Hmm…….not too sure what to say, so I’ll just write, “Please enjoy the chapter~nya!!” Also, fanservice pic……cause why the hell not? 😛
Kiriko Epawsode 18: A Dar-ing Confession
I have lived a blessed life.
That is how I have always felt when thinking about my current existence.
Born to a loving family, in a peaceful country where food was generally not an issue, I had few worries, if any.
There naturally were some bumps here and there, but I never had to truly worry about threats to my life, or where I would obtain my next meal.
In general, I found everyone to be kind. Granted, some people were more disagreeable than others, but I usually didn’t have people close to me who were outright rude and unbearable.
It was a life where the evils of the world were there, yet hidden. Exposed, yet ethereal.
They were things that didn’t touch my existence directly, and hence, were things that didn’t bother me as much.
Even if life got boring at times, I had no complaints.
Life was good.
Yet, when I was summoned to this new world, that all changed.
In this land, I had no family.
Though I was summoned with my friends, we were separated.
I am alone. All alone.
In this place where kindness comes with a price, and violence is an everyday occurrence, I am alone.
I have now faced hunger, as it gnawed at my stomach and tore up my innards.
I have now faced pain, as though every bone in my body were crushed and every inch of flesh torn.
I have now faced betrayal, like a slap in the face informing me of the futility of relying on others.
I am alone.
When it will stop, I do not know.
But what I do know is that, torn with loneliness, I might go mad.
Insanity boils under the surface, hidden under my smile.
And when the being of the past meets the suffering of the future, I might crack.
For I wish for nothing more than to return. To go back, to that which I had.
But that, is no more.
Happiness is but an illusion, made to prevent me from tearing myself limb from limb.
As for me, I am but a mask, a mere skin worn to conceal my insecurities.
Yet, even that is something that I am unaware of.
A gasp escaped my lips as my eyelids flung open, startled by a light knock on the room’s door.
Reflexively throwing off the thin blanket, my eyes swam around as I attempted to identify my current location.
Moments passed before I finally recognized the place as the Guild room I had borrowed several days ago. Placing a hand on my chest, I attempted to calm my wildly beating heart.
“Haa haa haa……”
As I touched my shirt, I was astonished to find it drenched in sweat. My body trembled, seemingly frightened by something that I couldn’t quite place my finger on.
Why am I so jumpy…?
I couldn’t understand why I had woken up with such a feeling. Vaguely, I could sense that I had some kind of dream, but the nature of it eluded me.
“Miss Kiriko? Are you there? Is everything alright?”
A muffled voice spoke from behind the room’s door, clearly confused at my lack of response.
“A-Ahh, yeah. What is it?”
Shaking my head, I blearily called out an answer, hesitating to immediately allow them into the room. My current sweat-drenched state wasn’t exactly the most presentable way to greet a visitor.
“Your armour seemed to be a bit worn, so I had someone bring an extra set of clothes and some hot water so you can bathe. The Guild’s healer is also here, so he can help out with the remainder of your internal injuries.”
Like water found in the middle of a desert, the words spoken by the person were truly a saving grace. After all, it’s been days since I last removed my armour and bathed. With all the blood and sweat that had soaked into my equipment, I was really starting to smell.
The door opened, revealing a woman dressed like a cleaning maid from some high end hotel. I felt my eyes open wide as I gave a dumbfounded expression.
“Please excuse me.”
Giving a small curtsy, the woman entered the room and stood by the doorway to keep the door from swinging shut. In turn, two other similarly dressed females came in, one carrying a large basin filled with steaming water, and the other carrying a simple set of clothes.
The two walked briskly, one plopping the heavy basin onto the ground as the other placed the clothes next to me on the bed. Then, standing up, they retreated behind the first woman standing by the door.
“Would you like us to assist you in cleaning up?”
“Ahh, no, it’s fine. I’ll do it myself.”
“Very well. Then I shall leave Ellen outside, so please tell her when you’re ready. If you need anything else, have her call for me. I am called Felicia.”
Speaking thus, Felicia gave another curtsy and ushered the two women out of the room, shutting the door in the process. A few seconds passed before I finally managed to unfreeze my stunned self.
Weird……did I do anything to warrant such great treatment? Actually, they’re not gonna charge me for this, are they?
A chill crawled up my spine as I thought of all the possible ways they could scam me. Just looking at how the women had carried themselves, I could tell that they were extremely well-trained. Their bearing was like that of a chambermaid working at a noble’s estate. Surely their services couldn’t be cheap.
Wait, noble…? Ahh…
A stroke of realization hit me.
With my current appearance, it was highly likely that I was, once again, being mistaken for a high ranking Rossonian noble. Having been mistreated in a foreign country, it was possible that this was the Royal Guard’s way of making it up to me. Nelia and Riva were probably receiving a similar treatment.
Satisfied with that line of reasoning, I began to strip off the armour that had protected me over the past few days.
The damp, bloodied cloth clung to my skin, creating an uncomfortable gripping sensation while I peeled it off.
As my bare flesh exposed itself to the empty room, I noted countless discolored patches that decorated it. Like badly designed tattoos, streaks of purple and yellow stained the pearly white canvas.
Taking the cloth hanging on the edge of the water basin, I dipped it in the water and began to wipe my body. The heat of the liquid warmed my chilled skin, cleansing it of the accumulated taint of the past few days.
“Haa……so much better……”
Involuntarily letting out a satisfied sigh as I put on the clean set of clothes, I walked over to the door and opened it.
However, the one standing outside wasn’t one of the maids, but a male with eyes as blue as the sky.
The man let out a carefree greeting as he ignored my astonished reaction, simply walking into the room without waiting for my reply.
Just as I was about to stop him, the door mysteriously swung away, flying out of my hands as it closed with a resounding boom.
“What’re you up to now, Darius?”
Indeed. The identity of the sudden intruder was none other than the so-called “Guild Receptionist”, Darius himself.
“What? Didn’t you need some healing? And I was waiting so patiently for you outside too~”
Leaning against the wall, the two-faced bastard gave a sarcastic smirk.
I could feel my blood pressure rising just looking at him.
“Ah, I’ve casted a barrier around the room, so feel free to scream if you want.”
“Why, thanks for your consideration, you scheming ass!!!”
Paying no heed to my undisguised animosity, the youth gave a dazzling business smile as he nodded his head in return.
I really want to punch his smug little face!!!
After all, it was the man before my very eyes that had incited me into performing such a daring escape. One that not only put my life, but the lives of the two Rossonian noble girls at stake.
Back when I had been captured by the murky-eyed noble, and was struggling to get out of my restraints, a wind-like voice had whispered into my ear.
At first I thought I was hallucinating due to extreme fatigue. During that period of time, I hadn’t developed my [Fire Manipulation] skill, and thus had wasted much of my energy struggling. With my intense lack of sleep, I myself wouldn’t have been surprised if I began to hear voices due to my weary state.
However, the voice soon revealed itself to be the Guild receptionist with the sunny smile that I had come to know only days before.
He told me that, even if I escaped, the Town’s Lord could easily fabricate some reason to confine me once again. There would be no rest, no sense of safety. My freedom would be transient, and my capture would lead to torture several times worse than I had already experienced.
To my exhausted self, these were words of despair.
Yet, when I was on the verge of giving up, he threw me a line. He gave me a way out. His way out.
That is, if I made a scene, and helped the other encaged girls escape, he had a way to pin the crime on the Town’s Lord. Not only would it put an end to the kidnappings, I wouldn’t have to worry about being chased down for some stupid reason. I’d even gain some honour from saving some other noble girls.
However, this was only under the condition that I could escape without any external help. After all, he had no way of cutting the chains that shackled me in the dank prison.
Unable to see any other way out, I promised him that I’d escape, in the flashiest way possible.
Without realizing that I was playing right into his hands.
To begin with, even if I had escaped from Cuyler’s mansion, it was hard to believe that he’d try that hard to chase after me. If anything, it’d be Keith trying to utilize his father’s power to recapture me, but that power would wane as soon as I left the Lord’s territory.
Whether or not Cuyler himself would come after me was debatable. Because if he became involved, it was tantamount to acknowledging the fact that he both knew of his son’s wrongdoings, and was attempting to cover them up. With a little bit of investigation, it wouldn’t be hard for the kingdom to figure it all out.
But now, with my clear attempt to involve Cuyler in his son’s crime, I had drawn a big target on myself. With the giant ruckus I created, most of his ire was aimed at me, as opposed to the other noble girls. He probably very much wanted to eliminate me right now, to avoid any more troublesome testimonies.
Whether or not I liked it, I now had to cooperate with Darius’s plans. No matter how detrimental it might be to my health.
“Anyways, hurry up and heal the rest of my injuries! Even if I can stand it, it’s still painful!!”
In an attempt to hide my anger, I impatiently requested the receptionist/healer to treat my wounds.
“Now, now, be patient. I want to talk a bit and I can’t have you passing out on me again, now can I?”
A mocking grin spread across the infuriating male’s face as he spoke, once again heating up the boiling pit of annoyance that I had tried so hard to contain.
“Just what do you want to ta—hic?!”
As I attempted to retort Darius’s words, something was suddenly shot into my mouth, going straight down my esophagus, nearly choking me to death in the process.
“Chew on that for a bit while I talk, kay?”
“*cough* I’ve already swallowed it thanks to you, dammit!!! What did you make me eat?!”
Coughing pitifully, I glared venomously at the forceful man. It appeared, however, that I wasn’t fated to receive an answer as he continued on in an unperturbed manner.
“Over the past few days, I thought I’d try to find some information on you, since we’re working together and all. But while I did that, I found out some rather……interesting things.”
My body stiffened as Darius’s voice dropped to a dangerous tone. Just what could he have possibly found out? Before being summoned, I hadn’t even existed in 【Paletia】, so there couldn’t possibly be any information on me, unless—
“You know, in the Guild, there’s something called the List of Lost Love.”
Unable to keep up with the sudden change in topic, my jaw dropped dumbfoundedly.
List……of Lost Love?! What the hell is with that naming sense!!
A smile spread across Darius’s lips as he continued on, disregarding my confusion.
“Rossonian nobles are renown for passionately falling in love with people they shouldn’t, so it’s quite a common affair for them to elope. At the same time, their rashness tends to lead to them getting together with scammers that take all their money and leave them to rot in a different country. Which is why this list exists – so that they have a way of contacting their families when their relationship fails.”
“Hence the name ‘List of Lost Love’, huh…”
Understanding the origin of the name, I nodded my head. Although it sounded ridiculous for people to elope that often, if they did, then the existence of such a list seemed practical.
That said, it took me a few moments before I realized why the sky-eyed schemer had brought up such a thing.
Don’t tell me……
My eyes widened as a flash of inspiration hit me.
“Heh, looks like you’re not as dim as you seem. That’s right, I checked, and you aren’t on it.”
Waltzing towards me, the handsome devil pressed forward, his mesmerizing orbs remaining fixed on my own. Before I knew it, his face was inches from my own, and a hot breath was blowing over my cheek. Whispering, he spoke.
“Now, could you tell me why a noble like yourself wouldn’t be on the list?”
An oppressive pressure bore down on my shoulders, causing my knees to tremble with effort as they attempted to support my shivering frame.
“Well? How about it, Otherworlder?”
Suddenly drawing back, Darius flashed a mischievous grin, dazzling my eyes with his pearly whites.
My overloaded mind seemed to drop to a painfully slow crawl as I processed his words.
Clearly taking my speechless state as a sign of affirmation, the youth marched on, tearing down the thin mask I had used to ‘conceal’ my identity.
“It’s pretty obvious when you think about it, considering your appearance.”
Giving a brief nod, the mysterious man continued to explain.
““Yeah. You have the twin reds, and quite high grade ones at that.”
According to Darius, this referred to the fact that both my eyes and hair were red.
In Rosso, it is said that only one possessing the twin reds could be blessed by their goddess, Rouge, to inherit the throne. Thus, having both crimson eyes and hair was a prerequisite to becoming the ruler of the country of burning passion.
However, perhaps that passion itself was the undoing of the Rossonian nobility. Whether they were low ranking nobles or royalty, nothing seemed to be capable of reigning in the amorous nature of the Rossonian nobility. Despite the laws forbidding nobles from marrying those not of Rossonian descent, they continued to fall in love – and eventually elope – with anyone who caught their fancy.
This affliction also affected the royal family, eventually reaching a point where they became unable to produce any pure-blooded children possessing the twin reds.
As such, the crimson country adopted a new system of succession.
That is, regardless of their bloodline, anyone who had the twin reds was capable of becoming potential candidate for the throne.
Thanks to this new practice, it became commonplace for noble families to adopt children with bright red hair or eyes. Due to the often promiscuous members of the former royal family, it wasn’t rare to find commoners with ‘high grade’ features.
On occasion, it is even possible to find a twin red child, in which case there frequently is a battle between noble families to bring such an individual under their banner. After all, if they raise the child properly, it could be possible for the next ruler of Rosso to come from their own house, leading to a dramatic rise in status.
Thus, Rossonian noble families are constantly on the look for such ‘lottery tickets’ that they can use to bring up their noble prestige.
Which is why it was so unusual for me to be completely unknown and unaffiliated with any noble house.
At my age, there’s no way that I wouldn’t have been caught by the vast information networks possessed by the Rossonian nobility, especially with the way I went parading around completely undisguised. My hair and eyes were both eye-catching, and extremely memorable, so there’d at least be one or two rumours about me.
But there weren’t.
Hence, one of the few viable reasons why I could remain ‘off the radar’ for so long was because I didn’t exist in Paletia before now.
—or so Darius explained.
Though I couldn’t quite understand why the secret-loving receptionist was telling me such detailed information, I gratefully ate it up. After all, it was something that’d greatly influence the course of my life from now on.
“I understand how you managed to figure out my origins, but……are Otherworlders really that common in Paletia?”
Sending a dubious look towards Darius, I began to probe further for more information.
A smirk once again spread across the face of the man of honey-blonde, like a child with a new toy.
“They are fairly rare, but you see them every now and then when the Gods get a little……bored.”
Was it because Silvia was bored that she had summoned us?
Was it because she was bored that she had purposely separated our group, leaving us to fend for ourselves in a different world with nobody to help us?
Was it because she was bored that I had gone through life-and-death situations again and again, with absolutely no assistance from the very goddess who had dragged me into this mess?
Was she truly that bored?
I could feel a simmering anger beginning to rise in the pit of my stomach as I thought about what the silver goddess could have been thinking when she one-sidedly dragged us to this world. However, as quick as the fire within me was ignited, it was soon doused by Darius’s next line.
“It’s strange though. You seem to be a little different from the other Otherworlders. Rather, for an Otherworlder, you’re awfully……clueless, should I say?”
“……what’s that supposed to mean?”
Giving Darius a doubtful gaze, I raised an eyebrow while giving a questioning response.
“Well, even if the Gods are bored, summoning still takes a good amount of power to do. So they don’t like to be wasteful about it.”
Perhaps understanding my confused expression, the talkative man simply smiled again before issuing an unsettling statement.
“I mean, it’d be a pity if such convenient assassins weren’t trained properly and outed themselves before even reaching their target.”
What in the world is he talking about? There’s no way anyone would willingly become an assassin right after being abducted into some random world…unless…
A terrifying premonition began to creep into my thoughts.
“It’s quite amusing, you know. Seeing Otherworlder assassins running around screaming that they’re the ‘Hero’ that will vanquish the ‘Demon King’.”
I KNEW IT!!!!!!!!!!
After all, our world was filled with a plethora of stories writing about such otherworldly adventures. Who hadn’t thought at least once about being summoned to another world as a hero? As childish as it was, we were a generation of dreamers. And if your dreams were to come to life through such a summoning, wouldn’t you want to believe it?
Inwardly, I gave a silent prayer for the countless ‘heroes’ that had died in this cruel, opportunistic world. Hopefully they had a nice dream before it ended.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a ‘hero’ from Rosso, though. Could it be that your Goddess wants to break off the alliance?”
Suddenly, the atmosphere plunged to a snot-freezing chill. The sunny skies that had been playfully smiling at me transformed into a mid-winter storm before I knew it.
As his eyes glimmered with discerning scrutiny, I dared not to blatantly lie. Because that lie might just become the last thing I ever say.
“I-I’m not from Rosso……all I remember is a white place and then I found myself in the fields outside of Au.”
Maintaining eye contact as I spoke, I noticed that the depths of his azure eyes flickered briefly before closing.
“Hmm, I see.”
Silence permeated the room as the conversation suddenly came to an abrupt halt. Unsure of what to do next, I lowered my gaze, fidgeting around nervously as I awaited the mysterious man’s next words.
Little did I know that those very words would pronounce a result beyond my imagination.
“Well, no matter. Whether or not you’re from Rosso, I still have to eliminate you. I can’t let any potential threats to my king go, you know? So don’t hold it against me. And he’ll trust me more if you die, so it’ll be killing two birds with one stone! Or should I say, two cats with one stick?”
Chuckling ominously, Darius’s eyes glinted with an icy blue light as he looked at me, emanating a killing intent that choked my lungs.
But I couldn’t die now.
I had to find my friends.
If I died, I wouldn’t be able to meet them.
Flames enshrouded my body as I shot forward, beginning my assault on the man who identified himself as my enemy. My leg raised, I kicked at his head, determined to knock him unconscious before he could fight back. Yet—
—my foot was stopped in mid-air, jolting my body as though I had hit an invisible wall. Pain coursed through my leg as Darius gripped my ankle, holding it in place.
“To think that you’d use nonlethal force even at a time like this, how very, very naive.”
Shaking his head, the honey-blond receptionist gave a look filled with apathy. In spite of the sweet colour of his hair, however, his wintery eyes exposed the frozen state of his soul.
“Good-bye, Otherworlder. It was nice knowing you.”
A bright light flashed before my eyes, blinding me as weakness flowed through my body, bringing a chilling cold together with it. As my face paled and my vision darkened, a pitying face entered my eyes, reflecting my falling frame.
Within the approach of a familiar darkness, only a single, tsukkomi-worthy line rang within my head.