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Translated by :
- Fried Hedgehog
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Once his earth-smeared cheeks regained their red lush, the young boy’s feeble gasps finally turned into normal breathing.
Relieved and reassured, Rem gently released him from her arms and sighed.
Rem:「First things first…」
She had ascertained that his life was no longer at risk, so her mind switched to what she should do with him. At a loss, she turned him over and laid his head on her lap to rest.
A part of her would have felt guilty for allowing someone with such injuries to lie down on grounds with grass this sparse.
Yes, that’s all this is. Nothing more.
Rem:「Why, just why am I making excuses…」
As Rem muttered to herself, her face twisting into a bitter scowl, the little blonde-haired girl turned to her and tilted her head, puzzled.
Perhaps the little girl felt anxious, perhaps she felt worried, but Rem regardless gave a shake of her head to quell her own thoughts, then turned her attention to her shoulder.
She pressed her hand on her own shoulder softly and felt a steady flow of warmth. With this warmth, she had saved the boy’s life which had been hanging by a thread.
It was a strange feeling. This was not something unique to her, she felt, but rather something she had channeled from within. The little girl’s palm was nothing more than a conduit, a catalyst.
Vincent:「―To think that you are capable of using healing magic… He truly does have the devil’s luck.」
Just as it seemed she had let her guard down, a voice called out from nearby.
Her eyes shot to where it had come from and saw that man, the man with black hair and prudish face, standing with a glare in his eyesーーーHe had propped the boy up long enough to survive, and had advised her to save him.
Rem had felt the need to express her gratitude, as she had been able to save the boy thanks to him, strange and vexing to her as it were.
And yet, in his presence, the thought had evaporated from her mind. His gaze was haughty, his tone even more so. To her, it seemed as though he were sizing them up like a product for sale.
Immediately she pulled the little girl behind her, and used her body to hide her from his eyes.
Vincent:「Fret not. Had I any malicious intentions, I would not have brought that man here. My desire was simple, to see that his efforts received just rewards.」
Rem:「Efforts…? Just rewards…? What are…」
Vincent:「That would be you.」
He cut through Rem’s wary questioning and asserted himself.
As he observed Rem shrinking, he closed one eye, fearless, and asserted once more.
Vincent:「It is only natural. That man’s aim was one and forever true. It truly requires no repeating. From the very beginning and to the end, he only desired for your safety and your peace of mind, and naught else. He had steeled himself even for death to achieve that.」
Rem:「――And why is that? Do you know? Is that why you… For me… And even went as far as to attack those people.」
Vincent:「I know not.」
His short, unfulfilling words cut her inquiries off.
The man seemed to have no time to display any consideration, among other things. A boy she had trouble trusting, vulgar soldiers, and this man in front of her, all of them added to the image『Amnesiac Rem』had of the male gender; indeed, while this sample of hers was far too small, she could not help but come to the conclusion that men equalled trouble.
Yet without sparing so much as a thought for her, the man looked down at the boy lying on Rem’s lap.
Vincent:「I have no interest in the origin of his desires. I moved in accordance with my own intent. That is why I burned that soldier camp to the ground. And while I was doing so, I thought of rewarding this clown. Thus, all came to be in orderly fashion. That is the truth of things.」
Vincent:「I have no interest in how you interpret my words, however.」
He shrugged, his eyes disinterested in anything Rem might have to say, as if the results of this particular tirade mattered little to him. He had done what he wanted, and any actions taken outside of his pursuits were born of his whimsy. However, Rem’s heart had yet to dry or harden so much as to be unable to appreciate his roundabout kindness.
As they spoke, the overwhelming retch of miasma wafted out of the boy as he lay on her lap, keeping her on edge. Her instincts screamed at her to be wary of him, regardless of his appearance or behavior.
Even if that behavior included risking his life to save her from that military encampment.
Rem:「I don’t… I don’t understand you.」
She continued mumbling towards him, having failed to obtain a straight answer from anyone.
Vincent:「――Mizelda, I am going back to the village. Destroy the camp until nothing is left, and take whatever you can make use of.」
Mizelda:「Understood. Don’t you have to hide your face anymore?」
Vincent:「Indeed, there are disadvantages to having my face be witnessed. There should be a mask or two on display at our rally. I will take one of those.」
Mizelda:「Unfortunate but unavoidable…」
Ignoring Rem’s mumbling, the man struck up a conversation with the red-haired woman. And while doing so, he turned his back and began walking away, but for only a moment, he broke his stride and looked back.
Vicent:「You. What shall you do now? Accompany me to the Shudraqian settlement with that fool in tow? Or stay here and die? Choose.」
Rem:「……Don’t you have time to put that in a better way?」
Vincent:「I do not. My time is precious and limited, and has far more important uses.」
As he whispered, Rem grew an intense dislike for this man. However, she held her tongue, and rather than return fire with fire, she only nodded in consent.
With that, she calmed herself. ――This was not the time to be stubborn. Even if trusting these people around her was a hard pill to swallow.
Rem:「No one else can protect this girl, other than me.」
Around her were the red, burning remains of a battlefield. There was no one else but her for this little girl, so she decided to do what she could, with or without her memories, as she fastened her grip on the little girl.
Albeit it was still perplexing, that she needed this man’s guidance to come to her realizations.
And this boy ――
Rem:「And you, sleeping so peacefully like this… I hate you.」
Annoyed, she pinched his nose.
The tanned women――the『Shudraqians』took Rem to their village. The scenery there was marvelously strange. There were women everywhere, as far as her eyes could see.
Of course, Rem’s previous experience with a large population had been limited to the army campsite from before, which had been full of men. Now, there were no males in sight. The idea that mixed gender environments are rare had begun to take hold in her mind.
Rem:「Are the men of your tribe fighting elsewhere?」
Taritta:「Heeh? No, this is merely circumstances… More women are born to Shudraq, while it just so happens that the Sacred Army has more male soldiers… Ah, Sister!」
Mizelda:「Taritta? Do not annoy me for every little thing. You are my sister, the chieftain’s sister. Behave like it.」
The Chieftain sisters of the Shudraq――Taritta responded to Rem’s question, then called for Mizelda.
Mizelda rebuked Taritta, who had her hair dyed blue. While she did feel bad about having possibly done something bad to Taritta, she decided to keep her inquiry’s rejection in mind.
At present, everything around her looked new and fresh, as if a treasure chest lay open in front of her.
She had learned firsthand during her time at the military encampment that not all were willing to humor her questions. In that sense, the women of this village were comparatively kinder, though to be fair, the eye-patch man from the military camp was crueler than expected, so the comparison may have not been truly warranted.
Regardless, Rem had finally found a place to lay low for the time being.
The Shudraq thankfully seemed to have no intention of restricting her in any way, and even went so far as to provide her with a hut to rest. There, she laid the young boy on the bed to rest, and for the time being, Rem decided to calmly mull over her situation.
She had to think about her position in all of this, what to do afterwards, decide on what to do with the young boy and the little girl, and, and――
Rui:「Aahー, uuh aahー?」
As she rubbed her eyebrows, deep in thought, she felt a small hand tug at her sleeves.
Ever since they had arrived at the village, the little girl had been tagging along behind her quietly. While she had become more attached to Rem compared to the time they had been running around in the great jungle earlier on, the fact that she showed concern for her took Rem aback.
Vincent:「――It seems even that little girl understands that even if you try to piece everything by yourself at random, you shall hit a dead-end.」
As the little girl tugged on her sleeve, she heard his voice. Taking no effort to hide the displeasure on her face, she turned around. Standing at the entrance of the hut was that man with black hair―― Though his current appearance left her dumbfounded.
He was wearing an atrocious mask, one with streaks of red and white, something that made him stand out like a sore thumb.
Regardless, along with his clothes also being a dead giveaway, it failed to mask his particular presence, that made him, him.
Rem:「What is that mask? It’s scaring her.」
Vincent:「I am in quite a precarious situation, you see. Regardless, for the sake of the Shudraq, as well as my own, I deemed it best to keep my face hidden.」
He spoke as he placed his hand on the mask twisted in anger, then proceeded to nonchalantly enter the hut. Rem attempted to convey that he was not welcome, but alas, he was not of the sorts to heed her.
So Rem decided to drop all pretenses and be straightforward.
Rem:「What exactly are you and him planning to do?」
Vincent:「Strictly speaking, that man and I are not working together. Our interests happened to align this one time, so we joined hands. There is no guarantee that that shall hold true in the future.」
Vincent:「He shall plan to avoid the conflict ahead of us. He shall attempt to flee from it. Of course, he shall plan to take you with him.」
Pulling in her chin, Rem remained silent despite being insulted.
While the keywords ‘conflict’ and ‘flee’ piqued her interest, she was more interested in the latter part of what he said―― That that boy, Natsuki Subaru, would attempt to take her with him. It worried her.
Truth was, the thick miasma that radiated out of him kept Rem’s senses sharp and on-guard against him. That said, her initial hostility towards him had begun fading.
There remained the fear that she would come to regret feeling that way once Subaru woke up, but regardless.
Rem:「Will you keep fighting alongside the women here?」
Vincent:「That is my whole intent. I intend to fight till I breathe my last. And, the fight shall not end so long as I have breath.」
Rem:「……I have to get away from that and hide.」
Vincent:「I am War itself. Where do you intend to hide from me? What land is there that shall keep you hidden from me?」
It was obvious that he alone believed that, but this man had the charisma, the presence to force others to conceive his notions and perceptions to be fact. That was part and parcel of who he was.
He was War itself. Thus, it meant all in his presence would be charred, drowned in waves of the fires of war, leaving naught but ash.
Rem:「And if I don’t like that, I should take that boy and go…?」
Vincent:「――Nay. That is no longer an option. He escaped from the clutches of the Sacred Empire Army camp and came to me with the desire to save you, and from the moment I decided to see that desire be fulfilled, you have lost your chance to escape this conflict.」
Vincent:「No matter where you are, no matter how far you flee, the flames of war shall surely find you. They shall once more embroil you, engulf you. Your desire or detestation for it matters not.」
Rem:「But that…! That means that… There’s nothing I can do.」
He keeps saying that my choices are all dead-ends, but keeps leaving the choice itself to me. Is he just enjoying this? That can’t be right. What on earth is his angle?
I can’t keep fighting, and there’s no way out of this fight either――,
Just when Rem kept sinking further and further into the hole of thoughts she had been digging herself into, a small shadow leapt at the man.
Her blonde hair fluttering in the air, the little girl grabbed the man’s arm and groaned as she knocked her fists on it. Her attacks did not hurt, but her displeasure for the man was made plenty apparent.
Seeing that, the man raised his arm, with the little girl still attached to it and,
Vincent:「A child mimics their company. If Cecilus were present, you would have regretted your bold and rash actions.」
Rem:「……You won’t get mad at her?」
Vincent:「You imply that a child’s tantrum would anger me. I may put those who disrespect me in their place, but to expect a mere child to understand the intricacies of honor? That is foolish. However……」
As his voice trailed off, his gaze shifted to Rem and Subaru. Rem immediately covered her body with her arms and narrowed her eyes at him, as if asking ‘What are you aiming for?’
Rem:「What are you planning…?」
Vincent:「Schemes, hidden agendas, plans, do not take these in a bad light. Not everyone is a protagonist, nor is anyone stage decoration, but the truth of the matter is that those who do not take action quickly lose their heads. If you do not wish to lose yours, I suggest you keep wracking your brains.」
Vincent:「As I explained before, once that man awakens, he shall surely attempt to run from this conflict of mine, and take you with him. However, the Empire has already become aware of your existence. You no longer possess the means to traverse through proper channels.」
His words drove a cold blade deep into her chest.
There was a fierce animosity within them. They clouded her eyes, almost, but they were concrete words. Rem had no way to refute them.
――Even she could not forget that hellish landscape.
Many lives had been lost in that camp. The Empire would surely retaliate. They would surely bare their fangs at Rem and her company, the cause of that tragedy.
There was only one reason for that一一
Vincent:「Surely I do not need to point out the reason for that.」
Rem:「……The way you put it is as good as pointing it out to my face.」
She bit back, but even if she was incapable of seeing the face behind that mask, she knew her words had fallen flat.
The little girl returned, having had enough of the man’s arm, and snuggled under Rem. Her upturned eyes looked at her with worry, a gaze that she returned with a slight smile on her face and the gentle exhale of a sigh.
Then she looked straight at the man and spoke,
Rem:「Tell me what I should… What we should do. Please.」
Vincent:「So you ask for advice with sincerity. Keep in mind that my aim is only to win. Each move I make is solely to press onward to my victory. Thus, you and your ilk may not end up where you desire.」
Rem:「I understand that fully. However, we lack the means to discern between good and bad at the moment. My phrasing may be discourteous, but you are currently my litmus test for that.」
She spoke as she carefully laid down the little girl beside Subaru, when the man laughed in response.
His expression lay hidden behind that mask, so Rem knew not what intentions his voice carried, but even so, she chose to press onward with her own game. Were he intolerant of this display and fell to anger, her aim would be to start fresh.
However, on the off-chance he were more open-minded and showed magnanimity, things would be different――
Vincent:「――Very well. I shall take you up on your bet.」
Rem:「……Thank you very much.」
Vincent:「From the beginning, you, I, and even Natsuki Subaru, who lays asleep behind you, even if we play our hands to the best of our abilities, we must win our bets if we want to move forward. Now is not the time to be frugal.」
Rem sighed, her victory sweet from a man who refused to offer even the simplest of compliments.
Had it been Subaru the first one to gamble to reclaim his person, then he, Rem, the little girl and the masked man must all continue this series of bets.
She balled her fist in secret, noting that the outset was good――,
Vincent:「First things first. That man shall attempt to take you and run from this war of mine. However, he shall fail on his first attempt while in the city. Let him. He must learn and face reality. Otherwise, he shall be unable to stand back up. And for that reason……」
As Rem steeled her resolve, the man began speaking of his plans, of his guiding principles.
What Rem ought to do once Subaru awakened. What he would want from her, what her aim should be―― Though she had no intention of being a doll who would only nod and affirm. Yet perhaps that man already had taken that into consideration.
Rem:「I cannot let things end without ever finding anything out either.」
And so, to rise up and battle against the many mysteries around her, with the little girl who had no other but her, and the young boy who reeked of evil in her arms, Rem began to wrack her brains.