Several moments pass between us as I try to comprehend her statement.
“You’re not… angry at me?” I ask, finally breaking the silence that encased us
“Angry?…Why?” Afeuro asks as she pulls her head out of my chest, and tilts in slightly with a confused expression
“I knocked you out of the tournament, I hurt you, I!… I…” The words catch in my throat as I try to say them
I grasp for the right words, but none will come out. There is no way to describe how I’ve wronged her without feeling this guilt that chokes me.
Finally giving up I simply lift one of her arms and reveal the burn marks left.
“I did this to you… and I can’t fix that,” I say
She looks between her arm, and me, and stares at me with a confused expression again
“Proof of… battle… pretty.” She says while showing off her arm
Although the look on her face is devoid of expression, the huff she lets out makes it look as if she is proud of the wound.
Are you kidding me? Does she actually like the wounds?! She is definitely just a battle junkie, right? She is definitely not an M, right?
She continues staring at me while showing me her arm as if waiting for my answer.
sigh “How exactly am I supposed to react if you act so proud of them? Gah! Now I feel silly for worrying so much!” I say cracking under her gaze as I run my hand through my hair
It’s not like Afeuro’s reaction to the wounds were the only consequence to consider. With wounds like that left on a little girl, the opinion of the one that left them is bound to drop considerably. If my identity ever got revealed, then I’m sure this would become damning evidence against me.
…at the very least though, I can’t say that I’m not relieved that they don’t bother the person in question too much. That being said I still can’t shake the feeling of guilt that I have for leaving such gruesome wounds on someone. Even if there was little choice this time, I should put some efforts into less harmful ways to incapacitate in the future.
“Hey… can we… fight again?” Afeuro asks as she tugs on my shirt, bringing me back to the conversation
“Why?!” I ask out of surprise and no small amount of fear
I barely won our fight, and it put me on death’s door to do so, and as soon as I wake up she wants to go again?!
“Fun?” She asks while tilting her head, and staring at me as if I were the weird one
Is the only thing rattling in that little head of hers fighting?!
“…I’m afraid I will need to decline. I can’t risk worsening my condition right before my fight with the Yuusha.” I say trying to put on a polite face
I really just want to deny her outright, but she seems a little… unstable. I would rather avoid upsetting her if possible.
“The Yuusha… stronger than Afeuro?” She asks with a twinkle in her eye
“I don’t know. I’ve never fought him before myself. People keep telling me that he is insanely strong. Some even say he is unbeatable.” I respond after a moment
It’s hard not to let my emotions mix into my answer, but with every pessimistic word Afeuro grows more excited.
“Mano… thanks. Gonna… find him.” She says before rushing off
Wait… does she intend to fight him now?! That… doesn’t sound too bad actually. I can’t imagine he could be strong enough to fight Afeuro without at least some injury. If she can’t outright kill him, she should at least be able to weaken him for tomorrows fight. Maybe with this, I will have the leniency to “accidentally” finish him tomorrow.
Satisfied to have dumped my problems on the Yuusha I head back to my companions. Upon returning to the Inn I am surprised to see that everybody that I sent ahead of me had begun celebrating in the dining area.
“What is all this?” I ask with concern as I approach Kiel
They weren’t that worried about me, right? I get that mana depletion is a big deal, but this much of a celebration is a bit overkill.
“Well, since you immediately collapsed like that, none of us got to celebrate the fact that you actually progressed to the final round. Around here people consider that the same as winning the tournament outright when a Yuusha participates.” He explains with a happy look on his face as he stares fondly at Tea talking enthusiastically with Kera
I pause for a moment, as I try to feel proud of how far I’ve come, but it just doesn’t feel right.
“And what do you think?” I ask
“I think you plan to win the whole thing. If you were smart you would stop here… but you won’t.” He continues, the look on his face grows more serious for a moment, but still, his gaze seems fond somehow
“You just called me stupid, didn’t you? I would hit you for that… but your right. After fighting Afeuro I’ve lost all of my confidence that I can win tomorrow. Something deep down is just telling me that he will be stronger.” I explain
I’m thankful that the others seem too caught up celebrating to hear what we are talking about.
“All the same, regardless of why I am fighting, I’m driven to fight him. I can’t seem to fight the urge or scratch the itch to face him. I can’t help but agree that it is stupid, but I can’t bring myself to back down. I’m going to fight him tomorrow, and I’m going to give it everything I have.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to do anything else… just… don’t die okay?” Kiel responds, and on his last words his happy expression wavers for a moment