𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟐𝟕: 𝐈 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧
This will be my last night in the Margrave’s domain.
I lay on the rug placed by the window with Kami-sama, gazing at the beautiful night sky of the new moon adorned with stars. Silence accompanied us, and in that serene moment, several shooting stars graced the sky.
“. . . .Tomorrow, we’re off to the royal capital, aren’t we, Kami-sama?”
As I kept my eyes on the sky, I softly muttered to Kami-sama, who was using my arm as a pillow. Kami-sama responded with silence.
The atmosphere provided an inexplicable sense of comfort, and a wave of sentimentality washed over me.
Even now, terrible things are happening in the royal capital, and more are about to unfold.
Those who attempted to kill me. The conspiracies seeking to bring down the country.
And other desires and schemes that I must confront.
That’s why I cherished this time, spending a peaceful night with Kami-sama.
“Kami-sama. . . . .a lot has happened, but I treasured every day spent with you.”
“I will still be by your side.”
Then, I rested my cheek against Kami-sama’s large hand.
“Kami-sama, you know. . . . .I thought I would never experience such a relaxed time again. The days when I shared the same small bed with Dad and Mom, and the nights Dad and I slept together, comforting each other’s loneliness when Mom wasn’t around. . . . .Back then, I was genuinely happy and naturally sad. Ha ha, it’s a bit odd to think that being sad is a natural thing.”
I was abducted, taken away from my ordinary life, and became Saint Charlene in the church.
I was painted over, losing sight of my true self, forgetting how to laugh and express my genuine emotions. The only solace in those days was the time spent alone with Kami-sama during my baths in the spiritual spring of the cathedral.
At that time, I didn’t think Kami-sama was truly present.
So I poured out my true feelings to him. I voiced countless complaints that I can’t recall now.
I didn’t expect him to come right away when I called.
And I never thought that I would spend almost half a year in such a lively daily life.
“Thank you for answering my call.”
“. . . .At that time, I should have come sooner.”
“No, no regrets about that.”
I got up and gently placed my finger on Kami-sama’s lips.
I caressed his surprised face, revealed his forehead, leaned my forehead against his, and closed my eyes.
His cold forehead gradually warmed up with my body heat.
“Thank you for supporting me during the difficult days when I was separated from Dad. Thank you for rescuing me when I was terrified, in pain, and overwhelmed with sadness. . . . .Thank you for sharing so many joyful moments with me. Thank you for confiding in me, for being by my side. . . . .Thank you for embracing change as a land god and giving me the chance to be reborn into my past self.”
“Charlene. . . . . .”
“Hey, Kami-sama. I believe it was intentional that I don’t remember my past life. . . . .I think there’s a purpose behind it.”
“. . . .What do you mean?”
“Don’t you find my past self and my current self remarkably alike?”
“They are similar. . . . . .It’s as though you are your past self, to the extent that I regret not noticing it until you came to the church.”
“Exactly, and that’s why it must be deliberate.”
Kami-sama tilted his head, and I felt a sense of conviction.
If my past self is indeed me, then it must be by design.
“First of all. . . . .If I had memories of my past life from childhood, I’m certain I would have had different experiences before meeting you, Kami-sama, and become somewhat of a different person. With memories, I might have grown into a more mature individual, right? If that had happened. . . . .when I met you, I wouldn’t be purely my past self. I wanted to be genuinely myself, and I yearned to return to you.”
“. . . .I understand.”
“And there’s one more thing. . . . .fufu, this might be the main reason?”
Chuckling to myself, I noticed Kami-sama tilting his head in surprise.
I narrowed my eyes and smiled at his somewhat inhuman expression.
“I wanted to fall in love with you all over again, from the beginning.”
I pulled my face to a distance where the focus was clear, and as I caressed Kami-sama’s cheek, I was certain.
Just touching like this makes me feel incredibly calm and happy. Honestly, I don’t quite understand what romantic feelings are. But . . . perhaps if I had to name this pleasant but painful feeling, that would be the most fitting.
“I wonder if I wanted to repeat our first meeting with Kami-sama over and over again. Even if I were reborn, I would want to fall in love again and again.”
“. . . I hadn’t thought of that. But . . . it’s just like you.”
“Right? I’m so sharp, aren’t I?”
Laughing out loud, I was embraced by Kami-sama.
I could feel that Kami-sama was smiling. He must have understood too.
“I was always worried. Why, even after giving you enough divine power, you lost your memory and reincarnated. Truly . . . despite being completely yourself from start to finish, why didn’t it work? I thought maybe . . . it was wrong for me to have loved you.”
When I looked up, Kami-sama had a rare look of distress on his face.
Wanting to tell him that it’s alright, I silently shook my head.
“. . . I love you, Charlene. . . . At times like this, with words . . . I don’t know how to say it. But I like you.”
“You can say that you like me, can’t you?”
“Neither ‘like’ nor ‘love’ is enough. What is this feeling that’s so painful I want to swallow it?”
“I get it, I get it, just don’t swallow me. . . By the way, you’ve put me in your mouth before, right? In my previous life?”
“A few times.”
“A few times?!”
Repeating the words, gradually finding them funny, I burst into laughter.
Watching me, Kami-sama smiled happily too. His face became dear to me, and I felt like I understood, just a little bit, the meaning of loving someone so much you want to eat them.
The night continued, happily and blissfully.
Though we were going back to the royal capital, it was a night free from fear, anger, and dread.
Kami-sama had put the previous me in his mouth.
I would come to understand the faint meaning that this phrase had implied later on in the royal capital.
Just before the break of dawn, the Queen and the people of the Margrave family lined up to bid us farewell.
Our preparations were complete, and I, Charte, the Saint and Envoy of Charlene, stood before them.
“The fate of our country rests on your shoulders, Charte,” the Queen said, looking into my eyes with concern. She had kindly dressed me in a fluffy coat to protect against the morning chill.
“I understand, Your Majesty. I will do my best to live up to your expectations.”
“You’ve grown up so much during your time here, Charte,” the Queen said, her expression a mix of sadness and longing.
I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for not maintaining the charm of an 8-year-old, but the Queen seemed to believe that my responsibilities had accelerated my maturity.
“The safety of our beloved son, the Crown Prince, will be ensured within the Margrave family’s territory. We will also monitor the situation and head to the royal capital.”
Due to the crisis in the country, the Crown Prince had to remain within the strong defenses of the Margrave territory. As we discussed this, the Crown Prince came to see us off.
Upon seeing me, he appeared alarmed and blushed, but he quickly composed himself, standing tall like a proper Crown Prince.
He acknowledged the collective bow from everyone present and returned a dignified nod.
It was evident that he had grown during his time away.
“Saint Charte, I have infused the spirit horse with the magician’s magic to its limit. If you continue to channel your magic to the horse, you should reach the royal capital in three days. I’ve already contacted the relay town. . . I apologize, this is the fastest speed we can prepare in our country.”
“I understand. I will do my best to live up to your expectations.”
“I entrust the palace and the country to you, Charlene.”
The spirit coachman brought in the spirit horse—a magnificent white horse with translucent skin. Its mane swayed gracefully, even without the presence of wind, and it emitted a radiant prism-like glow, indicating it was fully charged with magic.
We were to travel on horseback, as the journey home would not be by carriage.
“Then. . . I’m off.”
Amidst the encouraging shouts from those seeing us off, I followed Kami-sama, who had already mounted the horse, and sat in front of him.
As he whispered something into the spirit horse’s ear, the horse shuddered and began moving smoothly.
As we departed, the morning glow illuminated our path toward the royal capital. The figures of those seeing us off gradually disappeared from view.
It was then that Kami-sama whispered something to me in secret.
“Charlene, there’s actually something I didn’t tell you.”
“What is it?”
“With Charlene’s magic and my power, this horse can fly.”
“. . .What?!”
I exclaimed in astonishment.
“If it flies, we might reach our destination by tomorrow afternoon.”
I looked up at Kami-sama’s face, only to see that he was serious and not joking.
In the royal palace, the magic mirror displayed an ominous glow.
――Through one magic mirror, another new magic mirror was being transported.