Chapter 3. Farewell (1)
Translator: Aura / Editor: Ambrtrn
I leaned against a pillar in the corridor that ran through the temple as I waited for Liza to get out of class.
After a while, I saw Liza appear at the end of the corridor. She ran to me with open arms and we hugged. This had become a habit for several months. After we shared our warmth for a while, she said,
“Ah , I feel much better .”
“Are the classes worth it?”
Then, after a brief silence, she confessed,
“… I love you.”
My heart burned like it was on fire at the sudden confession. But I quickly accepted it as naturally as the passing of the seasons. I had been able to feel it through the years we spent together, already demonstrated with actions.
“I love you too.”
The time I have spent with Liza has been the best gift life has given me.
Unfortunately , we didn’t have much time left together.
Among the high-status priests and members of the Pascal Family, discussions were taking place about Liza’s admission to the Eternia Academy. Liza would attend the academy, whether she liked it or not. Eternia Academy was in a foreign country far away, so once Liza went there, our paths would part forever.
I couldn’t attend the Eternia Academy. I had no talent for magic, and even if I did, I could not afford the academy’s expensive tuition.
We put our heads together to try to find a way to stay close to each other once it was our turn to leave the temple. However, no matter how much we racked our brains, we couldn’t come up with a viable solution.
Liza would often cry in my arms. I didn’t need to ask her to understand why she cried.
One day before dawn, Liza sneaked into my room behind the nuns’ backs. She then woke me up with an excited voice,
“Wake up, wake up! I saw a star fall.”
“What about it?”
“The fragments of a star have an enormous amount of energy. There is a herb that grows around the fragments of fallen stars, feeding on that energy. If one eats that herb, one will be able to see the future. So it is written in the book of the Great Sage Lutavis.”
“See… the future?”
“If I could see the future, I could solve the problems that have been tormenting me. And if we sell the fragments of the star, we can have enough money to live together for the rest of our lives.”
“It’s impossible for us to find it.”
“That’s not true. I saw it very close by. I marked the approximate location of the star on this map. If we leave now, we should be able to get there in about a week.”
Liza unfolded the map in front of me. In one corner of the map, there was a circle drawn. It was a place known as wildland. There were countless dangers that lurked in the wildlands. Of which, the most dangerous by far were the ‘demonic beasts’.
“It’s too dangerous.”
“It doesn’t matter how dangerous it is. I have no other choice. You know that.”
Liza had already made up her mind . She spoke as if she were possessed. No matter what I said, the chances that she would change her mind were slim.
We prepared to depart. I took all the money I had saved while I worked in the workshop. I packed necessary items for camping, as well as a hammer used in my trade that could be useful to defend us from any danger.
It would be a long journey, so I wondered what we should tell the Abbess. Liza told me there was no time for that and urged me to leave immediately.
“We can’t waste time. Let’s go right now.”
We filled our backpacks with dried meat and crackers from the temple’s food pantry in secret and slipped away.
Then we undertook the journey in search of the fragments of the star.
The first day, we only hiked from sunrise to sunset. The sun went down when we left the city. So as not to waste our provisions, we settled the day’s meals with money.
The next day, we entered a sparsely forested area. Along the way, Liza collected herbs that would help us regain strength. From time to time, I checked on Liza’s condition. If her health was affected, I intended to return without hesitation.
On the third day, a storm broke out, accompanied by strong winds, rain and thunder. We lost our way a couple of times, and although we had layers on, we were soaked from head to toe. Liza showed signs of hypothermia, so we ended the day earlier than planned.
We took shelter in a cave at the foot of a cliff to protect us from the strong wind and rain.
Liza was exhausted both mentally and physically, so she was unable to keep her mind focused. Besides, everything that could serve as firewood was wet from the rain and couldn’t be set on fire even with her magic.
We spent the night wrapped in a waterproof cloth, only in our underwear and hugging each other to share our body heat.
In the morning, Liza’s body was as hot as a ball of fire. Liza had a high fever. I made a fire with some branches that had dried overnight, gathered some herbs from the forest that were used to reduce fever and gave them to Liza to eat.
Then I said to Liza,
“You can’t continue. Let’s go back to the temple now.”
“It’s impossible to move forward in your current condition.”
“No, I can continue.”
Liza was stubborn.
We ate breakfast, rested a bit and set off again. Although the stormy weather had abated, it was still drizzling. Liza lost strength and collapsed on the way, so I had to carry her on my back for hours.
I moved forward without a clear direction. I wasn’t sure if we were going in the right direction, but I had the strange feeling that the further we went, the closer we were to the fragments of the star.
Liza had fallen asleep on my back, and when she woke up, she asked me in a sleepy voice,
“Are we going in the right direction…?”
“I’ve memorized the map, you don’t have to worry.”
Liza squeezed my shoulders tighter. My answer didn’t seem to dispel her unease.
When the sun went down, we camped in an abandoned cabin. We made a fire in the dusty fireplace and ate dried meat.
In the days that followed, we continued to move forward.
We hadn’t been able to take a proper bath for days, and our supplies were beginning to run out. Our clothes were torn all over, and we had wounds on our bodies.
Liza didn’t care if I smelled like sweat or if I was dirty because I couldn’t take a bath. At night, she always snuggled up to me. Liza’s body always smelled good. I asked her why, but she didn’t seem to know either.
The next morning, we climbed a hill from where we could see the surroundings. A large, clear blue lake was visible in the distance.
Liza saidin an excited voice,
“We are on the right path. It must be near that lake.”
I was more worried than hopeful. I doubted that the mysterious herb that could see the future really existed, and since we were in a wildland, we could be attacked by wild animals or demonic beasts at any time.
And my fear came true. Soon after, we were attacked by demonic beasts.
Although it wasn’t easy, we managed to escape and resumed our path with the lake as our destination. We just had to move in a straight line towards the direction we had identified beforehand on the hill. However, the dense forest clouded our sense of direction, so we got lost a couple of times.
As we wandered around, Liza suddenly stopped and grabbed my wrist.
“It’s strange. I sense mana.”
“What do you mean it’s strange?”
“It’s definitely mana, but it’s not from someone human.”
At that moment, a strong wind blew. The trees shook in the sudden cold wind and the leaves fell off. It was as if the forest trembled with fear. The surroundings darkened.
Soon after, a dark shape flew towards us from where the shadows loomed deep in the forest.
Liza screamed in fright.
“Wraith… It’s a Wraith!”