not it.”
“You haven’t offered me a single word of truth since before. And yet, there is no spite in what you are saying. Is it forbidden for me to ask of your circumstances?”
I was really troubled. It was actually the other way around, and I was sure that Louie would stop trusting me if I did tell him the truth.
An awkward silence continued between us for a short while.
Louie finally looked away and sighed deeply when Eru let out a soft yawn.
“I seem to have troubled you. Please forget that I asked.”
Yeah, I’ve definitely hurt him. I could feel my guilt piling up slowly and steadily.
“Hey, Louie. Is there anywhere that’s safe in this kingdom?”
Louie looked suspicious. I continued,
“is there a place where you could stay safe?”
Olin had been overjoyed that I had saved Louie in the interworld. That was why I wanted to protect him, the last survivor of this kingdom, no matter what. Other than wanting to do this because of my sense of duty, I also wanted to do this because I wanted to atone for the fact that I had been about to abandon him in the forest. To be honest, I didn’t have any right to receive thanks from Olin and Silvai.
“You can’t die. That’s why I want you to go somewhere that’s as safe as possible.”
The ends of Louie’s lips twisted as he laughed. It was as if he was saying that there was no way that such a safe place even existed.
“And what am I supposed to do living all alone?”
“Louie, you shouldn’t say things like that.”
“And what about you? What about you, who’s telling me not to die? Aren’t you planning to dive right into danger?”
“Well, I have to because of certain circumstances.”
Argh, geez, we’re going in circles. I hadn’t known that I was this bad with words. It was something I had learned about myself after interacting with someone else.
“I won’t die, so you have to stay alive too, Louie!”
Louie lowered his gaze. After a bit of hesitation, I readjusted to sit down next to him and looked up at his sorrowful profile. I started again,
“it’ll be okay. It might take some time, but I’m sure you’ll be able to meet other people too. And the kingdom will gradually be restored little by little.”
I gently reached out and took Louie’s hand.
Louie stirred and helplessly grabbed back the fingers of my hand that covered his own weakly.
He captured me with his terribly anxious and pained moon-colored eyes.
My breath caught. It wasn’t every day that you were seriously asked if you were a god.
Suddenly exhausted, I denied it right away for both my sake and Louie’s.
“Why did you think I was a god? There’s no way I’d be one.”
My appearance was pretty normal both subjectively and objectively speaking. My clothes just happened to be a bit showy, but I didn’t look divine like Olin and Silvai.
Louie’s eyes wandered hesitantly to my forehead.
Oh……I forgot about that, now that I think about it.
I was a little disturbed by the awe mixed into Louie’s face and timidly put my hands to my forehead.
The hard, round thing right at the center of my forehead. It felt like a stone had been embedded in my head or something.
Right, my forehead suddenly got hot when Silvai kissed me.
“……Can I ask you something?”
“——What is it?”
“Is there something on my forehead?”
An awkward silence held between us for almost a full minute.
“Do you truly not know, even when it has to do with your own body?”
Louie looked obviously doubtful as he spoke.
“So there really is something? ……It’s not creepy, is it?”
……Silvai, I believe in you, I really do! But I’m a girl who’s old enough to worry about these things, okay? I get anxious at the thought of having something attached to me that’s so bad that people can’t look at it.
Louie waved his hands around in exaggerated motions. His hastiness seemed to imply that I had said something that I would get cursed by the gods for. He continued,
“that’s a divine stone, is it not? It’s not a magic stone, at the very least.”
A divine stone? The word changed into the homonym that meant ‘relatives’ inside of my head.1
“What is that……?”
“My apologies, but I cannot provide you with much of an explanation as I myself am not a mage. However, I have heard that mages who are well-versed in spellcraft sometimes form a divine stone, a crystallization of power, on their bodies. Still……to have one appear on your forehead…”
Now that I thought about it, Louie’s guess probably wasn’t entirely off the mark. After all, this stone had appeared after I received a blessing from a god.
“But I, well……I’m really not a god.”
Louie looked like he didn’t know if he should honestly agree to what I had said or not. He turned his bewildered gaze to Eru.
Eru vigilantly glared back at Louie, who was still unable to reach a decision. Eru’s attitude felt like he was putting on airs and saying, “you got a problem?”
“Then, just who in the world are you?”
Louie asked, terribly nervous.
I pondered about how I should answer his question, but in the end, I gave up because I couldn’t come up with an answer.
“Louie, you can take anything you want from my luggage. Anything that you think you’ll need to survive.”
“What I want isn’t some kind of thing!”
Louie denied my offer in agitation. It looked like he was desperately trying to seal away his rising emotions with reason.
I couldn’t tell him the truth. But I was at a loss because I couldn’t come up with a lie to convince him with either.
“I can’t explain things to you not matter what because of my circumstances. But I swear that I’ll absolutely never hurt you. I want you to trust me on that, if nothing else.”
Louie suddenly got up. He turned my back to be as I was taken by surprise and began to walk away with clumsy steps.
“Where are you going?”
I followed after him in a panic and grabbed on to his arm.
Eru slowly followed behind us as well, but he stayed on stand-by a few steps away from us.
“——They are cruel.”
Louie stopped, but he refused to turn around no matter how much I urged him. His entire body was tensed up, as if it was a testament to the strong feelings of rejection he was giving off. He continued,
“the things you say are so terribly cruel.”
His hardened voice reverberated in blame as he spat out his words. I couldn’t say anything in return.
“You saved my life not once, but twice. The first was in the forest of Warz. I was prepared to die at that time. I’d thought——that I’d rather be killed by beasts, that it was better than having my soul devoured by Reims. After losing my friend who was my only comrade and my only hope, I no longer had anything to protect or any attachments left in this world.”
I was taken aback. His only comrade. Was that the person who Fortune’s successor had left to die?
“I thought that this must be what madness was like. If I was to die anyway, then I wanted to die in blood. I wanted to die as a human. That was my only desire, and then, right before me——you appeared.”
Louie’s back trembled slightly. He wasn’t actually shedding any tears, but I felt like he was crying in his heart. He continued,
“I couldn’t believe it. I decided to believe that you were just a dream. A mere illusion born from my twisted wishes. I thought that it was a rather sensible dream too, despite myself. Because what I wanted more than anything was the existence of someone other than myself.”
Come to think of it……Louie had looked at me so desperately when we’d first met. His gaze had been so serious and earnest that it had surprised me. It was as if he had forgotten even how to blink.
“And then, you suddenly vanished. I forced myself to believe that you were ultimately just a convenient dream conjured by my madness. And yet…”
His quivering breaths faded into the tepid darkness.
Louie’s silhouette was fuzzy and vanished slightly into the darkness because we were away from the fire. I harbored the illusion that visible sorrow lingered around his figure.
“…You appeared before more like this again. You appeared so extremely vibrantly before me just before the wings of death whisked me away and you reached out to me. And then, you told me to live, to not die.”
Louie shook his head, cutting off my bewildered words. He placed a hand on his forehead and awkwardly turned back around.
“Can you understand? I have no more friends, and my family and my loved ones, everything slipped away through my fingers! Can you understand the pain of wandering all alone in a world where no one else exists?!”
His voice was low and retrained, but it pierced sharply through the darkness even still.
“If I threw away my sanity, I wouldn’t have to suffer any longer, and if I died, I wouldn’t have to feel anything. I tried to stab my own heart numerous times. But each time I tried, I’d return to my senses. What if someone else had survived? A sense of hope that shouldn’t even have existed kept burning at my heart. I wretchedly held on to my desire for a miracle, despite that I couldn’t see even a trace of one anywhere in the world. And this hope that made me want to despair kept pressing me on to live!”
Louie began to talk faster and faster. His emotional words, which had shaken off their shackles of reason, shook me. He continued,
“you looked more like a miracle to me than anything when you appeared, dispelling away the darkness. Like a miracle of the gods.”
“I’m not a god……”
“No, it doesn’t matter what you really are. Only that you were my salvation. No matter how much you deny it, to me, you’re a miracle made flesh. You’re a miracle who is brighter than a ray of light shining through the darkness——and yet, you’re so cruel.”
“You’re telling me to live on by myself? To endure this gloomy darkness all alone once more? You would show me only a glimpse of a miracle, but then leave me behind again? Then why did you save me, why did you reach out to me?! If you don’t need me——then it would have been better if I had just died back then!!”
The look on his face was the same one I had seen when he had first met in the forest.
His crazed eyes carried an intense yearning in them.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you behind.”
I grabbed Louie’s sleeve with both hands.
Louie dropped down to his knees like a sinner and looked up at me.
“Why did you appear before me if you were going to cast me aside?!”
“You’re wrong, I didn’t mean to……”
My words stopped there. I had never encountered this kind of violent sorrow before. This kind of lament that was so earnest it was almost brutal.
I wrapped my arms around Louie’s head when he looked down and hugged him tightly.
——What should I do?
Louie, along with his heartbroken scream of a plea, hugged me back as I stood in a daze. Rather than feeling like I was being squeezed back, it felt more like I was touching upon a heart that was on the brink of shattering.
Then, Louie collapsed to the ground, pushing me along with him.
“I want you to kill me if you’re going to leave me by myself. Please, grant me repose.”
The hard earth was at my back. Louie clung to me by the shoulders as I grew flustered. He had met my eyes for a moment before whispering those words by my ear.
It became harder to breathe as I was pinned down by his sturdy frame. At the same time, I felt his body heat, tinged with his heartfelt feelings, with every inch of my body from my fingers to my toes.
It was my first time feeling that warmth could be so lonely.
“Y, yeah, okay……I won’t leave you by yourself.”
That was all I could say.
I looked up at the dull moon and affirmed to myself that I mustn’t reject him right now.
If he went back into solitude again, Louie would likely lose sight of what he had been living for.
I couldn’t push away someone who was already at the brink of the abyss.
——Let’s stay together.
“I’ll stay with you, Louie.”
Louie wrapped his arms around my waist like he was going to crush me. I could tell that I was trembling, perhaps because I had been influenced by his intense lament.
His firm arms showed no hint of letting me get away. His large and long hands followed along my shoulder and back. It was a gentle feeling with ardor hidden inside of it.
He was chaotically and desperately trying to ascertain that the time we were spending was in fact real. He refused to let go of me because he was afraid I would vanish the moment he did.
“Louie, it’s okay. Don’t be worried.”
It wouldn’t have been strange if he had gone insane a long time ago. How much terror and despair had he felt surviving all alone in this wide, wide world? Louie had grit his teeth and lived through the lonely days that he wouldn’t be rewarded for no matter how much he had endured through them, even as both his body and heart bled out.
“——Will you truly stay with me?”
Clear doubt still lingered in Louie’s eyes. In them, I saw ice-cold solitude.
It was of a completely different type and severity of feeling than the loneliness and longing for company that I felt from time to time.
There were times when I felt a wave of solitude upon hearing someone laughing within the hustle and bustle of a crowd. Those painful moments when I felt different from everyone else even though everything around me was so vibrant and colorful.
I was in true solitude even if there were people around me as long as I felt alone.
Even when I was all alone, there was always the chance that someone would turn around to look at me if I said something. I still always had that small bit of hope. Even if we couldn’t fully understand each other, and even if I ended up feeling so lonely I didn’t know what to do with myself. Even if the other person wasn’t a friend or someone I knew, even if they were simply a stranger who I had asked for directions on the street, there would answer me. We would be able to establish a short conversation.
But even this small hope wasn’t there in Louie’s case. The root of the cause was fundamentally different.
There was no one here. No one would answer him if he asked for directions, no one would smile back if he said hello, no commotions, no footsteps, no laughter, there was nothing——and no one.
I felt a chill just by trying to imagine it. Just who would call out his name? Who would worry about him or wait for his return?
The only thing he would hear were his own footsteps no matter how far he walked. Be it morning or afternoon or night.
Since he was a knight, my existence was probably tiny and unreliable from his point of view. But he was so mentally cornered and exhausted that he looked to me for salvation anyway.
If someone strong like Olin had been here, instead of weak little me, he would have been able to lift the burden off of Louie’s shoulders and lighten the load off of his heart. I felt horribly sad after I realized this.
——……It’s not that simple, is it?
I was shocked by the sound of my own voice slipping into the depths of my heart. It didn’t matter if I was powerless or not.
It was simply that we had met.
Couldn’t our chance meeting become a turning point that could influence Louie’s entire life? I felt like he could see it as a wonderful event that could rewrite not only his sense of values, but the very foundation of his mentality.
It was because I could call Louie’s name. I could affirm his existence.
——Did my appearance have that large of an impact on Louie……?
An unprecedented wave of fear welled up from within me. Fate could change from just one little opportunity. Then, what would become of Louie and me in the future, now that we’ve so distinctly met?
If I were in Louie’s shoes, I would be grateful just for the fact that someone other than me existed before my eyes.
This is what Louie had been talking about.
This is what he had meant when he said that I was like a god, that I seemed like a miracle made flesh. I finally understood.
A serious voice left my lips. I felt slightly afraid for myself because I hadn’t tried to think things through in the slightest until now. And there was a countless number of problems in this world where “I didn’t know” just wouldn’t do.
I timidly stroked Louie’s light hair. It was clumped up here and there, perhaps because it had been showered by the blood and gore from the beasts from earlier. My chest tightened again at the stiffness of those clumps.
I was sure that his hair would be incredibly soft and beautiful if he washed it properly and brushed it well.
…let’s find somewhere to wash your hair tomorrow. I’ll brush it neat with a comb for you.
But Louie began to whisper before I could finish my proposal.
“I don’t care if you can’t tell me everything. It’s alright if you don’t trust me. But please, let me stay——”
He wasn’t even the type of person who would normally plead like this.
I knew just how painful and pathetic it was to beg someone not to abandon you. I idly recalled the figures of my parents, who wouldn’t look each other in the eye.
I opened my mouth in a hurry. I didn’t want to let Louie finish.
“Will you stay with me? It’ll be dangerous for you if you do. I have a wish that I want to fulfill no matter what. But it’s a really difficult wish to fulfil, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it alone. So I’d be really happy if you helped me out.”
Louie looked up and rolled over with his arms still around my waist. He laid up against the hard earth this time as he rested me on his tempered abdomen.
Then, he entwined his fingers with mine and pulled me a little closer to him with both hands.
“I swear to protect you on my sword and on my life. As long——as you wish for it.”
It was foolish of me, but my chest grew hot at his words, which sounded very much like a knight’s oath. Then again, Louie was actually a knight for real.
His moon-colored eyes that carried his strong will and solitude seemed to pierce through my heart. They were so pretty that I forgot to breathe.
“Um…… But don’t die while protecting me or anything like that, okay?”
“My life isn’t dear to me.”
I grew troubled because I could tell that he really meant it.
“You know, it’s okay if you’re protecting me because you have the energy to spare, but don’t throw away your life just to save mine.”
Louie looked hurt as he closed his mouth. A knight’s job was to voluntarily protect important people with their lives. If I told someone in that kind of position not to protect me, it could sound to him like I was denying his existence. And so, I hurriedly added,
“I don’t want to see you get hurt, Louie.”
“So you’re telling me to sit there and watch you die?”
Louie said indignantly and looked away. He continued,
“and then you’d tell to live alone? This isn’t some kind of jest. Are you telling me to become a coward who lives on in disgrace after letting you die? Are you seriously telling me to become someone less than the lowliest of brutes?”
I thought that he was being a bit too harsh, but what I had probably said something that his pride absolutely could not allow.
I grasp Louie’s fingers, still connected with mine, tightly.
“That’s not what I meant. Er, I want you to help yourself, Louie, just like you would help me. I don’t want either of us to sacrifice ourselves for the other. If push ever comes to shove, we’ll run away together ASAP.”
Louie looked surprised as he looked up at me.
“Uh-huh. He who runs away lives to fight another day, right?”
“You are……a strange person.”
“There are a few promises that I want you to keep if you’re going to come along with me. Can you swear to keep them?”
Louie immediately went on guard. It was like he already knew what I was about to say.
“First. Like I just said, you’re not allowed to sacrifice yourself for me.”
I looked down at Louie, who looked like he was about to argue, and stubbornly pressed on,
“you can’t protect someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.”
This was something I had heard from Uncle Miharu. His exact lines had been, “you can’t say anything about someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first!”. He had pointed out my chocolate addiction when I tried to get him to stop smoking……wait, I feel like that’s a completely different situation from what’s happening right now.
Louie pursed his lips, perhaps because my words had hit home. I won’t budge even if you make that face!
“Second. Stop speaking so formally to me!”
It was because I couldn’t take it anymore. I mean, I was younger than him!
“Third. Teach me how to use a sword.”
Louie looked dumbfounded as he stared at me. He looked like wanted to veto this one as hard as he could because he found it way too reckless. That’s rude, you know.
“I have to learn how to use one no matter what because of my circumstances.”
I should have learned kendo or something. Though, it couldn’t be helped that I hadn’t thought that I’d find myself in this situation even in my wildest dreams.
“Can you promise me these three things? Er, on your sword, life, and to god.”
Louie looked incredibly reluctant. His eyes kinda looked a little reproachful. I stopped him by waving my finger a little because he looked like he was about to look away.
It was childish to be indecisive.
“——I shall swear……I’ll swear it.”
He sounded kinda reluctant, but whatever.
Something suddenly pulled at my long sleeve when I grinned. Eru, who had been kept out of the conversation like bugs outside a mosquito net, was looking at me sulkily.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
And then, I suddenly realized. That I was still on top of Louie.
Eru snuggled up to me cheerfully after I hurried off of Louie’s hard abdomen.
Then, Eru growled menacingly at Louie, who had sat up. Was I imagining it, or was Eru being really obvious about his antagonism toward Louie……?
“Eru, it’s okay.”
Maybe Eru was just surprisingly shy.
I carefully ran my fingers through Eru’s steel-colored fur to calm him down since he looked like he’d been lonely.
Eru purred like he liked it, but his round eyes held the tell-tale glint of animosity when he looked at Louie. Yeah, he’s cute, but he’s also kinda stubborn…….
“Louie, let’s go back to the fire.”
I beckoned for Louie as I pacified Eru, who was in a bad mood for some reason. Louie cast a baffled look at Eru before quietly following along with what I said.
I threw in a few dried branches into the fire in a panic when I saw that he fire had almost died out. Then, I looked up at Louie’s face again. I’ll tell him everything. I want him to trust me if we’re going to be together from now on.
I resolved myself and opened my mouth.
“I know this is going be hard to believe——”
I told Louie in detail about how I was from a country called Japan from another world, about how I was summoned into the world of Evelier, about Silvai and Olin, about my conversation with Fortune, and everything else that had happened leading up to now.
There was only one thing that I didn’t tell him……that I had weighed his life on a scale of pros and cons.
I probably would have felt better on an emotional level if I had honestly confessed and told him about it. But I didn’t want Louie to know that I had hesitated to save him back them. Even I knew how cowardly I was being.
I’ll make sure to tell him one day.
At first, Louie had a look on his face that I couldn’t really describe. But, his complexion changed when I mentioned Fortune and he looked astonished when I told him about Silvai and Olin.
He looked taken aback at the end.
It wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that he looked like he was in a daze toward the end of my story.
Even still, it would probably be difficult for him to deny my story outright as simple bragging.
For one, Eru was here right before us. I didn’t really get it, but there was something about Eru that made him different from the normal beasts in this world.
Then, there was also the stone on my forehead. Louie had called it a divine stone. I didn’t know what powers it carried, but there was no doubt that it was pretty rare.
I decided to wait a while until Louie finished organizing my story in his head.
It was up to Louie to decide whether he would believe me or not.
Louie finally called out to me in an anxious tone as I was nodding off from fatigue.
“What is it?”
I had been laying on Eru’s stomach as he sprawled out on the ground, but I knew that I’d get too sleepy to talk if I didn’t sit back up. I sat up to make sure I would stay awake and let out a small yawn.
“Oh, my bad. Why don’t we talk tomorrow? You must be tired.”
“No, I’m good to talk now.”
“Well, I thought about it……and I realized that you were, to put it one way, a complete victim in all of this.”
I had been bracing myself because I was worried that he wouldn’t believe me, so Louie’s reserved words had taken me off guard.
——Is that right? ……I feel like it’s not.
At the very least, I hadn’t been a victim when I had hesitated over whether or not to call out to Louie in the forest.
I suddenly got the impulse to tell Louie about that. I really must be weak-willed if I couldn’t even take responsibility for the mistakes that I made. I felt really dejected.
“……You’re wrong, Louie.”
“Do you hate them?”
“The noble being brought about by the gods, no, the people of this kingdom who brought about the calamity.”
I tilted my head to the side. Do I hate the people of this kingdom?
“Why? ……It’s not like the people of this kingdom did anything to me?”
“It’s not like Fortune, the gods, or the people of this kingdom wanted to fight on purpose, but just that they clashed with each other little by little. I don’t think I can forgive Fortune for cruelly trying to destroy the kingdom, of course, but after listening to Olin and Silvai’s story, I don’t think that Fortune’s completely evil or anything and I don’t know who or what to blame or hate…….”
I couldn’t draw a distinct line pointing to whom, or what, to blame.
Hate the sin and not the sinner, was it?
But I also thought that it was people who stained their hands with sin. There wouldn’t be any sin if there were no people. So, did that mean that I should hate people, that it was okay to ignore the series of events that lead up to that point? I couldn’t come up with a correct answer as I was right now because all of these questions were jumbled together in my head.
“Anyway, we should think about how to save everyone in the kingdom before figuring out who to blame.”
Besides, Olin and Silvai said that Japan would be in trouble if I didn’t, too.
Louie looked at me as if he was looking at something peculiar for some reason.
“……Am I wrong? Did I simplify things too much?”
I asked in a hurry, embarrassed, causing Louie start to laugh cheerfully. It was a nice laugh that was free from worry, but……”
“No, I’m sorry,”
he apologized, but he was still laughing. I sulked. He continued,
“I didn’t mean to make fun of you. You really are a pure-hearted child.”
I was shocked by Louie’s words. It sounded like he was trying to cheer up a pouting kid. I mean, you normally wouldn’t tell a girl that she’s a “pure-hearted child” after she reaches a certain age.
Louie looked off to the side a little and continued to laugh persistently. I’m glad he’s feeling better, I really am, but…!
Louie suddenly said in a low tone. I looked into his face to see what exactly it was that he was apologizing for. The smile had disappeared from his face. He continued,
“we shouldn’t have dragged someone like you into our ugly battles. That, above all else, is our greatest sin.”
“No one dragged me into anything, I came here of my own accord.”
“……This land is teeming with things that are so hideous that you can’t help but look away from them. But you’ll have no choice but to face them as long as you continue to fulfill your promise to the gods——so I’ll make sure to protect you. I offer to you my unchanging fidelity until the day you safely return to where your loved ones await you. As proof of my knighthood, the blood of reason and justice runs through me in the place of water, I uphold a sword of light in the place of wind, I burn a torch of valor in the place of flames, and I offer to you my undying will in place of the earth. My oath shall not be altered until the day my flesh returns to dust.”
Louie suddenly bent over and knelt with one knee on the ground in one refined movement, took my left hand, and gently pressed his forehead to it.
He quickly moved back away from me because of Eru’s displeased growling and smiled wryly as I froze up.
‘Fidelity’ wasn’t a word that I, a completely normal middle schooler who had been born in a peaceful Japan, was used to hearing and it really shook me up to hear it being used so seriously!
Wasn’t it supposed to be a great honor to receive a knight’s oath?
And he had staked his life on it, too.
“Though, I didn’t want someone as young as you to have to witness such depravity.”
His bitter words carried a deep remorse in them, almost as if he was speaking as a proxy of the gods. But at the moment, I’d taken great offense because of something else.
“Louie, how old are you?”
Louie tilted his head a little to the side and blinked at my sudden question.
I was unintentionally taken aback. I’d thought that he’d be older. Both his attitude and the atmosphere around him were composed and his body was in great shape. But then again, he also looked younger than his age when he smiled.
I re-gathered my wits and glared a little at Louie, who looked puzzled.
“Hey, how old do I look to you?”
I glared even more as Louie’s face stiffened up strangely and he fell into an unnatural silence.
“Uh, ……about twelve or thirteen?”
……Is that so?
I fell back against Eru’s stomach, depressed. Ugh, I can’t recover from this. Well yeah, I know I’m short and that I’m not very feminine.
It was probably hard for Louie, who had sharp and shapely features, to discern a Japanese person’s age from their appearance. But even still, his hesitation just now was a little too much.
Louie had asked me if I was thirteen even after realizing that I felt like I was being treated like a child and taking that into consideration.
Which basically meant that he actually thought that I was younger than that. He probably thought that he was being tactful, but he had only dug his own grave.
So, does that mean that he initially thought that I was around ten? ……I kinda want to die.
“Was I wrong?”
Louie asked gingerly as he stiffened up a little, likely because he realized that he had said something wrong.
“I don’t care anymore……”
Even I thought that I sounded dark. I see, so that’s why he was so okay with hugging and patting me. He didn’t see me as a member of the opposite sex……. This is bad, I really wanna die!
“It doesn’t bother me at all! Even though I’m technically fifteen!”
I grew even more depressed as Louie’s rude surprise, especially since it sounded like my age was the most astounding thing he’d heard today. He continued,
“I thought that you were extraordinarily sharp for such a young child……no, it all makes sense if you consider that there are all kinds of people in the world, ……uh, please don’t glare at me.”
I glared even more fiercely at Louie, who was muttering to himself in bewilderment.
“What do you mean there are all kinds of people in the world? Do I look like a monster to you or something?”
“That’s not what I meant……and I don’t want you to get angry. But I’d thought that you were an incarnation of a goddess.”
It sounds extremely fishy since you just admitted that you thought I was a child! And it doesn’t make me happy at all!
“I’m going to bed!”
“I’m sorry, I had no intention of making fun of you.”
That’s what makes it worse!
I buried my face in Eru’s stomach in a huff. Eru, ever my ally, snorted at Louie and wrapped his long tail around me like an animal would do to their young.
It’s not that I mind, but I feel like Eru’s treating me like a child too.
——But thank you, Louie.
He might not actually believe that I’d met the gods deep down in his heart. But he was being considerate for me by not showing even the slightest hint of his doubt.
His kindness in trying to accept everything I said no matter how unrealistic it sounded was warm.
I was sure that credibility was only a trivial problem for Louie. I felt like he would acknowledge my story even if it was complete nonsense and he had noticed that it was.
I wonder how devoted his fidelity is?
He made believing in and adhering to another’s words his top priority without caring about whether it was fact or fiction.
Louie really is a knight. I admired him secretly as my consciousness grew hazy.
I was able to spend the rest of the night without having to worry about any more beasts.
I had meant to go to bed in a huff, but I had evidently fallen deeply asleep before I knew it.
Louie had apparently stayed up to keep watch all night long. The fire hadn’t gone out until Eru woke me up in the morning.
We decided to leave the old tree after having the same simple meal that we had last night for breakfast. I wanted to wash my face and take a bath, but I knew from the ruins around me that it wasn’t the time to ask for such carefree wishes.
“A village called Urs is the closest from here,”
Louie said as he pointed to a gentle slope.
It was probably the village that he said would take two days to walk to yesterday.
“It’ll be dangerous because there’ll be Reims, right?”
I asked just to make sure. Your mental preparedness depended what you did or didn’t know.
“No, Reims don’t appear during the day. They appear as the sun sets and go back to sleep as the sun rises. What we need to be careful of are monsters and starved beasts. Beasts and demonbeasts attack regardless of the time of day,”
“What’s the difference between demonbeasts and regular beasts?”
Louie explained it to me as he cleaned up after the fire. I was packing the luggage.
“Beasts were created by the gods while demonbeasts are born from the King of Depravity. Do beasts exist in your world?”
Yeah, I answered while I added, “though they’re a bit different from the beasts here” in my heart.
“Then, do demonbeasts not exist in your world?”
“They don’t. They’re considered to be creatures from fantasy.”
Louie brushed off the soot on his hands and gave me a scrutinizing smile.
“Demonbeasts can appear artificially as well. Unlike beasts, they can be summoned by those who know the right spells.”
“Do you see demonbeasts often around here?”
“There are a lot of them right now because the world is in such a bad state. Also, the summoners and mages who had demonbeasts under their servitude have all turned into Reims. There are a lot of monsters with half-broken contracts wandering about.”
Demonbeasts, mages, and summoners. My head was spinning. I had really come to a world that was incredible in a lot of ways. Louie continued,
“demonbeasts have ranks, and there are formidable ones and weaker ones among them. There are even demonbeasts with a high level of intelligence.”
“Er, how do you tell them apart from regular beasts?”
“They feel different. Monsters have an abnormal air about them.”
To be honest, I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to tell them apart accurately. Though, I’d called the more monstrous beasts “monsters” when I saved Louie in the thicket. He continued,
“in addition, demonbeasts and cryptids live in different regions. The world also distinguishes between phantoms and apparitions.”
I groaned. Did I really need to be wary of all those different types of creatures?
My anxiety must have shown through on my face. Louie, who had been erasing the traces of our campground as he talked, looked at me with a gentle, yet still serious, gaze as I was completely at a loss.
“There’s no need to worry. I’ll be sure to protect you no matter what kind of monster appears before us.”
I felt like Louie would keep his oath even if it meant using his own body to shield me from danger.
“Louie, have you, well, have you fought an intelligent monster before?”
“Yes, a few times.”
Louie looked stern, perhaps because he was recalling the times he had exterminated demons in his past. He continued,
“it’s not possible to fight a high-ranked monster by yourself, especially if it’s humanoid. You would need to command an elite battalion with mages at the very least to even hope to rival it in combat.”
How many people made up a battalion again? More than a thousand? If you needed that many people just to rival it in combat, didn’t that mean that monsters are ridiculously strong?
I leaned back against Eru, who had snuggled up against me, and furrowed my brows as I fell into thought.
Will I really end up having to face humanoid monsters during my journey?
Louie leaned in before me as I was looking down and continued,
“I’ll protect you. I want you to trust me on this.”
I did trust him, but I was also worried that Louie would sacrifice himself for me if he felt like he had to. I didn’t want him to expose himself to danger in order to protect me, but I felt like he would break any promises he made to that effect.
That being said, I could tell that even if I forced Louie to put his safety first, he’d either get bewildered or sad because he would mistakenly think that I was denying his reason for existence.
This is hard. I pat Eru’s face as I worried.
“Okay, thank you.”
Louie smiled humbly at my answer for now. He was a mature, strong, and chivalrous knight. And yet he sill had an austere air about him that made my heart race.
I’m so glad the first person I met was someone was kind as Louie. The thought suddenly popped up in my mind.
“Should we head out soon?”
Louie nodded with his gentle gaze still on me when I asked.
We left the old tree that we stayed the night under and proceeded through the wasteland with the faraway hills in the corner of our eyes to the left as we headed for the closest town.
I couldn’t see anything around us moving, save for a few raven-like black birds that cawed in cracking voices as they flew high up in the sky. There was only the creepy, skeleton-thin trees that popped up at irregular intervals.
The ground was dry and there were so many cracks in it that it looked like stone pavement. A cold wind blew from time to time, stirring up a low cloud of sand that obscured my field of vision each time it did.
The sky was dull, as if it had been filled up with concrete. It really gave the impression that the entire world was frozen. There wasn’t any danger present at the moment, but I still couldn’t keep from being anxious.
I looked away from the gloomy sky and looked at Louie’s profile as he walked next to me instead.
“Louie, aren’t you tired? Tell me if you wanna take a break, okay?”
“——Oh. You don’t need to be concerned about me. And Hibiki, you’ll fall off the sacred beast if you lean out like that,”
Louie answered self-consciously as he lowered his eyes.
Actually, I’d had a small quarrel when we departed.
It was with Eru.
I had planned to have Louie ride Eru as well so we could shorten the time it took to get to the town.
Apparently, Eru greatly disliked the idea of letting someone other than me ride him.
At first, I’d thought that it was because carrying two people was over his carrying weight limit, but that evidently wasn’t the case.
He had apparently only obediently let Louie ride him when we rescued Louie from the beasts because it had been an emergency situation. It looked like Eru had actually been quite reluctant about it.
No matter how much I tried to coax him, Eru persistently and firmly continued to refuse by growling as if to say, “no!” and shaking his fur. Eru’s mood soured considerably while I continuously tried to plead with him.
He would hit my arm lightly with his long tail the moment I looked away and stare at me with resentful eyes. In the end, he began to ignore me completely and even refused to answer me.
Louie magnanimously forgave the sulking sacred beast by saying that we shouldn’t force him to do something he didn’t want to.
According to Louie, it was only natural that a beast in service of a god wouldn’t want to let anyone else ride him.
Evidently, Eru was not only shy, but was quite prideful as well.
I wondered if the truth was that Eru actually didn’t want to let me ride him either. That maybe he had given up on refusing to let me ride him because of Olin’s orders.
Then, when I decided that I’d travel on foot as well in order to build up my stamina, Eru was shocked and looked at me like he was hurt. He desperately crouched in place and stubbornly refused to move even when I called out to him.
Finally, Louie advised me to ride Eru in a quiet tone, perhaps because he had carefully considered Eru’s low spirits.
I had started to get stubborn too, at that point. Just like Eru, I glared at Louie with resentful eyes.
Louie politely offered me his opinion with a serious look on his face in a manner that ultimately convinced me. First, there was the difference in Louie’s and my respective stamina. And the difference in our constitution. He said that the journey would take longer if I, who was familiar with Eru, went on foot as well, and that there wouldn’t be much benefit to it. Louie said that walking was no problem for him because he was used to traveling. And, most importantly, he said that it would be more dangerous if we were attacked by beasts or monsters while I was on foot.
I wanted Louie to teach me self-defense and how to use a sword precisely for those times of danger.
But, while he never clearly refused, Louie would nonchalantly change the topic whenever I brought it up.
……And so, as a result of our quarrel, I ended up riding on Eru’s back alone. Both Eru and I were still in a bad mood.
Louie was an adult about it and didn’t touch upon the subject again now that it’d been settled and brought up another topic instead.
“Hibiki——I wanted to ask, but you said that you received that sword from a god of war, right?”
“Then, does that mean that it’s possible to save people if it’s with a divine sword?”
Louie looked deep in thought as he cast a glance at me.
“A divine sword……?”
I whispered quizzically to myself before it hit me. Since Olin, a god, lent it to me, I should be calling it a divine sword.
“Would I be able to wield it as well?”
Louie asked in a strangely serious tone.
“Er, what do you mean?”
“I don’t think anyone can use a divine sword just because they want to.”
“I dunno……. Olin never said anything about that. Do you want to use this sword, Louie?”
When I asked in return, unable to see what he was trying to get at, Louie looked away for a moment and looked hesitant.
“I’m used to handling a sword. Wouldn’t it be better for me to wield it?”
I had the strange feeling that he was trying to gloss over something important for some reason.
“What do you think, Eru?”
Eru could understand human speech since he was smart. When I asked for his opinion, he looked at Louie coldly and shook his head as if to say, “not a chance.” His steel-colored mane swayed like a wave.
“As I’d thought, I can’t……”
Louie looked bitter.
“As you’d thought?”
His wording caught my attention. It sounded like he’d had a similar experience before.
“There’s a divine sword in my kingdom as well. Only those with strong ties to the royal family may wield it.”
“……The royal family?”
I think I stiffened up quite a bit. I felt like I was finally faced with something that I knew was coming and was afraid of.
A royal family means a king, queen……clothes lined with furs, and a crown. What else? The utter lacking of my imagination made me miserable.
“The story behind it has been passed down as a myth——in the beginning, when the world awoke from chaos, the First King who governed over the earth was said to be a god. New Queen Gallè was founded by the First King and is the oldest kingdom in the world.”
The First King……that’s Olin!
My heart beat faster, though I knew I was being imprudent. It was amazing that someone I knew was being talked of as a myth by others.
“The great and clever King’s glorious name was Queenza Gallend. His name was shared by the kingdom so that the light of his wisdom and glory may shine for all of eternity.”
Was that what Olin’s name was in the past? But before that, isn’t the kingdom called something else?
“Queen……isn’t that a woman’s name?”
“It’s said that the founding king never chose a queen. He declared that the kingdom itself was his bride.”
That’s kinda like Queen Elizabeth from England, who’s said to have married her country!
I didn’t think I’d find something historically similar to my own world in something like this.
Olin, you’re so cool!
Wait, but didn’t Olin say something like he wanted to welcome me as his wife?
……So which one is it, Olin?
“Thus, it’s said that the kingdom’s name is a feminized version of the founding king’s. It meant that he would share his fate with the kingdom as would a man and woman who exchanged their marital vows with love.”
I see, I though as I nodded deeply.
Louie laughed a little as he watched me be impressed.
“This founding king’s vows continue to this day as a tradition. None of his successors have welcomed a queen.”
“Huh, all this time?”
“The king’s spouse will always be the kingdom itself.”
“So are all kings single?”
Would that mean that the royal lineage wasn’t hereditary? Louie was startled when realized what I really meant to ask when I looked at him, puzzled, and oddly looked away.
……His unnatural attitude told me everything I needed to know.
“Do kings here have lots of lovers, or many even a harem?”
I muttered to trick Louie into answering, and he looked extremely perturbed and extremely regretful about bringing up the topic.
He misunderstood me. I’m not selfish enough or nit-picky enough to be grossed out by the various reasons that adults do dirty things.
People in power surround themselves with women in any country, and it wasn’t all that historically rare either. I’m dead set against it on a personal level, though.
“……I’ll have to ask Olin about it later.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Louie looked at me timidly. There was no point in criticizing Louie about this. I also wanted to show him that I could be more mature when I wanted to.
“I guess they can’t help it, since they have to deal with problems to do with heirs, political support, and territory. They probably aren’t free to choose their lovers too, right? Being in a position of power can be pesky like that.”
Louie opened his eyes wide and made a complicated expression when I sensibly said my piece.
My knowledge about this topic came……not from my history textbooks, but mostly from manga and movies. You just couldn’t look down on how surprisingly profound Japanese entertainment could be.
“Well, I’m sure that there are kings who went wild too. ……How is it, Louie? What was the previous king like? Or actually, you wouldn’t happen to be the type to be okay with things like that, would you, Louie?”
I felt that Louie keenly wanted to change the topic. It might have been because my voice had naturally gotten lower. Plus, I’d started to glare at Louie, who technically didn’t have anything to do with the conversation, too.
“Hey, Louie, do people in this kingdom practice polygamy by any chance?”
Louie huffed a little and tried to dodge my question by pretending to survey our surroundings.
Whoa, no way. That reaction means that they do!
Wait, if Olin’s the First King, does that mean that he’s the perp who established the laws surrounding marriage in the first place?
“……I’ll make you confess everything one day, Olin.”
The truth was that I actually wanted to ask more about Louie’s sense of values and circumstances, but I decided against it.
If he had a lover……or a wife, they would have turned into a revenant——a Reim. I didn’t want to make him sad by asking about it so casually.
“But I want you to have some peace of mind knowing that the majority of commoners are monogamous.”
Louie, I’m pretty sure you’re just adding fuel to the flames here.
Put another way, that meant that people of high statuses were married to multiple women.
Besides, it was suspicious that he said only the “majority” of commoners think this way. That basically meant that there was a small proportion of people who weren’t satisfied with having only one wife. How immoral!
“Can we go back to taking about divine swords?”
Louie swiftly changed back the topic of the conversation because he had sensed the restlessness in the air and realized that he had stepped on a landmine
What were we talking about again? Erm, something about divine swords.
“The royal family inherited the blood of a god. Only those from the royal family may wield the divine sword that the founding king left behind.”
“Huh. So that means…”
“The royal family has a divine sword as well.”
I was surprised. That meant that people from the royal family could also use a divine sword to turn Reims back to people.
“Yes. The founding king granted a divine sword to the king of every kingdom so that they may dispel monsters whenever they appear.”
“But, haven’t the royal family turned into revenants too……?”
“Which brings us to my next point, Hibiki. I’d like for us to head straight for the capital before visiting any other towns if possible.”
“Do revenants……Reims all stay in the same place?”
“I don’t know the exact logic behind it, but Reims adhere stubbornly to the places where they were born and raised or to places they were strongly attached to, perhaps because their past memories chain them there.”
“I see. So if we first go to the castle and turn the king back to normal……”
It would mean that there would be more people who can use a divine sword. ……I should be happy about that, right?
“——Our king has already passed away. Or rather, he killed himself.”
“He killed himself?”
“He was a human sacrifice. At first, everyone thought that the deterioration of the kingdom was a punishment from the gods. There were more than a few of the king’s retainers who held the foolish, baseless belief that it was because the king had disobeyed the will of the gods and was leading the kingdom down an unjust path. And so, the king offered up his life in order to avoid the coming calamity, but——”
Political corruption had nothing to do with it.
The calamity befalling the kingdom in itself was something that ran counter to the will of the gods, and things wouldn’t change for the better even if the king sacrificed his life.
As a result, the kingdom lost its leader and that had probably led to even more confusion and disagreement.
“With the throne still vacant, the kingdom could do little else before it fell.”
Louie’s eyes looked distant as he looked into the past. The expression he wore was a mixture of resignation and bitterness. He continued,
“there are currently two divine swords in Gallè. There were originally supposed to be three, but one was buried along with the king when he sacrificed himself. As for people who can wield them——the second prince, His Royal Highness Griffoa Diekrobe can. The seventh prince, His Royal Highness Sazadieg Sodawelnas can as well.”
“I would like to first save the two royal princes.”
“Uh, yeah, okay.”
Louie looked back at me and smiled in relief when I nodded in a hurry. I added,
“um, there was something I found strange, though.”
“What is it?”
“People who’ve inherited the blood of the royal family can use divine swords, right? But Louie, you only specified the second and seventh princes. Aren’t there more than just two princes though?”
I’d found it strange that the ability was limited to just to the two of them.
I didn’t know exactly how the royal family tree worked, so I might have been mistaken. But shouldn’t there also be people like the first or fourth princes, or even princesses in between?
“The late king had ten children. However, only the two princes I mentioned are able to wield divine swords. Only those who’ve inherited more of god’s blood than others are able to touch them. The two princes are also the only members of the royal family who possess succession rights to the throne.”
I felt like the conversation had taken a dubious turn.
There are a lot of times where blood relatives struggle against each other over succession rights, retainers carry out assassinations for status, and all kinds of other disturbing Machiavellian troubles that arise from monarchies, right? ……Or at least, that’s what I’d gathered from the western films that aired at 9pm when Uncle Miharu watched TV.
Well, it’s wasn’t as if these strange and complicated politics would have anything to do with me, so there probably wasn’t any point to me prying into it.
“So, are we still going in this direction?”
I wondered if the capital was a large city.
“Yeah. First, we’ll secure necessary supplies from the village of Urs, and then I’d like for us to go south to the town of Lavann, where there is a temple.”
Uh, umm? I grew profoundly confused.
“The village of Urs doesn’t have a temple, after all. It’ll take about seven days to reach Lavann, no, we might need a few more.”
I hurriedly called out his name and drew back his attention since Louie had begun muttering to himself as he sank deep into his thoughts. I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked,
“why do we need to stop by a temple in order to get to the capital?”
“Oh, my bad. I forgot that you weren’t from this world.”
Louie abruptly returned to his senses and looked back to me again as I rode on Eru’s back. I lowered my eyes ever so slightly.
There was a flicker of feelings like sorrow and disappointment in Louie’s eyes for a moment. Or at least, I felt like I’d seen something like that in them.
I knew next to nothing about Evelier, so I had to ask Louie to explain everything whenever we talked about anything or else I wouldn’t understand. Louie probably felt as vexed as I felt hesitant and would probably be forced to re-realize that I was from another world each time it happened like he did just now.
I’m sorry. I apologized to him quietly in my heart.
“Most temples generally have ritual tools kept in reserve for emergency situations. There should be something that lets you translocate among them. If we can get one to work, we’ll be able to make our way to the capital, Jinshan, without having to undertake a long and dangerous journey to get there.”
I desperately forced my brain to work. I didn’t want Louie to awkwardly think that I was some troublesome child who needed everything to be spelled out for me.
Even adults get annoyed if they’re continuously barraged with a child’s “why’s” and “how’s” even if they were okay with it at first, right?
Let’s see, ritual tools. I wondered if those were items like a mage’s staff from fantasies. And, translocation was probably the same thing as teleporting.
Louie wanted to go to a town called Lavann because there might be convenient tools in the temple there.
And, the town of Lavann was located down south of the village of Urs.
But could I, a normal person, use those ritual tools? Wouldn’t they require a special spell or something? I didn’t know any spells though, so would it still work?
“I’ve translocated multiple times before, but I don’t know if the tools will still be there.”
Oh, I see, Louie’s no doubt translocated before. I was relieved. It probably also meant that I didn’t have to worry so much anymore.
It’ll be okay, it’ll be okay, I repeated over and over again in my heart.
A single black bird flew through the concrete-colored sky as if it was splitting it in two.
I abruptly cast my gaze at Louie’s profile. He was so absorbed in serious thought that it looked like he had forgotten that I was sitting here right next to him.
My heart wavered a little. I was about to call out to him, but ultimately decided not to.
I wondered where this loneliness was coming from. I couldn’t find an answer no matter how hard I looked for one.
↑‘Divine stone’ (shinseki, 神石) in Japanese is homonymous to the Japanese word for ‘relatives’ (shinseki, 親戚)