༺ The End of the Midnight Sun (5) ༻
Renee listened to Vera.
There was a longing that could not be hidden in the voice that she heard.
“I couldn’t reach it. I believed if I kept walking, one day I will be able to at least step on the shadow cast by that light.”
Doubt sprouted within him.
“However, while chasing the light when I suddenly looked back, I realized I had not even taken a single step.”
In the end, there was hatred.
“I thought I was doing well. I thought that I was treading a path of immense glory. However, it was only later that I realized that it was nothing more than an illusion.”
…There was resentment directed at himself, what one might call self-hatred.
Renee could hear his breath blend into the air as he uttered those words.
“… Then what?”
“In the end, I was an ignorant fool who still couldn’t walk.”
Having previously said that she would listen to his worries, Renee nodded her head slightly upon hearing his words.
Still, Renee didn’t know what Vera was talking about.
Renee did not know what the light he wanted to chase was, nor what it meant to Vera.
However, the emotions behind his words were things Renee was familiar with.
The longing that burns all over, the doubt that turns the world ashen, and the self-loathing that grows like an endlessly growing fruit.
Renee was well acquainted with every one of those things.
Thus, Renee inquired.
“So, is it ‘grief’ that you felt?”
Vera barely managed to answer the question in a lowered voice.
“… Rather than grief, it would be more accurate to call it fear. I think it will be like this in the future as well. In the end, I may never reach the light. There seems to be such a fear dwelling inside of me.”
Vera’s head drooped. It was done because of the brimming shame.
“I lived as an evil being all my life and only later did I realize that my way of living was wrong. So I wanted to change.”
Once again, his previous life crossed Vera’s mind. The image of the evil being that was indescribably vile flashed by.
“However, just the realization alone may not be enough. This body still remembers those years, so no matter what I do, nothing will change. That’s what I think.”
Even though he knew that all these words were unfamiliar to the current Renee, Vera uttered these words of confession.
Hearing that, Renee nodded, feeling the emotions that were being conveyed.
Suddenly, Renee felt a small smile appearing on her lips as the thought passed through her head.
“Sir Knight is an idiot.”
“Yes, I’m the most foolish person in the world….”
“Not in that sense. You don’t even remember your own words.”
Startled, Vera’s body trembled as he clenched his teeth. Meanwhile, the smile on Renee’s face deepened.
Renee clearly remembered what Vera had told her.
“You never know.”
It could have been a clichéd word of consolation, but nonetheless, it was a word that penetrated deep into her heart.
“Even the Gods in the Heavens probably don’t know whether Sir Knight will really change, whether he will get closer to that light than anyone else in the world.”
When he heard those words, Vera’s eyes widened as if they were being torn apart.
“That’s what Sir Knight told me. Did you already forget what you said yourself?”
A smile entered his field of vision.
The words he heard.
They overlapped with her former self.
All the elements that constituted her current self were different from back then, but nonetheless, they overlapped.
The face, scarred with burns, overlapped with her now unblemished skin. Even the twisted smile painted on her lips that formed arcs. Even the hair covered with filth glistening under the bright sun.
Overlaid with each other, Vera was instantly immersed in the illusion that he might have returned to that time.
Coincidences can be so bizarre. Vera pursed his lips. His hand moved on its own and clasped the empty air.
When she called him, Vera, who couldn’t even answer her, was looking at Renee blankly.
On her second call, Vera answered Renee in a dazed tone.
“Um, are you in a bad mood?”
Flustered, Vera smiled awkwardly and quickly answer Renee’s question.
“No, I’m fine.”
Again, a smile appeared on Renee’s lips.
In addition, as Vera felt drained out of spirit, Renee took a step closer to Vera.
Vera, unknowingly, took a step back.
He was caught by the fence behind him. Unable to retreat further, Vera had to stare blankly as she approached him.
The distance grew shorter.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Tapping the ground with her cane, Renee continued to approach.
Renee’s cane touched Vera’s feet.
Renee stopped just then, leaving only enough distance for a person to enter between the two, and looked at Vera.
“Can you give me your hand for a second?”
When she spoke those words, Vera did not even think of refusing and placed his hand atop Renee’s.
Vera’s crude and scarred hands were placed on top of her small, pure white hands.
While Vera felt his fingertips tremble at the warmth of her hand, which was different from his own, he placed his other hand on top of Renee’s other one.
“… Is there something you haven’t told me yet?”
Words that flowed like mumbles. After that, the words that made Vera uneasy continued.
“The stench of blood. It’s very strong.”
Surprised by those words, Vera tried to pull his hand away, but Renee strengthened her clasped hands and stopped him from doing so.
His flesh was in close contact with hers. The transmitted warmth turned into scorching heat.
“Please, tell me. I might be blind, but I’m not a fool.”
Her tone was more resolute than anything he had ever heard.
Vera sensed a wave of hesitation rising from the depths of his heart due to her voice, her stern face, and the warmth that was transmitted.
I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to remind her about the worries that were haunting her. However, it seemed I had put another burden on her, who was already grieving enough.
The words kept appearing on the tip of his tongue and were about to erupt from his mouth.
In the end, that reminder forced Vera to open his mouth.
“Do you think there’s a reason to smell blood in this small town?”
Her tone was resolute, as if she would not tolerate any lies.
Vera, overwhelmed by her imposing will, spoke in a suppressed voice.
The word he uttered seemed to have been elongated. For some reason, Vera felt his throat choke and as a result, he couldn’t speak. He bit his lips for a moment before he tried speaking again.
“… There are people who are after you.”
Words he barely uttered.
Renee strengthened those clasped hands.
She could feel the heat in Vera’s hand. There was hesitation in his tone.
“… I apologize for causing you trouble.”
It was then that Renee realized that this upright knight had not said anything in consideration of her own selfish will.
“I’m really an idiot.”
“Don’t do that.”
She realized that he had endured all alone for being considerate of her selfishness.
For some reason, she felt suffocated.
Renee sensed his feelings and spoke in a slightly trembling voice.
“Don’t apologize. You don’t need to apologize. Just… .”
If he wanted to, he could have just forced me to go along with him… but he didn’t.
It seemed so obvious how Vera would have reacted if she pointed that fact out. Thus, Renee bit her lips, thinking that it was something she should not say especially since he was so considerate of her.
It was a big hand that she touched. It was a hand that reflected the life Vera had lived.
In Vera’s words, it was the hand that struggled to follow the light.
Renee continued to speak, stroking the back of her hand on his slightly chilly hand.
“… Thank you.”
Vera’s hand was about to come out again.
Renee stopped the movement again by holding his hand tighter and then continued speaking.
“Let’s go. To the Holy Kingdom.”
To be honest, Renee was displeased with the Gods until the moment when he uttered those words to her.
No, Renee still despised the gods. For her, the world was disappointing.
“Because Sir Knight is stupid and doesn’t tell me about things like this. It’s frustrating, so I have to go.”
He shouldn’t hurt others because of me.
There is someone who is doing his best for me, so I shouldn’t cause trouble for them due to my own selfishness.
There is someone who is silently protecting me, I must not abandon him.
At least Renee thought so.
Renee’s gaze turned to Vera again.
“I wonder if I will ever be able to become a Saint… .”
Whether to forgive the Gods or to accept this power as their grace.
“… Because I don’t know.”
It’s a moment that hasn’t come yet. Because the future is vague.
“I’m still lacking, but Sir Knight still believes in me. So I’ll go. I’ll go to the Holy Kingdom.”
Renee said so, using a power she hadn’t used since the day she received the stigma.
A pure white divinity bloomed.
The rising divinity enveloped Vera.
Vera felt the divinity seeping into his skin, and the fatigue of his body that had accumulated over the night melted away like snow.
Vera’s gaze turned to Renee.
Renee’s smiling figure was akin to the painting of the Saint.
A strange sensation.
A momentary illusion that only her surroundings were detached from the rest of the world as it glowed radiantly.
It was a sight that would steal all the attention and be worthy to be called awe-inspiring.
Vera looked at her figure, then pursed his lips and uttered.
“There is no doubt.”
“That you will become a person who can truly be called the Saint.”
“How can you be sure of that?”
“There’s no ‘if.’ I’ll make it happen.”
As soon as those words were spoken. Vera felt the oath engraved on his soul intensely burning.
Vera trembled at the sensation that warmed his whole body and declared.
“Even if you fall time and time again, I will protect you so that you can stand up once more. So that you can become a greater Saint than anyone else.”
Renee’s laugh resounded when she heard his words. Even around Vera’s mouth, a smile that even he didn’t know he was capable of making appeared.
“Can you guarantee?”
Having said that, Vera revealed his stigma.
An oath engraved on the soul. As Vera knelt down, another vow overlapped with that oath.
“For the sake of the Saint, so that she becomes the most glorified Saint. That is how I will live.”
The oath burned. The vow that burned brilliantly over the dark soul evoked a sense of satisfaction in Vera.
It wasn’t that he was getting stronger.
Nor that his divinity increase.
Just the two overlapping oaths made Vera’s heart stronger.
Renee nodded her head upon hearing those words and continued her trail of thought.
She didn’t know why Vera was so hospitable to her.
She judged that the power of the Lord, and the fact that she is the Saint, must be very important to Vera.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like it.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s only right to repay the feelings that have been conveyed to you.
Since he trusts her so much, wouldn’t it be right for her to trust him as well?
Renee touched her lips slightly, feeling the rising smile and the warmth that was transmitted from her fingertips.
“Yes, thank you.”
As soon as she said that, her stomach tickled for some reason.
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