School Arc – Chapter 21 (Lily’s POV)
That place had been a very peaceful place.
Without seeing anyone, without hearing anyone, there wasn’t anyone to bother me. In here, there wasn’t anyone who’d hurt me.
But, when she called out my name, 「Lily」, I realized that that place was an incredibly lonely place.
When I took her hand, I realized that that place had been an incredibly cold place.
When I saw her eyes turn from a look of worry to a look that sparkled with happiness, I realized, nothing in there had touched my heart.
When I woke up, surprisingly enough, several days had passed, so I was attacked by a wave of unease and frustration. After listening to what had happened when I was asleep, I learned that although they knew about the main culprit, they couldn’t do anything about the situation.
That was why the proposal from Duke Lilia was truly a godsend for me.
That person turned up around the time the hustle and bustle around me calmed down after I woke up at the medical office.
When that person — Lycoris’s father — appeared from behind the school chairman, someone who I’ve only seen once upon entering the school, I ended up distraught with the misunderstanding that someone had finally turned up to convict me.
But, the truth of the matter was, Duke Lilia had come to me to offer a proposal.
To start with, the duke introduced himself, saying that he was here by the will of His Majesty the King. Then, upon seeing me tremble at that, spoke gently to soothe me.
「You are a student under the protection of the school, for the current issue, many of us believe that you are the victim. Now, what I’m about to say is a proposal and not an order. You have the right to refuse, so I’d like you to listen with peace of mind」
Even so, my body trembled in dread.
「…it’s alright. I won’t say that you did nothing wrong, but bearing the consequences of a child’s mistakes is the duty of an adult」
All of a sudden, it dawned on me, ‘the person in front of me was no doubt Lycoris’s father’, I thought. With that, like a charm, my fear faded away. I nodded many times over, and this time, steeled myself so as not to miss a word of what the duke had to say.
For one, reviving Gift with healing magic had been understood to be done not out of my free will.
For another, keeping my meeting with Gift a secret after that was deemed a cause in making the situation more serious, although it wasn’t really a crime.
And finally, he told me that there were circumstances that deemed me a danger to the school– and consequently, to the country and the association. The duke explained everything to me while also mixing in explanations of the organization, including the setup on how the association operates under the country’s contributions.
The specifics of why I was treated as a danger was, of course, due to the suspicion of being someone who communicated with Gift in secret. And for the possibility that my magic itself would induce a situation like this in the future.
「You might as well think that the present situation is largely disadvantageous for you. So I want to give a proposal on top of that. Would you accept the responsibility of going to the basement of the guest house to seal Gift Assis once more? The suspicion that you’re an accomplice would be wiped off with that and it can also display your usefulness. Of course, we’ll be doing everything we can to help you」
It took me a little while to realize that he was referring to that Gift. I didn’t know Gift’s family name, and it never occurred to me that he would have something like that.
「You’re asking me… to seal Gift? Not kill him?」
I don’t know the true intentions of the straight-faced duke, but the decision was probably the conclusion reached by both the country and the school, at least.
「But, can I really do something like seal Gift?」
「There is a way. And, you’re the most qualified to do it –」
Once the duke finished explaining the method, my answer was decided.
「…Okay. I’ll… do it 」
Waiting was more dangerous than not knowing what Gift had in store for us next. So after going through the minimal amount of preparations, we headed down the basement.
Further, and further down. To where it felt cold and damp. It was already plain to tell, but the journey had been very unpleasant.
The first time I came here, I didn’t even have the luxury to think about anything, I had only single-mindedly chased after the little bird.
The second time after that, I passed through here while under the little bird’s guidance. When Gift first met me, I’d been someone who’d been forced to live in misery because of my own powerful magic. Him being a『comrade』 in a sense, I had been quite delighted.
It’ll only sound like an excuse now, but maybe I’d been under Gift’s magic then, just as I suspected. After all, I didn’t consider this journey, which seemed as if I was passing through an abyss, to be terrifying then, and now that things have come to pass, it’s baffling why it never occurred to me to report his existence to the school.
And now, accepting guidance from the older teachers of the school, I paid a great deal of care so as not to miss my footing while my trembling feet carried me down the stairs.
It was quite unexpected, but Duke Lilia, who became my travel companion, was looking after me so I wouldn’t fall down. Those teachers of the school, as if protecting the front and back, had proceeded along with magical lamps in hand while being vigilant to the area.
Having never imagined that the duke himself would accompany me, I was flustered at first, but even within this group, he was the most composed. Even when the journey was causing an optical illusion that seemed to continue on for eternity because the information my eyes were receiving was too little, it didn’t seem to affect him.
Soon after, our party arrived at the deepest interior of the basement — to where Gift was.
There wasn’t a trace of the black fog that had once enshrouded us in that place, when we opened the door, Gift’s ghost-like figure was there. Since his real body was contained inside the coffin-like box, I was greeted by the sight of the semi-translucent Gift standing by its side. The usual scene I see.
He stared quietly at me, who’d brought in travelling companions. I think Gift realized a lot of things from it, but he didn’t avert his gaze from me.
I suspect my captivation with this direct gaze was perhaps due to the work of manipulation magic. Although the most prominent of his features was probably his vivid blue hair, his deep green eyes that seemed to project the darkness was what attracted me the most.
Even as I approached him, clad in a protection spell cast by the teachers, Gift never showed a hostile response. ‘He no longer has that power’, I thought. Although I can’t be negligent, Gift’s figure was more transparent than before, tenuously, I felt it wouldn’t be strange even if he disappears at any moment.
『…why are you assisting them? Is it because that woman is there?』
Although he spoke in a『voice』that, as always, didn’t come from his throat, I did not answer.
Gift continued on, convinced about my feelings.
『Why do you trust someone who’s so different from you? Don’t you hate her? That woman has everything you’ve ever longed for. A lover, a family, a safe position, everything you’ve desperately wanted – she has it as if it’s only a matter of fact』
Gift knew my heart in detail, he knew my weaknesses and knew about the jealousy and envy.
But, I understood now. His manipulative words were, in the end, his own personal opinion, it wasn’t always the truth. Although he and I had similarities, there was an aspect that was crucially different.
「…you would never have tried taking the hand that was offered to you, would you?」
「That’s the key difference between you and me. I know the warmth of that hand now. That’s why, rather than turning her away, rather than being jealous, I don’t want to lose her, I just want to hold on」
Gift had tried satisfying it. The unquenchable thirst of mine. Indeed, that was something I’d longed for once.
The insecurity that I’d someday be abandoned was always kept inside me. Just as how my mother had abandoned me, just as my friends had abandoned me, I started to think, ‘won’t they all eventually grow distant and abandon me?’.
And, while being forced to live without even a single person to talk to by my father, I’d felt that intensely torturous sense of isolation.
I’d wanted to be someone who’d never spare time to suffer through that insecurity. I wanted to be strong enough so that no one could control me. For that, I didn’t care whether I’d end up losing myself. That was what I’d thought. But…
Making up my mind, I gripped the pendant on my chest, then took out a dagger from my breast pocket.
The hilt was undecorated, and it’s thin blade ran half as long as my arm. With that nondescript dagger, it was unlikely to pose a threat to the ghost-like Gift. But when I flooded it with magic, a pattern on the crystal-clear blade gradually spread.
Feeling an impending crisis, Gift placed distance from me, but to begin with, this magical tool was not meant to stab someone. Carrying the dagger in my right hand to hold it up, I invoked my magic.
Something invisible was gradually receding from Gift’s body. Mysteriously, I could tell this quite clearly.
I was putting to use the only magic I could – healing magic. And, the magical tool I had on hand was a treasure of the royal family endowed with the power of 『retrogression』.(1)
The very person who lent this to me — the duke – was cautiously observing Gift. The teachers as well, expanded the barrier and prepared for Gift’s final resistance.
But Gift, as if he was only puzzled, stared intently at my eyes, and maybe there, he discovered my firm dismissal.
『Even you are rejecting me?』
It’s not as if I didn’t feel anything when I heard his words, heavy with dejection and despair. But, I’ve made up my mind.
「I don’t mind even if you blame me for being disloyal. But, I did tell you. — If you hurt Lycoris, I won’t forgive you」
With my left hand, I gripped the pendant on my chest a second time.
The pendant had been passed down from my grandmother to my mother, and then, from my mother to me. When I was young, before I got my power, it was proof that I was definitely loved.
Whenever I held this pendant tightly, I used to picture what my mother’s face looked like when she’d given it to me. I would imagine her wearing a gentle expression. I would imagine that my mother, who was a little younger in my memory, had on an expression that was vivid and bright. And, I would imagine that she used to look at me with love in her eyes.
But now, when I gripped the pendant tightly, a different face floated in my mind.
With tears in her eyes… it was her face I saw.
When I talk about this pendant now, it was Lycoris’s face I saw.
That person, not knowing who I was before I revealed my abilities, was completely different from me even by social standings.
But she believed in the beautiful dream I spoke of.
She worried for me. Even when she was involved in something terrifying because of me, she was happy when I recovered. She offered her hand to me.
When Gift tried to harm her, I made up my mind. I chose her over Gift. When I told him I wouldn’t forgive him, it wasn’t just something I said out of convenience to threaten him.
I won’t allow Gift to harm her a second time.
「Goodbye. I will live without seeking you again. That’s how I want it to be」
Just before he completely disappeared like the mist, he ultimately said something to me. Could it have been a parting farewell? The words of a curse? Or maybe, a declaration of love? Whatever it was, it dissolved in the air of the dark, dark basement before it could ever reach me.
And so, leaving the repairs of the barrier to the teachers, I returned to the school one step ahead.
When I headed above ground to where the brightness of the stars rained down, and out of the basement shut in darkness, the first thing my feet did was to carry me to Lycoris’s room. It was already pretty late with it being past stipulated curfew. The corridors of the female dormitory were silent as the grave.
However, it seems like final year students and prefects could set their own time for when they’ll sleep. Could she have already fallen asleep? Lightly, I knocked on the door. And, if she doesn’t answer, I plan to turn back.
「…Yes, come in」
Although it wasn’t loud, a clear answer came back immediately, so my heart pounded and leapt out.
「Please… excuse me」
Knowing the visitor was me, Lycoris’s expression brightened with enthusiasm. That was just like her. Just how much had that cheered me up up to now, I wonder.
「Lily, how are you?」
「I should be asking you that, Lycoris. Will you be alright even without sleep? Don’t tell me you’re still…」
「That’s not it. If anything, I’m not feeling sleepy since I slept a lot at home, 」
「…then, is it alright if I talk to you?」
With Lycoris happily urging me to go in, I stepped into her room.
It was the first time I’ve entered this room. Since there was an unwritten law among the lower year students not to recklessly visit her room too much, students who’ve entered the dormitory head’s room due to some errand, bragged about being able to enter.
If those students knew what I was doing right now, I wonder how they’d react. I’m kind of scared, but I’m also kind of looking forward to it a little.
It was impressive that Lycoris’s room had a large bookshelf, but aside from that large furniture, the dormitory head’s room was no different from a normal student’s. However, the frame of the wall-mounted mirror had been elaborately decorated like a flower wreathe, and the futon on top of the bed had been delicately embroidered. Moreover, since the room itself had an antique look, it was elegant. … was what I thought at first.
「…Lycoris, was this… a present from someone?」
Why I ended up asking and going as far as picking it up, was because it was too eye-catching.
「Yeah, for some reason, I received it from a girl who left school last year. She’s a pretty skilled girl. It’s well-made, right?」
Certainly, you could say it’s well-made. Even the stitching was thorough, and the final touches were meticulous. But… why was Lycoris given this childish — to put it nicely – lovely patchwork quilt as a present? And… why was Lycoris using it as a pillow case without a doubt of any sort?
While thinking that way, I surveyed the room very carefully, and saw things that probably wasn’t her preference here and there. But, I could say, it was so like her to have a room filled with these things.
She was fundamentally big-hearted. Since she was a person who accepted various things, maybe that’s why there were people who were a little quirky flocking to her side.
When I stared intently at Lycoris, she tilted her head slightly at me as if asking『What’s wrong?』. At a glance, her almond eyes and the mole under her eye made her a sensuous beauty. The truth that she was full of openings was hidden under the facade that she was always on guard, if I hadn’t approached her, I wouldn’t have realized her charm.
I felt as if the weight on my shoulders was lifted.
I still needed a bit of courage to talk about my past. But, someday, I’d like her to hear it.
First.. right. I had to apologise. For dragging her and her fiance into this, for exposing the school to danger.
Then, I’ll tell her what happened today. If I say that we ended up sealing Gift, she’ll probably be surprised at that. Although Duke Lilia smiled, saying『I wasn’t very useful, was I』, it was very gentle and filled with good humor, if I said, “he’s just like you”, I wonder what response she’d make?
And then, if I can, I want to talk together with her about the future. Even after this, is it… still alright that I remain by your side?
(1) I’m guessing she is reversing the healing magic she previously used on him.
I love how Lily just goes like, “he might have said something heartfelt before he disappeared… oh well, time to head back to visit Lycoris~”. I feel like Lily is waaay more yandere than Wolf is.