SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 13

Chapter 13 – A Selfish Goodbye

— why didn’t you kill him?

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I heard a voice…or so I thought.

After leaving the ruins, the voice of the man that had the habit of saying “One slash, one kill. My heart, my body is forever a battlefield,” reached my ears.

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— You retreated after drawing your sword…? Did you forget what I taught you?

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“I haven’t.”

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— But then…

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“…I couldn’t help it…there was no other way.”

The voice accused me.

And I kept making excuses.

What else could I have done?

The ruins had been left by Rudolf. I couldn’t destroy them on a whim.

So I replied in my heart and the voice turned silent.

As if it were disappointed beyond words.

…it was, definitely.

I talked on and on about pride and whatnot, but the moment I found a memento of a member of my mentor’s group, I promptly forgot about it all.

Fay Hanse Diestburg could be mocked and ridiculed forever, they could call me Trash Prince, ridicule me as the prince who can’t even lift a sword —  I couldn’t care less. But I couldn’t stand being insulted by anyone who knew of my life with my mentor and the others.

…so I drew my sword this time.

“I’m still a weakling after all.”

Ultimately I escaped to those words.

I kept dragging my past with me, never letting go.

That’s the kind of person I was. Or so I convinced myself.

If I found something important, I held it close and protected it, at the cost of my pride or anything else…wasn’t I that kind of person?

…I continued making excuses.

The face of that important person in my heart grew darker and darker the more excuses I made. The man that bravely faced the black sun’s scorching flames whispered in a sad tone.

『 —— 』

I plugged my ears.

His words were probably…

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— I received, inherited, and passed on…my sword has already been inherited by you, Shizuki.

.

I was sure they had to be those gentle words he told me such a long time ago.

…I knew they were.

After all, I…

I didn’t care about getting stronger.

I just wanted those days with my mentor and the others to continue forever. I was happy with that.

That’s what I said the moment I died…so I knew it.

So I repeated to the voice in my heart…but before I realized it, it wasn’t speaking to me anymore.

◆◆◆

Ten minutes or so after I left the ruins, I found Raem and Elena, hiding in the bushes.

“…hello there.”

Raem greeted me in that rather unique way as soon as he saw me.

“…where’s Ulle?”

While Elena asked about the missing guard.

She still seemed somber, but recovered enough to be able to talk apparently.

“……….”

What was I supposed to say?

I hesitated for a couple seconds.

“No idea.”

So I dodged the issue.

For some reason, Raem looked at me with sympathetic eyes.

He might have thought I spoke like that out of concern for Elena.

“S’pose you know if he’s alive or dead, at least?”

“…I don’t think he’s dead.”

“Really, now…I guess that’s a stroke of good luck. Thank you, sir.”

Raem slowly stood up.

For whatever strange reason, he started walking down the path I came from.

“Hey, you.”

He asked me if Ulle was still alive — he was going to go help him.

I barely knew Raem, but I had the feeling that he wasn’t a bad person.

That was probably what motivated my words.

“…that guy is a traitor.

I told them the truth, prepared to be attacked for it.

As expected, while Raem simply turned around and looked at me wide-eyed — another person’s hand stretched towards me. It was Elena’s, naturally: her arm seemed so frail I could snap it with the least amount of strength.

“…there are things you can’t joke about, you know…!!”

Her hand forcefully grabbed my lapel.

“It’s your choice whether to believe me or not. But I have no intention of lying.”

I refused to retract my words and Elena poured more strength in her grip.

I expected her to try to punch me a couple times, but she didn’t. Because a voice interrupted her.

“…princess, s’pose you could let him go?”

“W…why…!? He called Ulle a traitor— !”

“Because there’s no reason why he would lie to us, princess.”

Despite learning that his comrade Ulle was a traitor, Raem did not lose his cool at all: it felt a bit unnatural I thought. But my doubts were soon dispelled.

“Fay Hanse Diestburg…the reason why a prince of Diestburg has come here at this time was to eliminate the imperial forces treating this area as their own. Then he made a deal with Cohen Socaccio and was told to keep you alive, princess…if he didn’t care about your safety, he would have let Grimnaught Izak take you. But he didn’t. In other words, we can say that at the very least he means you no harm…and has no reasons to lie to antagonize us here.”

“…Raem, you believe his words over Ulle’s…?”

“I s’pose so, yeah. I believe Shizuki’s words.”

Raem answered without hesitation.

As if he already knew about Ulle’s lack of loyalty.

…at that moment, I realized it.

That had to be the truth.

“Shizuki, I s’pose you might not know, but our homeland, Calsas, was destroyed by the empire. Not from the outside — but from within.”

“…betrayal.”

“That’s right. I don’t think that Ulle was involved with that, though…I bet something happened after the kingdom fell, and he switched to the other side.”

Betrayal was a reprehensible action no matter what, but it was commonplace in times of war.

I knew it well enough, so I reacted with a dry, “I see”.

“Aah, this is seriously the worst…I have to clean up his mess now. I got to go, to ask why he betrayed us and all…what a pain.”

Raem laughed wryly while scratching his head. Then started walking away again.

Leaving Elena, the person he was duty bound to protect, behind him.

“Hey, you— !”

Where are you going without her?

That’s what I meant to shout at Raem, but couldn’t.

The reason was he turned around again. I knew what kind of light he had in his eyes.

…what a nuisance.

The resolve shining in his eyes was exactly the same as what I saw in the eyes of the people who teased me for being a weakling.

The eyes of my mentor and the others, who ignored me no matter how many times I pleaded for them not to go.

“Oh yeah, I s’pose I forgot to say one thing.”

Raem cocked his head to the side, some awkwardness in his voice.

I kind of knew what he was going to say next. After all, I had seen so many people with eyes like his.

“I have a request for you, Shizuki.”

— Take care of the princess, alright?

His tone of voice was unchanged.

Even so, I felt my heart tremble.

“…feel free to clean up his mess or whatever, but protecting Elena is your duty, isn’t it? You’re going to just forget all that? Leave her with me and go your merry way?”

“I’ll do this *because* it’s my duty.”

“…what’s that supposed to mean?”

“As long as I live, I’m a loyal vassal of the royal family of the kingdom of Calsas. Protecting the princess was the final request of the soldiers who let us escape…but the last order His Majesty gave me was to punish all traitors. Until now, I protected the princess because of guilt…my true duty is this. If Ulle really betrayed Calsas, I have to dispose of him — no matter what. No exceptions.”

Forget about all that, isn’t it more important to protect the heir of the royal family!?

…that’s what I would have liked to say, but I knew that people like him wouldn’t listen.

Someone obsessed and fixated on his past like me had no right to say anything, anyway.

“I’m indebted to His Majesty…a debt larger than life.”

“…really.”

I knew that Raem wasn’t going to relent.

And he knew that I had to keep the promise I made to Cohen Socaccio, to protect Elena, so he decided to go.

… do whatever you want then.

I had no reason nor obligation to say anything else. I turned away, and…

“…why…are you deciding all by yourself? No, no, you can’t go. I won’t allow it…!”

Elena finally let go of my lapel, turned to face Raem, and stammered at him.

“For Ulle…there must be a mistake somewhere. So…please? Please…?”

Her eyes welled up with tears.

How could she not cry in a situation like this?

She had to know at least something about what happened behind the scenes of her homeland’s demise. She surely knew about the existence of traitors and what orders her father gave to his vassals.

That was probably why she had trouble speaking.

She understood what motivated Raem, so she couldn’t find words to tell him.

“So please…don’t go…”

In the end, Elena dropped to her knees.

Raem, however, did not rush to her side.

“…it’s been five years since the fall of Calsas, yeah?”

“I don’t want to hear that…!!”

“Oh, princess, don’t say that. Listen, all right?”

It couldn’t be called a conversation.

Elena and Raem both said what they wanted to, without really listening to the other.

I could tell that they were headed in completely different directions.

Their paths weren’t going to cross anymore.

“See, princess, here’s what I thought…it’s high time we change….Calsas has two vassals and one princess. Because of me and Ulle, you’re forever trapped to be Calsas’ last princess. I knew that it wasn’t right for us to stay with you.”

“No, that’s not— ”

“Yeah, it’s true. I planned to make this the last time anyways. Once we came to these ruins, it was over…maybe that’s why Ulle betrayed us.”

According to Raem’s words, Ulle apparently planned to leave Elena’s side too.

“Calsas didn’t fall because of you, princess. You’re an important person…so I want you to live freely…every time you see my face, you’re forced to remember Calsas, right?”

So this is a good chance to wrap things up, Raem continued.

He smiled sadly, as if he was going to meet his fate, and turned around.

“ — hey.”

I knew it was uncouth of me, but I interjected. I took the “Spada” at my waist and threw it at Raem’s feet.

“…what’s this s’posed to mean?”

“Take it with you.”

Raem looked confused: he probably didn’t understand why I would throw my weapon at him.

“If you have that with you, Grimnaught Izak won’t get involved with the mess you have to clean up. Hopefully.”

I only take orders from the strong, he said.

I was absolutely sure he was speaking the truth. So I was certain he would listen to my words.

If Grimnaught saw that Raem had my sword, he would probably grant him a certain degree of freedom.

“But if I take this, you’ll be unarm— ”

Before Raem could finish his sentence, a new “Spada” was already in my hands. He stopped talking and smiled wryly.

“…I see how it is. I s’pose I’ll gracefully accept this then.”

Raem bowed deeply in my direction.

I didn’t know if it was actually to me or to Elena, who kept desperately pleading for him not to go. Maybe to us both.

“I was a good-for-nothing of a vassal, huh? I’m really sorry, princess.”

I silently watched Raem’s back grow smaller and smaller as he walked towards the ruins.


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