Side Story 6-2
As he shared the name the child had been waiting to hear, Castor gave a slight smile. He would make this the last name this child would ever get to hear in her life.
Blood dripped from the girl’s cheeks. It was during the moment in which she should have been the most desperate for her life.
Though Castor could not see, the child flashed a bright smile.
He could not see it but he did hear her say.
“Woah, that’s the name of the star!”
In that instance, Castor’s blade flinched so slightly that even the most skilled knights would not notice it.
“Brother, did you know? Our names are the names of stars!”
Castor erased his smile.
“I am delighted. To know that we have something in common.”
Funnily enough, he could not remember anything he felt or thought that day but his younger brother’s foolish face did vividly come to mind.
Perhaps it was because Julian had always smiled like he did that day. Even as he slayed his mother and his loved ones in front of him.
“I’m sure…you have your reasons, brother.”
But now his brother’s face no longer chained him down. The shackles had crumbled fleetingly over time. Nevertheless, he lowered his sword like it was an act of atonement that had taken root in his fading past.
‘Her senses are definitely learned.’
But at the same time, he realised how foolish the girl was being. His sword would have sliced anything at the end of its blade. And yet she still responded like that like a fool?
Instead of killing her, he asked. His voice, worn from fatigue, sounded ecstatically beautiful.
“Aren’t you afraid of me?”
The edge of his sword touched her skin. It might have been her cheek or it might have been her neck. But he could still clearly hear her breaths.
Her breaths–her exhaling, inhaling and exhaling again–sounded surprisingly stable.
“No! I’m not.”
“I’m not scared.”
Just then, a calm breeze blew. His hair tickled his cheek. Ha. Frowning slightly, Castor then smirked.
He could see.
And he came face-to-face with a little girl smiling stupidly in front of him.
“We are in the Tecitalus Forest. My home is that way. Dad says that there’s a huge city about five nights away.”
This was not the first time he managed to see. Because the curse she had inflicted on him did not render him blind ‘for every moment of his life’.
“When you think of me, you will not be able to see.”
In theory, if he did not think of her, he would be able to see. However, Castor had never been able to have a good look in front of him yet.
Because he thought of her at every moment.
Even during the first time he managed to see, it was only to kill the group of men that had bothered him. They had taken Castor’s money and tried to cut his arm off. It did not matter to him if he lost an arm but he found it cumbersome to regenerate a limb. That was why he had concentrated on them instead which was when he managed to see. But it was only for a brief moment.
Castor knew that the reason why his vision had returned now was because his interest had been slightly piqued by this child. Though he was quickly blind again.
“That huge city is called Metis. It was named after a very very wise goddess from a long time ago.”
The child would actively come after him and chattered away without a care in the world. Castor was not listening to her or did he close his eyes but to his surprise, he received a useful bit of information.
Babbling, the child flipped open some book and told him that she had learnt all that in school.
“It is because of this that the small town became a huge city. The handsome and smart hero, Sir Julian, appeared and built a huge dam to block our waterways in the case of a flood.”
Metis, that was the city where the Temple of Wisdom was located. So, the Julian she was referring to, must be the Julian he was familiar with.
“What happened to the hero that helped prevent floods?”
“Huh? The hero has passed.”
The moment he learned what point in time he was now in thanks to the child, he realised that more time had passed than he initially thought. Faint emotions bubbled within him.
He thought he had fallen into a completely different point in time and space. He wasn’t even sure if he was in the same dimension. But he seemed to have been teleported into the Empire of a distant future.
The brother whom he once thought to be blindingly naive and foolish yet still loved–that affectionate brother of his had died for a long time now.
The girl continued chattering even without a response from Castor.
“My favourite amongst all the people I learned about is this dashing duke! It was said that her hair was as red as it was beautiful. I also learned that she had invested an enormous sum of money to build a school. And now, it is the biggest school in the Empire! Every child in the Empire attends this school once they reach 14 years of age.”
A lot of words left her mouth. And at times, there were some that Castor could not bring himself to ignore.
“There was also a white-haired duke that managed to stop a mountain from collapsing.”
The child was recounting stories of the past or perhaps even legends.
So, everyone had died. Yet nothing changed in Castor’s exhausted expression.
The child whom he once considered his subordinate and whom he once shared the same enemy with.
“You will lose.”
The weak human who had been thrown around by the fate of a beast.
“For you who will be left behind… I pity you.”
He was the only person Castor would ever call his friend. Castor had continued to break the man as he spiralled into madness during his regressions but he still considered him a friend.
In the end, their blades were pointed at each other and time had a funny way of surfacing only the most scathing memories he had of him first.
But as the memories distort and expend their use, the pages it had been recorded upon merely dissipated. For the first time since they met, Castor closed his eyes as he listened to the child’s stories. But she only seemed excited that she managed to elicit a response from him.
“But my most favourite and the person I like the most is this one. Not only was she pretty, but she was also the smartest emperor ever and was even friends with the queen of a neighbouring country.”
As soon as he subconsciously saw the page the child was pointing at, his vision darkened once more. It was through instinct Castor noticed.
“What happened to the emperor?”
“Huh? This person…”
He found himself asking her desperately. But he could no longer hear. The world had gone quiet. As though he had been cut off from every sound possible.
“When you think of me, you will not be able to speak. Nor will you be able to hear.”
It was through instinct, he noticed. That this was about her. Her curse was keeping him away from her again.
He tilted his head at the fierce rejection she had left behind. But even though he could not hear a thing, ecstasy bloomed in his chest.
With his lips firmly closed, he smiled without a word. The chattering child stopped talking and glanced at him but he could not sense a thing.
“You, your love was sincere, wasn’t it?”
Yes, she was right. He loved her. His love for her was so deep, he wanted to replace her intense hatred for him with it. He had destroyed her heart and wanted to find a place in its fragments.
Just once more, so that she would look his way.
His lips curled upwards. But after so much happened, he was now living in the land she lived in and drinking the air she once breathed.
“Fall into hell.”
Even if she granted him hell, he would willingly accept.
But he tried to plead with her.
Couldn’t she watch the place in the abyss he had fallen into?
‘I’ll give you this!’
Castor lifted the book without a word. The child forced it into his chest.
He turned the pages slowly but just as he expected, he wasn’t able to see any of the pages Ashley was mentioned in. There was nothing to be disappointed about. He had expected this. Instead of immediately burning the book into crisp, he decided to hold it in his grip. Turning the pages, he paused.
[This is the epitaph of the hero, Julian.
‘Brother, when you come find me again, please smile. Because I’ll forgive you if you do.’
No one could understand his will, but the emperor allowed his will to be inscribed on an erected tombstone that will not erode under any circumstance.]
Castor closed the book.
After that day, Castor only continued to ignore the child’s chatter. However, the subject of her chatters had changed as he could not hear anything about Ashley. That was because the child had cleverly noticed that Castor had not been concentrating.
“In the village, I usually hang out with Peter and Sarah but Peter likes me.”
Castor shifted his gaze and stared at the girl. His sword had been held lightly by his hand but it would be wielded at any time.
“But now, I don’t know anymore. I like Peter too but he doesn’t respond to me well and gets upset often when I talk to him….”
“Peter? Do you mean, Peter Capeheind?”
The child seemed to be wondering how he knew his name but he was no longer interested in her. He merely stared at her with a bored and languid gaze before slowly lowering his eyes.
“There’s nothing to worry about. You’ll be marrying him.”
“Huh? Marriage? No? I’ve never thought about it. I won’t accept his proposal!”
Castor dropped the truth bomb.
Being the Templar of the Lord, he would see both the truth and the future with his eyes. His words that were strong enough to flip time upside down could be literal prophecies.
Prophesying a future that would never change, he shut his eyes again.
“By the way, I haven’t told you what my name is yet, have I?”
“I don’t need to hear it.”
The girl flashed a broad smile. Castor gently clenched his hand before releasing his grip as he listened to the grin that grated his ears. If she smiled any more, he would not hesitate to swing his blade.
He had been here for too long. It was time to leave now. Just as he thought so.
“Ah, my mum’s going to be back soon! I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Turning her back around, the child ran away. When he turned his head, the child turned at the same time.
“My name is Eli–”
Castor stiffened when he heard the next words that came out of her mouth.
Rose, a strong rose fragrance suddenly struck his nostrils. When he finally returned to his senses, the child had long disappeared.
Staring ahead, Castor slowly held his face. A giddy smile burst out of him. And as time passed, that smile gradually became more twisted.
In the life of a templar who was governed by fate, there was no such thing as coincidences. Especially in the lives of the most powerful of templars. So, he realised that this was another message Ashley had left for him.
To not chase after her.