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Dolls

Chapter 36 – False Relief

 

After defeating the puppeteer’s attack, I fell into a heavy sleep. I just knew I’d be safe with the Earl and Kajero near me, so I could relax and sleep in peace.

But then, I had a strange dream. ‘I’ was there. The original Altirea that is, the one without any memories of modern Japan.

She was a single-minded and straightforward person that had a sad future ahead of her.

The appearance of Ruthe, the heroine, the ideal self that Altirea envisioned… ‘I’ couldn’t be calm in front of her. The overflowing emotions couldn’t be held back. They twisted ‘my’ mind, distorted ‘my’ thoughts, and eventually, led to ‘my’ collapse. ‘I’ lost the few friends that ‘I’ had, was abandoned by ‘my’ fiance, Elstat… And as if that wasn’t enough, ‘my’ father, Solute, was assassinated, and Altirea was hunted down too.

Being crushed by her own despair, she made one choice… To kill Ruthe, and then herself.

‘I’ picked up father’s keepsake sword and went to the place where Ruthe called me to with the ‘Let’s Make up’ letter… To the backyard of the academy, in the middle of the night.

In that place where nobody could see us, Ruthe was there. She smiled from the bottom of her heart when looking at me. She wished for reconciliation after all those years where we didn’t have a proper talk… Her soft expression was the very definition of a saint’s smile.

“No one is watching, so… It’s okay, isn’t it?” As Ruthe said that, she removed the pale pendant on her neck. The magic surrounding her appearance and voice melted and we once more looked just like we had been in the past… The her and the ‘I’ that were like two peas in a pod. A mirror match.

But ‘I’ wasn’t happy seeing her like that.

Ruthe was in the center of a warm circle of people. She had become more and more beautiful, and her mere presence illuminated the area even in this moonless night.

But me? ‘I’ was miserable. It’s been months since my last proper meal, my face was thin, my hair was disheveled, and ‘I’ probably looked like nothing more than a ghost.

Envy, jealousy, a mess of uncontrollable emotions took over me as ‘I’ pulled out the sword.

The blade was swung down. It was going to kill her. It was going to end that sorrow once and for all. It was going to crush the face of that saint that could believe in and accept everyone.

However, the sword did not cut her. The sword hit the ground instead, breaking itself apart with the impact.

Had she ran away or tried to fight back, ‘I’ would have definitely killed her.

However… Ruthe smiled softly and stretched out her hands, accepting everything that ‘I’ wanted to throw at her.

Because of that, I hesitated. Just like at the end of that winter when I was twelve years old. When I couldn’t inflict my misfortune upon Ruthe… This time too…

After all… Just what was ‘my’ life about anyways?

Mistakes.

There are only mistakes… Abandoning Doll Magic, creating Ruthe, I’m sure that there are countless more… There is no point in counting, everything was a mistake all along, wasn’t it?

The other path… The ‘I’ who chose Doll Magic was spectacular. A decisive woman who took over the world… That was the right answer.

… In the next time I’m born, I hope I can make a better choice.

‘I’ held the broken sword once more, put its blade on my neck… and cut it. It was so much easier than trying to cut through Ruthe.

Is it because it was about myself? But then… Why was I hesitant about Ruthe?

Ah… Of course. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Why did I take so long to realize that?

It’s because ‘I’ and Ruthe are different people. Such an obvious and natural conclusion…

If it was now, I think I might have been able to grow closer to Ruthe again, to become friends once more… But it’s too late.

It was snowing, the night was terrible cold… And yet, I did not feel the coldness of the wind.

I can’t hear anything.

I can’t see.

It’s over.

***

At first it felt like I was looking at the life of a different Altirea, but at some point, I realized I was united with ‘I’. The suffering and the mourning were mine, and the pain from the death that ‘I’ went through was also something that I felt.

But at least… She was now freed from this living hell… It was a sweet relief.

Or so I thought. For a second I thought I could feel relief, but it was a false hope, because…

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

The spring of when I was fifteen years old. Time rewinded, I saw the beginning scene of the original game once more.

However, ‘my’ movements weren’t altered by this new knowledge. Seems like only my conscious went back in time, leaving ‘I’ to suffer again… To repeat the tragedy. Over and over again.

There were some differences though. Sometimes it was Elstat that fell in love with Ruthe, at others it was the Wandering Earl, or Phillka, or the other capture targets even…

But it was irrelevant. Because in the end, all routes led to the same ending. Altirea Wisp died, her house had its downfall, and her only companion at the end was loneliness.

Over and over again. It was over. It was over. It kept on ending, yet it kept on starting.

For how long did this go on? 100 years? 200 years? I understood that ‘I’ was breaking down… Or was it I that was breaking? I didn’t know anymore.

But I could see it… I could feel it… The days of hard work continuing indefinitely. Her eternal never-ending fate of suffering, being extended time and time again, even past the time where she should finally find some relief.

(This is the fate that the original Altirea Wisp followed. A sad and painful fate. I understand ‘your’ feelings, I feel the same way.) A voice crawled through my heart. It was sweet, sickening, alluring… While listening to it, I was able to forget everything else, (Pity, grief, regret. Those emotions with nowhere to go are swirling inside you. It’s regrettable to keep on looking at those lives without doing anything about it, isn’t it?

(It doesn’t need to be that way. ‘You’ are not someone that will let things go on like that, right?

(You do not need to worry about this Altirea. She’ll be fine. She has mastered Doll Magic and learned Alchemy too. Even if you leave her, she’ll be able to take care of herself.

(Also, the woman that you saved in the palace was a princess of Malgaroid. Altirea Wisp, Kajero and the Wandering Earl are heroes who saved the capital from a crisis. The fame that Altirea will earn is unprecedented, she will without a doubt be safe now.

(Therefore, it’s time to go to the next one.

(‘You’ who saved Altirea by focusing on Doll Magic since she was seven years old has more work to do.

(The twelve years old Altirea who was tricked by Priest Asksu, the fifteen years old Altirea who reunited with Ruthe, they all deserve happiness.

(Isn’t that the mission that ‘you’ must accomplish?

(Pray for it. Beg for it… And I shall teach you a secret technique which will allow you to transcend time and space.)

Whose voice is this?

Why do you know that ‘I’ and Altirea Wisp are different entities?

I had questions, I wanted answers, but… I couldn’t think very well. I felt numb…

(What’s wrong? Don’t hesitate. You should decide now, before I change my mind.) The voice said.

Each time I heard this voice, my mind further melted away. It was harder and harder to think properly, as if anesthesia was being poured directly into my head.

… If things kept on going the way they were, I might have abandoned everything, leaving everyone to their own fate.

That alluring voice, I should have noticed that it was the same as Priest Asksu’s. I should have noticed that I was being manipulated.

However, I did not abandon everyone. I was held back by something.

By the sense of responsibility for what I have done so far. By my bond with Kajero, Walf, Cactus, Feria, dad and everyone else.

And also… I was held back, by the cries of the ‘I’ of this world. The ‘I’ who should have been merged together with me and melted together into a singular existence.

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