|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3782 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1742 words|
An entire day passed since we carried Lapis back to the room. She still did not wake up, merely groaning from time to time. I did not know if she was still in a lot of pain, or having nightmares, but all we could do was to hold our breaths and wait for her to wake up. The morning of the second day, she finally woke up.
We were taking turns watching her, and it was Karin’s when it happened, and hearing her voice the rest of us quickly rose up from our slumber. There were no beds in that room, so we had piled up a few mattresses for her to sleep comfortably, but she was frowning, the wrinkles on her forehead standing out, maybe she still had not slept comfortably. We all surrounded her, and she glanced at us with emotionless eyes before slowly opening her mouth.
“So I’m still alive…”
Her voice was dark, sounding almost like a completely different person from her usual cheerful self. We all gasped at the same time. We had wanted to apologize the moment she awoke, we knew she would probably be angry, but we’d just apologize as many times as necessary. But our determination crumbled the moment we saw her.
My mouth felt dry. We had to say something, but we could not. I didn’t even know what to say. It was silent for a while longer, until she closed her eyes, as if she found our gazes on her pallid face bothersome.
“Why did you save me…you should’ve let me die…”
Only when she said that, did we realize how deeply we had hurt her. We had driven her, who usually always smiled and was in a good mood, into wishing for death. A moment later we noticed something shiny appear on the corners of her closed eyes. Seeing that, my body began trembling.
Karin’s raspy voice came, which prompted Lapis to open her eyes.
“Why apologize? I’m the one who tricked all of you.”
“That’s…we…we don’t care about that. We just want to apologize for hurting you.”
She forced her voice out, instinctively prodding her body up, almost as if she wanted to shout something, but after a deep breath she laid down again.
“…I’m tired, leave me alone.”
She shut her eyes closed, then covered her face with her arms, which had only regrown down to the wrists. Unable to bear seeing her like that any longer, we turned around and left the room. We had barely spent any time in this gigantic temple, and we did not really know where to go, but for now we would leave her alone as she wished. Outside we walked past Selene, who just glanced at our faces and entered the room without saying a word.
§ § §
After Karin and the others left, I rolled myself into a ball, tightly holding my head and bit into my lip. I resisted the strong urge to scream, managing to muffle my voice into pained grunts in my throat. I felt so much self-hatred that I wanted to die. I never knew I was such a disgraceful person. I had lied to them, and then yelled at them in an outburst of anger, which made me feel guilty. When my lies were discovered, I ran away, went to fight against Tiamat to vent my anger, but then I was unable to dodge his breath, which I should have been able to, and nearly died by receiving the attack head on. I was so useless I could neither live or die properly.
I was scared of seeing them again. I was scared of being blamed for running away from my duty as hero. Just thinking of them asking me why I did not go fight the Demon King already made me want to throw up. But then when I tried to avoid that situation I had made them worry even more, hurting them.
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I hated it! Why was I so weak! I felt like I knew why, even though I had never been so scared when fighting against monsters or the Demon King. Relationships with other people, ties that did not rely on one’s strength or power, damaging those was far more scarier.
Thinking about it, I realized that even when I was little, I was subjected to such a rigorous training plan that I never got to befriend other kids. I had never experienced something as common as hanging out with friends. I did travel a few times, but all my companions were adults, who did not care about being friendly to me.
I thought it was easier that way as well, but I never got close to any of them. In a way, it was no exaggeration to say that I had no experience living as a regular person. I was basically still an immature child that ran off to the woods before turning twenty and just happened to spend three hundred years there, doing nothing but living to the next day.
“Well, that makes sense then…I pretty much only know what I experienced after I started working in the guild…but I’m still too clueless…”
“What are you mumbling about?”
I was surprised to hear someone talk to me, so I instinctively jumped up, but then my entire body began aching.
“I’ve never witnessed a more pitiful hero, I swear. For how long are you intending to drag this out?”
I groaned in pain, tears welling in my eyes as I looked to the source of that voice. It was Selene, holding a tray with food.
“…You saw that?”
I wished I could turn invisible. I had let someone I knew for a long time see me like this..! I had fought with her a few times, three hundred years ago. Back then I was still a male, and I came to this temple to train, wanting to request Tiamat to fight me, but Selene stopped me. Her personality has turned rather mellow now, but back then she was really hot blooded, so she instantly turned her blade on me, an insolent human that tried fighting their king.
I won the fight by a landslide, which seemed to deeply affect her, given she usually belittled other races like humans, but then was unable to do anything against me, which led her to slowly shrink her enormous body and take her current appearance. Her personality changed as well, becoming much more level headed, and acting like a maid. I did not understand why she was in the room now though… Her eyes were still cold and her voice emotionless like always as she spoke to me.
“If my assumptions are correct, then all your lies were exposed, got worried that you’d get blamed for that, and the shame and guilt made you lash out onto them, yes?”
It was like she had seen it all..! Or actually, she probably had…
“Yeah, that’s about it, you’re right. I thought they were mad because I lied to them, but now they’re worried about me. And to make things worse I almost yelled at them… I don’t know what to do!”
I shook my handless wrists around as I spoke, but there was no change in Selene’s countenance.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Hahah…you see a way out of this? Even though you’re not even human?”
I was almost taunting her, but she did not let it affect her. Instead, she replied with something very simple, making me feel like an idiot.
“Just apologize then? ‘I’m sorry I lied to you, I’m sorry I yelled at you.’ I know your lies were no trifling matter, but they all were desperate to see you recover. They were earnestly worried. Do you really want to push away the people who cried for you, just because you’re scared?”
I did not know how to reply, and Selene just kept looking at me.
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“Do you remember what I asked back then when you defeated me? I wanted to know why you were so strong, why you decided to do something as reckless as challenging Lord Tiamat even though you had a feeble human body, and why you weren’t scared of dying. Do you remember your answer?”
I did. I still remembered a huge dragon, riddled with wounds, looking at me with inquisitive eyes, waiting for my reply.
“…Because I’m a hero, the most courageous person there is. One who swallows all fears and always fights at the vanguard no matter what comes their way. That’s why I wanted to be stronger, so I could overcome any difficulty, even if it was a Dragon King… I think that’s what I said.”
“Correct. But look at yourself now…you’re just a hollow husk of your former self.”
I changed my appearance, changed my name, even how I lived. Feeling her resentful gaze, I looked away. Though in reality…she was just the same as always, it was me who had become spineless. She was her usual self, but I could not look her in the eye. I could not say anything back, and she did not say anything more. We just remained still, in silence. Eventually she seemed to lose interest, placing the tray next to me and turning around.
“Maybe try calming down a little, cool off your head. You can fight against Lord Tiamat whenever you want, so maybe go get some fresh air outside, and think of how you want to live from now on.”
With those words, Selene left the room. I was alone now, watching steam whirl above the bowl of soup with unfocused eyes. I could not tie my thoughts together. Selene was right, I had to apologize too. It made sense, I knew it was the right thing to do…but I still could not bring myself to actually do it. I tried grabbing some food, out of instinct, and only then became aware that I was missing my hands. It was about time I used my magic to heal my body.
I drank a few mouthfuls of soup, but could barely taste anything.
“…Yeah, I probably should go out for a bit…”
That was better than secluding myself in this room. Deciding that, I stood up and headed out of the temple.