༺ Eve (2) ༻
Renee was eating when she sensed Vera’s presence approaching from afar. She straightened her back in response.
“Yes, this is Vera.”
“How was the reconnaissance?”
“I encountered a Neuter at the entrance. I disposed of it.”
That wasn’t the information that she wanted to know.
Her lips twitched constantly. There was something she wanted to inquire about, but Renee couldn’t find the right timing to ask her query.
‘Did the two of you start calling each other by names?’
Isn’t it too sudden to ask that question in this situation?
If asked whether his feelings towards Friede had progressed after exchanging names and defending against the advancing enemies, Vera could become conscious of my words and attempt to further his romantic relationship with Friede.
She couldn’t ask such a question.
Renee gulped down in tension, then said.
“I see. You’ve worked hard.”
“It’s my duty. Saint, have you encountered any issues?”
“Yes, well, I…”
She treated the elves as she always had and ate Marie’s meal.
While Renee’s thoughts continued, Friede approached her and spoke out loud.
“Hmm? Were you eating?”
“Oh. Marie, can I request a serving as well?”
Renee tensed up upon sensing Friede sitting beside her.
“Ah, escort. You did a good job. It was quite the spectacle.”
Renee’s body shook in response to Friede’s words.
‘Mmm, quite the spectacle…’
What happened between the two? What kind of hardships, adversity, and emotions bloomed within for Friede to utter such words?
“Haha. As expected, you must be very timid. You were so talkative when it was just the two of us.”
Renee inwardly shed tears upon hearing Friede’s words.
Her fingertips twitched, expressing her agitation outwardly.
Renee felt discomfort due to being excluded from the conversation.
The only thought on her mind was that she had to end the conversation somehow.
Renee held out the soup in her hand towards Vera and spoke.
“Ah! Vera should also eat! You must have been starving, you haven’t eaten all day today!”
“… I’m fine.”
Crack-. Renee felt her heart shatter.
She could sense hesitation in Vera’s words.
It was clear what had transpired.
In reality, the reason Vera refused was purely because of the foul taste of the soup. Renee, unaware of this, believed that Vera was romantically interested in Friede and therefore did not want the soup she had offered him.
A gloomy look formed on Renee’s tearful face.
Vera’s expression became one of embarrassment at the sight of Renee, whose own complexion darkened suddenly.
As they watched the scene while eating soup, Friede burst out in laughter and spoke.
“What a beautiful relationship.”
Renee flinched in response to Friede’s words.
‘… Is Friede keeping in check?’
There’s a possibility. That the sly Friede, who is aiming for Vera, may be jealous of our relationship.
If things continued in this direction, there would be a risk of writing another dark history.
If she had been more assertive from the start, Renee would have had a head start against her competition…
Fortunately, Renee’s head, which was in disarray, eventually calmed down at Friede’s subsequent words.
“When I see you two… It reminds me of a couple who came to the Great Woodlands as guests approximately 300 years ago.”
… No, rather than cooling down, it added more heat in another way.
Renee squeaked when she heard the word ‘couple’.
Her face was so red that she could cook meat on it.
“I-I-Is that so…!”
“Well, they were a really nice married couple.”
There was something soothing about that phrase.
Renee’s delusions ran rampant, formulating a detailed imagery in her head with that one phrase acting as the foundation.
The setting of her narrative is her hometown, Remeo. A friendly couple lives in a hut located on a small hill. They have a son and a daughter.
At the end of the day, she places her heartfelt dishes on the table. Then Vera and the children laugh happily with her as they eat together.
– It’s delicious.
A picturesque view full of sweetness. Renee’s lips slowly curled up as a result of the delusions.
“However, I was quite troubled since when it was the time to leave, his wife was already courting me.”
At Friede’s words, Renee’s smile vanished.
“She told me she was sick and tired of her spouse and asked me to stay with her for the rest of her life.”
Renee’s lips twitched. She was at a loss for words.
After spending some time biting her lips in shock, she barely managed to ask.
“… So what did you do?”
“Well, I said yes. There’s no reason to say no, right? A human’s lifespan is only 100 years… Besides, that person was old, she didn’t even live another 30 years.”
Renee was left speechless.
She was clueless as to how she’d respond to this situation, and inched closer and closer to Vera.
Tension soared as the thought that Friede might seduce Vera for fun materialized in Renee’s mind.
Approximately three days later, Vera was assigned full-scale reconnaissance missions.
‘The number of enemies has decreased.’
Vera felt that the Neuter invading the Great Woodlands had slowed down over the course of almost three days.
His gaze turned towards the Neuter that had been previously cut down.
Vera squinted his eyes while staring at the figure of a person lying on their back, seemingly after being blown away.
‘What are you up to…’
Contrary to when they initially encountered one another, the Neuters did not storm into the forest.
…No, they didn’t seem to have any intention to cause bloodshed, even when they invaded.
It was as if…
‘… As if they were searching for a resting place.’
The Neuter stormed in, as if to commit suicide.
An incomprehensible situation. Vera stared at the corpse with a stiff face, then shifted his gaze to Friede.
“Hmm? What’s on your mind?”
The customary smiling face.
“The way they fight is unnatural.”
“Well, I can sense it. They seem to be preparing for something substantial.”
Friede’s gaze turned towards the outskirts of the Great Woodlands.
Vera frowned and placed his sword back in his sheath as he stared at Friede who gazed into the distance.
Crunch-. The leaves were crushed, producing an audible sound.
Vera’s suspicions of Friede’s intentions lingered.
A dark cave, before a bonfire.
A figure clouded in darkness, with only gray hair visible, was staring blankly at the fire.
Their head shifted slightly in response to his voice, their dark pupils revealed through their hair.
The figure who was called the chief stared blankly at the individual who called them, then nodded his head and spoke.
“Yes, the time has come.”
The time has come to see the finale of a long and awaited plan.
The chief drew their knife and created an incision along their chest.
For the dreams that will come to fruition and for the comrades who have sacrificed their lives, he began to engrave their names successively onto his chest.
The flesh was lacerated and an unpleasant sound resonated.
Bitter pain. Dripping blood.
The chief inhaled the fishy stench and continued moving his hands.
Arya, Menson, Lira, Poro, Heil, Benen, Fresia, Ailee…
Sinuous lines. Names engraved in red on top.
The chief engraved these names all over their body. They grated their teeth in response to the pain that was accrued before finally engraving their own name at the end.
The name that will attain the greatest freedom. The name of the Liberator who will be recorded forever.
Gilly put considerable weight on their name, ended with a period, and raised their head towards the ceiling.
Their exposed ears were severed.
Neuter halted their invasion.
For two days, Vera searched every nook and cranny of the Great Woodland’s entrance, but all he could find was dried up and twisted vegetation.
Vera, who returned empty handed, continued to ruminate while walking along the forest trail with Renee.
Neuter’s behavior, which had changed little by little since he came out to patrol, and also the reason why they stopped attacking.
He didn’t know the reason, but he could clearly see that there was a purpose behind their actions.
Vera could sense that danger is looming on the horizon.
Staying here is equivalent of putting themselves at risk.
His gaze turned to Renee.
‘We must withdraw.’
I need to evacuate her to a safe place.
There was nothing more that could be done here. Aedrin’s death could not be prevented, and if Neuter’s offensive starts again, it will be a different type of attack than before.
After thinking about it, Vera opened his mouth.
“I think it would be best for us to return slowly.”
Froze-. Renee’s steps paused. Vera came to a halt concurrently.
Renee tilted her head in response to what she heard. An awkward smile had materialized on her face
“Oh, did I walk too far?”
Was it because there were only the two of us after all this time and I was too absorbed in my thoughts? Vera responded by clarifying what he was inquiring about.
“I was talking about returning from the Great Woodlands. Something doesn’t seem right. Perhaps something will happen sooner or later, but I think it would be prudent to retreat now for safety reasons .”
Renee was taken aback by Vera’s words and spoke again.
“That… but I haven’t cured Aedrin yet, have I? And if things get worse, shouldn’t we stay and help?”
“Aedrin’s treatment is hopeless. Furthermore, it is too risky to stay here and keep providing aid.”
His words mirrored the same connotation as prior.
When he mentioned ‘danger,’ it meant he was referring to herself.
Does he really not believe in her at all?
Renee tightened her grip and her expression firmed as her anger rose.
“… If it’s because of me, it’s alright.”
Her words came out shakily.
There’s still work to be done, and I’m only tasked with healing the wounded, so does it make sense for me to retreat to safety?
Vera bit his lips in response to Renee’s words of refusal and continued narrating his reasoning.
He had to convince her. With that thought in mind, Vera decided to confide in Renee the suspicions he had been harboring all this time.
“Saint… It’s not just danger. There is something suspicious happening behind the scenes.”
“Behind the scenes?”
“Friede. They’re suspicious.”
A sudden reference to Friede.
Renee’s expression distorted in response to those words.
“I noticed something while scouting with Friede in the past few days. Friede does not interfere with Neuter.”
It was the conclusion that Vera had assembled from the clues he had gathered thus far.
From the day they met, the time they paused their search for Neuter’s corpse and strolled leisurely, and the indifferent attitude he’s maintained within the Great Woodlands. In addition, they did not appear to have any intentions of approaching the Neuter’s base.
No matter how you look at it, isn’t it suspicious?
Vera clearly remembered that Friede always looked in one particular direction after dealing with Neuter.
“Friede certainly knows where Neuter‘s base is located. They know, but they don’t do anything. There is a possibility they’re secretly communicating with them. When the invasion begins again, Friede may join Neuter. If that were to happen, it may be difficult for me to protect the Saint.
There was something he only just realized as his eyes were blinded by the future that he knew of from his past life.
All Vera knew was that Friede was still alive.
If Friede had an alliance with Neuter.
If the reason they were able to survive in his previous life wasn’t due to Renee, but Aedrin’s essence.
If Renee of the past life could not heal Aedrin and retreated early.
If he excluded the memories of his past life as much as possible and scrutinized only what he saw in his current life, these were the only assumptions that came to mind.
When you think about it this way, don’t the puzzle pieces seem to fit together?
Vera waited for Renee’s response.
He hoped Renee would understand.
Finally, Renee responded.
It was a counter-question.
“I asked if that’s all you’re suspicious about. The reason you said we should return now.”
Vera was flustered.
She spoke sternly with her brows furrowed.
The expression on Renee’s face was one of complete sorrow.
Vera didn’t understand.
He thought about it logically and he was certain he was right, but why was Renee not convinced?
Emotions overwhelmed Vera, rendering him clueless on how to respond. He bowed his head and formulated a brief reply.
“I don’t think it’s right for you to judge the matter like that.”
What came back was a firm denial.
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