There were several people sitting in the cafeteria of the fairy warehouse.
That day's lunch had been mashed potatoes, fried pork, and vegetable soup, with oranges for dessert. Most of the fairies had already finished eating and rushed outside. The weather wasn't bad, making it a pleasant day to throw balls around.
"The past wielders of Seniolis…" A woman with light red hair held one finger to her chin and thought to herself for a while. "Willem once told me just a tiny bit of information about them. Would you all like to hear it?"
"Yes!" Lakish leaned forward eagerly, gravy from her unfinished lunch still clinging to the corners of her mouth. She then straightened abruptly and giggled nervously as Panival tugged her shirt, murmuring something about manners. Although one of the most coolheaded fairies, Lakish was still young. It wasn't uncommon for her to forget self-control if something very interesting happened to end up in front of her.
"Right, so!" The troll cleared her throat. "Way before Kutori, Willem used to know two wielders of that sword. One of them was his master, who taught him how to fight with a sword. While his master was exceptionally skilled at combat, he had a terrible personality, knew almost nothing of life skills, and looked like the shabbiest guy you could imagine! It sounds like he was also an impressively, ridiculously, powerful old man."
Belying Naigrat's description was something like a combination of deeply intimate understanding and a complete lack of comprehension. Both Lakish and Panival had confused looks as they stared at her.
"…Really." Panival broke the silence first. "He said that."
Neither of them would have guessed.
"Anyway, the other wielder was his fellow junior disciple, he said. Like their master, she was exceedingly skilled in combat, had a horrendous personality, and was overwhelmingly spiteful and capricious. She seems to have been a very impressive girl as well."
Much like her previous description, all indications suggested that Naigrat both thoroughly knew yet was completely clueless about the words coming out of her mouth.
"Hey, come on, you guys! I'm not lying, you know!"
Lakish and Panival looked at each other, both wearing expressions of utter disappointment.
"The two of them," Naigrat continued, "were so strong that they never once fell in battle, yet they were both helpless puppets of their tragic fate. When Willem brought them up, he talked with a lot of regret. He'd been by their sides the entire time, wanted to help them all the while, but ultimately wasn't able to do a single thing… or that's how he put it, at least."
"…So that means Kutori was the third such person?" Panival swallowed some of her sandwich, crossing her arms. "If it's like that, it makes sense that he gave his all to help her. It was his way of making up for how he failed before - even if it wasn't the same person, he still wanted to let go of his regrets, huh?"
"Is that… really
how he feels?" Lakish's eyes dropped downwards. She could understand Panival's reasoning, but to her it still seemed like a far too lonesome way to think. She wanted to believe that the person Willem Kumesh wanted to save wasn't someone way back in the past whose name or face she didn't even know, but rather Kutori Nota Seniolis
, the one right there at his side.And besides… Kutori was always so happy, back then, and Willem was so kind…
"Helpless puppets of their tragic fate, huh?" Noft, a girl slightly older than Lakish and her friends, gnawed casually on an unpeeled orange. "I dunno who came up with that sorta fancy wording, but the Kutori we knew being treated like some special person through no fault of her own really
doesn't sit well with me." She grimaced. "Her or Lakish."
"Mm…" Naigrat tilted her head slightly. "It probably isn't like that."
"I don't think there's any sort of fate that's 'bland' or 'average'. You don't have to be selected by some sword to be special, because every single person in this world has an unique, precious fate. Kutori, all the people who existed in the past, and of course Lakish, all just happened to end up with the same kind of fate."
"Hey, I didn't mean it in that way-" Noft protested.
"But what we're discussing is precisely that topic, isn't it?" Naigrat smiled sweetly. "I'll have you know right now, I'm absolutely opposed to treating the children under this roof unfairly or unequally, thank you very much."
"I wasn't talking about that kinda thing either… Bah, darn it! I'm all confused now!"
Naigrat poured them all gurgling tea, one cup for each person present. "Something like fate is still just fate in the end. It can only provide a stage. Even if your choices are limited, however you want to perform on that stage is still up to you. Everyone has the right to hold their head up high and proclaim, 'This is my own life, and the path I choose for myself.'"
She smiled. "Regardless of whatever fate you're born with, your life belongs to yourself. Otherwise, wouldn't you all have been cornered from the moment you were born and ended up as beings only worth pitying?"
"…Wow." Noft frowned. "All that stuff you just said sounded like it came right out of Lan's mouth."
"As expected of someone who's lived longer than us, her words must come from experience," Panival nodded emotionally. "Because our lot in life is already predetermined, what's important is knowing how to walk the path without feeling ashamed."A life with a predetermined endpoint…
Lakish pondered the idea. Limited choices that should come up before me and those by my sides, sooner or later. How should I
- Lakish Nyx Seniolis, newly minted fairy solder
- live from now on? What will I have to face? What choices will I need to make?
Truth be told, she didn't have any idea of what "tragic fate" she might have to face eventually. It wasn't something she could sit down and think about so easily, anyway.For example… just to fantasize for a little bit… what if I, like Kutori, met a man as handsome as Willem? What would happen then?
Her ideal person would be kind, yet possess great fortitude. He'd also have some weakness that couldn't be ignored, something that would make others want to stay by his side and support him.Would I fight for that person? Even with fear slowly wearing away my very sense at self, could I still head towards the battlefield smiling?I don't know. I still feel like it's not really supposed to be like that… Well, whether it has anything to do with fate or not, Kutori's just special.
In the end, that was the conclusion she came to in order to avoid the question. Kutori had been a truly impressive, steadfast, person. Even when faced with a battle in which she had no choice but to throw away her life, she never lost herself to fear, and continued to live her daily life normally.
Kutori had never displayed a single hint of weakness, at least not in front of the children, so Lakish was unable to understand her.
She couldn't imagine what Kutori had been thinking when she'd needed to face her fate, nor her feelings at the time-
Her hands tightened around her small teacup forcefully. A small ripple appeared on the surface of the sweet milk tea.