After dying dozens of times, I realised that I was the only one who could save myself. Basically, I shouldn’t depend on anyone else. That was why I had tried to do everything by myself. Back then, I had just been ‘surviving’. I had no time to look around me because I was too busy tending to my wounds. But I had no idea that in doing so I was hurting the people around me.
"There is a limit to the road you walk alone."
Dependence and complacency were different things. There is no meaning in a future you walk towards alone while hurting the people around you. You would only become someone like Castor, a madman with a dead gaze who looked as if he had lost everything.
"If you’re confident that you’re not going to regret it."
The moment I survived, I had this thought. The only way anyone could sustain themselves, the only way anyone could live was through the people who loved them.
Now, I understood. Death was not the answer. Hurting someone for your future could never be the answer.
"If you can’t do that, let the sword go."
I smiled widely at Ahasia. I was asking her if she would regret stabbing me. Because the only one who could understand her in this world now was me. I just hoped that she would not hold the same regrets as me. With a grunt, her trembling hands thrusted forward.
But the sword never reached me and I smiled brightly at the fallen blade. Another future had changed.
The door swung open and Meta rushed in. He had a scar on his cheek which was not there before he left me but other than that, he looked fine. I had been worried since the hallway he had disappeared into looked dangerous but I was relieved he was alright.
"In any case, it seems like the Crown Prince was aware of our plans. It looks like it’ll be impossible for us to escape through the main entrance."
Meta quickly reported the current situation before guiding us to another direction, assuring us that he knew the way. I grabbed Ahasia’s hand before following him. As we walked, I glanced towards Ahasia before she nodded as if to say she was alright. But her stumbling figure was not supporting her case…
Meta had brought us to a window in some corner of the third floor. I looked down before speaking weakly.
"You’re not asking us to jump, are you?"
"Oh, You’re correct. Pardon me but that is in fact the plan."
Meta seemed tempted to joke around with me as he usually did but instead he understood the severity of the situation and he quickly explained himself.
"Of course, I cannot let the two of you jump. I’ll be carrying the two of you down. But…"
"You can’t carry two of us at once, can you?"
"As I expected of our clever little girl, I mean, princess."
Meta smirked before explaining that he was going to jump down first to make sure the ground was level.
"It’ll only take me about a minute. It should be fine."
He spoke as he jumped lightly out the window. After he jumped, I scanned the room we were in carefully before stopping at the curtains that were fluttering like a flag in the wind. I then grabbed the curtain covering the window.
The sound of the curtain fabric tearing made Ahasia, who had been staring at the ground blankly, look my way. Well, the piece was a little jagged but this would do.
I wrapped the torn fabric around her head before tying another one tightly around her shoulders. Ahasia, who had her head and back suddenly wrapped in an old cloth, expressed her confusion with her expression.
"No, I just thought you might be uncomfortable being embraced by an unknown man."
Desert clothing was very revealing. I thought it might be uncomfortable for her to be held like this. In any case, she was also a member of the Royal family who grew up in a loving environment without much contact with strangers. I turned around and smiled gently. Ahasia fumbled with the unfamiliar cloth.
The moment she shyly spoke.
Someone knocked on the door. Fortunately, it was locked when we entered the room so it didn’t open but it was enough to surprise me. It seemed like our pursuers had managed to catch up. I quickly ran towards the window before looking down. Meta was nowhere to be found but instead I heard the faint sounds of soldiers.
"He must have been caught!"
"W-what do we do?"
I glanced back at the door before checking its thickness. It looked like it could hold out for a little while more. But it would only be for a little while. What should I do? As if someone had been aware of the dilemma I was in, someone called out for me from above.
It was Penne who was floating outside next to the window. Why was Penne who was in charge of watching the main entrance doing here? But I had no time to think.
I alternated my gazes between Ahasia and Penne. For some reason, he was staring at her too. For some reason, he looked both anxious and distressed. He must have noticed that we were pressed for time.
"Penne, take Ahasia!"
I shouted without holding back.
"This is an order!"
As Penne gritted his teeth, a soft gust of wind blew. Ahasia, who had just been on my side, was now in Penne’s embrace.
"I’ll be right back. 30 seconds! Resist for 30 seconds."
He shouted as he darted back down, making his shouts sound more like murmurs.
"Well, I hope I can."
I muttered softly but he probably couldn’t hear me since he had already disappeared so quickly from my sight. 30 seconds. I could not imagine the door would break so quickly. I fiddled around with the pouch along my waist before glancing at the diary within it.
I wished I could use my powers like Castor. But my powers were not the type to burst out of me when I wanted them to. It was only then did I feel disappointed that I had yet to awaken.
"There’s nothing I can do."
I glanced at the rattling shaking door one last time before looking out the window. Honestly, I didn’t want to do this but if I were to get caught by them, the situation could only get more complicated.
"Let’s see… Was it my 23rd regression… or was it my 27th?"
I recalled my past. I remembered being fine after falling from the fence surrounding the Forbidden Forest which had been a height much greater than this one. I mean, I did break my leg but I didn’t die. Of course, though I survived the fall, I ended up meeting Castor and dying again.
"But it’s worth the challenge."
As I climbed up the railing, I took a deep breath. I didn’t think I was going to die from this height. No, I was certain. I was going to break something… It might hurt a little but to this body that could barely feel pain, the pain would be cushioned. For moments like this, I was grateful I had such a body. Then, I jumped off.
During my never-ending fall, I realised I had been mistaken. I was falling faster than I thought I would. A gentle breeze brushed against my face just as I heard Penne’s faint shouts. At the same time, the speed of my descent seemed to decrease by just a little.
But once land was only a short distance away, I quickly crashed into something stiff.
This was too soft to be considered the ground… and it was warm too. I felt the slight trickle of pain from my hand so I clenched and opened it again to discover that it was wet. It looked like the wound from when I grabbed the sword had opened. The person below me immediately groaned.
As soon as I realised that Dane had been speaking, his strong large arms dug into my waist and my back. Suddenly trapped in his arms, he breathed heavily. I could feel him shaking. I could feel both his rough breaths and his tight grasp on the back of my nape.
"At least I wasn’t late this time."
He whispered a sob. Not too far away, I heard the hisses of blades striking against each other. There seemed to be a fight. Just when I was about to get up, Dane caught me. Looking down, I spotted his clear eyes that shone even in the dark.
"I wasn’t late this time… You didn’t die…"
Dane brushed his hand across my cheek before immediately caressing the hair that cascaded down my face and brought it to his face. Then, he kissed it for so long. With his every languid movement, I stiffened.
"I’m glad I managed to protect you"
He grabbed the back of my head before pressing on it slowly. My head lowered as a result before something soft and moist touched my lips. It had started with a touch but with his upper lip he opened mine and dug into them.
I thought his tongue was only gently brushing against mine to calm me down before he dug even deeper into my mouth. His eyes were closed. Our tongues moved and intertwined like snakes before our lips parted. His parting breath brushed against my face.
Time that had seemed to have halted for so long only continued moving after we separated. I stared at him astonished. While he stared back at me with desire.
Just then, a gentle breeze lifted me up. It was Penne. A small bush shook and from there, Meta appeared. I fell into their embrace without a word. Wind continued to whirl past me as everything around me shook.
"What about Ahasia?"
"I left her with Commander Chosone! We should leave the palace now."
"Is there anyone missing?"
Soon after, when we arrived at the Terena Palace, all the patrols, including Penne and Meta, looked exhausted. Fortunately, however, it seemed like no one had been left behind. I hesitated for a moment before asking them again.
"Only a few. Their injuries were very slight. No one had gotten seriously injured, we are just tired."
"… That’s a relief."
"Hoho, what do you think about our patrols? We are the largest group of armed templars in the Empire and each and every one of us are strong knights."
The commander of the patrols smiled cheerfully. He looked as happy as back when he duelled with Lord Ray. He then smacked his own chest.
"For as long as you want, please leave your back to us."
With a hand on his chest, Chosone lowered his head. It was a templar’s greeting. Chosone nodded slowly before looking as if he suddenly recalled something and speaking up.
"But, you know. Why is that Ray Aquita Fleram guy not a templar?"
"Aren’t you his mistress? Don’t you know where he came from?"
Chosone explained that whenever the Crown Prince’s templars and knights faced a problem, Lord Ray’s abilities would allow them to escape without injury. There would be unexpected ambushes and without him, some would have been badly hurt.
"You did? I thought you had just been some knight in the Central Palace. Then, if I’m not wrong, you were kicked out?"
"I knew about that too. I was there too, you know. By the way, do you know what that knight achieved 9 years ago during the war when he was just 15? This knight who wasn’t even a templar was better than most of the templars there.
"Aren’t templars usually stronger?"
"That’s right. A templar has physical abilities superior to that of an average human. But Ray Aquita managed to surpass the differences in their physical abilities with his ‘talent’ alone."
"So, why isn’t that knight a templar?"
Chosone then mumbled to himself.
"It was unfortunate but he was, in fact, not a templar and was kicked out of the Central Palace."
He seemed to be genuinely remorseful over that fact.
"This is an Empire that doesn’t recognise non-templars."
When I glanced back at him, he smiled awkwardly as if he had just made a mistake. He brought his calloused fingers to his lips before shushing and making a cute gesture that did not suit a man of his size. He seemed to be asking me to keep it a secret.
"Good work, everyone. Let’s talk about everything else after we’ve taken some rest."
The patrols and I had gathered in an empty space near Terena Palace and decided there to take a break before meeting again.
"The sun is rising."
As soon as someone mentioned the sun, I turned towards the sky. The moment we were all watching the sun rise together.