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Dolls

Chapter 35.5 – The Separate Path – The Springs of when I was 12 and 15 years old

 

[PoV of the Original Altirea from the timeline that is shown in the Otome Game]

Priest Asksu silently waited in the parlour. He had his eyes closed and his image was so sublime, that he reminded of the most beautiful religious paintings I have ever seen. It was the kind of sight that made me want to kneel down and pray in front of.

“It’s been a long time, miss Altirea.” The priest said while slowly opening his eyes. Those gorgeous deep blue eyes were hard to not stare at, it was almost as if he was sucking me inside them, “You’re even prettier than last time we met. Such a beautiful flower such as yourself much surely draw everyone’s attentions at balls.”

… It hurt to hear that compliment. I wish it was true, but I have been refusing all party invitations that I received in order to focus on the practice of magic.

I couldn’t really tell him that though, so I said with a smile, “There are many wonderful people at the balls, and I’m just, just… Ah well, you look the exact same as always, priest Asksu.” I couldn’t continue talking about this, so I decided to change the topic a bit forcibly.

“To not change is certainly unusual, perhaps I’m just a strange one.” He replied. I couldn’t quite understand what he meant with that… Though he seems to not want to elaborate on it further, so let’s leave it at that.

“I’ve been to the kingdom of Malgaroid up until last month, by the way.” The priest suddenly started saying, “But it was such a stifling land. Everyone seemed to be constantly angry and glaring at each other. Like beasts searching for their prey… And then, there were rumors from the merchants about how the ‘pessimistic king Lereol intends to cross the sea and invade the empire’, can you believe that?”

“It is quite the scary rumor…” I replied.

“With the current state of the empire, Malgaroid would most likely win. I wonder if there is something strong enough to bring the nobles of the empire together in order to face this kind of threat.” The priest mused.

… I did think that the empire hasn’t been in a good condition for a while now. The nobles have almost complete control over the nation, and the emperor is more of a figurehead than an actual leader. There is no way we’d be able to properly organize ourselves in such a condition to fight back against a major power such as Malgaroid.

However, I could not speak my thoughts to the priest, for that would be unbecoming of a lady. My role is to be a flower on the wall that heals my lord, not to talk about politics.

“I’m sorry, seems like I’ve been boring you with this kind of topic.” The priest said… I wasn’t bored though, I liked hearing about his thoughts on the matter, “Let’s get into the reason of my visit then.

“Miss Altirea, how much magic have you learned so far?”

“Oh, I’ve learned about as much as what a third-year student of the academy would have learnt?” I replied. I was actually only as good as a second-year student, but I tried to make myself look a bit better by saying this.

“That must have been quite the ordeal, but do not worry, for the great god Rokiso sent me a vision in my dreams. He told me to guide you.” Priest Asksu said some incredible words just now…

It’s true after all! God was really looking over me… He must have acknowledged my effort to abandon the cursed Doll Magic that I was born with!

“Please take a look at this, I got this magical tool from my visits to the territory of Margrave Doerg, to the South.” As the priest said that, he put a crystal ball that was as blue as his eyes on the table. Interestingly enough, it didn’t roll out of place, is it perhaps because it’s a magical tool? “Get your face closer to it. What would have happened if you had accepted your Doll Magic? This tool will show you what that future would have held for you.”

***

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have looked at it. I’m not interested in a future that I didn’t choose.

But I can understand why I couldn’t resist it. I still had regrets in my heart. I still missed the talent that I had with Doll Magic. The talent that I lost in my desperate attempts to learn generic magic.

That day, being drawn to that crystal ball, that was what let me be manipulated.

***

My sight was dyed blue for a second… But then, a vision started flowing through my head.

It was the story of a different Altirea Wisp. An ‘I’ that chose Doll Magic. An ‘I’ that just wanted to live a quiet life as a Doll Magician… However, too much power was regarded as dangerous, so ‘I’ ended up being the target of multiple assassination attempts.

As ‘I’ traveled in search of a safe place, ‘I’ ended up coming to a conclusion… ‘The empire is too superstitious and has a status system that is too entrenched to it.

‘The kingdom of Malgaroid shackles its youth with premature marriage and heavy responsibilities.

‘The republic of Koagra is excessively rigid due to both the unusual longevity of its people, and due to the absolute power held by those who hold seniority.

‘Each and every country is the same. The younger people have their dreams and future possibilities crushed by the adults, and then they proceed to continue the cycle by passing on the same teachings to the next generation… This is all wrong!’

This was the moment that ‘I’ decided to change things. The moment that ‘Demon Queen Altirea’ was born.

A woman with an infinite army of dolls that are controlled by spirits, who attacked all countries of the world, one after the other.

It was an overwhelming victory. Demon Queen Altirea didn’t need complex tactics nor to participate in any conspiracy within the nations she wished to take over. She simply trampled through all who dared oppose her, by using with sheer firepower and an infinite amount of ‘doll soldiers’.

She took over the world, and rebuilt it in the way that she wanted… This path that ‘I’ chose was way too fierce and radical, but… This ‘I’ also shone brightly, like a beautiful star that obfuscates all others in its surroundings.

… If this was someone else’s life, I would have been calm about it. Others are others and I am I. It shouldn’t have been hard to separate things.

However, this was not someone else’s life. It’s an ‘I’ that could have been possible. A revolutionary queen who took over the world, and a duke’s daughter who constantly feels inferior to her peers… ‘Different’ is not enough to show how contrasting our choices were.

I felt as if a hole had been dug through my heart… Was I wrong? Should I have never chosen to live as an ordinary noble? Were all my efforts in vain? Can I even become an ordinary noble with how bad I am at generic magic?

At that moment, a whisper echoed in my head, it crawled through my heart, and refused to let me even think on my own decisions, “I know that you’ve been working hard. While girls of your age have been wasting their time playing around in parties and choosing what was the most beautiful dress that they could wear, you have been practicing magic.

“As good as a second-year student at the academy? Isn’t that quite the achievement? Even if you had no talent at all, you were still able to reach this far. I can feel the same determination that ‘Demon Queen Altirea’ had in you.

“And that’s why I have to tell you about the revelation that Lord Rokiso gave me… You may already be aware of it, but I will make it clear for you.

“Altirea Wisp, you’ll never be an ‘ordinary noble’. No matter how much effort you put into it, you won’t be able to improve any further at generic magic. This is your limit.”

My limit…? This is… This is all I can do? Then… Until now… Just why have I been doing so far…?

The voice continued talking. I understood it was priest Asksu’s voice, I understood there was something about him that sent shivers down my spine… And yet, I couldn’t stop listening to him, “But rest assured, for Lord Rokiso has prepared a path that will lead to your salvation.

“To you who overcame the temptation of Doll Magic, the grace of reincarnation was given.

“I will now teach you the method to create artificial life. And I will also provide all the materials that you’ll need.

“The artificial life will have the same strong will that you have, and in a short amount of time, she’ll grow from a baby, to a child, to a teenager.

“The only difference, is that she’ll have a fantastic compatibility with generic magic.

“Put your soul in her body. Live as a new Altirea Wisp, but with the body that you always wished for.

“Be happy, for a miracle has descended upon you. You were rewarded with the unique opportunity of becoming your ideal self.

“Though be warned. Nobody else should meet with the artificial life as she grows up. If others’ influence alters her, you’ll be unable to move your soul into her body.

“So, just to be sure, I’ll also give you a magical tool that will help hiding her from the eyes of others.”

***

As the priest said, the artificial life grew in the blink of an eye. Half an hour after being born, she was already walking on her own, and by the night of the same day, she was already talking fluently.

Our relationship was very strange. We were like sisters… Like parent and child… And like best friends too.

She was an irreplaceable existence to me. To the me who devoted myself fully to the study of magic, she gave me something that I never had. A friend. My best friend whom I loved very much.

In our own world with only two people in it, in this world where nobody bothered us, we played dress up, and we played pretend even as we shared the same face and voice.

It was a short, but blissful time… And yet, when the cherry blossom trees started blooming, priest Asksu visited out house again, to replace her soul with mine, to let me become my ideal self.

“Calm your mind. If your soul is shaken, then the reincarnation ritual will fail. Do not forget your dream.” The priest told us.

And her… When she was informed of what was about to happen… She smiled. She smiled, accepted it, and said, “How joyful. We’ll be friends forever.”

Her expression was like that of a saint. It was hard to think of that face as mine…

I was at a loss… I hesitated… I…

No. That’s not it. I’m not hesitating, I’m just… Facing the guilt that I have been looking away from until just now.

I’m trying to impose my misfortune on someone that I love.

***

By the time I realized it, I was on my bed. Neither that child nor priest Asksu were in the vicinity.

Magic… Was as hard to use as before.

Was this all a dream? Were all those experiences together with her just my own delusions?

… It had to be a dream. There is no such thing as reincarnation. I have no choice but to live as who I am.

***

Even after enrolling on the academy, I kept on practicing magic each day until late at night.

As a result of my efforts, little by little, I was able to reach the level of magic equivalent to what a third-year student would know. I made progress.

‘No matter how much effort you put into it.’ ‘This is your limit.’ The words of priest Asksu echoed in my head… I don’t think he would lie to me. Those words must have just been part of a nightmare, of nothing but a bad dream.

***

Time passed quickly. Before long, I reached the fourth year of the Academy.

And on that day, I met her.

“I’m Ruthe, a transfer student. I may be a commoner, but please take good care of me.” She said.

Maybe because of a magic tool, her voice, name and appearance were different… However, the moment our eyes met, I intuitively understood it.

She is her.

She was there, fulfilling the role I wanted to fulfill. To be an ideal, bright and positive existence. To be loved by everyone… To use magic as easily as she breathed.

She stood in the place that I had the opportunity to reach three years ago.

Others are others, I am I.

… I cannot make the division.

Because… She is me and I am her.

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