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Chapter 068 – Kesselring [A]
A hut stood in the woods. Kesselring and Ssulal went into Hunty’s house, where Leonhart and the kalars had been staying for the last few days.
They entered the small room and closed the door. Once they were inside the closed room, Kesselring faced Ssulal and asked her,
“—Is this place good enough?”
“…I guess so. But just in case—“
After agreeing to the location, Ssulal made a small gesture with her hand, which emitted a small amount of light and sound. She must have activated some sort of magic, thought Kesselring, who was quite capable in magic herself. Therefore, she noticed it.
“—This should take care of the soundproofing… at least it’s supposed to, so there’s no problem with talking here.” 1
“…That seems to be the case.”
Kesselring was amazed by how Ssulal was conducting herself. Kesselring’s gaze was full of interest,
…So this person… is the maou, huh…
As expected, she’s different from the image of the maou I had in my mind, thought Kesselring. Since she had heard about her from Leonhart before, Kesselring wasn’t all that surprised, but still,
…I never thought that the maou would be such a tiny girl.
The maou — Ssulal’s appearance that was reflected in Kesselring’s eyes, was petite. Although Kesselring was aware she was considered tall for a woman and wouldn’t make a good basis for comparison, she couldn’t help but think Ssulal was quite small, a girl that suited the word cute.
It was hard to believe that the girl in front of her was actually older than her, as well as the leader of the demons who dominated the world through fear and violence. —The reason Kesselring thought this was because of, not only what Leonhart told her, but also her impression of Ssulal’s appearance and behavior up until now.
And that was why Kesselring wished to talk with Ssulal alone.
“…So? What do you want to talk to me about — King of the Night.”
Kesselring was surprised by the sudden use of that title. Although she was well aware she was known by such a name, she never imagined that even a big shot like the maou would be aware of it.
Kesselring suppressed her shock and politely answered Ssulal’s question.
“…Yes. Let me tell you the truth of what happened earlier.”
Ssulal’s expression turned a bit cloudy when she heard that word. Seeing that she didn’t look surprised, it seemed she was already expecting something like this.
But she immediately switched her thinking and her expression returned to normal. Then she looked at Kesselring and asked,
“You’re talking about what you were doing with Leonhart earlier, right?”
“Yes,” answered Kesselring with a nod. Ssulal squinted at her answer and,
“Fuh~n… It must have been one of you that suggested it… Well, I don’t really care which one of you actually came up with it, though…”
Ssulal said this with a sharpened mouth. Was it just Kesselring’s imagination or did Ssulal seem to be sulking? But Ssulal seemed to be full of interest, despite her words.
Looking at Ssulal, who was suddenly playing with her bangs, Kesselring opened her mouth to tell Ssulal the truth.
“If I had to answer… Leonhart was the one who suggested it. But, in a way, it was entirely my fault.”
Ssulal listened silently. Her body twitched when she heard that Leonhart was the one who suggested it but, seeing as she didn’t make a move, in the end it seemed that she was willing to listen. So Kesselring continued to speak.
With a very calm voice, Kesselring said,
“…Leonhart was… simply taking pity on me.”
And she admitted the truth. Ssulal’s gaze turned doubtful yet interested at the same time.
“…What do you mean by taking pity on you?”
“It’s simple. He noticed Pale and my feelings towards him. And, at the same time — the fact my lifespan is about to run out.”
“Lifespan… are you perhaps referring to the ‘time of change’?”
“Yes,” nodded Kesselring. It was a hard thing for her to say. Not just the part about her lifespan, but also the fact Leonhart was only taking pity on her. Kesselring wondered about how miserable her current expression must be.
However, Ssulal seemed to not noticed that, and she put her hand on her chin as if she remembered something,
“Time of change. You mean the thing that is similar to death for the kalars, who don’t grow old. When their karma is judged and they either become an angel or devil in their next life — did I get it right?”
Kesselring inwardly felt a bit of admiration for the maou. It seemed that Ssulal was a wise person. Just like with the magic she showed earlier, she also knew things that only kalars would normally be aware of.
While feeling grateful that she could skip explaining that, Kesselring continued.
“I’ve already lived for a hundred years. Therefore, it wouldn’t be weird for the time of change to come for me at any moment.”
“…And Leonhart became aware of that?”
“Yes,” nodded Kesselring. Perhaps it’s Pale who told him, she theorized. Kesselring didn’t remember ever telling him about it, and only few people were aware of the time of change. Among those people, only Pale was acquainted with Leonhart. Her motive was easy to guess as well.
Kesselring didn’t say anything about that since she could understand Pale’s thoughts. Kesselring continued her words with resolve for Pale to be spared from the danger.
“He told both of us — During the limited time period of until he recovered from his wounds, he would accept our feelings… He probably only said that out of consideration to me, who might reach the end of my lifespan at any moment.”
“Although it’s natural since we only met recently… his feelings aren’t directed at me. But he still gave me a pi—”
“—Can I interrupt for a bit?”
“! …yes, go ahead.”
Ssulal’s voice suddenly interrupted Kesselring’s words.
Ssulal did this because she wanted to explain the circumstances but, more than that, it was because the pressure she was exuding was increasing as Kesselring continued.
It was a pressure that didn’t allow for any compromise, and it caused Kesselring to falter for a moment. However she endured and waited for Ssulal’s words.
Ssulal looked at Kesselring, exhaled, squinted her eyes, and spoke,
“…I’ve silently listened, yet you’re saying that Leonhart only developed such a relationship with you out of sympathy — But that’s not necessarily the case.”
“…However, it’s only been a short time since we met—“
“That doesn’t matter.”
Kesselring closed her mouth at Ssulal’s strong words. Ssulal spoke in a tone that was mixed with indignation and exasperation.
“…You don’t understand Leonhart.”
“Indeed, since it hasn’t been long since you met him, it is normal for you to not know him well and perhaps you have such thoughts because of that. However, Leonhart won’t take action out of sympathy. If he did that with you… that means he liked you quite a bit.”
“That’s why,” said Ssulal with conviction and eyes filled with certain emotion,
“Leonhart wouldn’t do… that. Otherwise—”
Ssulal’s words stopped there. Her voice seemed to quiver slightly, revealing some of her hidden emotions.
But it was enough for Kesselring to guess it. Ssulal’s current state, and her behavior earlier, revealed how she must feel.
And Kesselring put that into words.
“You really — care for him, I see.”
“! Ha-haah? What do you… I don’t…”
“…Also, you’re a gentle person.”
As Ssulal’s expression changed in an easy-to–understand manner and her red eyes shook, Kesselring considered Ssulal’s behavior earlier and voiced her thoughts. And that was,
“When you were scolding Leonhart earlier… Weren’t you filled with worry about him?”
“…What is your basis for that…?”
“I don’t know how you usually are, so my words are close to having no basis… but, if I have to say, it would be my intuition, I guess?”
It was Kesselring’s intuition as a woman. It made Kesselring aware of her own change as she said that. She was never a person who said things without a basis, after all.
But it seemed her words were correct, seeing how Ssulal’s eyes shook further. Kesselring continued to voice her reasoning. It was based on her impressions from Ssulal and Leonhart’s earlier exchange,
“When you scolded Leonhart, you seemed to be so angry… yet I could see your eyes reveal a glimpse of sadness and how much you care about him.”
This was also just Kesselring’s intuition. To her, it merely seemed to be that way.
But, in fact, Ssulal’s expression changed so greatly that one hardly thought it would be possible. This proved that Kesselring’s words were correct.
Kesselring didn’t continue her words from there. Ssulal should have understood her point by now, and Kesselring was convinced of it as well. Then what she should do was,
“…The things I wanted to talk about – no, the things I wished to say to you ended here.”
“Please do as you like after this,” said Kesselring with a smile as she passed the initiative to Ssulal.
—And with this, Kesselring was ready.
At that moment, Ssulal’s presence swelled. The heavy pressure of the maou struck directly at Kesselring, distorting her expression.
“—You said that’s all you wanted to say… In that case, you don’t care what happens to you after that, is that correct?”
“Yes. I put your precious person in danger and, added to that fact, I was also involved in such an unscrupulous act—”
As the price for that,
“—I’ll make amends using my life.”
…As expected, she meant it that way.
Ssulal had mixed feelings about Kesselring, who kneeled in front of her.
She was aware of the information regarding Kesselring. She was the former chief of kalar and the King of the Night. She was quite strong by normal humanoid standards.
And that person said she was giving power over her life to Ssulal. Ssulal felt her blood boiling in response, but she suppressed that before it affected her behavior. Using her remaining calmness to think, what came to her mind was,
“…You had intended to do this from the beginning, right?”
“Yes,” a small nod came with the response. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, Kesselring had intended to do this by the end of it.
While understanding this, she continued to explain,
“The moment your entourage arrived, I had already resolved myself to do this, from the bottom of my heart.”
They were such pure words. Perhaps because Kesselring meant what she said, there was no stagnation in her words and she looked somewhat dignified when saying it. Although Ssulal felt a subtle emotion as a fellow woman, there was something else she was curious about. Ssulal pointed it out.
“…But you’re almost reached your time of change, right? Even if you offer what little have you have remaining—”
There’s not much worth, said Ssulal without words. It was as if she could read Kesselring’s thoughts somehow.
“Moreover, you wanted to talk alone like this because of that, right? If that other kalar also participated in this talk, she’d likely try to stop you from doing so. If she had heard what you just said—”
Ssulal didn’t need to complete her sentence to make Kesselring understand what she meant. In fact, Kesselring’s eyebrows flinched, albeit just a little.
Kesselring inhaled while under Ssulal’s pressure. Then Kesselring opened her mouth to confess.
“…Yes, that’s right. I didn’t mind if I bore the risk alone, at least I thought so.”
“You read my intention,” said Kesselring as she bowed her head. Kesselring’s confession made Ssulal’s heart feel cold. It wasn’t a big deal, it was just an obvious choice for the former chief. Still, Ssulal couldn’t comprehend Kesselring’s choice despite understanding the logic behind it.
“…And while understanding all that, you chose to reveal everything to me? All while knowing you might be killed because of it?”
Kesselring’s instant nod made doubt come to Ssulal’s mind.
…What’s with that?
Ssulal couldn’t understand Kesselring’s choice.
What came to Ssulal’s mind was the time of change, which was something similar to dying for kalars.
Although she said that such a lifespan was worthless earlier, Ssulal didn’t actually think so.
After all, when kalar reached their time of change, it could be considered that they only died as an individual.
Once that moment came, said kalar would reincarnate as either an angel or a devil — that wasn’t a complete death. If their memories and personality as individuals remained, even in the smallest way, reincarnation couldn’t be considered the same as death. There would be no need to fear such a time coming for them.
However, if a kalar was killed, they would meet a true death, unlike the time of change. The individual they once were would completely disappear. There was a big difference between the two. Yet why did Kesselring choose the latter? The former choice should look much better. Still, Kesselring was,
Choosing the latter, without any hesitation,
So easily at that,
“I don’t understand…”
Why would Kesselring make that choice?
“How can you choose to abandon your own life so easily…?!”
Ssulal couldn’t understand, and she didn’t want to. It was that kind of thing.
Ssulal couldn’t stop herself despite being aware she was quivering.
Please don’t ask me to kill you. If you do, then I will—
Ssulal asked that while grabbing on Kesselring’s neck. Hurry up and answer me. Otherwise—
—I might end up killing you for real.
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