|Author: Eltria||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Tunandir||English Source: Re:Library|
“…Who are you?”
“My name is Cassius. Nice to meet you.”
The young man who called himself Cassius offered a slight bow while looking straight into my eyes.
“Executing people who have committed the taboo is my duty. Please forgive me.” He had no intention of letting me escape; his unwavering eyes announced my impending execution.
From the moment I noticed him, I had already realized he wasn’t human. My death sentence must have been decreed by a Goddess.
“You’re a Kamut…” I deliberately said it aloud. Cassius’ eyebrows shifted in surprise, and he immediately returned my gaze with a smile.
“That’s right. My name is Cassius, Guardian of Cataclysm.”
I had never heard the name Cassius before, but I was familiar with the title of Pillar Guardian of Cataclysm. He was an opponent against whom I stood no chance. Yet, I couldn’t allow myself to be executed without knowing why.
Given my condition, running or fighting was out of the question. All I could do was think.
“The Guardian of Cataclysm. How nostalgic. I haven’t heard that title since the Great Human-Demon War.”
“Likewise for a Kamut to visit you,” Cassius replied, his voice devoid of intonation.
The Great Human-Demon War had concluded around ten years prior. Humankind, the followers of the Goddesses, had faced annihilation when hordes of demon beasts controlled by the Demon God Deusura advanced to destroy them. My own atelier in the Academic City of Argon had been attacked by demons and submerged in a poisonous swamp.
While many lands and people fell to the demon tribes, the Goddesses had sent a large number of Kamuts to the battlefield, staking mankind’s survival.
New weapons had been developed to turn the tide of the war. I had been commissioned by a Kamut, who also claimed to be the Guardian of Cataclysm, to supply a plethora of weapons to the messengers of the goddesses. Those efforts had led to mankind’s victory and brought us to the present day.
“The execution… will you carry it out with that sword?”
The sword that had been commissioned from me at the end of the Great Human-Demon War—the Divine Sword, Bronze Serpent “Nehushtan”—was one such weapon. A masterpiece of alchemy that had exceeded both my predictions and control, it had been born through miracles and luck.
That very Nehushtan now hung at Cassius’ waist.
“It’s surprising how calm you are, even though I’ve just announced your execution,” Cassius observed.
If I could engage him in conversation, perhaps I could buy some time. That was my sole chance for survival.
“Please answer my question. Will you use that sword?”
“That’s the intent,” he had replied, gracing me with a smile.
“How ironic that my life might be taken by a sword of my own making.”
As if pondering my words, he moved his hand toward the sword’s hilt. Cold sweat trickled down my back, warning me that I couldn’t let him unsheath that blade.
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“Ah, I see… This is also your achievement,” he murmured as he caressed the hilt and slowly lowered his hand. “There’s no need to be so tense; I won’t carry out your execution just yet.”
Noticing my tension, he narrowed his eyes.
“If you’re aware of it, then please don’t do that,” I said.
“My apologies. That wasn’t considerate of me. If I were to draw this, you would know best what would happen.”
Apologizing, he took a step back, signaling that he had no intention of cutting me down at that moment. But I knew well enough that it meant little. The effort was simply to put me at ease. For, despite being called a sword, Nehushtan lacked a blade. The scabbard held only a hilt and a guard.
“The ‘severing’ ability of Nehushtan cuts through space indiscriminately. The moment you draw it, I won’t escape death,” I explained.
“Quite so. But I can also cut space in such a way that you won’t die immediately,” he responded, looking around the room.
“That’s not amusing. Where did you get that sword?”
“I received it from my predecessor,” he replied, his smile vanishing.
Whether or not he’d lost his life in the midst of the Great Human-Demon War was irrelevant at this point. I understood that I couldn’t prolong the conversation by mentioning the names of deities.
—If I didn’t think of something new to say, he would carry out the execution.
“I want to know the reason for my execution. Just bringing down punishment without letting the charges be known can’t be the style of deities, right? What forbidden domain?”
“Where is the necessity for that? It won’t help you escape death.”
He moved the fingers of his right hand in a gripping motion, as if holding an invisible sword, and raised his eyebrows in doubt.
“There must be something to be gained by repenting for our sins. If need be, I will repent to God.”
“No, there is no need to repent.”
He rejected me coldly. I noticed that he had clenched his right hand into a fist.
“Now that you have already trespassed into the forbidden domain, you can no longer be pardoned.”
I needed to buy more time; there had to be a way to save myself.
“Removing you from this world is the mission that has been given to me.”
The conversation reached an impasse, and he touched the handle again.
My heart pounded so rapidly it felt like the sound could fill the room. Alarm bells resounded in my head, urging me to flee from the imminent death. But there was no way Cassius would let me run. The black stone disease had rendered me immobile, but even without that, I instinctively knew running was not an option.
“This is my life, my fate. And if I don’t know about the forbidden domain, I might commit the same sins again.”
A way to save myself—was there a way to break this dilemma? There had to be something. Just when I was beginning to feel impatient, I heard Cassius’s weak laugh in my ear.
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“We’ll make sure to erase your memories when we reincarnate you.”
Did it mean that even if I were executed, I could be reborn anew?
“I’ve heard rumors, but it seems I can be reborn too.”
“The Goddess gives every soul an equal chance.”
“Is that atonement for my execution?”
“No, it’s the privilege given to life in this world,” Cassius said, uninterested as if it were a matter of course.
“That is a benevolent thing to do. Hopefully, I will lead a more decent life next time.”
I said with heartfelt sarcasm, but Cassius lowered his eyebrows in a show of sympathy.
“Is that what you wish?”
I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know why I couldn’t answer either.
“You’re not living happily in this life. If you are aware of this, then you will be able to break your attachment to it.”
I saw Cassius’ hand tighten around the hilt. It signaled there would be no more delays.
“What about the truth I pursued? Weren’t my achievements in the Human-Demon War recognized by the gods?”
“I recognize your achievements. I appreciate them highly. But that is no reason to overlook your sins.”
“But I have only alchemy. I haven’t even reached the truth yet! You talked about regret—well, this is my regret. Why won’t you let me pursue it with what’s left of my life?”
My voice grew hoarse with frustration and impatience. A cough rose in my throat, and bloody phlegm splattered on my palm, which I quickly covered with my mouth.
“Why do you care so much about alchemy?”
Cassius’ hand left the hilt.