SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – True Intentions

“Hey, Ratifah.”

Soon after leaving the inn.

“Why did you come with me in the first place?”

I didn’t mean to ask why she was with me now.

But about the deeper reason why she decided to come with me to the “Forest of Downfall”.

“Why…?”

Maybe Ratifah didn’t understand the question. She just looked at me, puzzled.

“Yeah, why did you come all the way to the ‘Forest of Downfall’.”

I understood why Feli would come.

After Afillis, she accompanied me pretty much everywhere. Father, or maybe Grerial, saw us as a team of sorts.

When I thought about this, the face of my other older brother, the prankster, came up in my mind.

Stenn and his usual cheeky grin.

He never showed it, but he thought about things at a level deeper than anyone else. He would have never allowed Ratifah to go with me without a reason.

So I took advantage of the chance to be alone with Ratifah to ask.

“Well, you see…”

She probably understood that my question was motivated by a solid conjecture.

She did not repeat the reason she said before and apparently picked her words carefully.

“If I said I was interested in those ruins, would you believe me?”

“Ratifah interested in ruins? Hmm…”

“Aah! Look at you! I revealed a secret that I concealed even from the head maid, and you look at me like that!! You don’t believe me a bit, do you!?”

“Well, it just isn’t like you at all.”

So don’t blame me for finding it hard to believe, I laughed.

I understood that my words didn’t make a lot of sense. But my mental image of Ratifah just didn’t click with what she said.

“Well, I do see where you’re coming from…”

I know it doesn’t sound like me, actually.

Ratifah’s wry laugh suggested she implied something like that.

“To tell the truth, I’m not that interested in history. But this time it’s special. If my intuition is right, there is something I must know about the history here.”

So I came with you, concluded Ratifah.

Her tone and behavior were very different from the usual, so I could tell there were exceptional reasons behind it. Ratifah surely had her own complex circumstances too, like anyone else.

So Stenn moved for her sake. Thinking about it like that, it felt plausible.

“Oh really.”

“…you’re not asking what I mean?”

“Haha.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at Ratifah’s question. But I wasn’t making fun of her. Rather, I was laughing at myself.

“There are things I can’t say either, as well as things I will never give up on. It’s the same thing. If you want to talk I’ll listen, but that’s not the case, right? So I have no reason to ask, nor can I think of any reasons why I should force you to talk, Ratifah.”

“So you will not ask.”

“I asked you why in the first place because it was necessary to be able to protect you. I won’t barge into your private circumstances any more than this.”

More than anything, I owed her.

Because despite my vague answer, she didn’t ask me to clarify my reasons behind the fake name I chose.

“To protect me?”

“That’s my reason to live, a chronic disease that just won’t heal. So just let me do that.”

For some reason, Ratifah’s eyes narrowed and she looked down, as if she couldn’t bear to look at me in the eye. Her shoulders trembled.

“…haha…hahahaha!!”

After a little while, I heard a hearty laugh.

“The name ‘Shizuki’ isn’t like you at all either. Protecting others is your chronic disease? Since when do you talk like that? I thought your chronic ailment was to sleep and lay around?”

Ratifah jokingly rejected my words.

“…shut up.”

I knew that well enough.

So I spat back at her.

“But— ”

Still smiling, Ratifah looked up at me.

“ —if you say so, then I’ll let Shizuki protect me.”

“ ——— ”

For an instant, my mind went blank.

The words I was going to say vanished without a trace. I was literally speechless, wide-eyed, my mouth sealed.

The reason was that they looked just like each other.

Because Ratifah looked and sounded so similar to *her* that I saw *her* silhouette. So I couldn’t speak.

I couldn’t think either.

Usually, I would try to hide it, but I couldn’t do anything this time.

I wasn’t exactly panicking, but I surely looked unnatural.

“…? Is something wrong?”

Ratifah asked, wondering about my unusual silence. Thanks to that, I could regain my bearings.

“No…nothing.”

I was aware of it.

I sometimes saw the silhouette of someone from my mentor’s group overlap with someone else before my eyes.

Since I took my “Spada” in hand again and started going down a path just like my previous life, it became more apparent.

“Anyways, I’m starving.”

It was already past noon.

It felt forced, but I decided to try and change the topic.

“Indeed, me too! I’m famished! Let’s go eat something nice with Shizuki’s allowance!”

“I never said I’d pay for you too!!”

Maybe she didn’t notice?

Or maybe she acted out of consideration.

Ratifah returned to her usual behavior, as if nothing had happened. I appreciated it immensely.

I felt hopelessly apologetic.

Just at that time…

My right shoulder bumped against someone.

“…excuse me.”

The man who bumped against me was probably in a hurry, as he continued walking without even looking at me.

His defining characteristics were short flaxen hair and sunglasses.

My thoughts, however, were overwhelmed by the information I received not through sight, but through smell.

—you smell rotten.

I didn’t say it out loud, but that was my strongest impression of the man.

The smell of rust and burnt flesh.

An aura of death so powerful I frowned. The sickening smell so prevalent on the battlefield. That’s the smell that lingered on the man.

So my hand instinctively went to my “Spada”. He was already nowhere to be seen, however, so I stopped.

“Shizuki?”

I was looking at my right shoulder, where the man bumped against me, when Ratifah called my name.

“…it’s nothing. Let’s go eat already.”

◆◆◆

“Then, what is your business with me?”

In a deserted back alley, a woman — Feli von Yugstine asked a question brimming with intimidation to the young man before her.

What in the world did he want from her?

“Please don’t be all angry like that. I’m a completely normal person, unlike your master. If you stare at me so intensely, I might end up fainting.”

Despite the boy’s — Dvorg Tsarrich’s escort’s pleas, Feli had no intention to soften her stance.

“It was you who threatened me first, saying that it would be bad if His Highness heard, though…?”

“That was no threat…just consideration on my part.”

“It does not make much difference to me.”

The reason why Fay Hanse Diestburg and Feli von Yugstine were currently separate.

It all originated from something the young man said.

If you don’t have anything important to say, I will leave immediately. Feli’s tone and expression clearly implied this, so the boy quickly continued.

“As I told you and that Prince, my master is very interested in the ancient relics.”

“…yes, exactly. I know that already.”

“But she lied about one thing to you two. The reason why she’s so interested in them is definitely not the money involved. But because her homeland and grandparents were brought to ruin by something related to the relics, apparently.”

The boy then raised his index finger and continued.

“One question. Why would you think that an utterly average person, without any special background or ability, could manage to become known all over the world as a powerful merchant?”

“Is that— “

Even possible?

Feli didn’t finish her sentence, but it was easy to tell what she meant to say. The boy noticed it, so he didn’t stop talking.

“It was indeed. Because my master’s mother knew the recipe to make a certain drug.”

“A medicine?”

“I’m sure you know about it too. After all, the ingredients for that drug are medicinal herbs that grow on the ‘Spirit Mountain’.”

“——— ”

Feli’s expression clearly showed her shock.

“Please…wait a moment. Did you say…’Spirit Mountain?’”

“I did.”

“Where did you hear that— no, even if you happened to hear it somewhere, the herbs there can only be concocted by— ”

“By the elves living on the ‘Spirit Mountain’. That’s right. The master said the same thing: only she can concoct medicine out of them.”

It was not strange for Feli to be at a loss for words.

Because from Feli von Yugstine’s standpoint, the “Spirit Mountain” the boy mentioned was the place she was born in. The place she lived in before being picked up by Diestburg’s former king.

However— 

“No…it can’t be. That time, everyone living on the ‘Spirit Mountain’ was killed…everyone except me…!! I was the only one left alive because I’m the ‘Priestess’…!!”

“You aren’t mistaken. But my master was not on the ‘Spirit Mountain’ at that time. Because she is the daughter of an elf who fled with a human…a half-elf.”

That was also the reason why she used an alias.

So concluded the boy.

“And if my master’s intuition is correct, the monster that attacked the ‘Spirit Mountain’ is related to the ancient relics. There is a high chance that the ruins deep in the ‘Forest of Downfall’ contain information about it.”

“…why are you telling me all this?”

“You’ll have to ask my master that — I’m just a messenger on her behalf. But now you know why I said I was being considerate, right?”

Feli bit her lower lip, silent.

“When I met the Prince in Rinchelle, I learned that he’s too attached to the people close to him. Maybe I was worried for nothing, but I thought it’d be better not to let others hear. So I created this chance for us to be alone. If I didn’t act forcefully like this, we would have never had a chance, right?”

“…I thank you for your consideration.”

His business was now probably over.

So I should return quickly.

So thought Feli as she turned away from the boy and started walking.

“————”

At the same time, the boy said something.

Feli walked away quickly, so his words failed to reach her ears.

Feli left as if running away from the alley.


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