SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 24

Chapter 24 – Time Magic

It just didn’t feel right to sleep in an unfamiliar place.

I felt it very strongly.

After talking with the boy, I had dinner and went straight to bed, but I woke up at a weird time.

I could hear the crickets outside.

Maybe they were still young, as their cries sounded kind of awkward.

“…so sleepy.”

My eyes still half-closed, I whispered my honest feelings.

Beyond the thin veil of the curtains, the sky was turning from night to day. Gentle sunlight peered through the window.

It was still early in the morning, but somehow I was already awake. I was sure that the reason was the view before me though.

“..pfaaw…you’re always up so early.”

I barely suppressed a yawn and talked to Feli, sitting on the edge of her bed. She was looking at the view from the window and her back was turned to me.

“Good morning. Your Highness is up very early today.”

The name “Shizuki” would be used only when we went outside. Thus in a private environment like that Feli would still call me “Your Highness”.

“I can’t sleep well if it’s not my bed it seems.”

My voice still sounded a bit drowsy, but Feli probably understood. She looked at me and smiled saying, “rising early is always a good thing”.

I felt a little out of it because of the lack of sleep and would have enjoyed drifting off again, but somehow I didn’t feel like sleeping again that day.

“By the way, that Ratifah is still asleep?”

“It’s still four in the morning after all.”

I looked at the other bed in the room.

On the bed, an unknown creature was wrapped in a ball of blankets.

Outside there was still a veil of darkness: a perfect definition of “daybreak”.

“She really sleeps in a weird position…”

It amazed me that a human would be able to sleep like that.

Her sleeping breath could be heard through the blankets.

I realized that I could exact my revenge for her disruption of my slumber the day before.

Such a thought flashed in my mind.

“…well, it’s still early, guess I’ll leave her alone this time.”

I banished the surfacing thought into oblivion.

“Feli.”

I stood up from the bed and called her.

She probably thought I was going to sleep again, so she was surprised by my actions.

“I’m going out for a bit.”

“In that case— ”

I will come too. I expected her to say that, so I stopped her, a wry smile on my face.

“I’m just going to get something to eat. Maybe because I’m up so early, I feel really hungry. That’s all, so you don’t need to come.”

I left the “Spada” in the corner of the room there and turned the doorknob, unarmed. The ground floor of our inn housed a cafeteria: I recalled reading a notice that guests could use it early in the morning.

“If the cafeteria is closed, I’ll be back right away.”

I then left the room.

The next instant, I glanced at the boy’s room. I looked at it for a while, a smile on my lips.

“…I just can’t relax there…”

I left the room as if running away from it. I couldn’t help but smile at my behavior.

The different environment was definitely a factor, but the real reason why I couldn’t sleep well was that there were always people in the same room, I thought.

“Should I have a single room assigned to me?”

Maybe that was better.

So I whispered while looking at the boy’s single room, but I didn’t complete the sentence.

“…no, it’s safer for us three to be together.”

Unlike Afillis or Rinchelle, where we stayed inside the royal castle, the environment here felt very new. I realized that it was imprudent to be separated.

“Well, regardless of whether I’ll sleep again or not, better to eat something.”

I went down the wooden staircase towards the cafeteria.

~

In the cafeteria a woman was sitting at a table, sipping on soup. The pleasant aroma tickled my nostrils and almost made my empty stomach grumble.

I could only see the woman, however: there did not seem to be anyone in the kitchen or anywhere else.

Just then…

“Grandma just went out, I think she’ll be back in 10 minutes or so.”

The woman probably perceived my presence and spoke without turning around to face me.

“Grandma?”

I didn’t know who she meant. The woman then stopped eating and cocked her head to the side.

“Oh? I thought you came for breakfast, was I wrong?”

She then slowly turned around.

Blue eyes crowned by long eyelashes peered at me.

A soft, fair complexion with faintly lingering childishness. Rather than a woman, it was probably more appropriate to call her a young girl.

“No, you’re right.”

“Hehe, I knew it. Grandma is the person who works in the kitchen here. She’s the one who makes most of the food. For breakfast too, of course.”

The young girl then parted her neatly cut semi-long hair to the side and continued eating.

“I’m not staying here, but the noodle soup she makes is really good, you know. I’m hooked.”

“Hmm…”

After 10 idle minutes, I was debating whether to keep waiting in the cafeteria or to go back to my room.

The young woman noticed I was just standing there and called out to me.

“Aren’t you going to sit down?”

She sounded genuinely puzzled.

“…I guess I should.”

Swayed by her very easygoing attitude, I couldn’t keep my usual posture. I was going to sit down at a table near the entrance, when a dissatisfied voice reached my ears.

“Oh come on, you’re sitting there? Even though the place is pretty much empty?”

—A bit too much energy for this hour, lady. It’s 4 AM…

Looking at her, I couldn’t help but think like that.

“Come over here, let’s chat a bit, it’s the two of us and all. I have some time to kill, and you don’t have anything to do, right? We could have a nice conversation between travelers…”

It kind of irked me that she decided I had nothing to do, but even if I refused I felt that she would just come sit at my table instead, so I begrudgingly approached hers.

I sat on her table, located across from the kitchen, on one of the round chairs placed at even intervals around it. I made sure to leave one seat open between me and the young woman.

That, however…

Did not last long.

She moved her dishes to the side and followed by sitting on the chair next to mine. Way too close for a first-time encounter, I thought.

“…by the way, what makes you think I’m a traveler?”

“Oh, you’re not?”

The young woman cocked her head to the side, looking at me with curiosity.

“I just thought that only a traveler would come to the cafeteria at this hour, that’s all.”

“I guess that’s true.”

“Right, right! Besides, only travelers would come to a village in the sticks like this. Right next to the ‘Forest of Nightfall’ to boot. Only travelers aiming to explore those rumored ruins would visit, easy.”

The ruins.

It was indeed my destination.

But I didn’t know much about the rumors. I suppose I should listen if she’s going to talk about it…so I thought and asked a question.

“What rumors?”

“The ancient ruins are supposed to contain clues about ‘Time Magic’, that supposedly lets you turn time back. Or at least that’s what the rumors say. Never heard of it?”

“…Time…magic…?”

Magic that controls time.

It was the first time I heard anything about it, so I just repeated the words to myself, looking completely lost.

“Hard to believe, honestly.”

Could insane magic like that really exist?

I just couldn’t believe it.

“But wouldn’t it be so nice if it did? I mean, it’s ‘Time Magic’! You could re-do lots of things right. It’s like a dream.”

It did sound like something out of a dream. The ability to turn back time easily exceeded human boundaries.

Indeed, unless this was a dream, I could firmly say it was impossible for it to exist.

She didn’t, however.

She spoke with sparkles in her eyes, as if she really believed it existed. She probably had reasons to want to turn back time. It was easy to tell.

“So you’re going to the ruins to look for it?”

“Exactly. I want to change the past, you see. There’s a past wrong I want to fix.”

So I’m looking for “Time Magic”.

The young woman looked at me, straight and true.

I couldn’t simply answer with “Do your best”, though. I should have kept quiet, but words came out on their own. My mouth wouldn’t stay shut.

“…sounds ridiculous to me.”

I mocked her words without hesitation. They sounded so idiotic to me that I had to say something.

“To manipulate time and modify the past…yeah, that’s amazing. I can tell how amazing it’d be. However…no, because of that, let me tell you, it’s idiotic. Or rather, insulting. It’s blatant disrespect to those who lived the best they could and died. That’s all it is.”

If it was possible to turn back time, I would do it too.

I yearned, burned to see my mentor and the others again. I was sure I would feel this desire my whole life. So if I ever was in a situation that allowed me the choice to go back in time, I would definitely do it, I thought.

However…no, because of that…

I was also positive that I would never actively look for a way to turn back time.

“To turn back time…yeah, that’s a dream story. Just a dream…there’s a past I want to change too. If I could change that past filled with sadness, I would pray for that for sure. Because I know that the ‘present’ exists because of countless sacrifices. But even so…”

Fragments of past memories.

Memories that never fade, engraved into my soul, so that I would not forget.

“But I’m never going to throw the feelings, the emotions of those lived in the gutter by doing something like that.”

So I said, with confidence.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t stop.

I was much more talkative than usual.

“That’s right, isn’t it? I mean, you’d change everything that happened. If you turn back time, it’s like nothing happened in the first place. You’d get a blank slate. Totally empty. Painful decisions, suffering, sadness, time spent together, everything is gone. The priceless memories in my head would turn into nothing but lies. The words and emotions I was entrusted with among tears, that time, those moments, I can’t turn them all into lies because of my ego.”

“…so you’d refuse to take that miracle, even if it was within your grasp?”

“The desire to turn back time should stay one…stay in the form of an emotion, an idea. One must never go any further than that. If the people living in the “present” get that wrong, how can they face those who are gone already? That’s what I— ”

I paused.

To stress the words that would follow.

“That’s what I was taught.”

“You were taught that…? Whoever said that to you is a horrible person, definitely.”

“Why.”

If the person I admired was called a vicious evil being, I couldn’t take it without saying anything. So I asked her, why would she say that.

“Don’t you understand what those words mean? They sound really pretty, but they’re pretty much telling you not to run away, right? It’s too heavy, that way of life.”

“Too heavy, huh…”

In the end, my way of thinking was probably incomprehensible for her. Thus she said it was too heavy. But even if it was not understood, my way of thinking would not change in the slightest.

Because I already knew it would happen, from the start.

That the way of thinking and emotions I had, my mentor and the others had, did not fit this world’s common sense at all.

So I was not shaken, nor did I look for any understanding. Being regarded as “abnormal” was perfectly fine. Let anyone think or say what they want: that was my stance.

“I never thought about it like that.”

I honestly meant it.

Even if it was “abnormal” for her, for me it was completely “normal”, the “obvious”.

A harsh way of life that others would describe as “too heavy” concealed deep within: that was my way of life.

“You don’t need to force my way on yourself or anything.”

In my opinion, people were always looking for answers to “abnormal” phenomena.

They forced these abnormalities in the spectrum of their values, wondering why they happened. Then they started talking about it or empathizing with it — they could just leave them alone, but instead, they forced their values on them and desperately tried to find an answer, an explanation.

So I said she didn’t need to.

I clearly stated it was not necessary for her to do so.

I wasn’t seeking anyone’s understanding at this point, anyway.

Because, in that aspect, I already felt fulfilled.

In regards to the reasons why I wore a smiling mask and wielded my sword.

The will to protect someone.

The past ideals, still burning bright in me, this way of life, everything. I was convinced and content about it all.

Because my way of thinking was accepted and approved by the people irreplaceable for me. So I would never be shaken, no matter what I was told.

And I would not impose it on others either.

Because I fully believed it was the way of life that let me be myself.

“You have your own way of thinking, so just hold onto it. No one knows the right answer anyway. It might feel like it doesn’t leave much breathing room, but that’s the way I live. I just felt like talking about it, for some reason.”

“…sounds like blind faith to me.”

“Haha, you struck a nerve there. But I’m also proud of it.”

“Why.”

“Why…? The answer is easy, it never changed since a long time ago.”

It didn’t change even after I was born again.

I just can’t give up on my regrets.

I was the weakest one of all, so I keep dragging it all with me.

Ideas, way of thinking, everything, I inherited it all.

The person I admired, too, was the same.

In a way, they were my everything.

That person’s words and way of life were my starting point.

“Because even now my mentor’s way of life, way of thinking, way of fighting, every single thing, without exception, is what I admire. Because they are the words of the one person I ever admired.”

It was more than enough reason to follow those teachings. That reason felt so unmistakably right in my heart.

I smiled a small, satisfied grin.


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