When you’ve messed up so royally, so irreversibly, that you know nothing can be done, how are you supposed to react?
When there’s no backward function and the layers are merged*, or when you enter the final boss’s dungeon and realize you forgot to save before you went in, what’s the reaction?
[tl/n*: I believe a reference to the photo-editing process, where the image is broken into layers to edit before being combined into a final image.
Idk much about it so it took me a while to figure out that reference….]
Perhaps the automatic response is a denial of reality, with a few swear words mixed in, before realization hits and you’re left sighing with your forehead lowered into your hands.
And after this resignation comes a process of deep reflection upon yourself.
Moments that make you say, “why on earth did I do that?” Knowing that regret is always too late, we endlessly look back on the moments past and make conjectures about what might have been, saying, “if only I hadn’t done this thing or that thing, maybe things could have been different.”
Then, as I was stuck in this mode of deep contemplation over my current situation, one thought following another….
I kept coming to a very shocking conclusion.
There’s no way it could be true, but the incomprehensible change in Cabel’s behavior left me circling over and over back to the validity of this one “conclusion.”
In this situation, there is only one reason that can make sense of his unusual change towards me.
Does Cabel… like me?
This thought makes no sense, but then again neither does this situation, so I become stuck trying to decide which is more crazy.
I confessed by mistake to Cabel because I was drunk, but instead of getting upset, he suddenly changed, asking me to call him by his “nickname,” smiling sweetly and speaking kindly to me….
Actually, rather than Cabel changing simply after accepting my confession, he was kind towards me even before then… Ah, this is crazy.
I was so dumbfounded that I couldn’t even laugh.
I somehow managed to get back to the barracks, but after that I couldn’t sleep again, so I sat still on the bed and kept thinking.
I continued like this until Lily woke from her sleep, reaching blindly for water with a tired face.
“Ah… that’s right, Renée.
How did your confession go yesterday?”
Lily’s question came out sounding surprised, since she was still shaking off a sleepy daze.
She explained that she had wanted to ask me yesterday, but she came in late, and I was already sleeping by the time she arrived.
Then she sighed briefly as she suddenly remembered yesterday…….
“By the way, about that drink you had yesterday.
That wasn’t wine, it was liquor.
I was told that it’s a traditional drink in Vios but its alcohol percentage is pretty high…… do you feel alright?”
Oh, so that explains it.
It depicted a bull rushing into the bottle, so of course it must have been a drink that makes people crazy.
Lily’s expression darkened as I lost myself contemplating the painted warning anew.
My silence seemed to make her feel strangely anxious.
Then all of a sudden she smiled awkwardly at me and said, “I-It’s okay, Renée! Even if he refused, it doesn’t mean that he hates you, or that…”
“I, I made a confession, but…”
Lily had rushed to comfort me, probably thinking that I had been brushed off by Elvin.
She nodded her head in response, with a nervous expression on her face.
She pushed aside her frizzy hair and even blinked her eyes rapidly as if telling me to spill the details quickly.
For some reason, I felt like I was going to cry at the sight of her caring so much about me.
“I got drunk and confessed to someone else.”
“What? No, no matter how drunk you were, how could you confess to someone else? Ah, no.
It’s done now.
So who on earth did you confess to for you to make that face, as if the world is going to collapse?”
“…I did it to the duke.”
Lily’s disposition quickly became calm.
With an expression on her face asking me how I could make such a mistake with such a person, she nodded her head as if praying for my well-being soon.
“Why don’t you quickly go apologize to him? The duke, too, probably thinks it’s nonsense and doesn’t care much about it.”
“…He accepted it.”
Lily questioned immediately.
Her reaction time was remarkable.
With a bewildered expression, she asked again who I had confessed to, followed by a repetition of, “And he accepted it?,” again and again.
And in the end, after hearing that he even called me, “Renée,” she answered with a very calm face.
“It’s really surprising, but I wonder if he really likes you, too.”
It’s something I’ve already put under consideration over and over again, so I just answered, “Perhaps….,” without expression.
Lily muttered quietly to herself in contemplation.
“Actually, I’d have been certain there was no such thing, after watching you suffer from fear of death at the duke’s hand up till now.…”
Lily didn’t say any more.
However, the words she left unsaid were obvious, leaving me more miserable.
If I am to die like this, my tongue will surely be plucked out in a circle of hell for liars.
* * * * * * *
Taking last night’s celebrations into consideration, today’s schedule started at a leisurely pace.
After all, everyone is relaxed now that the war has ended, and even the habitual recon before we set off now feels like a formality.
Of course, the knights who carry out the search don’t let their guard down, but the remaining soldiers and priests left waiting for them now gather comfortably and chat.
However, as for me, I stayed in the barracks to seriously think over my current predicament, considering which course of action would allow me to live a bit longer than the rest.
So naturally it felt to me as if the recon ended too quickly, and I had to prepare to move out.
However, leaving the barracks right away would mean having to face the Nickel Knights, who were reorganizing, so I stalled and came out as late as I could.
I didn’t forget to pretend to be sick and cough every once in a while, just in case someone inquired into my sudden strange behavior.
But in fact, coughing turned out to be unnecessary, since my condition already appeared to be rough on the outside.
Lily, who had returned from a walk to shake off her hangover, was worried about why my face was so pale, and even the knights passing by asked if I was okay.
I wasn’t even a little okay, but I smiled with difficulty and said that I was.
However, that only seemed to make my appearance even stranger.
If you’re not feeling well, shall we stop the march here for today?”
At the start of the day, I had been frantic, worried that the Nickel Knights would be marching at the back of the procession today.
However, to my good fortune, the Holy Knights were standing at the back.
It seemed as though it had been decided for the Nickel Knights to take the lead starting from the mountain we climbed yesterday to reach the villa, since they had more familiarity with the path.
I cheered internally at the sight of Elvin, thinking that if Cabel had been the one behind me at this moment, I wouldn’t have been able to walk.
We had just reached the halfway mark and were taking a break.
I was sitting down on a low rock when I heard Elvin’s voice approaching, asking me questions cordially.
For some reason, I felt a bit regretful at that moment, and I barely managed to suppress it before answering calmly.
“But you look pale.
Oh, that’s just… An unforeseen mishap that I dare not speak of has happened to me.
I smiled awkwardly, swallowing the words I couldn’t say, when Elvin glanced back around us before taking a slight step.
Before I knew it, a shadow slipped over me… My heart sank as soon as I realized what was happening.
Sunlight had been falling on my face, but Elvin blocked it as he took a step towards my side.
Suddenly, I was unable to breathe or speak, frozen as Elvin lowered his head and spoke in a very careful manner.
“Actually, I saw the priestess collapse yesterday.
I saw the captain of the Nickel Knights carrying you to the barracks.
Have you been feeling unwell since yesterday? It is okay if the schedule is delayed a bit, so please feel free to tell me.“
Elvin asked me with a look of deep concern on his face.
His polite manner of speaking discreetly in case other people heard that I had fallen was so thoughtful that I became even more miserable.
How could I have made such a wrong turn…
Regret hit me like a tidal wave.
My conversation with Cabel, which had occurred mere hours ago, suddenly seemed unrealistic, and even drinking yesterday felt like a dream.
Thanks to the sunlight pouring out behind Elvin, it appeared as though a halo were shining around him, so I even had the ridiculous thought that a miracle might happen if I were to confess all my wrongs to him and repent.
I was so swept away by that thought that I opened my mouth without realizing it.
“… Sir Knight.
Suddenly, a loud cry was heard.
By its volume alone, I knew it was Tirack’s voice.
With shivering shoulders, Tirack strode quickly toward me.
He greeted Elvin briefly before reverting back to a grave expression and coming straight to the point.
“Priestess, did you… make some sort of mistake with the commander? “
He asked me such a random question with such a serious expression that surprise covered not only my face, but also Elvin’s.
I was surprised for about 0.1 seconds, but then I became terrified.
It was because I immediately remembered what my mistake was.
And after watching such a change in my expression take place, Tirack was bewildered and asked if I had seriously made a mistake.
He let out a deep sigh.
“The commander kept looking back the whole time we were walking, so I asked what was wrong, and he suddenly said the priestess’s name.
Then he kept acting like he was going to go to the back, and suddenly he turned back towards me and told me to bring the priestess to the front like before.”
Tirack ran his hand over his head in confusion.
His short hair quickly became tousled under his big fingers.
He continued to think about whether he felt something was wrong with Cabel’s abnormal behavior, but explained that he came down anyway because Cabel moved to come himself during the break.
Upon hearing the story up to this point, my eyes shook wildly, eventually causing an earthquake over my whole body.
As my hands were shaking, Tirack knelt down on one knee in front of me until our eyes were level.
He seemed to be very concerned about my condition.
“Although I don’t know what kind of mistake the priestess made… i-it’s not like the commander would kill you.”
“But why are you hesitating……?”
The mistake that Tirack thinks I committed and the one that I actually made are different, but their endings will still be the same.
Suddenly, I thought of Cabel, who affectionately called my nickname just a few hours ago.
If I get caught, I-I’ll really die.
I don’t want to believe it, but if the “conclusion” I reached earlier is correct, then I’ve really purchased an express high-speed ticket to the underworld.
My actions now will determine whether it’ll be one-way or a round-trip.
While I stood there trembling, Tirack let out an uncomfortable laugh.
In the end, he never explained why he hesitated and stumbled over his words.
“Anyway, we’ll be arriving soon, and the commander said he’d see you then.”
“I’d also like to know why.”
Tirack looked at me curiously, but seeing as I was trembling without answering, he made a promise with a calm face.
It was a promise that seemed more like a solemn oath.
“The priestess saved my life, so I will make sure to save you if your life is in danger.
Even at the cost of my own.”
And I became even more scared that such an oath had to be made in this situation.
The haunting notion that I’m paving the way towards my own demise is getting stronger and stronger.
It was a truly incredible moment, where the lives of two people were on the line due to Cabel’s abnormal behavior.
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