༺ Crossroads (5) ༻
Aisha was happy.
The moment for revenge has finally come. It was a great opportunity to get back at Vera for everything she went through during their lessons.
Those were things like throwing her out if his mood worsened even just a little then disappearing, or giving her a forehead flick with his huge hands as a punishment, and more.
As she spoke, Aisha felt her heart pound at the thought of finally being able to repay her grudge.
She asked with sparkling eyes, pretending to be innocent.
Vera frowned at her and answered.
“I don’t have time to play with a brat like you.”
“…All you do is trail behind Renee.”
The provocation was very much like Aisha. Vera was pissed off at her words and glared at her.
He thought of hitting her on the cheek, but of course, it was impossible.
She was a child of the Holy Kingdom, an attendant of that insolent woman.
To mess with the child meant offending that woman, so Vera couldn’t deal with her as he wished.
However, it did not mean that there was no way at all.
Vera quickly scanned the surroundings.
‘She’s not here.’
The Saint appeared to have entered her room with her maid.
In other words, it was alright to mess with the brat to some extent without breaking the oath.
He had a good excuse just in time.
“…Okay, sounds good. Let’s fight.”
“We can do it…”
Looking around once again, Vera found a small vacant lot at the back of the dormitory and said with a jerk of his chin.
The location that he pointed at was an area with tall trees and a somewhat obstructed view.
Vera stared at Aisha with his arms crossed.
The expression on his face was neither annoyance nor amusement, but surprise.
He thought she was just an annoying brat, but it turned out that she had some skills.
Although her current abilities were not outstanding, considering that she was still a little kid who had not yet reached full growth, her future was promising.
‘…Did she say that she was the Saint’s attendant?’
She was so talented that he wanted to take her to the slums and teach her himself to be his arms and legs, but it was impossible because she had connections with the Holy Kingdom.
Vera let out a short breath out of his annoyance.
Renee’s face came to his mind.
‘She’s surrounded by great people.’
I don’t know where she found such a person, but she really is naturally blessed.
Maybe it’s because she has only ever met such good people that she can say such leisurely words.
Vera recalled his conversation with Renee earlier that day and felt his insides boil once again, then he loosened his arms.
He shook off his thoughts. His eyes turned to Aisha, who was getting ready to pounce at him with a dagger in her hand.
‘I don’t like that woman, but…’
That brat seems interesting, so I’ll teach her a little for fun.
“Lower your posture.”
“It means don’t show any openings. If you are facing an opponent, make them nervous by not letting them know your next movements. It will drain their mental energy.”
Aisha’s expression became gruff.
‘This isn’t it…’
Of course, things didn’t go the way she had thought.
Aisha’s initial plan was…
Now that Vera had lost his memory, his past memories had been dug up, and his childhood personality had popped out.
In other words, he should not know much about fighting. She, who had learned from the future Vera, should be stronger.
But, why the heck…
‘…Why is it the same as usual?’
Instead of a duel, it became a lesson.
Had Vera been a monster ever since he was young?
Aisha’s lips pouted. Her tail flicked disgruntledly.
“Aren’t you going to attack?”
Vera’s voice was calm. Aisha was pissed off and gave in to her emotions as usual, lunging at Vera.
The distance between them narrowed in an instant. Their eyes met for a split second. Then, she thrust into him along with her breathing.
As she considered what Vera taught her, Aisha’s dagger rushed towards Vera’s waist.
Shortly after, Aisha’s eyes twinkled as she felt like her dagger was just a short distance away from her target and she put more strength into her hands, but…
“You’re too obvious.”
Vera twisted his body slightly, and the dagger sliced through the air.
Vera lifted his legs and his heel connected to the top of Aisha’s head.
Aisha fell on the floor, rubbing the top of her head and glaring at Vera with tearful eyes.
A corner of Vera’s mouth turned upwards before he continued speaking.
“I don’t know who your teacher is, but I’m sure he’s an idiot. His teaching is so outdated. Where in the world can you find someone who runs straight at their opponent in a fight?”
It was an insult to the one who taught her… which was himself.
At the sound of those words, Aisha’s body trembled, and she suddenly lifted her head, the corners of her lips twitching upwards.
‘This is it!’
She finally thought of a way to tease Vera even though she was in pain.
Vera was cursing himself. She was certain that he would be embarrassed about this once he got his memory back.
Or maybe he’ll even rip the covers off like Renee did!
Aisha, quickly forgetting that she was in pain and that she had lost against Vera again, asked excitedly.
“What should I do, then?”
“You should use the terrain. Also, you should use your age. You have to take advantage of the fact that you’re a child to catch your opponent off guard, and mix in some anomalies, whether you scatter dirt and stick your dagger in, or kick him in the gut.”
“Huh? That’s cowardly.”
“There’s no such thing as cowardly in a fight. If you kill them, no one would know anyways, so just do it.”
These were the words Vera said himself, despite lecturing Aisha to maintain her knightly dignity every time he opened his mouth.
“Avoid chasing after intangible trash like pride and honor. In the end, what gives you a lifeline are shrewdness and wickedness.”
This, also, came from Vera’s mouth, who said that he lived for pride.
“After all, we are all the same beasts. Kill or be killed. Sympathy is the worst poison. Understanding and forgiveness are illusions created by cowards who are afraid of those who hurt them.”
From that point forward, every word that Vera spoke with a sly smile contradicted everything he had previously taught her.
Aisha’s eyes twinkled and she raised her tail.
‘I have to remember all of this.’
I’ll have to let you hear this later.
With that thought in mind, Aisha just nodded her head with a very satisfied face.
After dinner, Renee sat on her dormitory bed, stroking Aisha’s head as she lay with her head on Renee’s lap. Then, Renee let out a deep sigh.
There was a sinking feeling in her stomach.
‘…We didn’t accomplish anything in the end.’
It was when she realized that they had accomplished nothing even after they pulled out the past Vera and spent the whole day with him.
‘The me from the last time period definitely intervened after the Empire’s Foundation Day Festival.’
Should I be satisfied that I’ve been able to confirm my suspicions?’
As she thought about it, Renee remembered Vera, with whom she had spent the whole day, and recalled a question.
‘The me from the previous timeline…’
How in the world did I coax that Vera?
What did I do to make Vera change like this?
A strange but unbearable feeling began to take hold inside of Renee.
It was jealousy and also possessiveness.
The annoyance came from the fact that it was definitely her doing, but at the same time, it also wasn’t her doing, and she somehow felt that someone else had changed Vera.
Her feelings could be regarded as childish, but it wasn’t easy to just brush it off.
Love was not a very rational emotion.
Wanting everything about the other person, past, present, and future, to belong to oneself was a natural and obvious obsession that came with love, wasn’t it?
As Renee continued to think, something that could only be considered as competitiveness sparked within her.
‘…What a cunning woman.’
It was competitiveness against herself from the last round.
I’m so much better than her.
I’m honest with my feelings and I know how to confront them.
I don’t do shady things behind people’s backs like she does.
As such, Renee’s body gained strength along with her rising anger.
Aisha flinched and whimpered.
Renee’s body trembled.
Renee, who stopped thinking, belatedly realized that she had Aisha’s ears in her grasp and apologized, startled.
“Ah, sorry! I was thinking of something else.”
“Uhh… it’s okay.”
“Ahh, that must have hurt.”
She spoke while gently rubbing the ear with her hand.
After confirming that there was no problem with her ear by wiggling it back and forth, Aisha raised her head and observed Renee’s expression.
Then, she tilted her head and carefully asked a question.
“…Are you sick, Renee?”
“You don’t look good.”
Can Aisha tell from my expressions?
Renee felt embarrassed so she sorted out her expression before answering.
“No, I’m just tired from the lectures these days. I’m alright.”
With that, she also consoled herself.
‘That’s right, in the end, I’m the one who wins.’
I don’t have to bother about losing, since Vera will end up with me anyway. There’s no need to falter.
As her thoughts continued, Aisha, who was watching her, felt that Renee was definitely different from usual. Then, she lifted her head off from her lap and spoke in a playful tone.
“Do you want to hear something funny, Renee?”
“I was going to keep this to myself, but…”
With a very excited voice, she talked about the embarrassing things Vera talked about during their duel.
She exposed Vera’s dark history in order to make Renee feel better.
Renee’s eyes widened slightly.
It was because she realized that Vera had acted unexpectedly without her knowledge.
Could he possibly have harmed Aisha?
Renee, who was listening to her story with a worried look because of that thought, bursted into laughter with the words that followed.
“Vera was seriously pretentious.”
“Yeah, when he laughs only one corner of his mouth rises. And also…”
She found out that Vera was only putting on a facade in front of Aisha.
A smile slowly appeared on Renee’s face as she listened to the story.
Aisha’s comforting words had clearly had an effect on her, blowing away all the negative thoughts she had been having just before.
‘Stockpiling all of his dark history.’
Renee continued to ask Aisha questions with a smile on her face.
“Ah, so Vera went back to his room? You checked, right?”
“Yeah, I told him that you ordered it, so he quietly went back. Ah, but I heard him curse.”
“He needs to be punished.”
“Should I punish him?”
“No, I’ll do it.”
Renee’s smile became bigger and she added inwardly.
‘Naturally, the one who’ll get punished is the present Vera when he returns.’
In the early morning.
Vera opened his eyes and squinted at the sunlight that was slipping through the window, shuddering at the memories of the previous day that suddenly began to rush through his head.
His ashen eyes shook pitifully, as if they might collapse at any moment.
His parted lips unconsciously shivered, revealing his emotions.
His trembling hands moved steadily to cover his face.
A curse word slipped out of his mouth.
Vera laid in the bed for a long time, shaking with shame in a position that resembled a certain sobbing girl.