A False Confession
Elviniraz asked if he could join me if I was taking a walk, beginning to match his stride with mine.
I looked at him for a moment but saw no reason to refuse, so I moved my feet forward slowly, taking it step by step.
I felt the passage of time very clearly. After about two or three minutes, as expected, Elviniraz started to question me.
“Perhaps, was the food not to your taste?”
In fact, I suspected it from the beginning, when he first came to me.
Asking about the spot I picked to watch the moon, smiling and saying he liked it too.
I pondered over it, trying to prepare how I was going to respond to his questions.
But I just decided to be honest.
Trying to avoid talking about it seemed useless.
“The food was delicious.
It’s just, I don’t feel very well.”
“Then, are the soldiers being too rowdy?”
I almost burst into laughter at his very prudent method of asking questions carefully one by one. So I bit down hard on my lower lip in order to swallow my laughter.
Tilting my head slightly, I turned to look at Elviniraz.
He also asked if it was too cold, or if I was sick.
When he looked at me, his golden eyes shone softly under the moonlight.
The sight was so sacred and beautiful that I felt very embarrassed about what I was about to say.
I actually…just want to return to the temple.”
“I know it sounds really weak, but I just hope everything will be over soon.”
When I first got an offer to join the war, I refused with the fear of the war itself.
But after the promise of 300 gold and the company of not only the paladin leader but also the imperial knights commander, I answered neatly that I would go, with the judgment that I couldn’t get hurt.
But after actually coming here, I realized how short-sighted my thoughts were.
In the past, I didn’t think twice about news headlines like, ‘Soldiers injured marching towards Vios,’ but it’s so different after being there myself.
And to make it worse, someone actually died this time… Is there any guarantee that it won’t happen again in the future?
Despite these thoughts, I had no intention of running away.
However, I was worried how devastated my mental state would become if I stayed here for a long time.
I kept having these kinds of thoughts since the death of the mercenary.
Maybe I would have been able to save him if I had stayed, or maybe my divine power will decline with my state of mind until it completely withers up.
In fact I actually secretly checked my divine powers as I got up this morning, sighing in relief when it appeared.
Nevertheless, anxiety lingered in my subconscious, awaiting to make its reappearance at any moment.
What should I do if an injured person dies because I’m unable to use my divine power? I was suffocated just imagining it.
Naturally these thoughts led to me feeling unwell all day.
Of course, I couldn’t say everything out loud.
While I confessed that I wanted to go back to the shrine, I quietly lifted my head, which had been bowed in shame.
And then I heard Elviniraz’s voice.
“I will try my best.”
“I will do my best to end this war as soon as possible, to prevent the Priestess from seeing such things again until the moment she returns to the empire.”
For some reason, laughter came out.
This must be what it feels like to be a lady receiving a knight’s oath.
In fact, it feels like I’ve been getting pretty exemplary, if clichéd, treatment.
But I couldn’t help but laugh as my chest felt lighter.
Right in front of me, a very handsome person is worrying for me and telling me that he will try his best, so it’s difficult to continue feeling bad.
So I could finally laugh.
As I laughed out loud, Elviniraz’s slightly tense expression relaxed, and he also put a smile on his lips.
I felt refreshed again, seeing his eyes folding up in laughter.
Elviniraz reached out to me.
“Now, would you like to go back to everyone else? You’ll feel better.
Starting from tomorrow we have to go start hiking again, so our break is ending in a few hours.
But until then, together…”
I was listening quietly to his continuing words, then suddenly called out to him with a voice that still contained laughter.
Elviniraz was looking back at the villa for a moment, but turned to look down at me.
“Were you trying to make me feel better?”
I tilted my head and asked a question, feeling the impression of his beautiful, golden eyes.
He replied in affirmation, as if it went without saying.
I smiled lightly in return.
“So that my divine powers will work well?”
—It was for just a split second.
After hearing my words, Elviniraz’s expression turned very strangely cold.
It changed back in an instant, but I had definitely seen it.
I was staring at him, and he also looked down at me with his mouth closed.
His lips stretched tightly into a straight line.
There was silence.
As the gold in Elviniraz’s eyes was captivating me strangely, he slowly bent and smiled.
“Why would you think so?”
“Well, it’s what the Commander told me himself?”
I responded nonchalantly, despite being surreally struck by the impression of how contrived the smile on his face seemed.
“You told me last time.
Healing someone with divine power requires great sincerity.
So if there is even the slightest feeling of hesitation, the healing ability cannot be fully utilized.”
“It made me think.
If that’s the case, then even a subdued mood could cause a problem with releasing my divine power.
That’s why Sir Knight came to my side to placate me; watching the moon and taking a walk together, saying you’ll end the war quickly for me, and comforting me…it’s for tomorrow’s schedule.”
As I continued, and even after I concluded, Elviniraz was still wearing a smile around on his face.
He listened to me in a calm and collected manner.
However, the image looked very, very strenuous.
Elviniraz looked down at me just like that, inclining his head very slightly.
The cool moonlight reflected against his golden eyes.
“If that were true, would you be disappointed?”
“…why would I? “
His expression cracked, as if the answer that he had heard was too simple for what he was expecting.
Actually, the truth is that I was more puzzled by Elviniraz’s question.
Why the heck would he think that? Although I guess I could roughly understand why he’d think I’d be disappointed, I didn’t feel that way at all.
How could I possibly feel disappointed when the empire’s hero, Leader of the Paladin Knights, who was even referred to as the “Light of the People,” was more worried about my divine power than my personal disposition?
Honestly… it’d be more embarrassing if his concern was for me.
So I spoke frankly, because I was starting to feel uncomfortable watching Elviniraz’s expression become more unusual.
“Even if it’s for my powers, I don’t believe Sir Knight is in the wrong for his effort to make me feel better.”
The truth is that there are already so many responsibilities that the Paladin Commander has on his shoulders, things I can only imagine.
It must be so exhausting.
As I was speaking, Elviniraz’s lips opened slightly a couple times, only to clench back together tightly again.
He was looking down at me with very strange eyes.
“Regardless of the intent, Sir Knight walked next to me, admired the moon with me, and even swore to do his best to keep me from seeing casualties.
It’s better to view it in that light.”
I hadn’t planned to be this explicitly honest, but I had to lay bare my thoughts when I saw Elviniraz struggling to control his expressions.
I had already performed an unexpected, sincere confession for him once before, but somehow I felt like I ended up in a similar situation again.
I suddenly had the horrible premonition that I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight as well.
In other words, I’m saying that it’s still nice of Elviniraz to stand before me and put forth so much effort for me.
As I was feeling a new wave of embarrassment washing over me, Elviniraz tilted his head back up again.
Moonlight poured over his slanted face, leaving the other half in darkness.
In that state, he stared down at me.
With confusion written all over his face, he finally asked me, his words coming out like sighs.
“.…I’m deceiving you.
Doesn’t it make you feel bad?”
When I didn’t answer right away, deep in thought, this reaction seemed to be closer to whatever Elviniraz had expected.
But even with his face darkening, I couldn’t immediately open my mouth.
Could I explain myself accurately?
But in the end I found my answer, expressing myself concisely.
“There’s no loss in it for me.”
From a rational point of view, I haven’t lost anything between our current exchange.
I’m not really disappointed, but even if I were to take it as a loss, what I gained in return was more than enough to make up for it.
Should I take into account that Elviniraz’s kindness had ulterior motives? From the beginning, he had expressed his concern about the potential disruption of our healing abilities… So I don’t feel bad about that either.
To be very honest, it’s only natural that I’d feel better when such an extraordinarily good-looking man smiles for me.
But, there’s no way I’m explaining myself to this extent.
As soon as I said, “There’s no loss,” Elviniraz’s face altered yet again.
It was a subtle expression, like a person who’d heard a fantastical story that they didn’t quite understand.
Nevertheless a small smile appeared on his lips, and I shifted a few steps away to change place a little.
Elviniraz’s gaze followed my steps.
“There is a saying that people should be treated as an end in and of themselves, not as a means to something else.”
“…Is it part of El Nur’s teachings?”
Why do I feel like I just plagiarized Kant’s wisdom… Hmm.
I thought about it for a moment, then turned halfway around and softened my voice in explanation.
“It’s just, what I mean to say is that it’s okay if you use me as a means for your ends, rather than the end itself.
I wouldn’t be offended at all.”
Elviniraz’s expression cracked even further.
He couldn’t seem to control his face as he looked at me quietly without his perfunctory smile.
He seemed to be a little shocked.
But to me, this true appearance of his felt like a stranger I was meeting for the first time.
He looked at me like that for a long time…gradually lowering his eyes.
[tl/n: Y’all I was struggling so hard with my thesaurus on this one.
I mean if a face goes from “looking strange” to “looking strange” is there really a change? I know it’s getting a bit repetitive but I promise you all the staring and facial expressions are written that way.]
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