A red line drawn on his back.
A sword buried deeply into his flesh.
A fountain of blood gushing out onto her face.
Then a moment later, a scream.
All blood left Stella as she turned completely pale.
For a moment, she couldn’t understand what it was that she had done.
No, to be more precise, she didn’t want to understand.
Her mind, her heart, her soul… Not one of those wanted to acknowledge her sin.
But there was no denying the sensation in her hands.
And she screamed like never before, not even realizing that her voice couldn’t come out.
Cracks seemed to fill her entire body from within, and though her scream produced no sound, she felt as though her body was being torn apart.
Yet her body refused to listen to her, her mana unresponsive.
She could feel it clearly. The sensation of cutting him, piercing him, and bathing herself in the warmth of his blood.
Her body wasn’t under her control, and yet she could feel those sensations fully.
Despair filled her, something she thought she’d long gotten used to, for how many miscreants has she slain in the name of defending Princess Lilisha?
Yet as unpleasant as such sensations were, never before had she been shaken to this extent.
In fact, she was so shaken that she wanted to close her eyes and believe that his was nothing more than a dream.
Alas, even her own eyes refused to obey her, and she could only continue to gaze at the boy’s back which she’d pierced.
A line drawn in red and a circle of the same hue.
Blood poured out, and the warmth of his body, his life, left with it.
Unable to even lose consciousness, the emotions that existed amidst her screams began to crumble.
The first emotion she felt when she saw that the boy had come to their aid was that of guilt.
He had covered for her, so she could only see his back, but she was sure that he was irritated.
He always just arrived in the nick of time, and while the concept of a hero that saved those in need at just the right moment might sound nice, that also meant to say that he always had to see people hurt, or that if he were even a moment slower, he was bound to see someone die.
In fact, that has been the case for him hasn’t it?
Just how painful must it be, how burdensome, and yet in their own weakness, she made him suffer that same fate again.
Were she able to move, she would have surely ground her teeth.
And yet amidst such frustrations, as indecent as she might have found it, there was also happiness.
Why was he angry? That was of course none other than because they were wounded.
As a maid, as a guard, as someone with sharpened intuition, she could tell that much.
─Why can’t I arrive before things get this bad?─
It was all too easy to imagine that he must have prioritized the safety of those ‘outside’.
Since the enemies he fought were meant to stop the tenkorius, they must have no doubt been numerous and powerful.
Evidently, he couldn’t just leave such enemies alone, and that’s why he was irritated.
For though such a decision was correct, it was tantamount to abandoning them.
She felt sorry for that, but at the same time, she felt a little happy too.
Because that meant she had become dear enough for him to feel such emotions for her. Strangely, she found pride in that.
Then he declared that this was their victory.
All they could do was buy time, and they were even rendered completely powerless halfway through, and by the end of it, they were just resisting meaninglessly, and yet he acknowledged their efforts and said that they’d won.
That made her chest hot.
Why was she holding a sword?
Why did she cut him?
Why did she pierce him?
Why did she hurt that back that was both small yet large, pitiful yet tenacious?
Why was she moving as though she wanted to tear him apart?
──Stop moving! Don’t move on your own!
Thoughts frozen in shock, a broken and screaming heart…
Even if she could talk, she likely wouldn’t have been able to say anything that made sense.
Through the sensation felt through the sword, she could tell that someone had grabbed the sword from beyond that back.
It needn’t be asked who had grabbed it.
Stella found herself raising her head.
The boy before her turned his head to look at her.
He was moving sluggishly, though she hoped that that was just because he was leisurely enough to do so.
On his face was shock, the anguished face of someone asking why.
──Don’t look at me with those eyes!
Stella’s heart sobbed like a little girl, but…
What reached her next was an innocent voice accompanied by a carefree smile.
It was a face completely void of her worst fears, and Stella could only gaze at it blankly.
“…Brat… Are you mad? You do realize that that maid attacked you just now, right?”
Despite having his back cut, despite having been been penetrated from behind, the boy spoke as though he had been merely playing hide-and-seek with the maid.
The alchemist looked at him as though he were mad, but when Shinichi looked back at him, the only thing that could be gleamed from him was an innocent smile unlike anything earlier and an obviously astonished face.
“Haa? What are you even saying? Are you crazy?”
He acted as though the alchemist was the crazy one here.
The alchemist was gobsmacked.
Why was a man whose stomach had been penetrated with a sword mocking him?
It was curious if Shinichi took that for an opening or if he never really cared about him, but he continued to run his mouth and said why.
Moreover, with an attitude as though nothing could be more obvious.
“If you use your brain just a little, it’s pretty darn obvious. Stella stabbed me from behind? Well, that’s obviously because someone’s controlling her, dumbass. Sigh, overly-theoretical scholars really might as well be blind. It’s such a sorry sight to see one pretending to be a schemer.”
Shinichi mocked the alchemist while blood flowed out from his impaled stomach.
Scorn, a condescending look, and a mocking laugh and expression, while provocative words poured out of him ceaselessly.
He was in great condition. Though it should be noted that he was doing all this while a sword was sticking out of his belly.
“Just what crazy thing are you saying!?”
Because of that Shinichi looked like the crazier of the two of them.
Normally, one would be shocked when their friend stabs them in the back, and one could not help but wonder if they’ve been betrayed.
But Shinichi was saying that that very act itself did not make sense.
There was no way that she would stab him in this situation. That was not a matter of feelings but a matter of logic.
It was simply impossible. Be that as it may, it was still absurd that he would not doubt her the slightest with just that as his reasoning.
Clearly, there was something wrong with him.
“No, the one being ridiculous here is you. In the first place, who do you think is the most suspicious when I get stabbed at that timing? Everyone’s too shocked to realize it, but you’re standing there smiling to yourself like an idiot, and you really think no one’s going to suspect you? Put some more effort into your act, you lousy alchemist… You’re spoiling the moment. Sheesh.”