༺ Threat ༻
Vera was acting strange.
From the day Annalise entered the doll’s body… No, it would be more correct to say from the day after. Anyway, it was obvious that Vera had a different expression than usual.
Others didn’t seem to notice, but Renee, who had always paid attention to Vera’s feelings, could sense that something was amiss.
Vera was currently anxious about something. To put it more precisely, he was afraid.
With her head slightly lowered, Renee continued her thoughts as she listened to Miller and Vera’s conversation.
“Let’s start the ritual.”
“Hasn’t it been a month? Nothing will change if we put it off any longer, and we need to find out more urgently, so let’s do it right away.”
“Ah, that’s what you meant. All right. Then let’s get ready. The time frame should be about 3 to 4 years later than the last time…”
“Let’s set it to 10 years later.”
Despite Miller’s flustered voice, Vera forcefully expressed his opinion with a hint of impatience.
It was only natural that the discomfort conveyed in Miller’s voice grew stronger.
“That… I’ve explained it before, but it’s safer to go up sequentially…”
“It doesn’t matter.”
A groan came from Miller’s mouth.
Renee, who had been silent, belatedly realized that there was obviously a problem with Vera at that moment and stopped him.
“Sir Miller, would you mind stepping outside for a moment? I need to talk to Vera.”
After the dragging sound, the sound of Miller’s footsteps faded. Renee opened her mouth and spoke to Vera only after she heard the sound of the door closing.
“Is something wrong?”
Renee’s head turned in Vera’s direction.
No matter how much she thought about it, Renee couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t the usual Vera because he seemed so strange.
Vera’s eyes wavered.
“…What are you talking about?”
He pretended to be as calm as possible while answering, but it still didn’t work.
Renee sighed deeply at the clear sign in his voice and held out her hand.
“Give me your arm.”
Vera felt his heart sink. He knew better than anyone else what would happen after Renee asked him to do this.
He still didn’t quite understand how she did it, but once Renee started to feel his pulse, he wouldn’t be able to tell any lies. Even the smallest bodily reactions would expose him, leaving him in a vulnerable position.
Realizing that he was facing an unavoidable situation, Vera held out his arm with a defeated expression.
Renee grabbed Vera’s wrist and covered it with her hands before asking.
“Are you hiding something from me?”
“…There is nothing.”
“There is, isn’t there?”
Vera’s body shuddered with uncontrolled surprise.
“So you’re going to be like this? All right. Let’s see. First of all, you started acting weird from the day after that Tower Master dwelled in the doll… Yes, that has to be it. That woman must have done something, right?”
Vera gritted his teeth hard.
“Let’s see… When we went together, nothing else happened. Vera, did you perhaps go to her alone? Ah. You went, huh? So you went alone without a word… All right. We will talk about this again later.”
Renee tapped Vera’s wrist with her index finger.
While choosing the next question to ask, Renee pondered why Vera would lose his composure to this extent. What could possibly make him act this way? In the midst of these thoughts, she eventually blurted out a question.
“Did that woman talk about something related to me?”
Although he was an impenetrable person who never fully accepted her feelings, Renee was aware that she was the most precious and invaluable person to Vera.
Once again, the answer she received was affirmative.
Vera’s pulse jumped sharply. It was a sudden beat. Additionally, the muscles in the arm she held were tensed.
Renee added a tinge of threat to her tone and spoke again.
“Now, shall I continue pressing you for answers, or will you speak up?”
At the implication that he should speak up unless he wanted to show an embarrassing side of himself, Vera’s head drooped.
A short moment of hesitation followed.
Of course, speaking was the right thing to do for both of them. Vera was well aware of that.
Still, there was a reason why Vera hesitated so much. If Annalise’s words were true, and if Renee’s sacrifice was what was needed to protect the continent.
The moment Renee found out, it occurred to him that she might be willing to undertake it.
For some reason, Vera had the feeling that he might lose Renee.
Even in the midst of this, Renee’s urging continued. Vera’s expression was terribly crumpled.
He had no choice but to open his mouth.
There was Renee’s prompting, his rational judgment, and above all, his solemn oath weighed heavily on his mind.
His oath told him that this was for Renee’s sake, that keeping his mouth shut would be disregarding her.
He should have hidden it better, but it ended up like this.
Vera put his miserable feelings aside and took a long breath before opening his mouth.
After listening to the long story, Renee let out a deep sigh.
‘That damn old hag…’
While internally venting her frustration at Annalise, Renee found herself growing increasingly frustrated for some reason.
Ah, she was grateful that he cared so much about her, but it was also frustrating. An emotion that could not be expressed in words was stirring inside her.
Renee brushed Vera’s flinching hand and opened her mouth.
“Is Vera an idiot?”
Vera raised his head.
What was reflected in his field of vision was Renee, who gave him a pitiful look.
What followed were questions that sounded like criticism.
“First, let me ask you. What’s your reason for believing what that woman said?”
“…Because there is no reason not to believe her. In fact, it is certain that she is someone with more information than we have, and what she said is also logically correct…”
“Not that. What is the reason you believe that everything the woman said is true? I mean… Why do you think that the only way is for me to die as she said?”
“Vera, answer me. Is this woman from the Holy Kingdom?”
“Does she know how to use the powers of an Apostle?”
“Is she the Saint?”
“…No, not that either.”
“But then, who is she? Why can there be no other option?”
Vera closed his mouth tightly.
Renee continued to talk, despite clearly showing that she felt absurd.
“To be honest, she doesn’t even have a speck of credibility, does she? Think about it. If that woman had mastered the truth of the whole world to that extent and even had the ability to save the world, wouldn’t the me from before the regression have chosen that woman instead of Vera? Isn’t that so? Then what was the point of going through all the trouble to bring Vera back from the dead?”
She was right.
Besides, these were things that Vera had already thought about.
“I thought we should consider the possibility of ‘what if’…”
“There is no ‘what if.’”
After interrupting Vera’s next words, Renee pulled his arm and said.
“I have to die to save the world? Okay, let’s say that’s possible. Honestly, with this kind of power, that might be the case. However…”
Filled with the thought that she didn’t like his hesitant appearance, Renee continued with a confident tone, thinking that Vera needed a different mindset.
“I think the reason I resorted to such a convoluted method like this before regressing is that there must have been other options. That sly woman would have chosen to save everyone, making excuses like love or whatever, right? Well, even if that’s not the case, we would have to make it so.”
Without the slightest doubt, she whispered to Vera as if her words were the only truth.
Vera felt his breath stop at the sight of Renee spitting out words at a distance where the tips of their noses could touch.
Was it intentional?
No. It would be more accurate to say that Renee, who was not good at judging distance because she was blind, closed the distance without thinking.
Feeling that the sounds that remained in his ears couldn’t enter his head at all, Vera answered blankly.
“Vera, tell me. If I tried to kill myself, would you stay still?”
Caught off guard by the words that followed, Vera answered with surprise.
Renee’s neck shrank at the sudden explosive voice of Vera.
‘Ouch, what a surprise.’
Realizing that belatedly, she cleared her throat and craned her neck again.
“R-right! You wouldn’t stay still! But what are you worried about?!”
A mix of irritation and heightened emotions made Renee raise her voice.
Then, she straightened her posture and added more.
“And you’re missing the most important thing.”
“…What do you mean?”
“I have no intention of dying.”
Huff! It was a word she said with a snort.
“Why should I die? Am I crazy? There are so many things I want to do, but do I look like someone who would give them all up just to save the world?”
In the end, that was the problem.
The reason Renee was so frustrated was because Vera had judged her to be someone who would die for the greater good.
She felt frustrated because he didn’t realize what she thought was most important.
Vera was her reason for everything.
The reason she decided to go to the Holy Kingdom from Remeo, the reason she honed her powers as the Saint in the Holy Kingdom, the reason she made a pilgrimage across the continent, and even the reason she wanted to save the world.
All of those were because of Vera, and they were all born out of love.
So Renee had no intention of dying. So, as always, she clashed her heart head on.
“I will never die. I will live happily ever after with Vera.”
Vera’s body stiffened.
The sudden outburst of words made his head go blank.
Words scattered as he lost his words at her sudden words.
Renee snorted and stuck her head out. Then she spoke in a firm tone, as if trying to put a wedge in her own words.
“Vera doesn’t seem to understand yet, but you and I are meant to live happily ever after and grow old together. I have to live on after giving birth to a son and a daughter. That’s why I won’t die.”
What followed felt like a sweetly tinged threat.
Bringing back Vera of the past eventually went sequentially according to Miller’s opinion.
This time, they would bring back the 25-year-old Vera from before the regression.
It was after Renee had stopped at the slums as the vision shown by Orgus, and so the memory must have been distorted.
Renee held Vera’s hand as he slept on the bed, calming her nervousness.
– It’s probably not entirely true because my memory is distorted, but if I don’t know the Saint, I might be even more vicious than the last time you saw me. So at the slightest sign of danger, take advantage of my oath immediately.
She repeated Vera’s request over and over in her head.
It was understandable; what she was about to see was clearly the Vera who had already conquered the Empire. What would appear was the Vera, who relentlessly slaughtered the necks of unknown individuals in the vision shown by the Orgus.
In other words, it won’t be as trivial as the last time.
Furthermore, if the pre-regression Renee had already met Vera before this, she would have discovered one of the secrets that had been hidden all this time through this ritual. Hence, there was no avoiding the surge of tension.
While Renee’s head was spinning with all kinds of thoughts, Vera’s fingertips twitched.
Renee’s body stiffened as well.
After the sound of tossing and turning, Vera’s body stiffened, and then his mouth opened.
Just one word.
With that one word, Renee realized.
‘…I’ve found him.’
At this moment, Renee realized that this Vera had already met her past self from before the regression.