SETP Vol. 3 Chapter 27

 

Chapter 27 – After All, I…

 

I disliked solitude.

Because it felt so utterly empty, so hollow — it made me want to die.

In my past life — when I lost all my companions. I desperately wanted to escape the solitude. That was probably what led me to my dreams. To lucid dreaming. In my heart, my soul was darkened by shadows as I desperately refused to accept my solitude.

I was aware of it. Because of that, whenever I was on my own, I spent time in fruitless, meaningless ways.

“It makes me relax though.”

The time I spent alone was the longest time I lived and would live, probably even if I combined my past, present, and future. It was obvious that I would feel it lasted long.

I hated being alone, but it still made me feel more relaxed. More at ease. That familiar feeling made me feel safe.

I disliked solitude from the bottom of my heart, but also found it calming. Contradictions everywhere, as usual.

I chuckled at myself. I was walking down the town’s streets. Because of the time, there were few people out and about.

After the meal, I was headed back to my room, but for some reason, Feli told me to go ahead by myself, which resulted in the current situation.

I was going to ask her why.

But before I did, I realized that Feli would not say that without a reason, so I just nodded without saying anything and complied.

“…just go straight and you’ll see it, huh…?”

When I said I’d go ahead and inspect the forest, Feli — with a clear frown on her face — told me to not go by myself, no matter what happened…a total of three times. Then she just told me to go straight and I’d see the forest, before leaving.

The location of our destination, the Forest of Downfall, was only known by the boy and Feli, probably because of her years of service to house Diestburg. It was difficult to imagine that ditzy maid Ratifah knew about a forest in such a remote village.

I should have asked the boy to come with me then, I thought as I scratched my head.

“This town is pretty large too…”

Because of the early hour, the town was still quiet and gave a deserted impression, but there were restaurants and eateries scattered here and there. The buildings and streets were well kept: it was clear that the town prospered.

“Now then…”

I might not be able to reach it by myself. So I thought and stopped in my tracks.

In the distance, I caught a patch of green and realized I had found my goal.

“There it is.”

That had to be the “Forest of Downfall”.

All doubts swirling in my mind vanished, leaving a refreshing feeling behind them.

I started walking again.

What I saw in the distance looked like any other forest to me. It did not have any mysterious traits that would justify a name like “Downfall”.

It looked so normal that I questioned the necessity to make preparations so carefully and even prepare the bell-like magic tool — which I had attached to my clothes — to signal our location to others.

“Even if it had illusions or similar, it wouldn’t mean anything to me…”

Illusion arts wouldn’t affect me much, I thought. In the past, an expert of illusions used them on me day in day out, half as a joke, after all.

Even if tricks were attempted on my eyes or ears, I was confident I could pick out any small differences and see through them.

So even if the forest was covered in illusions, I would be fine.

As long as that forest wasn’t on the same level as the illusion user that could trick me until the very end in my past life.

“I suppose that being careful won’t hurt.”

I knew that the probability of the situation being favorable for me was very low. I had no reasons or theories, but I was sure of it. So my instincts, cultivated and grown over the years, were telling me. It was more than enough reason for me to believe it.

So I had to be very cautious.

I knew it in my head.

But for some reason, my pace was rather brisk. Much quicker than the usual.

“I wonder why.”

I was twisted, bent.

Someone unmistakably broken. But still, I carried my own beliefs.

That was probably my “fate”, or maybe my “mission”.

A single concept planted deep in my soul.

If there was even the slightest possibility, I had to go. I had to go there once, even by lying, saying I had nothing to do.

Birds of a feather flock together, they say.

There was also a law of nature that stated that misfortune always came in pairs. The ancient relics, the time magic. The ruins that supposedly contained both.

To top it all off, the shadow of the empire.

It wouldn’t be unlikely to find clues to the “Abominations” seared in my memory. It was obvious for me to reach such a conclusion.

“What am I going to find here? Though…”

This event.

How should I view this expedition to the “Forest of Downfall”? As a coincidence, or a fated inevitability?

“If I don’t act when I can, I will regret it.”

Not going was definitely not an option. And I might find clues regarding the “Abominations”. Being so obsessed with my past life, could I see this as a coincidence? The answer was obvious — no.

“No matter who or what may stand in my way, I shall cut them all down.”

I then formed a “Spada” from my shadow and hung it at my waist.

A familiar sensation.

It was the most pleasant feeling, the most pleasant touch I knew.

“All ‘Abominations’ will die, no matter what. So I swore. That alone will never change.”

Even my life was just an expendable tool before this oath. I knew that all too well. That’s how strongly such emotions weighed on my soul.

“Thus I will continue to swing my sword, my ‘Spada’.”

I couldn’t swing a sword without a reason, so I was always seeking one. I was a weakling who could only cut after finding a reason and convincing myself I was in the right.

Not to survive, nor to protect others.

I swung my “Spada” so that I could continue being myself. I repeated it out loud to myself and couldn’t help but laugh. A smile, full of self-mockery, was plastered on my face.

“…ah.”

I tried laughing.

And what I got was a bitter laugh.

“I’m still the same.”

I mumbled to myself.

“Nothing changed, not a thing.”

Feli said that I had grown.

I didn’t strongly object when she did. I just took it casually and let it go.

Her words were my wish, probably.

Somewhere in my heart, I hoped I could grow. But this very moment that desire shattered to pieces.

Because the deep, dark resentment buried deep within me was still there, I continued to infuse my “Spada” with hate to swing it. What growth was there to find in a person like this?

Even if I revealed these thoughts to Feli, she would probably just answer with pleasant-sounding words. So I kept these words, these feelings, sealed inside me.

“This is never going to change.”

I was broken at the core of my being.

Talking about growth or other changes was pointless, as the thoughts rooted deep in me were already broken beyond repair.

As I realized once again my true nature, the words of the woman who introduced herself as Elena came to mind.

— beautiful.

My way of thinking, my way of life or so she described.

She might have called it “beautiful” because it wasn’t the way a proper person thought or lived. I reached this conclusion and realized what sharp irony those words held.

In the end, the basis for all of Fay Hanse Diestburg’s actions were two: “to protect” and “to atone”. The two reasons why I wielded my sword. Because of these two reasons only, I continued to swing my “Spada”.

“No matter how you look at it, this won’t change.”

It was the form of my heart, of my soul.

An irredeemable swordsman who lived and died by the blade. Even if he was born again, he was so clumsy he couldn’t change his way of life. Someone who believed this without a shred of a doubt. Someone beyond salvation.

To spend time with someone, to talk with them, reveal yourself to them. I deluded myself into thinking that doing that would eventually turn me into a proper person. I was a weak person, so I probably used such delusions to run away. But this time of solitude brought me back to reality. It cut open my heart and made me realize once again my true nature.

“One slash, one kill.”

My words of warning.

The words of my mentor, a magic spell that reminded me of that hell on earth.

This world was kind.

It wasn’t the kind of world where not swinging a sword could mean dying the next day. Thus I couldn’t prevent “gaps” from forming in my heart. A small, gaping hole called arrogance.

What would such arrogance, such hesitation lead to? I knew it already. So I talked to myself, I condemned myself, to get rid of it.

“Aah, after all…”

I considered the feelings in my chest.

I recalled a nostalgic ashen view and placed my right hand on the “Spada”. I was completely the same as before and I was not changing in any way.

“…after all, this is the only way for me to live.”

If that loyal maid heard these words of mine, she would surely be sad. But I had no intention to change my way of thinking.

I looked upwards at the endless sky, then started walking towards the “Forest of Nightfall*” once more. (T/N: The characters use Nightfall/Downfall for the forest interchangeably for some reason)


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