(Thank you Austin & Tamas for helping me proofread on the Live Draft! <3)
ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO TAPPEI NAGATSUKI, THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF RE:ZERO, THIS IS A TRANSLATION OF THE FREE JAPANESE WEB NOVEL INTO ENGLISH
JAPANESE WEB NOVEL SOURCE: HTTP://NCODE.SYOSETU.COM/N2267BE/272/
THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
Chapter 102 [Recollections Lost To Memory]
――Finding the seal turned out to be a lot easier than expected.
[Emilia: So… this is the “Seel”?]
Young Emilia, seeing the strange object before her, blinked her amethyst eyes and tilted her head.
In front of Emilia’s eyes, deep in the depths of the depths of the forest, was a peculiar door standing in the middle of a clearing surrounded by trees.
Though it was certainly a door, it wasn’t connected to any building, and even when she circled behind it, there was nothing there. It was merely a door standing in the middle of the forest towering over the young Emilia.
[Emilia: Why doesn’t it fall over……?]
Finding this strange, she pushed on the door, but it neither opened nor moved an inch. Naturally, Emilia’s scrawny arms weren’t strong enough to topple it, and the door effortlessly withstood her push as it would a light breeze.
The double-door seemed to be made of wood, but its cold touch was closer to that of ice. The feel of its surface was smooth, inexplicably like polished stone.
In the center of the double-door was an ancient lock with a keyhole as wide as Emilia’s palm. She couldn’t imagine who could fit a key that big inside their pockets.
Tapping the door with the back of her hand, she confirmed that despite its hardness, the noise it made was dull. So now that she actually found it, what does it mean? Emilia tilted her head.
[Emilia: Say… what could it be…?]
The dim specks of light circled around Emilia’s head as she sought their advice.
Since encountering them in the Princess Room, Emilia had been confiding in the fairies of the forest, and when she told them she wanted to find the “Seel”, they found this place in no time.
Though they were the ones who led her here, they didn’t seem to know the seal’s significance either.
And even if they did know, they couldn’t speak, so they’d still have no way of communicating it to Emilia.
[Emilia: Don’t know… so boring. But at least I found it. Clap clap clap]
Clapping her hands applauding herself, Emilia gave a big nod and looked the seal over front and back.
Now, if they ever find out that she was slipping out of the Princess Room, she’ll have her trump card ready. On the off-chance that mommy Fortuna and the adults catch onto Emilia’s great escapes, she’ll tell them she knows about the seal, and although she doesn’t really understand how, that’ll probably put them on equal footing.
Not that she could remember what compelled her to come up with this plan in the first place.
[Emilia: Hmpf. It’s all Mommy Fortuna and everyone’s fault. It’s all Geuse’s fault]
Remembering that tall, black-robed man, Emilia stuck out her tongue in his absence.
He was the only person other than Emilia who could elicit that secret expression from Fortuna. Although she knew he wasn’t a bad person, he was her enemy nonetheless.
So far, she had never faced him directly, but should Fortuna ever present her with an opportunity to meet him, Emilia was determined to give his feet a good stomping.
[Emilia: The fairies’ll fly at his face, then when he’s confused, I’ll stomp at his feet. And I’ll stomp with both feet at once. And I’ll stomp with my heels…… but that’ll probably hurt, I better use my toes]
Even in war, she didn’t forget to insert a wisp of kindness into her ruthless plans.
Having the fairies watch for any signs of the enemy while she brooded on her cold-blooded battleplans, Emilia left the forests’ depths and began sneaking back to the village.
Unlike when she was slipping out of the Princess Room, this was Emilia’s free play-time. Fortuna would be away at this hour, checking on the Boundaries in the forest, leaving the elderly and children Emilia’s age in the village.
The elders couldn’t follow Emilia on her great adventures, and, for some reason, the children would always avoid coming near her. This did make Emilia feel a little lonely, but whenever she felt this way, Fortuna would put all her energy into playing with her to help her forget all about it. And so, it didn’t bother her too much that she couldn’t play with the other children.
[Emilia: And I bet I’m the only one who knows about the “Seel”]
She alone knew something that nobody else did.
With that petty sense of superiority propping up Emilia’s petty sense of self-importance, she pumped out her chest and pressed on towards the village with the fairies leading the way.
Her destination was home. Today, she’ll draw to her heart’s content and run her brush all over the abnormally large stack of paper mommy Fortuna had prepared for her.
[Emilia: The artist feels like drawing a red sky, and a white forest today. ――?]
While miming the motion of slapping paint onto her canvas, Emilia suddenly noticed the fairies’ movements becoming irregular. [Huh~?], she squinted one eye, following their movements as they veered off the path and disappeared into the bushes.
[Emilia: I sense trouble’s afoot……!]
The fairies would usually disappear into particles of light, but this time, they chose to hide in the undergrowth. Emilia determined that this either meant trouble was coming, or they wanted her to follow them.
Going off the path and into the shrubs, she slid through the foliage a little taller than she was. And after passing between the trees with her long silver hair catching again and again in the branches, there――
[???: Well this is quite the predicament…… it’ll be late for the appointed time]
――In the dark forest, on a narrow trail, she saw a distressed man leaning against a skinny tree.
Emilia unwittingly yelped and immediately covered her hands over her mouth. But it was a high-pitched voice in a silent forest. The sound reached the man’s ears and drew his attention.
[???: Who is there?]
The man tilted his head and looked towards Emilia’s thicket.
He had genial features and evenly-trimmed green hair. His face was skinny, while his body gave off a lean but sturdy impression. He was tall, taller than Fortuna who Emilia had to look up to see, and taller than the foliage Emilia would have to desperately jump to peek out of.
This familiar man was none other than Emilia’s detested foe, Geuse.
As he wordlessly stared at the thicket, Emilia clutched her head, resigned to the fact that he was not going to let this pass.
What was actually happening was that while Emilia was clutching her head and turning her back, her bum was protruding out of the thicket in Geuse’ full view. But Emilia did not realize this, and Geuse did not point it out.
Dejected, Emilia awkwardly poked her face out of the thicket.
[Geuse: My my, a darling young lady has app…… hk!]
A gentle smile rose on Geuse’s face as he saw Emilia, when his shock cut off his sentence half-way.
His eyes shot open and his lips trembled as he stared at Emilia. Being watched by that gaze was strangely uncomfortable. Part of it was because Emilia still saw him as an enemy, and part of it because she could not decipher the complex emotions instilled within his gaze.
[Geuse: Young miss, would…… no, you couldn’t be, that’s impossib……]
His voice trembled as he shook his head as if witnessing something unbelievable. Emilia timidly looked up at him, saw the fragile expression on his face, and found it heartbreaking.
He looked like a lost child, or someone who had been walking through pitch darkness, only now seeing the light―― an expression at once precarious and dream-like, which made Emilia forget everything she had ever felt towards him.
[Emilia: ……Geuse, are you alright?]
[Geuse: ――! Aaa, auaaaa, aaaaAaaaaahh……]
Emilia walked up to him, clutched the hem of his black robe, and asked him.
That same instant, Geuse’s expression further disintegrated. His spine trembled as if a bolt of lightning had passed through him from Emilia’s fingertips, and he fell to his knees.
Emilia couldn’t help but shudder as she saw this. Geuse was on his knees, bent over, at the same eye-level as Emilia’s. From his eyes was spouting an endless flood of tears.
The unstoppable stream of tears birthed rivers on Geuse’s face. This was the first time Emilia had seen a grown-up cry, and all she could do was hold her breath and watch.
Taking hold of Emilia’s petrified hand, Geuse looked straight into her amethyst eyes.
[Geuse: I… I’m fine…… yes, yes! I’m more than alright. There isn’t… any problem at all…… I, I…… I’ve just, I’ve just been saved more than I could ever have dreamed]
[Emilia: You, have……? If you feel saved, why’re you crying?]
[Geuse: I’m not… crying because I’m sad…… these are tears of joy, of happiness, of bliss…… such tears of happiness… do exist. That’s something you…… you guys have taught me…… and so…]
His trembling fingers spoke volumes of his overwhelming emotions, and Emilia felt no urge to shake them away. She merely placed her free hand over the hand that was grasping hers.
Geuse bowed his head low, sending teardrops dripping to the ground. Irresistible sobs repeated in his throat, while the tears of bliss he spoke of continued to flow.
――So people could also cry because they’re happy? Then, does that mean he’s happy right now?
[Emilia: You’re crying, because you’re happy……?]
She felt like she could understand.
Some nights, Emilia would find herself sleepless and alone. Whenever that happened, she would climb into Fortuna’s bed, cradle herself in her mother’s arms, and pass the time in warmth until the dawn came.
Emilia would be liberated from her unease, wrapped in happiness, even come close to tears. What Geuse was feeling now must be similar to what she had felt back then.
Maybe Emilia was doing for him what mommy Fortuna had done for her.
[Emilia: It’s alright, Geuse. It’s alright. Everything’s alright]
Consolingly, Emilia patted Geuse’s head.
A quake shocked through his body as Emilia held the downcast Geuse against her little chest. His sobs transmitted into her bosom, their heat passing into her body.
She had been planning to stomp on his toes before, but somehow, they wound up here.
What an impossible guy. What a hopeless enemy. How could she bring herself to do something awful to someone who’s crying? Surely, Fortuna would forgive her and understand that there was no helping it.
[Emilia: It’s too lonely to cry all by yourself]
Once Geuse finishes crying, they’ll return to the village hand in hand.
And she’ll have no choice but to tell mommy Fortuna.
About her stroll in the depths of the forest, and about the grown-up who was crying.
Because once two people have shared a secret together, they are no longer enemies, but something like friends.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――Leaning against the hard surface at her back, Emilia returned from her momentary lapse of consciousness.
She shook her head, passed her fingers through her silver hair, and grimaced at the shrill, incessant ringing in her ears.
What was that brief dream she just had?
Those scenes never existed in Emilia’s memory. At least they shouldn’t have.
Yet that unfamiliar sight had burst out as if she had actually witnessed it before. The cast were all people she knew, and she herself definitely participated in the production, but the scenes they were performing were entirely unknown to her.
She knew Fortuna, knew Geuse, knew the fairies, and knew her young self.
But she did not remember those scenes, those unknown episodes, nor those conversations absent from her memory.
Spattering, overflowing, images Emilia could not recognize.
The Seal-Door. Her escapes from the Princess Room. The fairies’ guidance. Geuse and his black-robes’ true identities. Fortuna’s last words to Emilia.
[Emilia: ――Aah, hhk]
A sudden, splitting pain sliced into Emilia’s brain.
Roughly wiping her tears with her sleeve, the pale skin around her eyes swelled red as she sighed.
Ever since her contract with Puck terminated, those memories have been surfacing one after another in Emilia’s mind. She had absolutely no idea what they meant.
But she knew they weren’t just meaningless, baseless delusions.
In fact, the core of Emilia’s heart was neither rejecting nor distancing itself from those memories.
Because she did know. Deep in Emilia’s heart, she knew those scenes.
Does that mean those scenes really happened? And, if so, why weren’t they in Emilia’s head before?
The past she had witnessed in her Trial――
――The memory of the forest buried in snow, where the insults and malice Fortuna flung upon her made her want to shriek and scream: Something decisively linking to that moment was missing from Emilia’s memory.
Was that missing link hidden somewhere in this sea of memories?
If it was, then Emilia would have to delve deeper, to scour the depths until she has found what had drowned there.
[Emilia: Have to…… find it fast……]
Her head was aching. Her body was heavy. Her vision was failing, and her every muscle was sapped of strength.
But still, Emilia must lean against the wall, prop herself back up, and keep going.
Slowly, steadily, dragging her heavy body, heading deeper and deeper into the darkness, on the verge of tears and alone, she pressed on.
-=Chapter 102 End=-
(The amazing fan art is by: 椎葉なえ!)
Let me know if you spot any typos!
I’ll get started on the next chapter tomorrow! ❤
Chapter 103 Live Draft: