SETP Vol. 4 Chapter 14
Chapter 14 – Two Similar People
“…what…what’s all this about…”
Elena’s expression and tone were both blank, confused.
She had dropped to her knees, then leant backwards and sat on the ground. Then uttered the same words again.
“What’s all this about…?”
She laughed to herself. A self-deprecating laugh.
Her face was twisted, her eyes swollen with tears. She looked at me, with no embarrassment.
“…my country’s gone. My father, everyone else, all gone. So I looked for Time Magic, but couldn’t find it anywhere, and now…Raem and Ulle are gone too…”
Maybe she was hoping I would give her an answer.
She was maybe expecting me to say something, to tell her what she had to do.
…I only knew one answer though. A miserable path of thorns.
To inherit the will of my mentor and the others, and walk on…blindly believing that an answer would be found at the end of that path.
…a path that eventually led me to turning my blade on myself. I could never suggest for her to walk down the same road.
Especially because I was still tormented by regrets.
Raem said that he wanted her to live freely.
Since I heard his words, I should help her make it possible. Take Elena’s hand, help her find her way out of the maze she was lost in, help her find freedom.
Even if it sounded absurd, coming from someone trapped in his past.
“…honestly…I don’t care about anything anymore.”
Words of resignation reached my ears.
Resignation towards life.
“Nothing makes sense anymore…even if I went on living, it’d just be painful. I’m going to die anyway, like everyone else, so what’s the point in going through pain?”
Raem and Ulle were probably her last pillars of support.
Both of them were now gone: the backlash was surely overwhelming. The dam holding back her laments had ruptured. I could only listen to her quietly…I knew far too well how she felt. Probably more than anyone else in this world.
“It’s all painful because I’m alive.”
“I have to worry about so many things because I’m alive.”
“I have all these painful emotions…because I’m alive.”
…I know that too.
“I can’t stop crying…because I’m alive…I guess.”
I knew that too.
To be alive meant being unable to run away from the pain. To have to worry about all sorts of things. To be alive meant you had to suffer.
That’s why Rudolf said that.
If the only path you could find was to survive until the end…it means you are a pitiful man, just like us.
“Shizuki. You’re strong, right?”
Elena asked me that question all of a sudden. I couldn’t see why being strong or weak mattered at the moment.
“That Cohen Socaccio recognized it after all. You’re probably a lot stronger than I can imagine.”
…before I could ask her what her point was…
“Listen, I have a request.”
I was about to sigh, to say that Raem said the same thing just moments ago, but I was interrupted by a very simple phrase. Words that flatly denied the foolish path I walked in my past life.
“Could you please kill me?”
…I didn’t know what to say.
“Like, in one hit. So I die before I can feel the pain…”
At first, I thought I should change the topic.
Pretend I didn’t hear anything and talk about something else…but the words that followed made it impossible.
Even if I tried to change the topic, she would probably just say it again. She would repeat the same words to me again.
Elena tilted her head to the side, an innocent expression on her face. It was very similar to the expression she made when I first met her.
“…people have put their lives on the line to save yours, right?”
“…and you’d throw it away, just like that?”
“…to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to live. Rather than living on like this, I’d have preferred to die together with the others.”
I felt something churn in my chest.
It really felt like looking at a mirror…aah, I see. I finally understood why it felt so unpleasant.
Elena and I were pretty similar.
“And so, you ask me to kill you.”
I could understand her feelings.
I was well aware that when I was in a position similar to Elena’s current one, I desperately wanted to die too.
“Sorry, but you’ll have to ask someone else.”
I could show compassion for her.
For her emotions, her situation, her laments, her tears. I could sympathize.
But there was no way I would assist her suicide.
“Even if I hadn’t made a promise with Cohen Socaccio, I would never grant your wish. Not as long as I lived.”
I could live because they put their lives at stake for me, so I was going to carry their wills forward, without question. I had to live for their part too. Only a way of death that could satisfy them all was acceptable.
This was the oath I had pounded into my heart.
My life existed because of them: to live on was both my duty and my way to atone. The strength of these feelings is unchanged. In the past, I eventually broke under the weight of this oath and chose to die at my own hands, but even now these feelings remained the same. So I could not nod to her words.
“…besides, I’m not going to kill someone defenseless.”
If she had met someone else other than me in this situation, maybe she could have heard words better than these. I could have told her about Raem, that he might not have disappeared forever from her life.
The look in his eyes, however, didn’t let me. It stopped me every time I considered it. I knew all too well that those were the eyes of someone going to meet their ultimate fate — they were the same eyes my mentor had when he told me not to take away his chance of a proper death.
Because of that, I couldn’t tell her anything decent.
“If you want to die so badly, you could have gone off with him.”
If she ever tried to do it, I would have stopped her though…but Elena did not even make an attempt of going after Raem.
“I…I couldn’t do that.”
…yeah, I can see that, I thought.
Anyone who had lived at Raem’s side and knew him well would have never gotten in his way here.
Raem said that he was greatly indebted to the king. That he protected Elena because of his guilt.
He lived only for his lord…that conviction was unshaken.
He lived only for the sake of fulfilling the last order received from the late king, to punish all traitors. Only for the sake of facing his lord in the afterlife. The fact that Elena, his lord’s daughter, was abandoned like that to me was proof enough.
I could understand his feelings however. So badly that it hurt.
Especially because I lived with the horrendous scenes and voices from the past eating at me from inside.
I knew the bliss of being able to die on your ideal deathbed. To be able to die with a smile on your face. Because I knew people who died while saying “thank you”.
I also knew pitiful people who lost the path to their ideal deathbed and found no other escape than to take their own life. So I could understand Raem’s feelings, painfully so. I had no right to stop him. Even now, I wished to die with a smile on my face.
“If you can’t do that, at least respect his feelings.”
Even if told to live freely, very few people could actually do so.
Even if that was reality, at least…
“…you don’t understand how I feel, Shizuki.”
“Yeah, I bet. I don’t even want to understand the feelings of someone that has people looking out for them, yet begs to be killed.”
“You have it nice, Shizuki…I bet you have a family too. People around you…someone with all those blessings can’t even begin to understand how I feel! How my only hope was believing in something stupid like Time Magic!!!”
Her bloodshot, enraged eyes were fixed on me.
Before I realized it, a dark, heavy sludge of emotion welled up inside me.
“…I can’t understand how you feel, so you asked me to kill you? To put you out of your misery?”
She didn’t know anything.
She didn’t know me at all.
She wasn’t in a position to be able to even try.
So let her speak. Don’t let it go to your head.
My reason warned me to calm down, but my impulses wouldn’t listen.
Elena surely had a normal life before. Friends she met, a family that surrounded her, vassals that assisted her, citizens who smiled at her. Her life and theirs were surely connected.
…that was even more reason.
“Kill me, you ask? Pretty arrogant thing to say after I saved you, Elena.”
I grabbed her lapel this time, rather forcefully, forcing her to stand on her feet.
“Kill me so I don’t have to suffer anymore…? Have some respect for life, you idiot!”
My words wouldn’t stop coming out.
“You may have been forced to live on. But the reality is that you are alive now because other people sacrificed themselves for you.”
That was the reason why I, despite wishing to run away and end my life, did not escape, not until the very end.
“I can’t allow you to throw away your life like that.”
It wasn’t anyone’s fault.
Not Elena’s, or the people who saved her.
It wasn’t…anyone’s fault.
But if someone was to be blamed…
“…if you have to resent someone, resent yourself for being powerless to change that past.”
It was her fault for not being able to negate that past through her strength.