Sorry for delaying the post of this ep for so long. Exams were long and exhausting. And then when I finally finished them, I had to deal with this and that…but anyhow. The holidays are here!!!! Woohooo!!!!!! And now I can finally post this ep, so thanks for waiting so patiently~
On that note, please enjoy the chapter~
P.S. It’s a bit of a cliff at the end, but…maa, daijoubu yo na~ ahahaha~
Kiriko Epawsode 19: Divine Retribution
As though she had been blown out by the great intensity of my light magic, the girl of flame flickered before promptly collapsing. Carefully catching her small frame in my arms, I deposited her still-warm body onto the bed and called for the maids waiting outside of the door.
“She seems to have fallen back asleep from the healing session. I’ll be returning to my station downstairs, so please call me if there are any major changes in her body.”
Speaking frankly, I walked out the door, noting the sharp eyes of the head maid as she glanced at the light breathing of the unconscious female. With this, my alibi was set.
It’s time to get the show on the road.
Standing in front of the door, I hesitated.
I didn’t know what to do. How was I supposed to treat a girl who knew that I had willingly subjected her to unspeakable torture for the sake of my own happiness?
Right now, there was no way for me to regain the trust that had been lost. But at the very least, I hoped to obtain her forgiveness.
Was I being selfish?
She already had done more than enough for me, by not revealing that I had been the one to throw her into that hellhole. Yet even now, I was asking for even more from her.
I……what should I do……
My face contorted in pain. Although I had come all this way, and was standing right in front of her door, I couldn’t muster the courage to actually knock.
Perhaps it was at this moment that I realized – I was a coward.
I couldn’t face the atrocities that she had undergone as a result of my actions. I didn’t want to endure the onslaught of vicious words that I would likely receive for good reasons.
Even so, if I were given the same choice as before, I still would do the same thing. I was unrepentant. Filled with shame, and feeling extremely apologetic, but I still did not regret what I did.
Because if I had acted differently, my sister would’ve been the one to suffer instead.
And that was something I couldn’t have allowed. Not then, and certainly not now.
“Excuse me, sir? Are you going in?”
Suddenly interrupting my thoughts was a female voice. The speaker was one of the maids that had been standing guard in front of the room, who had granted me access upon hearing my name. Yet, despite her authorization, my body had frozen as I fell into my thoughts, bringing us to her present, confused state.
“—ah, um. *cough* Yeah. If you’ll excuse me.”
Urged on by her prompting, I lightly knocked on the wooden door, announcing my presence.
“Err……Kiriko? It’s me, Conrad. May I come in?”
Silence ensued as I awaited an answer from the girl beyond the door. Yet, no matter how long I waited, there was no answer.
Is she still asleep…? No, Darius said that she already woke up, so she shouldn’t be……
“Kiriko? Are you awake?”
Knocking a little harder, I raised my voice a bit louder. After all, it was still possible that she had dozed off somehow.
But like before, there was no answer. Perhaps she was ignoring me?
……that seems highly plausible.
Waiting for another few minutes, I continued to knock, and soon decided that the flame-headed girl was, indeed, avoiding me. Figuring that she wouldn’t open the door for me on her own, I put my hand on the knob and turned it.
To my great surprise, the door wasn’t locked, and easily swung open. Seeing such a scene, the maid next to me let out an involuntary cry, but before she could do anything, I strode into the room.
“Ah, Mr. Aurelia, please wait!”
Like all the Guild sleeping quarters, the room was simple, containing a small table and a bed. The only thing that stood out was the clear, red head that poked out from underneath the blankets, as well as Kiriko’s serene, sleeping face.
Seeing the fiery girl’s calmly resting state sent my mind spiralling into confusion. Certainly she couldn’t be that heavy a sleeper, to not even wake up with the huge racket I had been making outside.
As I walked closer to the bedside, I could see the paleness of her cheeks, making them appear as white as ivory.
It was as though she were a piece of artwork created in the image of the Goddess of Rosso, Rouge, transcending the mortal realm. Though her usual demeanor gave off the feeling of being merely ‘cute’, her current state was like an intricately carved sculpture.
With her tranquil countenance, she could only be described with a single word: beautiful.
Yet somehow, her great stillness gave me an unsettling feeling. Not a single lock of hair was out of place, bringing her statue-like appearance to perfection, but—
She’s not breathing?!
—I soon realized the consequences of such ‘flawless grace’.
Dashing up to the unconscious girl, I grabbed her shoulders and shook her, breaking the peaceful air. Her hair flung wildly as her body rocked, throwing it into disarray. Even so, she did not open her eyes.
“Oi! Kiriko!! You’re kidding me right?! Hey!!!”
Yelling, I brought a hand to her cheek and began to tap it lightly.
It was cold.
Her chest wasn’t moving either. She wasn’t breathing.
No…no…she can’t be—
A horrified gasp came from the maid behind me. Remembering her presence, I whirled around and shouted.
“No! Go get help! Hurry!! I-I’m sure we can still save her!!”
Even I wasn’t sure what led me to say such words.
Just moments ago, I was dreading having to face her. Yet now, with her frigid body lying in my arms……all I could feel was desperation.
I still haven’t apologized.
She still hasn’t forgiven me.
She never will.
Life is a story of suffering.
It is a tale designed by sadistic fate, to make the victim willing to walk along its path by mere morsels of happiness, cast upon the ground to tempt you to go further and further.
Without ever realizing that you are but a toy, an oblivious puppet in the eyes of the gods, dancing around on the palm of their hands as they snicker at your agony.
I wanted to die.
To escape from this never-ending cycle of misery was my most sincere wish.
Yet, even now, I have been unable to do so.
For the gods are cruel, constantly tempting me with a joy that disappears as easily as pollen in the wind.
When I first desired death, they gave me a man. His eyes, warm as the sun, seduced me into a content fog, drawing me away from my home and into a foreign land. It didn’t take me long to realize that this happiness was nothing more than an illusion, designed to entrap me in an even worse fate than before.
Falling into the hands of that demon, my dignity was trampled on, and my body defiled. Yet when I once again hoped for death, the beings above sent me a saviour.
Her eyes were crimson gems, beautiful as the blazing threads that sprouted from her head.
Her skin, though covered in wounds, gave off a pearly sheen that seemed to testify her pureness.
Perhaps she was the Goddess Rouge’s incarnate, come to save her lowly subjects from this hell.
But before we could even escape, our hopes were dashed.
Nelia’s body went flying before my eyes, and slamming into a wall, she crumpled like a broken doll onto the floor. In my desperation and anger, I attempted to attack the man who had assaulted her, but to no avail.
Before the eyes of that unmoving goddess, I too, was struck down. And in my fading conscious, all I could hope was that my death would be swift, so my suffering would finally end.
Yet not even that small wish could be granted.
“Riva, wake up! Tell me you’re okay, Riva!”
Hearing Nelia’s urgent cries, I slowly opened my eyes finding her emerald orbs staring me right in the face.
Her face, painted with worry, loosened as I croaked out her name. Apparently noticing my parched state, my fellow captive turned, picking up a glass of water and putting it to my lips as I sat up.
A cooling sensation rushed down my throat as I sipped the liquid, dousing the burning pain that had been assaulting it. Letting out a satisfied sigh, I glanced around the room, finally realizing that, against my expectations, we weren’t in that familiar prison cell.
“Where are we……?”
The room that we were in contained two beds, that, while simple in design, provided an adequate degree of comfort for our weary bodies. After having slept on stone for the past several weeks, it was like we had ascended to heaven from hell.
“I think we should be in the Adventurer’s Guild…..the room looks similar to the one I stayed in when I first arrived…”
Saying thus, Nelia gave an uncertain gaze as she glanced around the room.
Now that she mentions it, it does look awfully familiar……
From the walls to the furniture, the furnishings truly did resemble the tiny Guild room I had borrowed so many weeks ago.
Could it be……we’re saved?
After all, I couldn’t possibly imagine that man suddenly providing such good accommodations when he had locked us up in that pigsty. No, a pigsty might’ve been better. At least that would’ve let us enjoy the sunlight.
“ “!!” ”
Suddenly, a gentle knocking echoed within the room, drawing our eyes towards the door. However, even after waiting for several seconds, the door didn’t open. Instead, the polite knocking repeated.
It seemed that our visitor was waiting for our permission before entering the room.
Realizing this, Nelia gave me a cursory look, to which I nodded.
Sitting up straight, my emerald-eyed companion let out a dignified voice, imbued with nobility.
“Please excuse my intrusion.”
The door opened, revealing a man wearing a uniform of shimmering gold.
I immediately recognized it. How couldn’t I? It was the uniform of a highly reputable organization within our ally country of Auksas. Reporting directly to the King himself, the members of this troop was aptly named – The Royal Guard.
I never thought that I’d ever meet anyone from this elusive group. But then again, considering the current state of affairs, perhaps it was only natural.
After all, the eyes of the guard were the eyes of the king.
With one of the nobles of his country kidnapping and confining the nobles of their ally country, it was only fitting that the King personally resolve the issue. Rather, it was troubling that it had taken him this long to handle it.
Then again, Au is pretty far from the capital, so I guess it can’t be helped.
It wasn’t like the king could keep an eye on every single town within his domain.
“On this occasion, please allow me to deeply apologize for the transgressions you have suffered on our soil, my ladies. We of the Royal Guard are doing out utmost to investigate and punish the men responsible for your suffering.”
Upon entering the room, the golden-clothed man knelt down on one knee and bowed his head.
No longer would we have to be subjected to torments that tested our sanity.
No longer would we have to endure shame far beyond our imagination.
No longer would we have to be…..in pain.
Was it finally over? Truly?
A strangled cry escaped from my throat as I sobbed with relief. Understanding the reason for my tears, Nelia began to gently stroke my back. There was no judgement in her eyes, but simply…sympathy as a fellow victim.
“*ahem* And? What of Lady Kiriko? She doesn’t seem to be in our room.”
Seeing that my current state was unsuited for handling the conversation, Nelia took charge, inquiring about our saviour.
Now that she mentions it, she’s not here…?
Considering that we had made it out safely despite being knocked out midway through our escape, it was clear that Lady Kiriko had gotten us out of that mansion on her own.
Then she…defeated that man?
She, a slender woman, had managed to face off a man twice her size……a man who could take out both Nelia and myself in an instant…….by herself?
The thought alone astounded me.
Yet somehow……if it was her, I could believe it.
Possessing powerful fire magic, with that divine bearing….perhaps she truly was an incarnation of Goddess Rouge herself.
“We temporarily had her stay in a separate room for treatment. Due to her heavy injuries, we needed some time to call over a more proficient healer.”
“What did you say?! I-Is she okay?!!”
Shouting involuntarily, I stared at the golden-clad man with wide eyes, my tears forgotten.
“A-Ah, yes. While the two of you ladies were resting, the healer finally arrived, so she should be—”
“HELP!!! MURDER!!! THE LADY——LADY KIRIKO IS DEAD!!!!”
Suddenly, a shrill scream reverberated through the building, easily brushing away the momentary joy with a vicious swipe.
As my head was pushed down, and my arms gripped tightly behind me, I let out a grunt.
How……how did things come to this…?
I couldn’t understand it.
Nothing but the gilded shoes of the Royal Guard and the brown planks of the Guild’s floor filled my eyes as I blankly stared.
The pain didn’t even register in my mind as the brightly clothed men held me down roughly, shoving my face against the ground.
What just happened? What was happening right now? Why were they holding me down? What did I do?
I walked into the room…I called out to the unconscious girl, yet when I approached, I discovered that she wasn’t breathing.
When I asked the maid to call for help, she screamed. A simple scream for help somehow turned into a guillotine, raised high above my head.
Apparently, other than the healer, nobody else had entered the room before me. With the Guild being under such high security, there wasn’t any way anyone could have entered the room through the window.
I was the one? I killed her?
Like hell. I didn’t do anything. But why……why were they saying this……why were they telling me—
“Conrad Aurelia, you’re under arrest for the murder of Lady Kiriko. Please surrender yourself and repent for your sins.”
Ah, I see.
This is retribution.