I pray in the morning, I pray at noon, I pray at night, I pray before eating and I pray before I go to sleep.
—In other words, my way of life is simple. Every day is suffocating.
My friends at the school dormitory take things easy in their lives. I have no intention of condemning that, and I myself have thought that it might be better to take it easy sometimes. The reason I could never do that despite thinking that way—is probably because I was afraid of agitating my heart.
Every day was like living at the bottom of the ocean. With neither great joy nor sorrow, I simply went through the days dispassionately.
The school I attend has nothing noteworthy about it. My friends idly grumble that it’s like a prison. Still, it’s not like it’s completely cut off from the outside world, so it’s easy to both fall into depravity and repent for it.
Amidst that environment, I was often told that I strictly disciplined myself.
I didn’t have relationships outside or fall into depraved behavior, but neither did I try to change others out of excessive pride. My teachers and friends praised me, for some reason.
Everyone said that this way of life was beautiful, that this way of life was correct. I always accepted those praises with a vague smile, while feeling troubled inside my heart. It isn’t anything that great.
I’m simply afraid to change.
I understand my personality very well. My self-control is weak and my brakes are easily broken, so if I start running, I would just keep speeding up, unable to stop.
Even if there was a cliff ahead, I would just jump off it. I wouldn’t stop until I fell and died.
That’s why I didn’t concern myself with the outside world, but also didn’t feel any great joy in that prison. Furthermore, I couldn’t sever my connection to the outside completely as long as I had my parents.
It makes me want to deride myself for how half-baked I am.
I didn’t intend to become someone extremely commonplace, someone who was connected with others and dyed by the earthly world.
And I didn’t have the courage to devote myself to a world cut off from the outside and where taboos are strictly controlled.
Frankly, I didn’t know where I should aim to go. I couldn’t find the path I should take. I just walked uncertainly and helplessly down the path I could vaguely manage to see.
Screw it, if it’s like this, who cares anymore? I half-despaired as I walked.
I didn’t know what lay ahead, so I had no other choice. Even if I fell and degenerated, even if I my body became a captive, even if I regretted it… I had no other choice, or so I told myself.
At that time—I saw a dream, and I saw a path.
The holy maiden Jeanne d’Arc asked for my help. I understood everything from the knowledge that had been inserted into me, and accepted it. Naturally, I was afraid. A mortal battle between heroes over the Holy Grail wasn’t something someone commonplace like me should involve myself in.
But I agreed. I also politely refused the holy maiden’s advice to simply sleep, and I continued to watch everything through her eyes.
Grand battles that surpassed my imagination, gruesome scenes that filled me with such disgust I wanted to throw up, all of it.
I probably felt mentally protected by the thought I was in a place of safety. I watched events that no one else would ever see in their whole lifetime.
I saw heroes who dashed across the battlefield, heroes who could smash giant stone statues with mystical tools, magi who used mysterious magecraft, divine-looking giants and even a massive fortress floating in the sky.
But what captivated my eyes the most was—was…
How is such a pure and beautiful being alive and breathing? That person was so beautiful it made me think that.
The boy who was a homunculus, an artificially-created life form.
I understood from the knowledge the holy maiden had given me. Most of them were short-lived, loyal servants who were created in human form and obeyed the will of humans.
But he had defied death and overcome despair, obtaining irreplaceable freedom. Even the moment where I thought Thank goodness and sighed in relief was only brief, as he sought to return to the battlefield.
I couldn’t understand. After all, that meant throwing away the freedom he had obtained.
If it were me, I would definitely hold onto what I had obtained—I would never let it go. He had risked his life to get it.
But he said this.
My comrades want to be saved. I can’t just leave and abandon them.
Even I could understand. This person probably can’t do anything. Certainly, he might regret leaving them. He might feel guilty over abandoning them.
But he would surely forget it eventually. He should live happily—this person had to live happily. The world was huge and filled with tons of beautiful things, after all.
If he could do something, then it would be understandable. But he knew better than anyone else that he ‘couldn’t do anything’. He knew full well that it was a foolish, reckless and futile choice that wouldn’t amount to anything.
But this person had chosen to go back.
To me, as someone who lived half-heartedly, his way of life was overwhelmingly dazzling.
A jewel that was polished not to boast of its beauty nor make others look at it, but simply for the sake of doing so. A person who would never change his way of life no matter how he was scorned as foolish for not taking pride in his beauty.
Even though he’s close enough for me to touch if I just reach out my hand.
To me, he’s the person who was the furthest away.
Soaking in the warm bath water made her weariness disappear as if it was melting away. The girl known as Laeticia heaved a huge sigh. She felt like it had been a while since she had soaked in the bath like this.
“—Umm. I’m sorry.”
The girl who had come to the surface apologized to the holy maiden within her.
“I don’t think there’s any need for you to apologize, though.”
“…No, umm… I don’t really understand it myself either… these feelings of mine.”
These feelings are so strange, she thought with a sigh.
Shame and joy were mixed together. And a large spoonful of sorrow was mixed into it as well.
“Isn’t that—because he hasn’t noticed you?
That was naturally part of it. But there was something else subtly mixed into it. Something slightly bitter, sweet and painful.
“Laeticia. You know there’s nothing stopping you from letting him know when you come out, right?”
“…No. I’ll refrain from doing that.”
She moved her hand through the bath water. She felt sad over not revealing her name to him, and she also felt sad that he wasn’t looking at her. But this subtle emotion surely came from something else.
—Ah, how sinful I am.
“I’m already fine with this… My feelings are vague and ambiguous, after all.”
“Thank you, o great holy maiden. It made me happy.”
She closed her eyes—and then reopened them. The girl known as Jeanne confirmed that Laeticia had gone to sleep inside her.
“So that’s enough for you… huh?”
They had two days remaining due to Fiore’s choice. As long as there was no emergency situation, Ruler had thought it would be fine to lend her body back to Laeticia.
Laeticia had done that much for her. She had loaned Jeanne this body. Even when they got involved in bloody battles, she continued to accompany Jeanne. Even if she was technically safe, merely continuing to watch battles from inside Jeanne should have mentally exhausted her.
Jeanne couldn’t thank her enough. After all, this state where she was close to being human had from the start been far more astounding than she had expected.
She felt hunger and felt joy in eating. She felt weariness and wished for sleep. The overwhelming euphoria just from having basic, human instincts. She was once more experiencing the magnificence of being alive.
If it weren’t for Laeticia, she wouldn’t have been able to feel this… Though naturally, she wouldn’t have suffered from hunger, either.
That’s right. That’s why Jeanne felt an everlasting debt of gratitude to her. And most of all, she felt it was only natural that she was charmed by the boy beside her, even if they had only known each other for a few days. So why not change places and give her the chance to form and bond with him even a little—that’s what she had thought, but…
Perhaps because of the steam, her vision was hazy and the world was so vague and unclear. Yes, it was unfortunate. Sieg still hadn’t noticed Laeticia. Jeanne felt it was unfortunate and sad, but also just a little—
Ever so slightly, completely different feelings were mixed in. They were feelings that were superfluous and absolutely unneeded, which she should discard right away.
But she couldn’t throw these feelings away no matter how hard she tried. Even though they were so tiny and should have been unnecessary.
“I don’t understand… anything.”
Whiling hoping her feelings would dissolve into steam and disappear—Ruler looked up at the ceiling and heaved a huge sigh.
CHAPTER 2 END