༺ S1. Finale of Irid and Centra – 2 ༻
Irid walked forward to ensure that Centra did not get entangled in the battle. Beyond the passage, a red color fluttered as it approached.
The sound of their footsteps reverberated noisily and then suddenly stopped at the same time.
Under the dim lighting, the Prince and the Mercenary faced each other. Irid stood straight, holding the dagger.
Ronya drew her longsword and rested it on her shoulder. Her expression was filled with annoyance and rage. She practically spat out her words.
“I had a bad feeling about you from the very start. It was such a vexing, punchable face.”
“You were also bothersome, you lowly mercenary.”
“If it weren’t for that bitch Centra picking you up from the street, you would have been a slave long ago. This fucker only knows how to ya…..”
“You talk too much. It’s a waste of time. If you’re just going to blabber, you might as well run away now. Since I won’t bother chasing you.”
“Who do you fucking think you are──!!”
Ronya, gripping her longsword with both hands, charged forward. It was a move Irid recognized. Although it was only a week of preparation, Irid had practiced desperately until his hands turned raw.
He could block it!
The weight of the longsword was too much for the dagger to parry. Each time blade met blade and Irid twisted and barely deflected, his body swayed greatly. But he did not fall.
One clash. Two clashes.
The sound of metal scraping echoed against the walls of the secret passage, cheating an eerie echo. Sparks flew in the darkness. Each time it did so, as if the sparks were transferring…
In Ronya’s eyes, the flames of wrath burned, and for Irid, his will solidified.
He blocked and deflected. Ronya felt a dry thirst as if her throat was parched. Her attacks were blocked. No matter how much she swung, she couldn’t land a hit!
Time was……on the Prince’s side. If she didn’t kill Centra and disguise it as the ‘Kingdom Alliance’s’ doing, everything she had prepared to swallow up the Resistance would collapse.
Ronya’s movement became anxious and sloppy. Irid did not miss the opening. Between the trajectories shining silver, he inserted his blade.
Ronya, with a dumbfounded face, stepped back two paces and looked down at her cut forearm. Blood flowed. Bright red blood. This was not supposed to happen.
Irid gasped for breath. His lungs felt constricted and his arms were nearly numb. Though there was no wound, fatigue had accumulated. If it turned into a battle of stamina, Irid was sure he would eventually collapse.
At that moment, both Ronya and Irid had the same thought.
They needed a decisive mood to end this battle.
Ronya pulled out a black pill from her bosom. Irid’s face crumpled into a frown. He knew what that pill was: a narcotic doping agent produced by a Black Wizard and circulated in secret.
The pill went down Ronya’s throat. She coughed a few times as if the taste was vile, then….she let out a snigger.
“……Heh, heheh. This, this thing, really, is amazingggg……”
Her muscles and veins bulged, and black blood began to flow from her cut forearm. The doping effect of the black pill varied, but on average, it increases one’s abilities by 30%.
It was one of the worst case scenarios discussed in the strategy meeting. The First Princess had cautiously predicted defeat. But to Irid, there seemed to be a chance of victory.
Irid gripped the dagger upside down and steadied his mind. Muttering only for himself, he stripped away his hesitation.
“……I wanted to go on a date.”
“I wanted to sing together. I wanted to conclude our unfinished conversation. My true feelings…..If I could, I wanted to convey them too.”
“But it seems there’s not enough time……”
Even if the Wizard was utterly insane. Even if he was deceiving himself. He did not tell lies. The Wizard had said the safety of this Dimensional Travel was absolute.
Indeed, when Irid returned from his first Dimensional Travel, despite facing all kinds of persecution in the Crownhall of the future, there was no change in his physical body.
A body of Dimensional Travel and a body of reality were separate.
If that was the case, what did death in a dimensionally traveled world mean? He was so very close to obtaining that answer. Irid looked down at the watch tattoo on his wrist.
There was still plenty of time left on the watch tattoo that started moving from 1 to 0. Perhaps between that 1 and 0, there could have been a moment where he confessed to Centra.
It was a time that now remained only in imagination.
Gurg. Gurgle. Ronya writhed in agony, foam mixed with saliva dripping from her mouth. She seemed to be seeing hallucinations, as she twisted her head several times. With her eyes rolled back, she looked at Irid.
The red beast roared, before charging.
“DIE, DIE, DIE, WITHER EMPEROR──!!”
The longsword swung by Ronya felt fatster and more powerful than before. In a single clash, Irid’s arm was flung wide open, leaving his chest completely exposed.
Ronya drew the dagger on her waist. As expected, the decisive final move came with the dagger. It was possible to block it, but even if he did, the outcome would be the same. After all, he wouldn’t be able to block the next, or the next after that.
As such, Irid pulled her into his embrace.
He felt a burning pain as if being scorched by fire. The dagger pierced precisely through his ribs and into his heart. Blood spilled and with every heartbeat, he felt his life slipping away.
It was the cold feeling of death.
“……Keugh, so you’re…telling me…this is…just an……illusion?”
Irid chuckled hollowly. The pain was duller than he thought, but the sensation of dying was chillingly clear. If this was an illusion, did it replicate the sensation of someone actually dying?
At that moment, the watch tattoo burst into a brilliant purple light. The hands of the clock started moving rapidly, its appearance turning to a blur as if scattering between the 1 and 0.
It was just as he expected. He wouldn’t die.
If he wouldn’t die, then he would gamble with death.
Irid reached out and firmly grasped the back of Ronya’s head.
“……I really…don’t like…that the last….embrace….is with a…bitch…like you, but….”
“D, Die-! D-………Get off me-!!”
He lifted the dagger he held in a reverse grip. His pale face was faintly reflected on the raised blade. Even then, he was smiling cheerfully despite it all. There was no way he couldn’t. After all, he had protected her until the very end.
Irid plunged the dagger into Ronya’s neck. Again and again. Until her twitching body turned into a cold corpse. Ronya’s movements ceased.
As he lost strength in his hands, Ronya’s body slid to the ground. Irid, clutching the wound on his chest, staggered and then collapsed.
“Die, Wither Emperor………you said? If that is your wish, I’ll die as many times as it takes.”
After all, there no longer was a Wither Emperor to ruin the Empire.
You struggled to lift your heavy eyelids. It seemed like it was raining.
When you did so, you saw the woman you loved crying sorrowfully. It was both sad and joyful; though it was heavy, lifting your eyelids felt worthwhile.
“Irid……..Irid! Please, come to your senses, please…….!!”
It’s okay. I’m just returning to my original world.
I’m not facing death. I’m just…..going a little far away, 100 years in the past.
Even though your lips moved, no sound came out. It was frustrating. You had to comfort her. Smiles suited this lovable woman far more.
“Someone, someone…..Someone, anyone, please help! Someone…..!”
No one would appear in the secret passage. Even if someone did, the wounds you suffered were serious…..And no one could collect the time that had already flowed past.
Is there no part of me I can move? I have something to convey.
Fortunately, it seemed like your hand could move. You carefully raised your hand and wiped away Centra’s tears. To be honest, it was ineffective. The rain continued to pour.
If that was the case…….
You took Centra’s hand in yours. Just as she had led you, you wanted to lead her. To share warmth, to give joy rather than sorrow.
Was it perhaps that your feelings were conveyed? Centra, with a tearful face, tried to smile. She held your limp hand tenderly, hugged you tightly as if begging you not to go, and smiled.
“I love…….I love you. Irid.”
Such happy words you heard.
You had to respond. You had to convey that you too felt the same. You exerted strength in your hand. It was a faint touch, as light as a feather. Nevertheless, it seemed like Centra understood.
“I love you, so…..! I love you, so please don’t go. Stay by my side……Don’t die! Please no, Irid…….!”
Finally you shared love, confirming each other’s feelings. As a romance, it was just the first step. But time had run out…….And you knew this would be the last step instead.
If only there had been more time……..
As you exhaled your last breath……
Centra seemed to have made some sort of decision and tilted her head. Long eyelashes, eyes read and swollen from crying, tear-filled sparkling eyes, and lips.
Centra’s lips met yo………
Second Prince Irid let out a bitter laugh of dejection.
He laid in a daze on the magic circle. A whirl of regret, joy, and various other emotions entangled, making him dizzy. How indifferent the heavens were to have time run out at the most crucial moment.
If only there were 3 more seconds………no, even just 1 more second. Then maybe……
No, perhaps…….it was fortunate to have preserved Centra’s purity. She too should meet another man, build a harmonious family, and live happily. Thinking this way, maybe that mere kiss wasn’t really neede……..
No, as expected, he still felt regret.
Irid wiped his face and stood up. Looking around, he saw the mad wizard tearing his hair out in anguish and the Purple Magic Tower Master consoling him.
He wasn’t sure what the commotion was about, but Irid had no energy to care about others’ worries. Didn’t he just part with his first love, after all?
Leaving the two Illusion Wizards behind, he stepped out of the Magic Tower.
The First Princess and boy knight were waiting. He had already informed the First Princess about the Dimensional Travel Magic. First Princess Elaine cautiously asked.
“…….Did you save her?”
“I did. I’m worried about what comes after, but…….if it’s Centra, she will be able to manage.”
“That’s a relief. Truly a relief……”
The incident was over. Now, in this place a hundred years before…….He just had to work hard for the future where Centra would eventually live. Even now, he wished to ask if there wasn’t another opportunity, that he would create one if there wasn’t one, but……..
He decided to leave that for when he truly couldn’t bear it anymore.
For now, let’s be satisfied that he had at least saved Centra.
Irid took a step towards the future, imagining the touch of lips he never got to feel.