11. The farewell, of you and me. — I
As the festival draws close enough that the whole schedule could be written on one hand, most of the guests gather.
The rumoured lord of Darich is also one of them.
We heard the stories, but everyone was overwhelmed as he was too amazing. According to people who’ve been here for a long time, this happens every year.
First, even from far away, one could see that the carriage was slanted, then when it approached it felt even more out of place. The carriage was thrice as big as normal ones and the door was too wide. From that, a man whose face and neck could not be told apart appeared.
He always was a giant of a man, but not this much. I could now understand the weight of the words, he gets bigger every year.
At dinner, everyone’s opinions were as one. Since servants couldn’t say something explicit about their master’s guests, only honest impressions were said.
By the way, Joblyn tripped over the low door sill of the mansion. Since servants from Darich were not enough to help him up, not only did the servants of the mansion help but Kaid had to help too. It was a huge ordeal. Everyone’s hearts were as one when we said that it’s a relief nothing big happened.
It’s a relief that our master is light, we thought.
I don’t think Kaid is light at all, but the young man who raises cows back home even complained that helping a cow up was easier.
There was that great commotion today, but that was all so we could say that the day passed safely. Receiving many guests from other places, the mansion’s staff had to abandon the lax familial mood and everyone had to run about so that there won’t be any problems.
For the past few days, we could only collapse onto our beds. Kaid too was everywhere, receiving guests and preparing for the banquet, so much that I wondered when he’s getting his sleep.
Then this day came in a flash.
After a normal dinner, I declined everyone’s offers and set out. Jasmine, who was talking about something to Samua and Tim while having dessert, panicked and packed the leftover cake.
“Wait, Shirley. If it’s bathing, let’s go together?”
“A while later, I have business…… I have a meeting.”
“Yes, it might get late, so please feel free to go to sleep ahead of me.”
I bowed slightly to the three that looked puzzled and set out of the restaurant.
First, I returned to my room and changed my clothes from the working uniform to plain clothes. I untied my hair as I looked at the mirror. I wonder if I’m just imagining it. Lately, I feel that the colour has been changing slightly. Before, it had a fodder like colour, but now…… it sometimes has a blonde tinge.
After thinking a bit, I took out the blue necklace. As I hung it around my neck, my hands shook terribly. While smiling bitterly, I tucked the necklace I took great effort to put on underneath my clothes and clutched it with the clothes over it.
I breathed deeply for some times and lifted my head.
In the mirror, I had a very pathetic face.
So that I won’t be found by anyone, I went around to the back of the mansion and disappeared into the forest. The surface was almost flat, with the stream and the meadows gone.
However, there still were some trees left. Though the birch tree where I made the promise with him is no longer there.
Since there’s a mountain behind the place as well as tall walls, it might not have been neglected because the scenery couldn’t be good. It can be seen from outside, but still such a remote place like this isn’t visited often.
With the indicated location as my goal, I walked through the dark forest. The baggage in my hand made hard knocking sounds. I don’t need a map. I’m not that directionally challenged to get lost in this forest. Moreover, it’s not the first time I came here. I wasn’t let out often, but the place inside the grounds was my garden, literally.
As I silently walked on, I spotted a light up ahead.
It was Kaid with a lantern.
Amidst the black hair that seemed to slip into the darkness, the glistening golden shade looked like that of a wolf keeping an eye on its prey. However, because he had his head down, his fringe was blocking his eyes, making it impossible to tell what he was looking at.
He likely noticed that I arrived. With no signs of surprise, Kaid silently kneeled. Rather than that of a servant’s, it felt like that of a retainers. I stared down at the head that was bowing down with his neck exposed.
“Helt… no, should I call you Kaid?”
“My lady is free to call me by how she pleases.”
“……Here, I prefer Helt after all.”
The time period is that of when there still are people who haven’t had dinner.
It’s a miracle that he could spare some time in this period. ……No, it’s not a miracle. He worked hard. It was he who decided on the time and place, but even so I feel a little sorry.
“No, please come this way.”
Receiving the sentence that did not have a subject without any difficulty, Kaid silently got up. He headed further into the forest, with me following behind silently. The scent of the dirt wet with evening dew mixed with the trees and created a terribly apprehensive mood.
I don’t think too much time passed until we arrived.
When we arrived at the destination, he silently got out of my field of vision. I couldn’t follow up. In my vision that only had his waist, there were now five stones.
I could somehow tell. Maybe it’s because it’s me.
I breathed in. I never thought that such a place existed in this world.
At a glance, they’re just stones. Nothing engraved in them, just stones of the same size placed at regular intervals. It looked unnatural and showed that someone placed them there, but that was all.
Still, I could tell.
These are our graves.
Next to the stone farthest to the right, there was a large package. Cleaning tools, perhaps.
Having noticed my gaze, Kaid opened that package. Then shone the lantern light onto its contents.
There was a single picture.
The foolish, ignorant me of the old days was smiling happily.
“These are gifts from Carolina, Cecil, as well as dozens more.”
Beneath the the picture, there were flowers, necklaces, gloves, handkerchiefs and much much more. There’s only the light from the lantern, yet it felt like it was bright like day because the scene was too unexpected.
“They were those that had already left or were chased out of the mansion. However, after that, they all returned here from all over the place and asked me to let them work here. That they’ll watch me.”
“That if I become like the previous lord, that they’ll never forgive me… after deceiving, betraying and killing my lady, if that death was meaningless, they will kill me. That’s what everyone said. ‘We can’t forgive the previous lord. Thank you for saving Laius. However, even if we die, we can’t forgive you for deceiving our lady,’ they said.”
“……You’re different from my family.”
“I also agree with them. If I became like the previous rulers before I realised it, they would tell me. Then, I would move the location of this grave and kill myself there.”
I couldn’t say a thing. I didn’t know what to say. Then, he truly is alone.
Amidst the offerings, there was a letter. When I picked it up and looked at the back, there was Caron’s name.
I grabbed it with both hands and brought to my forehead as if in prayer. Ah, Caron Caron, no, Caron. A kind person like you can’t say that. You can’t do that.
To me who was not moving while clutching the letter in my hands, he softly spoke to me.
“……It’s in the order of age from the left.”
“…………Thank you. I didn’t think that there would be graves.”
“……Officially, you’ve been abandoned in the plains.”
“Yes. That’s what I heard.”
I unwrapped my baggage and placed a small bottle of alcohol on the grave at the left.
Apparently it’s bitter, strong and delicious. Within my budget, I could only get a bottle smaller than the size of my palm, but grandmother had always been saying that grandfather should consider the age and drink less, so this may be a good opportunity.
On the next grave, embroidery thread.
Since it’s pronounced and vivid, it may be too gaudy. However, the colour is so pretty, so I’m sure grandmother who like purple can use it well.
On the next grave, a cigar.
I’m sorry, father. I only know that it feels smoky and even after explanations I couldn’t get what it meant by heavy or light. Still, the people at the store were kind and told me this one would be good for people who like heavy tastes and sold me one. So please forgive me with just one. If I bought two, I wouldn’t have been able to buy mother’s hair ornament.
On the next grave, a hair ornament.
It’s a red hair ornament in the shape of a flower, as you liked red flowers, mother. Apparently the shape is that of a rare flower that blooms in a country to the east. I think it will go well with your beautiful blonde hair. It may be a ‘tawdry accessory’ that mother dislikes, but I’m sorry. If I spent more, I wouldn’t have been able to buy a cigar for father.
I brought my hands together and closed my eyes.
They’re people who committed unforgivable acts. Undoubtedly, even praying for their happiness in the next world would not be allowed. But, I wonder. I wonder if I will be allowed to pray as a daughter, as family.
“I’m sorry I came late. ……To be honest, I never planned on coming here. Kaina…… the place I grew up is called Kaina and there’s a small monastery in a neighbouring village. I had been planning on living there and ending my life there………… However, now I am glad that I could visit these graves. Grandfather, grandmother, father, mother. Please, do not grow wrathful. Please, pass on without grudges, without placing curses, without resentment. If, if we cannot be forgiven in any way, please, curse me for living on alone. Please curse me. Please. Then one day, when I die, please take me with you to hell. Then let us end the nightmare of Laius.”
The rustling of the leaves in the night wind felt as though it was almost screaming. I wonder how many people cried for our deaths. There were countless people who shed tears of joy at our deaths. There really might have been none. Maybe only the plants of this mansion weeped for us. Or maybe they too resent us for burning.
I don’t know.
Yet again, all this time, I don’t know.
The reason why I am here, how I should go on.
All this time, I don’t know.
What I should do, what I should not do. In the first place, am I even allowed to think? There’s no pardon for my life, but to still live on.
There were fun things.
But when there are thoughts of happiness or fortune, someone said that such happiness exists thanks to the lord. Someone said it’s thanks to the cruel previous lord’s death. That the death was a welcome thing, that it should have come quicker. That is was thanks to the lord.
Yes, that is correct. Laius suffered because of us. So what they say are all correct, not wrong at all. Yet it was painful. It was unforgivable, but it was painful and unbearable, that my heart wandered. Bewildered, it kept wandering for fifteen years. Even after fifteen years, I still don’t know.
To live on by forgetting everything, I was too sinful.
To live on by cursing everything, my crimes were too heavy.
To live on by loving everything, the love was too harsh.
The heart that did not yet find its life could no longer hold it in after finally arriving at their graves.
I hid my face and hung my head. An unbearable trembling voice penetrated through the beautiful melody of the night wind. But I could’t stop.
“I am sorry, I love them. Neither I nor they can be forgiven. But I still love them. I love my family. I will not change, I am sorry, I cannot change. I do know that they cannot be forgiven. Yet, I cannot bring myself to dislike them. I cannot hate them. ……They’re, my mother. My father, my grandfather, my grandmother. I am sorry, forgive me, I am sorry. I love them, I am sorry, I am sorry……”
“……There may be people who will criticise not loving your family, but there aren’t any who will denounce you for loving your family. You don’t have to beg forgiveness for that. They’re your family. You can love them. What sin is loving one’s family? You don’t have cry about that. What’s wrong with loving family, what is there to criticise? It’s alright, it’s alright, my lady.”
In the midst of not being able to cry for them, how can he forgive me?
I cannot feel sadness. There was no anger to begin with. To begin with, am I pardoned to feel? Not even to feel pleasure, but feel things that those that died by our hands can no longer have the opportunity to feel?
That’s what I think, yet it does not stop. As if something broke, the pouring tears overflowed out of the hands that hid my face.
“If it displeases you, please push me away………… please excuse me.”
Before I could understand that, the curtains of night that I thought had already fallen fell again.
It was a terribly warm night.
Holding my head and my waist, embracing me in his chest, he was too vulnerable. What if I stabbed a knife into his chest, there was no room to think that.
His body heat warmed me. A long time ago, I embraced his head before, but now even if I use my whole body I can’t embrace him. I couldn’t place my hands on his wide back, so I leaned my forehead against him while hiding my face.
I wonder how long it has been since I was embraced by someone like this. I don’t remember. I pushed away everyone in this life. The people who tried to hug me all looked dejected. I’m sorry, and that was all I could say. They’re not bad at all, but I hurt them.
I don’t know. I don’t know. I still don’t know.
How I should have lived. The correct way to live. The way to atone, how I should live, how I could live without hurting anyone from my life. What I should have done with this life. What I should have thrown away, what I should not get. All this time, without knowing, I could barely plan to stubbornly live on.
Certainly, no matter how many lives I have, I’ll be foolish. Rather, something might have changed if I was born as a completely different person. But I was born as me. Foolish, unwise, wandering and hesitating for fifteen years, not knowing life, not growing up and still wandering, but ending up in his arms. Enveloped by the warmth, I desperately tried to suppress the emotions that welled up. I swallowed my sobs, hid my teas and clenched my teeth so that I would stop shaking.
No. This isn’t what I’m here for. I’m not here to weep and be comforted.
When I lightly pressed his chest, he gently pulled away and kneeled as he hung his head. I too kneeled in front of him.
After sniffing and wiping away my tears, I could finally let out a decent sound.
“Helt, what you did was right. You did not do anything wrong as the next lord. Deceiving us and killing us all to cut it off.”
“However, you did one thing wrong.”
He raised his head as if he snapped.
“You have only one fault. …………You did not trust me.”
Your fault killed me.
And your fault saved Laius.
So, certainly, that too is right.
When I saw the glistening golden shade, a tear fell again. However, this time, I didn’t weep like a child. It wasn’t a tear that shook the body with emotion. It was as though all the emotions in me was condensed into a single grain, falling down and bursting open on the ground.
“You had no need to lie. You did not need to it. Just one sentence, one sentence would have been enough. That was all. I was a savage who abandoned her family. ……Did you know too? I had a marriage arranged by my parents. I was to marry upon turning eighteen. Yet I said I want to go to your homeland…… I was a woman who said that I wanted to get out of the house with you. I am the daughter of the people who were called devils, so I am beast that abandons her parent, her family. I love them, but I am cannot live for them. I am but a girl who only thinks of herself. So, with one phrase, I would have helped you kill my family. ………Since I am a devil.”
His mouth opened slightly and closed again. He is lost for words.
Today, for me who searched for the words for this day, they all came together.
“However, now you should know. If I had been left alive in any way, the embers would remain. No matter how much I struggled, our deaths would have been the only way for Laius to revive. If I was alive, not only would I have dragged you down, but have inflicted a fatal wound on you. That’s how hated we are. We were flawless evil. So that would have been useless. You did the right thing. Laius could not survive another period of chaos and turmoil. It was us that turned Laius into a place that cannot be rebuilt while risking fire. You saved Laius from ruin. It was my fault that we could only meet like that. If I were smarter and knew the world, if I tried…… surely, we could have met in a different way. Yet, once we met like that…… there was only that end waiting for me.”
It must having been scary. It must have been terrifying.
He knew better than anyone that just a small change could lead to losing something. He didn’t say anything to me. He couldn’t. That was all my fault.
He was three years younger than me, fourteen years old. Yet for him who was risking his own life, burdening everything of Laius, could there have been someone to tell everything, much less me? There was no way he would ask for help from a girl that did not try to think about anything. Ah, that too is my fault.
“I also lied.”
“……I don’t know. I deceived you cruelly and betrayed everyone. But you did not-”
A horrible lie. ……A cruel lie.
I kept the most important thing a lie.
“I am sorry, Helt, I lied. I told you that I wanted to go to your homeland, but I abandoned that path. I am a liar.”
I overheard the wardens at the prison.
That Helt was planning on putting me into a monastery in his homeland. The wardens were uneasy about the new young lord. Bewitched by ‘the Treasure Flower’, They chatted. The reaction of the wardens were the reaction of the people.
Distrustful of lords, they could not believe in anything. So much that they would even be skeptical of their saviours.
I would be lying if I say that I was not angry. If I say that I did not feel sad, depraved, mortified nor miserable, those are all lies.
I was angry at being betrayed. I felt sad, depraved, mortified and miserable. I never wanted to see his face again, nor did I want to hear his voice again.
Yet, when I met him, it made me feel nostalgic.
That was even more wretched. I felt so miserable and embarrassed that I wanted to die. So I relied on death to end me.
“It was me who created that end. Yet I made you bear that end. I am sorry, Helt, I did not mean to hurt you for fifteen years. I am not angry. I never blamed you. No one resents you. Of course, I too. So, Helt, you can be happy. No, you must be happy. Laius too must become a happy place. I am sorry. I ended up inflicting pain on you.”
I learned it after meeting him again.
Helt was not non-existent. Helt was there. Right inside Kaid.
I loved him. He was a little mean yet so warm. I really loved him.
“My lady, you have nothing to apologise about. I deceived you. I am a hideous criminal. You, the victim, does not need to apologise at all. Not having told you was my own weakness. I should have hung myself, yet I placed that on you. So-”
“Hey, Helt, tell me one thing.”
I cut him off.
“Did you like me?”
I could tell from how he drew his breath. And by how the golden shade did not dart about.
That was enough proof of the truth.
“…………I know that our positions were too different, but, you have my heartfelt love.”
My body trembled. From the deepest part of my heart, delight welled up.
“Same goes for me, Helt, I truly loved you. It was the first time I liked someone. Now, I am glad that it was you.”
Even though I told him so, his expression was still stony. I probably am making the same face.
“So…… let us say farewell properly.”
It was love that began with lies. At the least, I want it to end with truth.
He was about to say something, but he shut his mouth and hung his head.
“…………I understand, my lady.”
I made a bitter smile at the appearance. Kneeling and bowing when a couple is breaking, really.
“Helt, stand up. Let us talk on equal grounds. You may speak like Kaid.”
“I had been trying my best to speak to my lady like that, yet she says a cruel thing.”
“If it’s Helt, then this is not problematic.”
Well, that’s true, but still.
When he stood up, he really was tall. Beyond his head, the golden shade, I could see the white moon.
For us that dated in secret, it was only during the daytime that we could be together. Most likely, the most romantic moment should be now. Since that is our farewell, I couldn’t help but smile bitterly.
“……What will you be doing afterwards?”
“As planned, I will become a nun. Until now, I had been praying only for Laius’s future, but from now I will pray for your happiness too.”
“Shall I move the graves? I am sure that they will be happier that way. At least, better than my visits…… I only spray alcohol haphazardly.”
I blinked my eyes at the unexpected proposal.
I am thankful for that, but is that alright, I wonder.
“I was thinking of moving them when I step down from my office. ……However, I have one thing I would like you to forgive.”
“Can you leave your grave to me?”
His gaze passed me and was looking at the stone at the farthest end.
“……You are not displeased? You will be split from your family.”
“That’s fine…… this is a very late question, but the body underneath, does it have a head?”
“Both parts were buried properly.”
Then as though he remembered something, he turned his head. When I snooped about below him, he silently stared up and confessed.
“…………I kept a tuft of your hair.”
“Eh, no way, I did not take a bath then, not to mention my hair was charred! Ah, wash it, wash it and then hold it!”
“Is that the problem?”
I don’t know anyone that would be happy from someone that they like having their dirty hair. Moreover, that was right after I was beheaded, so it must be blood-soaked. ……Considering that, I wonder if he would have washed it. If he has them as they were, I really will cry a bit.
When our gazes met, it felt awkward and we smiled bitterly. Before, when our eyes met we smiled happily, but now there are only bitter smiles.
“Helt, for everything, thank you very much.”
I was going to say sorry, but if I say it once it will drag onto a battle. Also, I could see that there would no winner, so I swallowed that back in.
“Yes…… I too…… my lady, please have proper meals. No one will get angry even if you eat until you are full.”
“……I will consider it.”
When I held out my hand, a large hand clasped it. Both were shaking, but we ignored it.
“If, if I also have another life, then once again…… no, for the first time, may I confess to you?””
I blinked my eyes, but it didn’t seem like a joke.
The force grabbing my hand grew stronger.
“I cannot vouch if the answer then will be ‘yes,’ though?”
When I teased him a bit, he smiled slightly.
It was the first time I saw his soft smile in this life.
“I will give it my all to convince you.”
“Oh, please go easy on-”
“At least let me say everything.”
We let each others’ hands go. Our fingers touched until the end and I formed a bitter smile at how there still were lingering feelings. There was still some regret left. But it’s not chagrin.
It’d be nice if we could part ways. How nice it would be able to brightly smile so. To call it a past, it is too close, and to call it fate, there’s too much love.
We both were bothersome. We were too cowardly to have our ways by force, but too persistent to reluctantly accept it. He was my first love, so I did not know. It’s nice that I learned before I became a phantom.
As our hands parted, our nails clacked one last time.
“Farewell, my lady.”
In our place, only the trees were crying.
Forgive me for the late post, I did not realise this chapter would be this long (4,500 words).