This world is cruel.
All words are cruel. Something like a gentle world only exists within creative works, and even those are gradually growing smaller in number. It’s most likely because people are gradually losing their dreams. I had as well. Miracles are called miracles because they do not happen and hope is called hope because they are never achieved. Things do not come to fruition just because you wish for it to happen. You can’t positively say that you’ll one day be rewarded once you’ve endeavored long enough. This world was that cruel.
I thought that way.
I believed that was the case.
That’s why, when a miracle had actually occurred, I was in a daze. Not a miracle that I had acquired through working hard, or a hope that had at least some realism to it, but the most irresponsible type of expectation. Since the miracle had suddenly appeared in the form of a transfer student, the flaming princess, my goddess, Chanmi, I had no other choice but to be in a daze.
However, that fact didn’t make me into a believer of the bestseller The Secret. There were many cruel things that happened after that as well. I had personally committed some of the cruelest things among them. Regardless, it ended up being a type of revelation to me. Although this world was certainly cruel, it wasn’t as cruel as I had thought it was. Although we were certainly filled with problems, we were capable of somehow improving those issues. Thus, there was no need to throw away all of your hope. Even if it hurts at times or you feel as if you’ll die, you have to endure.
I thought that way.
I believed that was the case.
Because we are not beasts. As it was those very expectations, that very arrogance, that very source of all those suffering, and the very thought that ‘things can’t continue like this’ that made us humans human, this will also continue to be the case.
The root of dignity was in Hell. However, it was thanks to that Hell that we’re able to to see Heaven.
Ariya spoke the instant Roroa had left the room.
“Fair Grace, it’s truly dangerous. That sort of trash······ that monster, can you trust her?”
“Among the people I’ve met ever since I’ve come to this world, she’s the type of person who can’t be trusted the most. I’ll tie her down as much as possible in order to restrict her freedom and keep watch over her so she isn’t able to do something foolish.”
“That isn’t enough······ we should kill her.”
I put my hand on Ariya’s mouth.
“You shouldn’t carelessly talk about taking the lives of others.”
“I know. You’re probably worried about Alshi. It’s fine. Even if the worse situation were to occur, I’ll at least protect Alshi.”
Ariya pressed her hand against her forehead. The angle of her head, was a slight 27 degrees angle.
“Alshi, that idiot······. But Fair Grace······ Alshi isn’t the only one I’m worried about.”
“You’re worried about me?”
“I’m also very slightly worried about Sii as well.”
Sii’s astonished expression was a bit interesting to look at.
“Of course, it’s dangerous for Sii and me. But we’ll have to endure it. If we’re able to take hold of the guards with just this much risk, then this is on the cheap side.”
Sii nodded as well. She must have felt pain from doing that action as she had let out a groan and held onto her arm. Ariya supported her in a panic and I,
while lowering my head, spoke.
“I apologize, Miss Sii. I should have prepared better.”
“Eh, it’s fine······ I’m, completely okay. Even before I was caught, I was already planning to do this if something like what happened earlier were to perhaps occur.”
“Mm~~ Yujin, you said it before, right? To think. If someone here were to perhaps become a hostage, then that’ll be me since I’m the only one who’s already injured.”
“This is why I can’t help but have hope.”
“Mm······? What, do you mean?”
I answered her by kissing the back of her hand.
Sii’s cheeks became flushed. Ariya lightly cleared her throat.
“Mm, in any case······ Fair Grace, and Sii. Why? Why exactly are you shouldering such a dangerous burden and taking the hands of the guards······. When you told Roroa that you’ll change the city and rehabilitate Her Excellency the Earl······.”
“Mm~~······ Yujin, should we give her an answer?”
“We should. Ariya is in the same boat as us now.” I turned back towards Ariya and spoke. “As you heard, I’m going to rehabilitate the Earl.”
I then explained.
“Everything she has done until now. We’ll make her take those sins to heart. We’ll make her plead that she won’t do them ever again. We’ll make her give a sincere apology and atone for all of the crimes she had committed throughout her life. In order to do that, we intend to shoulder this dangerous burden.”
“······.” Ariya looked back and forth between me and Sii. “······Is that so.”
“Yup. Moreover, since you’ve heard about our plan now, I’d like it if you cooperated with us. Once Alshi wakes up, explain everything to her. We’ll also match our stories regarding the attackers. We’ll start off with things like that.”
I believed that she wouldn’t refuse. It wasn’t only because of the favor that I had done for her. It wasn’t also because of the pretext of rehabilitating the Silver Lion Earl. Just as Roroa had said, we already made her witness us making a secret deal with Roroa. Like we had reminded her more than anything else during that exchange, her lover, Alshi’s life was on the line here.
An accomplice mentality and compulsory power that was incomparable to what she had felt when watching something like hidden cameras together. Ariya betraying us in a situation like this, at the very least, I believed that it wouldn’t happen.
However, Ariya was unable to nod her head readily and instead hesitated.
The instant Ariya had mumbled that, the closed door swung open and a shadow entered the room.
It was a long shadow.
It smelled like wet grass. Before the backlight could even fade away, Ariya was the first one to utter the name of the owner of the shadow.
“M-Miss Sophna! Welcome.”
“You may stay seated.”
Sophna stopped Ariya and Sii, who were both about to stand up, with her staff and approached us. Once more, her figure reminded me of a willow tree. There was a befitting cheerful smile lingering on her lips.
“Kuhuhu. You’re just as I had heard. For you to not panic upon my arrival and also have the leisure to examine me.”
“And you’re different from what I’ve heard. They said you were a hikikomori so I had a darker image of you in my head.”
“If I did, then would I not overlap with Yudia?”
“Are you not allowed to overlap?”
“Ahyeon had claimed that that was the case.”
I shut my mouth. With a gaze that felt like a pine tree that was growing on the very summit of a mountain and gazing over the horizon, Sophna spoke.
“My, Mii, and Zia’s ways of speech in Korean were most likely for that purpose. When learning a new language, it means that you’re able to become a new character in a new genre. If possible, it’d be good if that didn’t overlap, is what he had told us.”
This was something that I had heard from the Earl before.
Rather than that, Mii⎯⎯⎯was probably the Earl.
Sii, Mii······ No, it wasn’t a naming sense that I couldn’t understand, but······.
“Ahyeon may be gone, but that desire of his is still maintained. Even when Azure Rose and I taught the illegitimate child of the young master, Brown Lion, the Korean language, we placed an emphasis on creating a sort of character trait. In Korea, this is referred to as ‘he may have gone, but I did not send him’, right?”
“Finally, I’ve met someone who’s interested in normal literature.”
“I cannot help but have a preference towards poetry. In any case⎯⎯⎯seeing that you are not showing much surprise, were you expecting my arrival?”
“Of course not. I never imagined that you would come here so soon. However, I did see that you came up from your room.”
I glanced at Ariya.
“I have heard the term ‘an unpredictable person’.”
Sophna laughed with a ‘kahaha’ once she heard that I had at least readied myself to meet her. She then slowly walked towards me.
“So,” Sophna pushed the end of her staff against my chin. “Can you predict the reason why I am here?”
“Most likely to pass your judgment on me.”
“Bingo.” Sophna turned towards Ariya. “Although I did send Ariya with the purpose of keeping an eye on you, as I thought, the final decision should be made by myself.”
Ariya couldn’t understand Korean. However, she most likely was able to guess at what Sophna had said when she turned to look at her. After looking at the guilt spread across Ariya’s face for a moment, I spoke.
“Did I pass?”
“What makes you think that?”
Sophna retorted immediately. There was no doubt that she had contemplated a lot beforehand in preparation to respond to this question. And, as expected, I had also contemplated a lot beforehand in preparation to respond to this retort.
“The fact that you came here to meet me,” I started off. “is because you felt that it would be fine to leave me at the Earl’s side, right?”
“Huu, what to do? To be exact, it’s the complete opposite reason of that.”
“That is right. If you’ve lived for as long as I have, then you will have witnessed a countless number of occasions where scars are reopened after someone needlessly gets involved when it could have just been left alone. Like a certain letter, and recently, ah, yes, like the medicine for one’s own mother.”
Both Sii and Ariya drew back their heads. The eyes of Sophna, who had glanced at the two girls once, became dim like that of a frog.
“So, Korean child. I have started to harbor the same belief towards you as well. The fact that you are going around this castle freely······ how should I say it?”
Get crushed somewhere. Mari. You gave me quite the vital piece of advice. Get crushed somewhere. However, I still can’t listen to that advice.
“What is it?”
“Hm, think of it like this. You are a foreign substance. A foreign substance from another world, at that.”
Each time she said the phrase ‘foreign substance’, Sophna pronounced it in a way that sounded as if an overripe fruit had fallen and hit the floor.
“Someone like that is next to Mii and Azure Rose. Moreover, they’re outspoken and go around making their own faction. In the eyes of an elder like myself, hm, it isn’t very pleasing. Who knows what sort of negative influence you’ll have on them.”
“You said Ahyeon was like that as well.”
“That’s right. You are also not Ahyeon. If I were to add something else, then even when Ahyeon was here, I played the role as the final boulder for quite a long period of time. Kuhuhu. You should be aware since you’ve seen her for yourself, but all of Our Lordship’s screws are loose, so shouldn’t someone take the role as the skeptic?”
As Sophna spoke, she put more strength into the staff that was pressing against my chin. My head was forcefully pushed back and like a crescent looming over an old tree on a foggy day, her eyes shined brightly within the hazy darkness.
“That’s why, Yujin.”
After calling my name, Sophna spoke.
“I’ll ask you, why shouldn’t I kill you⎯⎯⎯”
She tilted her head in a way that felt like a crooked reed that was being blown by a breeze.
“And, after concluding that stability has returned to this Silver Lion Castle, return back to my research room with a peace of mind?”
The sound of a gasp. The sound had come from Sii. Ariya was wordless. I couldn’t confirm her expression either. The strength that Sophna was putting into her staff was becoming stronger. I wasn’t allowed to do anything other than look at Sophna’s face and it was also becoming physically exhausting.
“The fact that you’re saying this,” I spoke. “must mean that you’re still hesitating.”
“You are right. I shouldn’t make rash decisions. Ariya Orgit.”
The instant Ariya flinched, a cluster of light burst out from the end of Sophna’s hand and wrapped around Ariya.
“Even the slightest lie shall not be forgiven.”
After declaring so, Sophna continued.
“I shall ask you under the name of the most ancient tree, according to your observations, this boy, is this individual known as Yujin a harmless existence with no malice whatsoever? In other words, are you certain that he is an existence that will cause no harm to Her Excellency the Silver Lion Earl?”
“Miss Sophna! That’s······.”
Sophna didn’t even act as if she had heard Sii’s cry.
“Answer me. I shall count down from 3. 3.”
Both Sii and Ariya made eye contact.
Ariya looked at me.
And finally, Ariya Orgit opened her mouth⎯⎯⎯.
TL note: Thanks for reading. This is the last chapter for volume 3. Yes, I know, it’s a cliffhanger. The short story is next and it’s probably as long as the last chapter, so expect it either later this week or next week. I’ve also been getting distracted by SINoALICE, so who knows.
The short story is mainly about Roroa’s past, (It’ll also involve Ahyeon) so you can look forward to that. Once I’ve finished that up and the afterword+character sheets, then I’ll be taking a one week break before going back to translating. I still haven’t decided whether I should just translate volume 4 of YaMA or actually try to get around to doing Million Dollar Bills. I’ll decide during the break.
In any case, see you guys in the next chapter.