For the first time I can remember, I fight to wake up. For what feels like hours I drift between sleep and the cusp of consciousness. Each time I draw close to waking I can hear voices around me, an air of concern and occasional urgency. My curiosity burns, but my body refuses my attempts to return to the land of the living.
Although still groggy, eventually I manage to pry my eyes open to a dark room. As I look around the room, I begin to put the pieces together. All around me are people covered in dirt, dust, and blood. There are more than a dozen people packed into this small room, most of which are sleeping on pelts and blankets, with only a few people lucky enough to be on beds.
These must be the people affected by the undead horde. People who lost their homes were injured or had to avoid their homes due to the disaster. As someone collapsed on the street I must have been mistaken for one of them and carried here. However, that only begins to answer the questions swirling in my mind right now. What time is it? Why didn’t my normal sleep habits kick in this time? Where are my friends in all of this? These are the questions I need to answer urgently. The rest can wait.
In an effort not to disturb the other people sleeping, I slowly raise from the bed and begin to lightly step between sleeping bodies. My poor balance as I try to tiptoe between them reminds me that there hasn’t been a large need for stealth since my arrival in this world. I should probably make an effort to remedy my poor stealth skills in the future. Who knows when avoiding a fight could save my life?
“Pssst~ Over here~” I hear a soft voice call out
I look around the room for the source and notice a hand beckoning me from the doorway.
Unsure if the call was truly for me or not, I rush through the room attempting to not raise anybody. As I make it through the doorway and look around to see the source of the call I am met with a surprise.
“Anata?! What are you doing here?” I have to stop myself from yelling
“I heard a rumor that a girl by your description was found collapsed in the danger zone right after the attack suddenly stopped. When I arrived I saw you funnily walking through that room so I thought I would call out to you.” She says with a small giggle and a smile
“It’s the middle of the night?! Why would you be checking on a rumor like that so late?!” I ask in a loud whisper
“Well, I just kept checking on rumors like that and it was this late before I knew it. I’m glad I finally found you.” She answers with a sad smile
As I see the look on her face I remember the last time we spoke. When I had my blade to the Yuusha’s throat, holding a clear intention to use it, and she cried out desperately from the stands for me not to.
As the memory rushes back to me, I must show it on my face, because her expression darkens as well. She struggles to look me in the eyes as I try to find the words to apologize, eventually turning her gaze to the paved road at our feet.
“I’m sorry!” Anata interrupts in a startlingly loud voice
“Ah-!” She says as she covers her mouth and looks through the door at the room of sleeping people
With a small sigh of relief, I can tell that she didn’t disturb anyone.
“I don’t understand, what are you apologizing for?” I ask
It’s not like I feel guilty for trying to kill the Yuusha, it’s simply a matter of survival, but I can’t help but feel guilty after what I did to Anata. I was ready to make her witness his death by my hands. I in no small terms betrayed her. What could she possibly have to feel sorry about?
“What Hark did that day… I can understand why you were angry. He didn’t just take the fight too far, but he… he… he did something unforgivable. I didn’t want to see him die… but it was wrong of me to try to stop you. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy to decide to kill a friend like that, but if he continued his berserk state he could have… killed so many more people. I made you out to be the bad guy. I let my feelings for Hark get in the way of my judgment. It was wrong of me both as a princess and as your friend.” She says with tears welling up in her eyes
“Please… forgive me.” She says as she breaks out into full-on crying
I grab her shoulder to console her, but she rushes forward into my chest and begins crying on my shoulder. Not sure how to proceed in the conversation, I let her cry for a few minutes until she seemed to start calming down. As she does I look around and it begins to hit me. Days have passed again. Repairs have already begun for some of the damaged structures in the area, and tons of bricks and lumber have been dragged in front of dozens of buildings.
“What… What happened after that? How long have I been asleep?” I ask
sniff “The kingdom did everything it could to support those that were displaced or injured. My father has been swept up in trying to soothe the rising tensions with the nobles that were attending the tournament. Rumors have spread that the Tsilge kingdom orchestrated this attack on the arena intentionally as an assassination attempt.” She begins to rattle off events, clearly trying to think of what is most important to get out first
“What happened to my friends?” I ask with a resolute tone
“They have been searching for you as well. After the first few days passed we started taking turns checking out rumors looking for you. I was so worried that something had happened to you at first, but your monsters stayed diligently looking for you. Since your contract with them was clearly still functioning I knew you had to be alright. Everybody else should be sleeping right now… except the imps. Nobody has been able to make them stop searching.” She explained
That sounds like them. I’m glad everybody else is resting at least. I hate that I’ve made everybody worry again, especially so soon after promising them I would be more careful.
“and… what happened to the Yuusha?” I ask in a worried tone
Her look, which had begun to brighten again, sank immediately. Her eyes dart as she tried to figure out how to form the words, and she clearly struggles to keep her composure.