Chapter 1 - Part 1
“I took this a bit too lightly, but…” The others had mentioned that the base was somewhere in the middle of the mountains, but it seemed like they’d already passed the middle checkpoint.
“Was the road or base location magically changed?”
That would be a big problem! Lelia glanced at the backs of the others walking far ahead of her. Suddenly, out of nowhere …
She heard a bang and a yelp echoing from in front.
Kalix had lost his footing and tripped while walking on the path. The perfectly smooth, dusty path.
“Wha – Hey! Be careful!”
How did that idiot manage to fall over nothing?!
Of course, in the original story, Lelia had also lost her footing and fallen into a pond. But even so, she had the responsibility to point out stupidity.
Anyway, when Kalix fell, the lamp in his hand shattered to pieces, and a wave of silent darkness descended upon them immediately.
Kalix swore under his breath.
“Damn it, what doI do now?”
“I can’t believe you actually tripped over nothing! You fool!”
“What, you idiot? Hey, what did you just say!?”
The two glared at each other intensely and Lelia almost groaned aloud in frustration at her companions. The two had never spoken in a civil conversation before. Even their first conversation, if it could even be called that, was simply a lot of swearing.
It went something like …
“What a moron!”
The two soon began to fight, throwing vicious punches and kicks at each other. Lelia fought back the urge to scream when she saw them tussling about.
“Those stupid ten-year-olds!”
The children were rolling around wildly in the middle of the dark mountain path as they both tried to grab the other by the collar, illuminated only faintly by a silver moonbeam.
Lelia heard the sounds of birds startling against the silence of the forest, now joined by the sounds of bratty voices and fighting.
“Stop fighting, you morons!”
Lelia really wanted to scream at them, but even the brats would be surprised if she suddenly started screaming in the dark. She resolved not to provoke the children further; their fear and tension was understandable as they underwent a test of courage.
Lelia repeated the mantra to herself in an effort to remain calm.
The children must not be traumatized.
“Ugh, stop fighting, you idiots. Please…!”
Lelia was almost beside herself with anxiety. In fact, what she read in the original book was only a brief reminiscence and the vague lines that they’d spoken while recalling the events of the day.
She couldn’t remember such details now. Lelia became even more nervous as the two continued to fight, fearing that the beast would appear at any moment.
Then Griffith swore again, untangling himself from the mess of limbs, stumbling back down the path in the direction they’d come from.
“Yes, go, go! You coward!” Kalix screamed at Griffith’s retreating back.
And thus, just like that, Griffith left Kalix alone in the middle of the dark forest.
Lelia hid herself behind a tall tree and glanced at Griffith’s back, a solitary form disappearing into the shadows. In fact, Griffith was born with a special power, but he didn’t know how to use it yet.
His strength would have been helpful in the fight against the dragon, but not in his current state. He’s only a child now.
Still, he possesses the latent ability to see ahead in the dark, which he should awaken before he leaves this neutral zone.
[Griffith, that guy! I can’t believe they fought each other over a lamp. A lamp! Of all things. Oh God, boys are really…]
But no matter what ability Griffith has, would he be able to return to the temple safely?
Lelia seemed to be quite worried as her anxiety bloated.
[They seem to have entered an inescapable looping route, where it would be easier for the beast to attack them…]
So even if you kept walking forwards, the same road would repeat itself, and the hut would never appear.
[Well, if Griffith can’t find the way back to the temple, he’ll end up here again.]
Lelia waited until Griffith had walked far away.
After some time, she started stepping her way back to the path, relying on the streams of moonlight peeking through the clouds.
Kalix Ascard sat alone by the path.
“I hurt my leg, so it’ll be hard to walk…”
He must have sprained his ankle badly when he fell down, fighting against Griffith.
As Lelia approached, Kalix saw her and snorted.
“What? Why are you back here? Are you scared to go alone?”
“I’m not Griffith.”
Lelia was in a terrible mood.
“I am…” She started.
“Oh my God, the devil! There really is a devil! Damn it! Get out of here! You devil!”
Lelia stared at him for a moment in stunned silence. She’d intended to say, “I am Prince Leo,” not “the devil” …
Kalix struggled, now lying on his back.
Thanks to Kalix, who was literally scrambling about on the ground like an overturned turtle, Lelia was struck by his kick and stumbled.
And Kalix, who’d kicked Lelia with his injured foot, screamed in pain. Lelia grimaced vindictively from where she was hunched. He deserved it.
It was only after a while that Lelia managed to explain to Kalix that she was not a demon. Kalix’s ankle, which had already been twisted, became worse because he had kicked Lelia.
But Kalix endured the pain and asked, “You’re Prince Leo? You’re him, right? The ugly two-faced boy playing captain.”
[How can you say that to a person’s face?]
Lelia wanted to point out, but in the midst of the situation, it didn’t seem right to do so. Kalix asked her again without receiving an answer to his previous question, “But why are you here?”
[You’d never believe me if I said I came to save you.]
“Let’s go now. We have to get down the mountain soon.”
“How do I get anywhere on this foot? We’ll have to wait here until morning.”
[You easygoing b*****d who doesn’t know anything!]
“I came all the way up here for someone and got kicked instead!”
Lelia fumed. Kalix laid down and pillowed his head against his arm, looking ready to sleep. He’s a crazy guy, isn’t he?
[You’re really sleeping here? If you sleep here, you’ll be eaten by the beast!]
Lelia eventually confessed the truth halfway.
“Hey, you might not believe it, but the beast will show up soon.”
“Of course I don’t believe it.”
“…” [This brat!]
Lelia let out a deep sigh. After a moment of hesitation, she questioned cautiously, “Kalix Ascard. Do you trust your uncle?”
In an instant, Kalix sprang up, his body coiling with tension.
His hand snapped out, grabbing Lelia by the collar.
“Someone sent you. Someone sent you, right?!”
Kalix shook Lelia’s collar with great force, as if trying to shake coins out of an empty purse.
“Who’s going to send who? Emperor Auraria sent me to the temple, you madman!”
“Oh, well, I guess so. But how do you know about his Majesty and how can you talk about it?”
Lelia shook Kalix’s hand off and patted herself on the back of her neck. She felt dizzy.
“I’m … I actually have a subtle ability for insight. So I knew right away when I saw you.”
Lelia’s words and thoughts were all over the place. Kalix had shaken her severely by the collar, so it was difficult for her to think and speak properly as she recovered. At least she didn’t blurt out that she’d read it in a novel.
“…He didn’t send you, did he?”
Lelia surrendered herself, raising her hands in the air, looking up at the moonlight streaming down from the sky instead of at the frustrating madman in front of her.
“I am the Crown Prince of Auraria. How can the Emperor of Ascard send me? You’re so stupid, aren’t you?”
“…Haa, so what’s the matter? You’re saying my uncle’s going to send a beast to kill me?”
“…It may be unbelievable, but it’s not a lie. You’re not that stupid, are you?”
“Ha, well, guess I’ll die, then.”
“I know my uncle. No, his majesty wants to kill me. So I’d rather die, instead…”
Lelia felt both shock and pity as she looked at Kalix, who seemed to have given up. He laid back down as if he really wanted to die, then threw her a dismissive glance.
“What are you doing? The beast is coming. You should go back.”
Lelia stared at Kalix’s eyes reflected in the moonlight. A faint fear was reflected there, but it was hard to tell. But he was only a boy – one pretending to be strong and confident, yes, but still only a 10-year-old child.
Lelia jumped up on the spot.
“Even if you don’t say that, I’ll go anyways.”
Kalix didn’t seem to be regretful at all.
[What happened to this kid…? He’s only ten years old, after all…]
Despite hearing that his uncle was trying to kill him, something he’d known for a long time now – how could he be so casual? How had he lived all his life for this to become natural?
Lelia patted her chest, feeling a stuffiness that echoed with unwillingness, and said, quietly, “But I can’t go alone.”
“What?” He looked at her like she was crazy.
“As you can see, we are in a hurry now. Get up quickly.”
As she spoke, she squatted, showing her back to Kalix in a posture universally understood by children.
“… Are you crazy?” Kalix asked aloud, as if it were absurd.
“Be quick now. Climb over.”
“You’re a maniac … Why should I be on your back? Don’t you know you’re just going to die? Go away!”
“I can’t go alone. Climb up quickly.” It was almost funny how they were speaking to each other, yet seemed to be having two separate conversations.
“… Are you lying? You said there was a beast that would show up any time now. But you can’t go alone? Well, I don’t believe you.”
“Even if you don’t believe what I said, would you want to wait for the beast to show up? Perhaps a wolf that drools from a snarling snout? Are you waiting to see it?”
“So go alone! We’re not close nor friends! You haven’t even talked to me before, so what is this all of a sudden? Are you going to die for someone you’ve never seen before? Would you believe it if I were to say whatever you said to me?”
“Speak honestly. Did my uncle send you?”
“You fool, think about it. I am the Prince of Auraria. For what reason would I lie to you?”
“My life has nothing to do with you anyway! It doesn’t matter who you are, and whether you care or not! I will die as my uncle wishes!”
“That won’t work.”
Lelia pondered for a moment. Honestly, she wouldn’t have come up here if she had been travelling alone. As far as she knew, she shouldn’t die even if the beast appeared, but there was still a small risk of dying, unlike the original who survived. No, even if she didn’t die, Kalix would still be seriously injured today. She knew his fate and couldn’t unsee it. It was guilt, and a sense of duty, and the weight of another human life that compelled her to feel obligated to help this child.
“Get off! Damn it, leave! Go away, before that beast kills you! Go away!”
Kalic shouted, voice cracking. Perhaps it was because his voice was so overwhelming and shrill (so young) that Lelia seemed to feel the sadness in his voice. He was shouting as if pleading with her not to leave, that he was scared, and didn’t want to be left alone to die. He screamed like he was begging for something he didn’t think he could have.
So she had no intention of going alone.
Lelia exhaled deeply for a moment, then gathered her determination.
“Kalix, I’m sorry.”
“What? Sorry? Go away! If you don’t want to die, then go!”
“I’m going to knock you out now. Even if it hurts, be patient.”
The boy drops silently into Lelia’s waiting arms. He’s only a child, yet it feels a bit like she’s carrying the future of an entire kingdom and the weight of an uncle’s crimes in her hands.