༺ What’s a Name ༻
The temporary interrogation proceeded swiftly and simply. While Tyr turned a blind eye to the matter, looking away, Shei pulled over a chair and a desk, taking a seat opposite the man, intertwining her fingers and resting her chin on them.
“Here, first of all. I haven’t had the chance to ask this until now but…”
Confronted by Shei’s penetrating gaze, the fake warden looked at Tyr anxiously, yet she remained silent and lowered her parasol to hide her eyes.
Now that she had him all to herself, Shei fixed a plain stare as she posed a question.
“Your name is?”
Pressured by Shei’s intimidating presence, he glanced around timidly before mustering a response.
“Hnn? You called?”
Tyr raised her parasol slightly, but Shei motioned with her hand.
“That’s not it. I think he misunderstood my question.”
Shei started glaring again and clarified in a distinct tone.
“I’m talking about your name.”
A single instance might be a mistake, but from the second time on, it’s fate. Hearing him repeat the same answer, Tyr approached with confusion.
“Is it possible that we share the same name? Tyr? What an extraordinary coincidence.”
“I don’t think so. Looks like he got confused after hearing your name. Hold on.”
Shei gripped Chun-aeng and held it upright with its side facing forward.
Skyblade Art, Heavenly Mirror. Mirages are the sky’s reflection of the earth’s shadow.
The air expanded wide and uneven, distorting the light in various directions. The compacted space of Chun-aeng refracted the light and directly illuminated the man’s face.
Shei pointed at his mirrored reflection.
“Here, look! Not at Tyr, but this person! Look at your reflection in the mirror!”
“Me… My, name.”
In an instant, his eyes widened. It was the first intense change visible on his face. His expression was stricken with pain as he clutched at his face, gasping sharply.
Shei silently observed him without pressing further, but Tyr couldn’t bear to simply watch.
“Let us stop here for now. It seems our eagerness got the better of us. If there are any questions, let us explore them patiently.”
Shei firmly shook her head.
“Wait. I’m certain he’ll remember. Even if a person’s lost their identity, it’s not easy to forget something you’ve known and used for so long, like a name. If he can forget a name he’s carried his whole life, then he would’ve forgotten language as well.”
“And it’s necessary to ask, if only to retrieve his other memories. A name is the most vital component of identity, after all.”
Knowledge instills certainty, and certainty breeds confidence. Shei’s words were unexpectedly logical and self-assured, leaving Tyr speechless and yielding. Instead of continuing the debate, she prayed for the man’s well-being, tightly clasping her hands together in worry.
A considerable amount of time passed, accompanied by his feeble groans. Yet as Tyr’s heart burned black like a fuse, he broke the prolonged silence and managed to utter something with great effort.
The two were unsure whether it was a thought uttered aloud or just a sigh. But then Tyr realized the groans had ceased and sought clarification.
“Hu, did you say?”
He nodded. Belatedly realizing that it was his name, Shei looked puzzled.
“Hu? That’s your name?”
Another nod followed. Shei briefly examined Hu’s face, falling into thought.
‘No surname? Oh, he mentioned being an orphan. Still, high-ranking officers in the State tend to have surnames… But I guess they lost a lot of meaning after the kingdom disappeared. Maybe he’s not attached to the name because he made it?’
While Shei immersed herself in thoughts, temporarily going silent, Tyr cautiously approached and called out to Hu.
In response, he turned toward her voice, reacting to his name. Tyr smiled warmly at that.
“Hu, so that is your name. I discovered it too late. If I had known earlier, I would have called you more often.”
While Tyr embraced the situation without a hint of doubt, Shei still couldn’t shake off her suspicions.
‘Judging by his reaction, it does seem to be his name. Could it be an alias? No. If I start thinking that way, the speculations won’t end.’
Furrowing her brow, Shei retraced the name repeatedly in her mind, searching for any similar names within the memories of her regressions.
“Hu. Hu. Hu…”
“Do you know the name?”
“Give me a minute. Humanist, heuristic, hu… It can’t be.”
After much contemplation, Shei shook her head.
“It’s my first time hearing it. I can’t remember any similar names either.”
Tyr responded wearily.
“Then why dwell on the matter? If you do not know, simply say so from the beginning.”
“It’s just more suspicious. I mean, a name I don’t know? I should know almost every noteworthy figure there is, especially if it’s a State warden…”
Shei’s words made sense from her perspective as she was familiar with most prominent figures of the Military State. She had already undergone 13 regressions, with roughly half of them involving conflicts with the State. Considering the remarkable abilities of this warden, it made no sense that she couldn’t remember.
‘If he didn’t drop dead somewhere in the abyss, that is….’
But upon hearing Shei’s murmurs, Tyr felt a touch of apprehension because she had learned, through the golem, that Hu wasn’t a warden. Although she didn’t place any importance on this fact, she wasn’t sure about informing Shei. So she forcefully changed the subject.
“The world is vast. Surely there are many you do not know. Now, more importantly.”
Tyr put away her parasol and scurried closer to Hu.
Hu turned to look at Tyr, who cheerfully called his name again.
Tyr repeated his name without any particular purpose, slightly raising the pitch once and lowering it the next time. It was as if she was singing a song.
Hu reciprocated by calling her name.
“Hehe. So this is your name, Hu.”
Tyr was immersed in the act, seeming content with just knowing his name. It seemed she would spend the entire day calling him if left undisturbed.
However, Shei couldn’t wait for Tyr to fully indulge herself in this game as the latter would never get bored. She intervened and continued with the questions.
“Okay. Hu? I don’t know if it’s real, but I know what to call you for now. So, what’s your rank?”
That question wiped the smile off Tyr’s face, making her nervous. Meanwhile, Hu looked clueless at the mention of rank.
“If you’re a real warden, then you should have a rank.”
As Hu hesitated to answer, Tyr quickly interjected to shield him.
“Rank? Does such a thing matter? It only confuses and holds no real significance.”
“Still, there’s hardly anything more important if you want to know someone’s position in the Military State.”
“Ranks can change, you know. He may have forgotten such unstable memories. Why not we move on to something else. Hu?”
Quickly changing the subject, Tyr called out to Hu before Shei could ask further. However, as she had never considered what to ask, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“Do you have a favorite food, perhaps?”
This could be an important question for some, since everything was relative, but not for Shei, at the least. She expressed her discontent.
“What kind of question is that? You claim rank doesn’t matter, yet you ask something even more pointless.”
“Well, you are not the only one who can ask questions.”
“I mean, thinking about it, even I didn’t ask much aside from his name…”
“Oh pipe down, boy. Are you going to nitpick every little thing your master does?”
“Only the master at times like this…”
Tyr forcibly silenced Shei, then quietly waited for Hu’s response. After some careful thought, he uttered a single word.
That reminded them of the plentiful canned beans in the cafeteria. Tyr was pleased. At least she could provide him with heaps of his favorite food.
But at that moment, an unexpected doubt emerged from Shei.
“It’s strange, no matter how I think about it!”
“What do you mean?”
“That he likes beans! It makes no sense!”
“How peculiar. And why would that be a problem?”
Tyr knew beans to be a highly useful crop, yet Shei spoke as if it were common knowledge that the world hated beans.
“The main ingredient in the State’s canned beans is one of their seven great inventions, a planting fertilizer called ‘chimera beans’. They’re sown in resting fields to make the land so fertile that it’ll yield abundant harvests for the next couple of years.”
“Abundant harvests? Then is it not a wonderful thing?”
“It is. As a fertilizer. But when it comes to eating those beans? It’s a no. A big fat no.”
Shei shuddered, seeming chilled by the mere imagination, as she continued loudly.
“Actual fertilizer might be better off as food. Chimera bean crops result in a field full of large beans, but for all their size, they taste disgusting. They’ve got this muddy texture, a bitter odor, and they stick to your tongue so much that you can’t even swallow them without water. They say even a cow starved for three days would refuse them!”
Tyr looked puzzled. With so many canned beans stacked in the cafeteria, it was hard to believe that even a starving cow would reject them.
“Yet despite it all, everyone seems to eat those beans frequently.”
“That’s because the Military State collects and distributes those huge amounts of chimera beans! It’s thanks to canning that they taste a hundred times better. If it wasn’t for that, the State would’ve already dealt with numerous uprisings. It’s a remarkable invention, but as food, it’s torture!”
“…Is that why you alone did not eat the canned beans?”
“Huh? Well, yeah.”
Tyr heaved a sigh and scolded Shei.
“It is not my place to say as I did not know… But after hearing your words, I feel you were harsh. Shei, you had other food yet you did not share it?”
Tyr was essentially asking if she had been enjoying delicious meals by herself while the others had to settle for beans.
Shei blinked dumbly for a moment, then began gesturing in her defense.
“That’s not it. I did offer Azzy to eat together several times! It’s just that my item produces dishes that are heavily seasoned, and they didn’t suit her taste!”
“Then you never made that offer to Hu.”
Shei nodded timidly. Tyr’s gaze turned colder, causing Shei to shrink back. With a soft sigh, she lowered her parasol and stood in front of Hu.
“Let us stop. Prying answers from someone who is already troubled… we should never have started this in the first place.”
“Huh? But I haven’t even finished asking about his abilities…”
“Did you forget what the note said? It emphasized not to disturb him, even if his condition turned strange. Given that you two were strangers who did not even share food under normal circumstances, what right do you have to expect an answer from him?”
“That’s true, but do we really have to follow—”
“Is it not a matter of trust? If you cannot even follow instructions in a note entrusted to you, how will you look him in the eye? Will you continue to wear a mask when facing him?”
Tyr’s logic was undeniable, leaving no room for further argument. However, Shei had something to say as well. Unusually, she raised her voice towards Tyr.
“But he’s the one wearing a mask!”
While Hu blinked in confusion at suddenly being singled out, Shei shouted with fiery eyes as if unleashing her emotions.
“Has he ever been completely straightforward with us? I didn’t even know his name until today! Tell me honestly. If we’re to go by your words, to look at each other without masks! Shouldn’t he have told us from the start?”
“And right now, he’s hiding something! Resolving it would bring some peace of mind! But when I get curious, he chases me off. When I ask, he says it’s a secret. And now that I try to dig a little deeper, oh he’s lost his memory. How can I not suspect!”
It wasn’t like Shei wanted to be suspicious. Sure she endured some arguments and teasing with the man, but they also fought side by side once. And through it all, she begrudgingly admitted that he had grown on her.
But to someone who came from the future, who had peered beyond that veil… the present was a powder keg, surrounded by fuses and ready to explode. The man named Hu was a warden of the Military State, so Shei always had to be on guard around him. Because he could’ve been the very mastermind who had corrupted the Fragments of the Apocalypse.
“If he didn’t want to be suspected, then he should’ve been open from the get-go! After all the questionable things he’s done…! I want to believe him too!”
“If so, then you should approach him one step at a time instead of prying like this.”
“It’s meaningless! In the end…!”
‘In the end, everything will return to zero.’
Shei left her words unfinished.
Tyr regarded Shei with fresh eyes. Age-wise, they didn’t look all too different… but the latter was much younger physically. While this thought had occurred to her several times before, it was evident that Shei was objectively and subjectively youthful.
Tyr composed herself and began to calmly soothe Shei.
“We all have things that are difficult to talk about. According to the note, he did not want his true self to be revealed. Can you wait a little longer for him?”
“…Hmph. Whatever. The things we’ve discovered have no credibility anyway. Calling himself Tyr, claiming beans are his favorite…”
Shei whipped around.
“I’m leaving. The rest is up to you.”
Shei disappeared into her room, slamming the door shut behind her. It showed no signs of opening again.
All they had discovered was the name “Hu” and, as an aside, his preference for beans. That was enough to make Tyr happy… but unsolved questions still lingered in her mind. She looked at “Hu” and posed one final question.
“Hu. Why did you tell such a lie from the beginning?”
But naturally, he couldn’t provide an answer.
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