A corner of my consciousness calmly observed my prey as she let out a slight groan, she’s not used to fighting. Also, they seem to have little desire to kill me here. That’s convenient. It’d be best if they just keep holding back and die.
Deiferias leaped at me with a dagger in hand. I lowered my body to avoid the broken blade that was aimed at my neck, then threw mud at the wound on her injured right thigh.
The woman’s dagger slashed at my left arm which was just hanging in the air. I didn’t care about my injured arm as I stepped forward. I swung my rapier from below and slashed the woman’s face.
The woman screamed. The tip of my rapier sliced through Deiferias’s left cheek. The woman staggered away from me and jumped back.
I also jumped backwards without hesitation and got away from them.
At the same time, I bit down hard on the high collar of my coat. I hooked the guard of my rapier around the fingertips of my left hand and used my free right hand to grab my left shoulder which had been dislocated. I slowly pulled the joint, which didn’t feel deformed, slowly forward and down. The pain was even worse than before, and I was sweating profusely as if it was raining. A sickening click echoed through my body and the intense pain made me blank out.
I instantly felt like vomiting and a small amount of gastric juice flowed back into my mouth. I felt a burning sensation at my throat. I quickly vomited the gastric juice out of my mouth, put my rapier back into my right arm and readied it.
I forcefully calmed my erratic breathing.
My body wobbled. Was I being a little too reckless?
Deiferias was also adjusting her stance while watching me. She was trembling while covering her left eye with her hand, her breathing was rough like an animal, and she glared at me.
She didn’t have the slightest hint of ridicule or carelessness in her eyes.
Wilhelmina held one ear with her bloodied hand behind Deiferias as she calmly called out the woman’s name.
“It’s time to go.”
The woman’s face twisted in a repulsive expression for a moment. Like I’ll let you get away. I kicked the ground, but Deiferias was faster than me. She waved her fingers in my direction, making the mysterious pattern flicker.
It wasn’t Rashiok who moved, but the countless phosphorescent moths in the sky.
They turned into a pitch-black mass and rushed towards me without regard for the water that was spraying from the broken water fountain. I instinctively shielded my face. The shadows of the phosphorescent moths completely obscured my vision. One by one, their wet wings crashed on top of me and into the muddy ground.
They didn’t light on fire because of the water, but their sheer number completely blocked my movements.
I heard the high-pitched scream of a girl in the midst of the countless sounds of phosphorescent moths flapping their wings as if they were struggling.
――― It was Feyria’s voice. I couldn’t help but cuss in my mind. I’m sure she’s close by, but I couldn’t even reach out to her when I’ve lost my sense of direction because of the flapping sounds.
I could faintly hear Deiferias’s frustrated, insult-filled shout.
I hazily saw the two of them turn their backs towards me among the falling phosphorescent moths who were slowly losing their numbers. I also caught the glimpse of someone who looked like Feyria in Deiferias’s arms.
I swept away the fading rain of phosphorescent moths and took off my coat that was covered in their corpses.
Then, I readied my rapier again. I stared at Rashiok in an extremely gloomy mood with my bloodshot eyes as he foamed at the mouth and drooled.
I called out to him. He was no longer rubbing his head against the ground.
Rashiok opened his big mouth like a rabid wolf, a beast without reason, and jumped straight at me.
I won’t accept death just because it’s coming for me.
A strangely calm thought whispered in the corner of my mind.
I rolled on the ground, barely escaping from Rashiok. However, his serpentine tail slithered and slammed into me from the left with terrifying force, and my light body was blown away.
I rolled on the muddy ground. My body bounced over and over on the ground.
My whole body creaked with an unpleasant sound. I choked from the impact, but I quickly stood up as I dragged myself to my feet.
I held my rapier straight in front of my body and waited for Rashiok to pounce on me again.
I felt terrible, like my heart was thirsty and cracked.
I felt a stabbing pain as I wiped mud from my face with my left hand. Oh, come to think of it, my arm had been slashed.
I have wounds all over my body… Well, how can I end this situation without dying?
Rashiok stared at me as he wagged his tail unhappily. He still hadn’t regained his senses even though Deiferias had left.
Was he completely brainwashed? To make monsters and magic beasts completely ignore their habits and lose their memories… This technique can’t be explained unless you call it magic.
While I think magicians are ridiculous, I know that magic does exist in this world. I’ve seen radcisilkas freeze entire forests and I’ve seen Rashiok manipulate the wind to blow away the phosphorescent moths. Monsters and magic beasts are creatures with supernatural abilities called magic, and it has never been proven that humans can’t possess magic.
“Rashiok, come to your senses…!”
I shouted, but Rashiok didn’t seem to pay any attention to my voice. He growled lowly and his eyes were fixed on me as if he was looking at prey.
Do I have to kill him after all?
Can I even kill him?
I felt as if Kamil’s face had flashed through my mind for a second.
――― At worst, my blade could slip off his scales and be repelled.
I would have to aim for his eyes or the inside of his opened mouth.
As soon as I thought about killing him, my mind started searching for a vital point where I could kill him in a single blow, as it always did.
A sword isn’t good enough. I want to switch to a spear.
Against the huge Rashiok, the small distance between us can lead to death.
The spear was lying between Rashiok and I. I’m not sure if I can jump in and change my weapon in time…
My body rapidly began to feel heavy. I don’t believe I can avoid him when he leaps at me again. If I want the spear, then now is the time to get it.
I instantly made up my mind. I kicked the muddy ground, almost falling forward. Rashiok also started running as if he was drawn by my action.
The mud at the bottom of my shoes made me slip and I grabbed the handle of the spear while half rolling on the ground.
Rashiok’s mouth was in front of me as soon as I raised my body.
I reflexively turned the spear sideways to stop his sharp teeth from biting me.
I was surprised by my own spontaneous action. I lost to Rashiok’s strength and flipped headfirst onto the ground.
Pressure seemed to be building in my stiff arm. This beast is playing with me, isn’t he?
My shoulder creaked and a splash of bright red blood spurt out from the laceration on my left arm. The beast cried happily.
My vision blurred when I screamed out in pain. Rashiok’s insane eyes became blurry.
Shit, why am I crying at a time like this…?
I couldn’t stop the sobs from escaping from the depths of my clenched teeth.
Why do I have to fight to the death with him? I had raised him before he could even open his eyes. This beautiful beast has always been by my side. How can I kill him with my own hands?
――― It’s impossible. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it even if it kills me.
My arms trembled and the mud at the corner of my eyes was being washed away by my tears.
But I couldn’t let a beast who had lost all reasons live, no matter how much I cry my emotions out.
Especially since it’s a beast that I had raised. Especially since it’s the beast that I had raised with him.
Hanging on the hilt of the spear which Rashiok was biting down hard, I kicked at Rashiok’s exposed and defenceless throat with all my might.
I was half-surprised by my own acrobatic skills, but I took advantage of the opportunity to switch the spear vertically as Rashiok screamed in surprise and turned his body away.
Now, die. I’ll probably be crushed by your body like this and die with you, but I don’t mind dying with you.
… But I didn’t feel the impact of the spear piercing through his flesh.
Rashiok suddenly let out a piercing roar as he pulled his huge body completely off me.
I heard something fall on top of the mud, it was a beautiful purplish-red colour.
――― Was it his wing?
It felt as if my heart was being clutched in an icy cold hand. I squeezed out an inarticulate scream, “Rashiok.”
I was suddenly pulled out from the mud.
I looked up at the person, who had pulled me up, in a daze, and said his name in a hoarse voice.
A young man with cold eyes, covered in burn scars, pulled my arm.
“――― Eh. Is that my real name?”
Emptiness like a glass ball shot through me.
It was like the first day we had met.
Kamil’s eyes looked disoriented as he reached for my left arm. When I was lifted up, a sharp pain shot through the hole in my left hand, and I groaned silently.
“Hey, I’ve got some questions for you.”
His voice sounded unfamiliar.
――― I’m sure he’s Kamil, and yet, the more I look at him, the more unfamiliar he seemed.
His slender body was covered in scars, and half his face, starting from his cheeks, was covered in burn marks, and there was a sword cut across his face. His pearly skin was nowhere to be seen, and his pure amber eyes were now cold and cloudy, as if it had been made by a poor craftsman.
Is he really Kamil? I can only assume he is, but I’m not sure.
I suddenly heard Rashiok struggling in the mud, but I couldn’t look away from the young man in front of me.
“Say, what am I to you?”
I didn’t know how I should answer his question.
“Answer me, Tsar.”
――― But as soon as he called out to me in his emotionless voice, a strong urge surged through me from the bottom of my stomach.
“The current you… shouldn’t call me by that name!”
I flicked away Kamil’s hand and put my strength into my right hand which was holding the spear.
But Kamil didn’t pull out the sword on his hip and just stared at me.
“… Who are you? Are you really Kamil?”
“Who knows. I don’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t remember. Wilhelmina… it seems like the comrades of the nun who you were fighting earlier have ruined me.”
Kamil replied indifferently, as if he was talking about someone else.
I looked at his body again. The scarred skin peeking out from his clothes were even discoloured in some areas. How was he treated for his skin to become discoloured?
I felt the blood drain from my body as if I had been splashed with ice, cold water.
These weren’t scars from injuries he had sustained in Jugfena.
They were the marks of torture.
“… Honestly, I probably don’t care who I am anymore.”
Kamil muttered sarcastically while I was stunned. I saw emotions from him for the first time.
A dry, worthless feeling of resignation and despair.
――― Why did it turn out like this?
Why did this happen to him? Why did they destroy him like this?
He was like a ――― living corpse. He was like a pitiful warrior who had died and was still moving.
Tears flowed from my eyes.
… The one who drove Kamil to this state, the one who made him like this, is me. It was definitely me.
Something clanged in front of me as I sobbed; it was a dagger that Kamil had taken out.
Is this how I pay for my sins?
――― You like me, don’t you? So much so that you don’t mind being killed. I also like you, so much so that I don’t want to kill you. So, please live. Don’t die. ――― I’m sorry.
The words of someone whose voice I could no longer remember surfaced at the back of my ears.
Who is this? Who is this battered girl, stained with blood and mud, worn out from insomnia and fatigue, dressed as if she was only a man?
――― I couldn’t find any trace of Eliza Kaldia or her father, whom I had feared so much.
I made up my mind. I even felt strangely refreshed.
“Kamil, I’m sorry. My ――― irreplaceable and precious Kamil.”
I already know that I can’t kill you. I’m not strong enough to kill something so important with my own hands.
So, ――― I guess I’ll just have to accept my own sins.
He thrusted his blade at my throat.
Fresh blood splattered. A colour like my eyes mixed with the pouring water.
His hand, which had caught the blade and was holding it, turned bright red.
The blade had pierced Kamil’s hand, and only the tip had grazed my throat.
“Why, Tsar? Why…”
I couldn’t understand what was happening. Something different from the water of the broken fountain dripped onto my hand which was holding the rapier.
“Why… Why are you trying to get yourself killed instead of finishing me off…!”
Drip, drip, Kamil’s tears fell endlessly onto my hand.
“Finish… you… Kamil? Stop it!”
Kamil took the rapier from my hand without listening to my protest and pulled out the blade that was stuck in his palm with all his might.
Fresh blood gushed out again, and I couldn’t help but cover my face. I didn’t want to see anymore. I couldn’t bear the thought of Kamil getting hurt because of me.
“Shut up, idiot; you idiot Tsar!”
He shouted in rage as he held me close. He buried his face in my shoulder and cried as he clung to me.
“What happened to the promise you made with me…? You said you’ll tell me properly.”
My heart thumped deep in my chest.
That’s right. I did say that to him.
I’ll tell you properly. I’ll tell you everything, so please don’t die.
“――― Forgive me, please forgive me Kamil. It’s my fault. Kamil, Kamil…”
I hugged him as he shook, and my arms were also shaking.
“It’s okay. I forgive you… I forgive you for everything. So please forgive me too, Eliza-sama.”
We hugged each other while covered in blood. We wiped each other’s tears over and over with our bloodied hands, as if to confirm the presence of the other in our arms. The stroking hands on our cheeks were soon replaced by the warmth and wetness of Rashiok’s tongue.
Rashiok whined feebly. The pain of having his wing cut off brought him back to his senses.
That’s good… Ah, I’m so glad.