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Chapter 13: The Lack of Sleep, Encounter, and Reflection

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Author: Himezaki Shiu Original Source: Syosetu
Translator: PunishedLyly English Source: Re:Library

Night watch ended with Ciel not having slept a wink. Her tenacity was impressive, but her sluggish movements after breakfast worried me. It occurred to me that this might be the first time Ciel had ever gone without sleep, considering that it was the only freedom we had. It was my fault for not insisting on her getting some rest, so I put all my focus on detection to at least reduce our chance to come across monsters as much as I can.

『Are you sleepy?』
「Not really sleepy, but it’s a bit hard to move my body.」
『Taking it easy and resting today is also an option, okay? The food supply is a bit concerning but I don’t think there’s much distance left until we reach a village or a town.』
「But if we stop here, then staying up last night wouldn’t have any meaning, right? Just being a day longer in this forest will only increase the burden on Ain, after all.」

Although I appreciate Ciel’s concern for me, I wish she would prioritize her own well-being more. However, I also fear that rejecting her care outright could hinder her personal growth. At the moment, Ciel is acting on her own initiative and doing what she believes is best for me.

If the person had more life experience, it might be better to persuade them with a proper explanation. However, since Ciel lacks such experience, I think it’s best for me to observe what happens and let her gain experience.

In case our decision turns out to be a mistake, we’ll analyze and figure out what went wrong together. Although her body is currently in poor condition, Ciel still appears to be full of energy. Nevertheless, I will discuss with her the next time she intends to push herself. Although this was my plan, I was interrupted by an unpleasant reaction from detection.

『Ciel, would you mind stopping?』
「There’s something, right?」

Ciel complied with my request, likely due to the seriousness in my tone. Despite continuing to monitor the detection readings, a sense of unease lingered within me. Why oh why was it showing no movement and why in that particular location? Unable to nod in confirmation, I simply answered yes for now and started explaining.

『If we continue on this path, we’re likely to encounter the same monster that attacked the caravan.』
「If that’s the case, then wouldn’t it be best to stay here and wait for it to leave?」
『I agree, but there’s something unusual about its behavior, don’t you think? It’s lingering off the main path, as if waiting for something.』
「Then, that means that it’s aiming for us, right?」
『There’s a high possibility. Come to think of it, Ciel read a lot of books in that mansion, and while we can’t be certain of their accuracy, some of the documents may have been the results of Duke Respelgia’s research, which are not commonly known by society. It’s possible that you, Ciel, have read those documents. However, if you’re not worth keeping, then killing you would be the best option. Either being killed or being kept by the pig man until you die was probably good enough for him.』
「So in that case, is that man perhaps capable of controlling monsters?」
『Possibly by use of magic. Still, this is nothing more than our guesswork so it might just be there by coincidence.』

We can make all the guesses we want and base our next move on multiple inferences, but since we only have one chance, it might not be a bad idea to go in without a plan and leave things to chance. In fact, if we make a concrete plan, we might not be able to react quickly enough if something unexpected happens.

「Ain, do you think that it’s best to just wait like this?」
『There are multiple options to consider. It would be best to avoid any incidents, but waiting for too long might leave us vulnerable to a possible pursuer from behind. Plus, our food supplies will eventually run out. Another option is to cut through the forest, but we risk getting lost. Lastly, we could choose to fight the monster. It is the most straightforward way to reach a populated area, but there is a risk of injury or even death.』
「Still, defeating it is the easiest option, right? I also won yesterday, after all.」

I have considered it thoroughly and I find Ciel’s response to be reasonable. Given her previous victory, she should be capable of succeeding even if she’s not at her best1.

Considering the future, waiting here or finding a different path is only a temporary solution. I realized that I may have become too cautious, so I responded to her, 『Then let’s do it.』

After making the decision, we resumed our journey with full force to minimize the risk. Had I supported Ciel from the beginning during our previous encounter with the monster, we could have won quickly. So this time, we planned to end it before Ciel exhausts herself. When we reached the spot where the monster was likely to ambush us, I informed Ciel of its location and began singing.

Even before we spotted the monster, Ciel’s movements were already polished, and she was prepared to engage in battle. Knowing that an attack was imminent made it easy to evade the first strike. Afterward, she could use her sorcery for a decisive blow. Some may perceive it as cowardly, but it was undeniably safe.

Instead, if our opponents are humans or weak monsters, we could simply sneak up on them and strike with a knife, which is still a fair approach. However, even if we’re dealing with humans, I don’t necessarily believe we have to fight with honor.

In addition, the fact that the other party is hiding in the forest makes it challenging. We could drive them away with sorcery from our current location if we ignore the potential collateral damage. However, using Ciel’s full power could potentially cause the trees to catch fire unexpectedly.

Considering the bigger picture, it wouldn’t be ideal if we were discovered during the fight. Therefore, we should only engage in battle if the enemy appears on this open road without any trees around. If they don’t ambush us, it will pose a problem.

Slowly but steadily, we make our way towards the spot where the monster is lurking. As we draw closer, we hear a rustling sound coming from the grass. In an instant, our attention is diverted towards the source of the noise, and we catch sight of a one-eyed giant brandishing a club over its head. It’s impossible to evade the attack if you’re caught off guard like this. The giant’s club is about to strike at any moment.

However, if you’re aware of it, then it’s easy to dodge… It should have been.

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Thud. As Ciel attempted to leap backwards, her legs became tangled up, and I could see from her surprised expression and the sensation I felt that there was a disparity between how she expected to move and how she actually moved.

Although the difference in her movement was small and insignificant, it proved to be a fatal mistake in the middle of a dance that demands precise movements. Normally, Ciel would have been able to correct herself with ease, but she had just experienced her first all-nighter, making it impossible for her to avoid the incoming swing of the club.

As the club comes down right before my eyes, I instinctively screamed 『Ciel!』 but she was unable to avoid the attack that has enough power to easily crush a person and ended up she taking the full brunt of the blow.

I experience a sensation of my head being pushed down, and suddenly, our bodies are thrown back from the impact. We hurtle away at roller-coaster speeds until we collide with a tree and come to a stop. I feel a slight pain in my back, and I wonder why. Why is my back in pain? And why just a bit?

「Ain, can you sing?」

As I was trying to process what had happened, I heard Ciel’s voice reassuring me that our injuries were not fatal. The pain was already subsiding and it wasn’t as bad as the pain she had experienced when we were cut in the mansion. Ciel requested for me to sing, so I started singing while trying to piece together what had just occurred.

The monster was clearly waiting for us or perhaps for anyone who passes through this path. It launched an ambush, and we intended to dodge and counterattack as we had planned. However, we failed and were supposed to be smashed. But in reality, we were just blown away. Was it unable to crush us and resorted to using brute force?

And right now, Ciel creates a cluster of ice that pierces through the giant. The sharp-tipped ice, resembling an icicle, freezes the giant from where it was penetrated. Then, an ice sculpture of a tree gradually forms over the giant, and with a crack, the monster shatters into tiny pieces.

The sight of the girl performing such a wondrous feat and her elegant dance moves were surely enough to captivate anyone who witnessed it.

Leaving it at that, it would be wise to have a thorough discussion with Ciel at this moment. Even though the encounter ended quickly, it would not be accurate to call it a success. There are plenty of things that Ciel needs to reflect on, and even more for me to consider.

『Good work. You did very well.』

Despite the unpleasant conversation that awaits me, I cannot deny that Ciel did her best. I should acknowledge her efforts and make sure she feels appreciated. However, depending on how our talk goes, I may need to scold her for her mistakes.

Why must I scold Ciel when this was my fault? Just thinking about it almost spirals me back to self-hatred. But, to make sure that these kinds of mistakes don’t happen again, there are situations where I must overlook my own mistakes. I had initially planned to scold Ciel, but her listless response with a forced smile to my words made me reconsider. 「Right. Thank you, Ain,」 she said. Perhaps it would be better to offer her some encouragement instead.

『In the meantime, shall we move from here and talk somewhere we can rest?』
「Of course, I’ll do as you ask, Ain.」

Ciel walked forward with a noticeable wobble, indicating her exhaustion and discouragement from the recent battle. Wanting to give her some rest, I led her a short distance away from where we defeated the monster and had her sit among the trees off the road.

「Say, Ain. will you continue to stay with me in the future? Is it okay for me to always rely on you for protection and be useless by your side?」
『I want to stay with you always as well, even in the future. Besides, you’re not even the slightest bit of useless, Ciel. If you’re worrying about what just happened, it was my fault anyways.』
「No, no. Ain did nothing wrong. Even though Ain was worrying about me yesterday, you got in danger because I was being selfish. So it’s my fault. I’m a bad girl, I’m a naughty girl.」

Ciel seems as though she is about to break into tears at any moment now; even so, she’s doing her best to stop herself from crying. What would be best to say to her? I don’t have any parenting experience nor have I ever been in this kind of situation in Japan, so I’m stumped. Ciel’s a good girl, so I hope she’ll be able to forgive herself and find a good compromise for herself.

『Are you referring to the time when you volunteered to keep watch for me, Ciel?』
「Yes, that’s correct. Even though you warned me not to overdo it, I didn’t seem to notice whether or not I was pushing myself too hard.」
『Still, you were trying your best to lighten my burden, isn’t that right, Ciel?』
「Even so, in the end, I only caused Ain even more trouble…」
『Instead, I believe that you, Ciel, were the one carrying the heavier burden. Furthermore, you didn’t just increase your own burden, but also shared mine. Because you stayed with me throughout the night, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the night sky, which I never paid attention to before. Until yesterday, I was so anxious and preoccupied with escaping that I never took a moment to observe my surroundings. So, thank you for helping me relax, Ciel.』
「But that doesn’t change that, because of me, Ain was exposed to danger. Even though I want to protect Ain, I always need protection, I’m useless.」
『If you say that, then it’s also my fault for having so much fun yesterday that I didn’t tell you to go to sleep. In fact, I think that giving me a chance to relax is quite valuable, wouldn’t you say so, Ciel?』

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As I see Ciel reluctantly nodding, I feel as if our earlier conversation has returned to me like a boomerang, hitting my conscience, and making me want to run away.

『However, it is true that Ciel might have done things wrong this time. Ciel, do you know what I can do?』
Umm, barrier and detection sorcery, right? But I also enjoy when you sing, Ain, whether it’s to support me as a Song Princess or just for the sake of it.」
『I love seeing Ciel dance as well. Also, another thing I can do is to stay on alert without rest. But on the other hand, what are the things I can’t do?』
「Ain can’t use combat sorcery, right? But that’s…」
『Alright, we don’t need to talk about that right now. I can’t use combat sorcery, so it’s safe to say that I practically can’t fight. To be honest, I can’t do the dirty work. I’m quite relieved about that fact, but it’s also something I’m extremely ashamed of.』
「No, don’t. It’s not something to be ashamed of. After all, Ain has always, always protected me. If you don’t at least let me fight, then I won’t have anything to pay you back with, you know?」

Realizing that Ciel is vehemently rejecting my words, I can’t help but feel relieved, yet at the same time, I hate myself more for it. I’m aware that what I’m saying is terrible, and the fact that the conversation is going in a way that benefits me only adds to my guilt.

In the future, there might come a time where we have to take down not only monsters, but also humans. And when that time comes, I know I’ll advise her to do so. But no matter how much I explain and justify it, it will always be Ciel who has to carry out the deed, and that thought weighs heavily on me.

In contrast, what I’m doing is not particularly noteworthy. I don’t have much of a responsibility on my shoulders. To be honest, I’m just bored with nothing to do at night.
However, I believe it’s better this way. If I could do everything, Ciel would become dependent and incapable of doing anything on her own. Even now, I can confidently say that I’m doing my best for her. So, please overlook this mistake for a while.

『I understand how you feel as well, Ciel. However, just as you want to do your best for me, I also want to do something for you, Ciel.』
「You too, Ain?」
『That’s right, it’s because I wanted to protect Ciel that I was able to do so until now. There were also times I’ve failed, but I would be troubled if Ciel wants to take this away from me. After all, I can’t defeat monsters for you, Ciel.』
「I do have the ability to fight, but I don’t want to just fight.」
『Ciel, I’m mainly focused on protection. Although I appreciate your concern, I find it very challenging to fight. So, I want you to be skilled in combat first. That’s why we need to allocate our responsibilities. I will defend, and you will attack. I will sing, and you will dance. We might have other ways to support each other, but we must first establish these roles. Your responsibility, Ciel, is to maintain your health until the time we need to fight so that you can use your full strength.』
『Once we’ve settled into our roles, we’ll likely have more leeway. I’m sure that as you live on, time will come that just one sleepless night would no longer be a problem. When that time comes, let’s keep watch together again. I look forward to chatting with you after all, Ciel.』
「Absolutely. It’s a promise, alright?」
『Of course. Promise.』

After finally convincing Ciel, a sigh of relief escapes my mind. Although I may have said many different things, what I truly want is for her to not overexert herself and to grow up healthy. There’s no need for her to rush and live recklessly; learning to do things one by one is enough. Even if I was only able to convey this message to her a little bit, it’s a success. But in hindsight, it would have been best if I had told her this yesterday, but I know that’s too much to expect from me.

「Say, Ain?」

Ciel calls out my name with a cheerful expression, as if she has been freed from an evil spirit.

『What is it?』
「I admit that I put Ain in danger, but deep down, I had faith that Ain would be able to defend against that giant’s attack. And when Ain actually protected me, I was filled with pride. It doesn’t excuse my weakness, but Ain, you truly are amazing. Please remember that, okay?」

As I am being praised so openly, I try to find solace in the thought that my barrier’s defensive capability has become something inexplicable. But in reality, I wish to avoid this fact as well.

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  1. Silva: Food for thought; if the monster is indeed controlled by Duke Rispelgia and he’s stationing the monster here on purpose, defeating it will alarm him of a possibility of an intruder or something else. Don’t you think it’s only right that Duke Rispelgia will find out eventually what happens here?
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