Tara, pushed to the limit by Kyle's unconsciousness, makes an important confession.
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Episode 199. About 10 months (76)
The mushroom soup was light, the egg sandwich with plenty of apple syrup was sweet, and the grilled chicken skewers were salty and delicious.
Even though there were no special ingredients, Du Roi’s chef appeared to be very skilled.
In a situation like this, shouldn't I just eat one or two bites in moderation and leave the rest?
"What a paradoxical idea. No, no way! My ancestors would be ashamed if I left food uneaten! His Highness wouldn't want me to starve."
Looking down at my empty plate, I smiled guiltlessly. I rinsed my mouth with water, quickly cleaned up, dropped my dishes off in the kitchen and returned to the room.
I closed the door and leaned against it, staring into the room.
Before I knew it, the sun had disappeared below the horizon and the room sank into a bluish darkness. His still form remained the same.
As I stood there staring at him, I suddenly remembered what had happened in the Berquinn Caves.
I recalled the answer he gave me when I asked him why he had chosen to give me some of his Aurore at that moment.
[That's why I'm doing this. I would never have thought of giving you my Aurore back then, even if your condition was worse in Durben than it is now. At the time, I didn't think of you as completely one of my people. Even for my own people, I wouldn't hand over my Aurore so recklessly. I will only do this now. Because it's you. You are smart, so you know what I'm trying to tell you…]
As if guided by the words in my memory, I blankly went to the side of the bed and sat down.
"Why… I don't know why those words come to mind now. This is the first time I've ever met someone like you.”
‘I know. There's no man like me in the world.’
His smiling face on the verge of laughter materialized in front of me, overlapping with his currently expressionless face.
I couldn't help but laugh as well.
"That's right. Maybe we'll never see each other again. Do you remember what you told me back then? At the hunting grounds, Your Highness told me to think of you as a man…”
After a brief pause, I continued.
"Do you remember? When you wake up... When you wake up, I'll see you. As a man. So please don't leave me alone in such a dark place. Alright?"
It suddenly dawned on me.
This man had become so important to me.
He was someone who had recognized me in this lifetime.
Someone who saw me as a worthy opponent, included me in discussions, and even helped me fill in the gaps when I fell short.
Someone who understood me the way I was.
And he was the man who said he loved me.
I had been holding my breath for so long that I had run out of air. I inhaled deeply.
The oxygen rushed to my brain all at once. Was it because of that? My heart pounded in my chest.
Thump, thump, thump.
"I can't tell you everything, Your Highness. But, I'm constantly terrified and anxious. I don't have much time. That’s why I couldn't fully accept your heart or give mine to you."
I spoke slowly, carefully tidying a stack of rumpled sheets.
"Honestly, Your Highness. Just seeing you unconscious like this? This place is more uncertain and frightening than ever without you… So, Your Highness, please wake up. When you wake up, I..."
I put down the sheet I was organizing and looked straight at his face.
“I will try to be more brave.”
I didn't take my eyes off of his face for a long while, as if my words were going to make him wake up.
But his face was still the same.
Maybe it was because of a last glimmer of hope, but I bowed my head down towards his unchanging face.
"Ha... This is something I never expected. Why? What is wrong with me? I never thought this would happen. Is it possible...!”
I raised my head.
Was all of this because I had intervened in Author Kim’s story and made everything worse?
I had possessed a person in this world. After possessing Tara, I only wanted to save my family, but I felt like the Prince's current state was my fault.
As far as I knew, the 2nd Prince had never been injured like this before!
I buried my head in my hands and took a deep breath.
"Shit. I guess it's because of me. I intervened. I... Ha... What can I do? What should I do? What if you die because of me? I should've stayed still and done nothing... I should have just ran away."
Falling into the depths of self-blame, I said everything that came to mind.
"I should have just looked for another way instead of becoming an administrator. Why did I have to get this job? Why the hell do I have to live with this doomed fate? Why did God punish me like this? I should’ve just stayed in that room...”
I tore at my hair, then took another deep breath.
I raised my head suddenly at the faintly audible word.
Just now. He spoke!
I looked at him, full of anticipation.
But his face, which I had been staring at this whole time, hadn’t changed.
Did I hear wrong? Was I sure I actually heard it?
"Your Highness?" I tried asking again.
There was no movement this time either. The next time I spoke, my upper body was trembling slightly.
“D–Did you just say something! Your Highness, are you awake? Are you?"
And then the corners of his mouth lifted very slightly.
'He's awake! Aaaaaaaaah!'
Internally, I was screaming. Urgently, I called him again.
My hands came up to my mouth, my eyes as big as saucers. I looked down at Kyle, silently holding my breath.
The hoarse voice that came out of his throat was so low it was hard to distinguish.
My heart began to beat violently at the mere fact that he was speaking.
I was so startled that I put my face right next to his in order to listen.
“Whatever you need to say, please say it. I can hear you!"
I repeated the words and stared at Kyle’s face, right in front of mine.
Digging the ground?
His long, slender eyelashes slowly opened, then closed, then fluttered open and closed again. Then finally his eyelids slowly opened, and his gaze fixed on me.
There was a small smile in his distant eyes.
Oh... he opened his eyes!
"That's… what... you... do."*
"What? That's… Ah…!"
My anticipation dissipated as I belatedly grasped the meaning of his words.
My shoulders, which had risen in response, drooped down in an instant.
The corners of his lips lifted a little higher. Suddenly, the tension drained from my body.
"Really... That’s what you wanted to say to me after being unconscious for two days?"
"Some…thing... like... that."
His voice cracked again. My heart broke hearing it. For a moment I had thought I might never hear that voice again.
I didn't know exactly what I was feeling right now, but it was clear that relief was mixed in among various other emotions.
And then, the tears I had held in this entire time flooded me in an instant, blurring my vision.
"Were you... worried?"
“You just… You just scared me! Um.”
I rubbed my wet eyes roughly to prevent the tears from flowing out.
"Why–why did you give it to me...!”
Kyle put his big hand on top of my head.
"Don't blame yourself... It's not your fault."
"But, Your Highness."
“All of it was my own decision..."
His hand suddenly weakened and fell from my head. I turned back to his face.
His eyes were closed again, his face as it was before he woke up.
I sprang to my feet in surprise. I was so bewildered that fresh tears welled up in my eyes.
Was it a dream?
No. The hand that had fallen off the sheets proved it wasn't a dream.
But his eyes were closed, and he lay unmoving as if he had fallen into a deep sleep once again.
The one who provided the answers for this absurd situation was Matilda, an old grandmotherly doctor, whom Walter brought in the middle of the night.
The doctor was wearing a thick robe that resembled sleepwear. Fatigue and intense displeasure was etched into her features. She entered the room while tapping the floor with her cane.
She looked to be around 80 years old.
Originally, her grey hair must have been neatly styled into a bun. However, perhaps because of her late night ride against the wind, a multitude of fine hairs stuck out from her head, making the elderly doctor look even more haggard.
But when Matilda approached, her piercing eyes gleamed, and her gaze was lit with an unusual incisive intelligence.**
"This is a relief. Once someone falls into the abyss of unconsciousness when overwhelmed by their Aurore they sometimes never wake up. They lie there as if they were dead. Notably, the stronger the Aurore user, the deeper they can drift into the abyss of unconsciousness."
“Then, has he passed this hurdle?”
At my question, the doctor glanced at me and explained.
“A place absent of pain feels like heaven, so there is a high probability that someone faced with that will not want to return to reality. However, since His Highness has crossed back over into the world of consciousness, he has passed the largest obstacle. Fortunately, his body appears to be cleansing itself in preparation for full physical activity right now, so be patient. Presently, you can think of His Highness as being in a restorative state of deep sleep. He will probably awaken tomorrow morning or sooner."
The explanation was very clear, but I shot Walter a slightly apprehensive look. Alright...
I flinched in surprise.
Matilda looked furious, having hit the ground with her cane.
"What’s with that look? Are you doubting my skills, child? No matter how old and decrepit I am, how many doctors in the Empire can claim to be as good as I?"
Ah, skill gained from experience.
“Ah, this is just an area I’m not familiar with, so I may seem doubtful. However, as His Highness's only Aide, I have a duty to accurately assess your skills. So please understand."
I tried to explain it as gently as possible.
“Then you should ask me directly. Don't you know that such a reaction is rather disrespectful?"
"Yes, I'm sorry. I thought it was rude to ask directly, but I was mistaken."
She readily conceded. Walter grinned awkwardly and quickly interrupted.
"Let me explain. She’s a former member of the military who served with us on the battlefield for more than 20 years. She retired two years ago, after a battle to fend off a Barbarian incursion, and fortunately she was living close to Central Castle. Therefore I'm grateful to have her here."
She worked on battlefields for 20 years. Her career was no joke.
"Thank you, Doctor."
I straightened my back and bowed.
"Of course you're welcome... Hmm. Are you crying?"
"Oh… I guess it's because I'm relieved. Hehe."
Before I knew it, I smiled, wiping away my tears.
Editor’s Notes -
This chapter makes me so damn happy. Tara finally realizing her feelings makes me want to jump for joy! I can definitely feel the happy tears and warm fuzzies. We all knew deep down that Kyle would be just fine, but it still hits hard seeing Tara's relief.
* Kyle’s first few words to Tara was something I wracked my brains over a lot. But the gist of it, from what I can gather, is that Kyle uses these precious first few words to joke about Tara being doggedly persistent, and very hard on herself. Saying that it’s just like her to be that way. The fact that Kyle stutters out this sentence and that Tara initially gets confused by Kyle talking about ‘digging’ while he tries to get the words out means this was incredibly tough to translate into English and have everything make sense contextually. Kyle's words when combined ‘땅을 파는 스타일이군’ roughly means, 'you're a digger'/'you're the kind who digs'/digging the ground is your style’. 땅을 means ground, 파는 means to sell/dig, and 스타일이군 means to have a style. A similar phrase, 땅파기 ‘digging the ground’, means to have a fruitless debate. At the end of the day, this interpretation is all just my best guess. I hope that the meaning comes through properly!
** The MTL described Matilda as having a 'phosphorescent beak' and 'eyes full of guns', which is some pretty insane imagery, but that was, disappointingly, a mistranslation. 총기가 can mean both ‘brilliant’/’bright’ and ‘firearm’/’gun’. So yeah, Matilda is not packing actual firepower, but instead a very sharp mind. It did, however, briefly give me the mental image of a badass old lady with guns for eyes.
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