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Chapter 3: Just Because It’s You (3)

Siel's oldest memory was of the village chief and her mother arguing.

- Stop being so stubborn. That child... should never have been born.

Whenever that happened, her mother always said,

- Still, she’s my child. She’s not something that shouldn’t exist.

But Siel did not agree with that.

The fact that she remembered this conversation, which took place before she was even born, was proof of that.

So, she knew.

She knew that she truly was a being that should not have been born.

A creature almost cursed into existence by demons, forcibly conceived by her parents.

She was more aware of this than anyone else.

Yet, she was born anyway.

And soon enough, it was proven that the village chief’s concerns were not unfounded.

The black hair and pale skin that everyone in the village spoke of ominously.

Not just her, but even her mother began to be ostracized by the elves of the village.

[ Aen’t you annoyed by those who torment your parents like that? ]

If she turned her head just slightly, a black wolf beside her would be ranting about this.

The girl did not know that it was a remnant of a fallen Demon King, nor what it intended to use her for.

But she knew well enough that she was a detested being for something so dreadful to cling to her.

[ It’s not too late. I’ll take care of those bothersome creatures for you. ]

The ominous black wolf whispered so.

According to what the wolf told her, she was the most valuable sacrifice in the world to it.

An elf who wields magic, a being unique in this world.

[ Make a pact with me ]

It said.  

[ Offer a part of your soul, and in return, I’ll grant you power. ]

And if not just a part but her entire soul is offered... it claimed it could accomplish anything, short of the absurd like raising the dead.

However, the girl, as always, ignored the wolf. The reason was simple.

She thought it wrong to cause her already ostracized mother further harm.

If someone caught her speaking to thin air, the calls for their expulsion would only grow louder.

“I’m sorry. We simply cannot accept that child. Please, leave this place as soon as possible.”

But unfortunately, such efforts were in vain.

The words delivered by the chief on his return visit stirred unrest in her mother’s eyes.

It was, perhaps, inevitable.

Elves cannot survive outside their forest.

The farther they stray from the World Tree, the weaker they become, gradually losing their strength until death ensues.

This was essentially a death sentence for her.

“Kill me.”

So Siel spoke without hesitation, seeing it as the right thing.

But why? Her mother, sadder than ever, wept and embraced her.

Such a sorrowful sight made Siel vow never to utter those words again.

And so, Siel left that place with her mother.

With each passing day, her mother grew weaker.

There were many who sought to capture a lone elf, and hiding became increasingly difficult as time went on.

“How fortunate. It’s a relief...”

Yet, her mother always said that.

It was fortunate that Siel didn’t lose her strength, even far from the forest, that she could continue to live on.

Siel couldn’t comprehend those words.

Being alive even far from the forest meant she was closer to being a monster than an elf.

So, Siel tried to convince her mother again.

She insisted she had no feelings. She formed no attachments. She was merely a curse, a life that should never have existed.

She urged her mother to leave her and return to their homeland.

Yet, even after hearing such words, her mother, with a sad smile, said it didn’t matter. That she loved her.

It was incomprehensible. It made no sense. Siel repeated this, trying to convince her mother.

But her mother only responded with words Siel couldn’t understand.

She said Siel wasn’t devoid of emotions. That one day she would love someone and understand what it means to love.

After speaking, her mother left their hiding place to gather food.

Despite seeming on the verge of collapse, she reassured Siel, who wanted to accompany her, insisting she stay behind.

And then... she didn’t return.

Only then did Siel feel relieved.

Finally, her mother had abandoned her. Now, everything was as it should be.

With that thought, Siel walked the streets and soon discovered something.

Eyes and a heart.

An elf’s body, stripped of all valuable parts, lay discarded like trash on the ground.

She could hear the wolf’s laughter.

[ Hahahahahahahahaha ]

Her head spun.

For some reason, her eyes burned and ached.

Her heart felt as if it was being torn apart, and screams involuntarily burst from her lips.

[ Give me your entire soul. Then, I will consume this hateful world. ]

That voice was all she could hear.

The faces of humans, grinning as they held her mother’s eyeball, their dreadful and disgusting smiles, were all she could see.

And so, the girl numbly reached out to the wolf...

- I love you, Siel.

She remembered her mother’s face saying those words.

And she thought:

Not once did she ever respond to those repeated declarations of love.

She had never once returned the love she had always received.

Because she didn’t understand what it meant to love, Siel had yet to tell her mother she loved her.

So,

“Not yet.”

It wasn’t time to end everything yet. That thought occurred to her.

So, Siel simply buried her mother and moved on.

*****

Three years have passed since she began her journey.

By human standards, she is now of an age that could be considered an adult.

Yet, she still couldn’t grasp the concept of love.

The world she saw with her own eyes was too filthy.

Parents kill their children.

Because they can’t afford to raise them.

People kill each other.

To take something from them.

Everywhere she went was vile.

Love was nowhere to be found.

So, it was beyond her comprehension.

Only the voice of the wolf grew louder.

[ Stop thinking about it. ]

It said. 

[ You don’t have emotions anyway, so it’s all a waste. If you hate something, just destroy it. ]

Walking in a daze, listening to such words, Siel felt someone approaching from behind.

But Siel did nothing.

She was simply captured, thrown into a cage, and dragged to an unnamed magic stone mine.

Unknown people carve a magic spell on her neck. They spewed threatening words and threw her into a strange new world.

But such things were of no consequence to her.

The voice in her ear grew louder.

Certainly, because the wolf’s thoughts were not much different from her own.

It was impossible for her to understand love.

Then, there’s nothing left to do but give up.

To fulfill that postponed contract and ask to destroy this endlessly hateful and ugly world.

It was at that moment she had such thoughts that she felt a strange sensation. Siel turned her head to look at whatever had bumped into her.

“Sorry, I wasn’t watching where I was going because I was lost in thought.”

An apology.

The apology felt oddly out of place, and she stared blankly at the boy.

It wasn’t her first time in a mine like this.

So, she knew.

She knew the state of the children here.

Everyone was trampling over others in a desperate attempt to survive.

Was he apologizing and pretending to be friendly to steal something from her?

But it didn’t feel like he had any ulterior motives.

“Why are you standing here? Did you lose your way? If that's the case, follow me. We need to hurry or we'll get beaten”

This statement, too, held no pretense.

It was simply out of concern for her.

She could feel the worry for her in his eyes.

Why, though?

In a situation where their life was at risk, in a situation where they couldn’t survive without taking from others, in a situation where they had to trample over anyone to live.

Why is he worried about her, someone he just met?

Why is he caring about someone else in a situation where he can barely look after himself?

Why is he sincerely offering help with such words to someone he just met?

“What’s your name?”

The boy asked her that.

“Siel.”

Why did she answer him? She didn’t know.

She just wanted to respond.

Just like before, she felt it wasn’t time to end everything.

That was her first encounter with this peculiar boy.

*****

Something felt off.

As soon as I rushed to the gathering spot, I had this premonition.

“Today, we shall punish the fool who dared to dream of escaping.”

Sure, the words themselves were ordinary.

Someone attempting escape and being made an example of as punishment is somewhat expected.

What was strange were the reactions of some of the children.

Their unsettling smirks as they looked at me.

Could this be my imagination?

Just a figment of paranoia?

I rapidly questioned myself in my mind.

What’s the likelihood I’ve made quite a few enemies here?

It exists.

More than plenty. Just roughly counting the faces of those who view me unfavorably easily surpasses dozens.

The probability that these kids are smarter than expected?

That’s high, too.

The ones who aren’t smart are all dead.

So, the final question.

When someone who harbors animosity towards me falsely reports that I’ve plotted an escape, what’s the chance the overseers will verify the truth?

None.

They’d likely find it too bothersome to discern guilt from innocence.

They’d probably just kill me as an example without wasting time.

With the conclusion drawn, there was no need for further deliberation.

I immediately looked behind me.

As expected, a few guards armored in protective gear were stealthily approaching me.

I quickly opened the trait selection window.

I had already identified the traits that could help me escape this situation.

So, dodging those coming at me, I was about to run and activate the trait when...

“...Huh?”

My head is spinning.

I desperately clung to consciousness, trying to figure out what was causing this anomaly.

And then I saw it.

A glowing light around my neck.

“Damn it.”

Is this some kind of slave collar?

It was clearly imbued with some sort of magic.

This is absurdly excessive.

An element not even present in the original work.

Moreover, as someone who possessed this body already marked with such a thing, it was information I could never have known.

To die because of such an absurd thing?

All that preparation, all that effort, just to come to nothing?

Am I really going to die here like this?

I bit my tongue in an attempt to maintain consciousness. But the pain is almost imperceptible.

Sleep overtakes me. An unavoidable slumber.

My vision slowly blurs.

And the last thing that flickers before my eyes...

“...Siel?”

The Siel I had spent two weeks with,

Yet, she had a face I had never seen before.

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