SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 1
Chapter 1 – Shadow of the Past
“This must be the place…”
I, Fay Hanse Diestburg, quietly whispered to myself and stopped walking.
Before my eyes, a relatively wide animal trail continued into the forest…or at least *it gave the impression that it did*. I wasn’t as careless as to keep walking on the path just because it was there though.
I had come to this “Forest of Nightfall” to repay my debt to the merchant Dvorg Tsarrich, but Feli, who joined me in this expedition, explicitly told me not to go off on my own.
I really should just do some recon today.
So I said to myself as I slowly extended a hand towards the forest.
As I did, the scenery in a 50 cm range ahead changed completely.
Just like ripples forming on a water surface, the scenery waved and trembled around my palm.
As I was told, the forest truly swayed its visitors, tried to make them lose their way.
“Well, how should I put it…”
What purpose did that illusion serve?
My reaction was sort of vague, but touching the illusion let me know the answer, so I frowned.
“This is a bizarre way to use illusions, that’s for sure.”
This illusion did not prevent people from entering. It did try, however, to make them lose their way inside.
In other words, there was something important inside the forest, but the creator of the illusions wasn’t trying to keep people away from it. They hid it to a certain degree but wished for people to find it too.
I could understand the creator’s intention and called it “bizarre”.
“Troublesome illusions are better off gone though, if possible.”
I was told that this “Forest of Nightfall” existed a long time ago. Thus, the possibility that the illusion had to be cast continuously is extremely slim.
There was only one possible conclusion: a magic tool was at work here.
So I thought and started walking again.
I did not proceed straight ahead, however, but to the side. Walking along the edges of the forest.
In order to keep an illusion of this scale active without human intervention, usually, there were items set up in the four corners of the area affected by the illusion, functioning as its core. As long as the creator wasn’t one of those prodigies born once every century or so.
I started walking, looking for those cores.
Something still bothered me, however.
I wasn’t an illusion specialist by any means, but even I knew that much. And this illusion has surely troubled many people over the years. Yet, this forest still existed, undisturbed.
Could it be a coincidence?
Or was there a proper reason?
“…this might not go easily.”
Did no one ever find the cores?
Or did the cores not exist in the first place?
…or maybe they couldn’t be destroyed.
I continued walking around the silent forest, while analyzing the possibilities and how to deal with them in my head.
I could not detect the presence of any creature, nor did I hear a single leaf rustling. Impressed by the detail of the illusion, I walked for a few more minutes. Then, a spartan stone structure entered my field of sight.
A stone slab was setup in the middle of a small clearing, as if it had been abandoned or thrown away.
“I might as well take a look.”
If Feli or Ratifah were close, the small, bell-shaped magic tools we carried to let each other know of our positions, would be ringing incessantly.
I could act as I pleased until they found me.
So I said to myself as I approached the stone slab.
It was probably fairly old, as moss grew on it in places. It didn’t look weathered by the years, however: I couldn’t spot the slightest crack on its surface.
I quickly understood that it had been crafted in a special manner.
“The writing…no good, I can’t read this.”
The stone slab was inscribed with faint characters, but, at first, they looked like scribbles to me.
Their shape was simple and blocky, but each character was engraved clearly.
“This stone slab is probably one of the cores that create the illusion. I could destroy it, but…”
I thought that I should either wait for Feli and the others, or look for characters I could read, and changed my mind.
I looked more closely at the slab and saw that the same string of characters was engraved on its four sides, but a certain part stuck out especially so. I recognized the writing.
“This is…a name?”
I rubbed away the moss with my hands, revealing the characters under it.
For some reason, I felt a chill pervade my whole body.
I could read those characters, for whatever reason. That in itself was not a problem.
The issue was that…why did the name “Rudolf” sound like something I should know…?
My throat felt suddenly parched.
— Failure is the mother of success…you’ve heard the words before, right?
I swallowed my breath.
I knew that I wasn’t going to see the owner of the voice anywhere, yet couldn’t help but turn around.
…there was no one behind me, of course.
“No, it can’t be.”
I looked again at the stone slab and expressed firm denial.
“There’s just no way. How the hell could it be possible…”
I continued to talk, to convince myself, but my confidence rapidly vanished.
“…it’s a coincidence. Just a random coincidence.”
After seeing the name Rudolf, however, I began to feel that I knew this place, I knew the “Forest of Nightfall” already.
Fay Hanse Diestburg, however, has never been here before. Without a doubt.
“…it’s a coincidence.”
I pushed up my front bangs, scratched through my hair. The feelings deep in my heart poured out.
I didn’t actually know this place.
But I knew the person that tried building this forest…or rather, this stone slab. It was hidden behind the sheer magnitude of the memories of my mentor and the others, but I remembered it.
My heart pounded.
Together with the intense heartbeat, I felt a sort of heat come over me.
— I want to engrave it, here and now!!! I don’t want it to be forgotten!!! The fact that we lived in this damned hell on earth together!!! Let it be remembered forever!!!
It was a desperate scream, accompanied by spitting blood.
The words of a man who couldn’t achieve the simplest form of happiness.
That scene, those words, broken by sobbing and wailing, were etched deep in my memories.
My fingers trembled.
My body felt burning hot from the core, as if I had been doused in boiling water. A sharp, static noise broke through my thoughts and erased them.
The rippling static noise took over my body — then took away my breath.
— This cannot be forgotten. No matter what. So many despaired, unable to achieve deaths as human beings…this infernal history cannot be allowed to repeat!! Thus I wish to leave it…I leave my legacy of misfortune for the future. I leave it for these mistakes never to be repeated. It might be nothing but humiliating for you…but if we leave this history, one day, the world we have wished for will come…! An age when people are not forced to pick up a sword to survive!!
So many were hurt.
So many wept in sadness.
So many suffered.
There had to be a reason.
It had to happen.
It was a history necessary for the future.
To give birth to a bright, positive future.
The peace we longed for so much was going to come.
A world where every day was a day lived fearing death. Horrible, isn’t it? So we’ve got to change it.
The gods will save us?
…we don’t have time to waste spewing bullshit like that. We fight desperately every day to survive in this world filled with regret. We might believe sweet lies sometimes, but we don’t have the luxury of prayer.
We can only trust what we see with our own eyes…that’s what we decided. No matter how small it might be…
So, hey — want to bet on the biggest idealist fools of the century?
A flood of memories, pouring and vanishing in an instant.
But that instant was more than enough for me.
“Aah…yeah. I know…I know the guy who wanted to leave this…”
The words crossed my mind and a piece of the puzzle fit perfectly in. A piece that shouldn’t be placed.
I just couldn’t accept it.
If I did, I would also accept the fact that this world was…this world was that world’s…
I just couldn’t bring myself to accept it.
Even if I knew the person called Rudolf.
No matter how much I tried to pretend, the suspicions born in my mind weren’t going to disappear.
“…first the “Abominations”, now this…you can’t be serious…”
A sticky, nauseating kind of sweat started dripping down my back.