The boy dropped such cruel words as though it were small talk, but Johann had no way to refute them, and he found himself breathless, utterly shocked.
Despite that, he raised his voice, perhaps in an act of desperation to maintain his composure.
“Impossible! I should still have time! I still remember! I haven’t forgotten Filia! There’s no way! It’s impossible…”
“What were her first words?”
“What was her first spell?”
“W-What are you…”
“What was the first present she received? What was her favorite prank? What was her favorite book? What was her pet phrase? What subject or subjects did she struggle with?”
“Uu, ah… Ahh…”
Johann couldn’t say anything, and that in and of itself was a confession that he could no longer remember.
“Impossible… I remember! I should remember, so why!?”
Those were memories of his beloved daughter, memories that he should have easily been able to remember, and yet they were vague, difficult to recall.
He loved his daughter and was terribly shocked when he lost her. That much was clear, but everything else was hazy. The boy’s rapid succession of questions wasn’t particularly difficult.
So long as Johann’s relationship with his daughter wasn’t too bad, he should have been able to answer at least one question.
After all, his questions concerned everyday life within the palace – things that Johann should have seen, heard, and known. But that was all he knew – that he should have known those things.
“It can’t be true! No, it can’t be!”
Johann shook his head like a child pleading for something not to be found out, but the boy merely sneered in response.
“Really? Then can you tell me when you last saw her smile?”
‘No! Don’t think about it!’ he told himself, but the brain possessed a mind of its own, and the moment the instructions were recognized, the brain brought to surface that which he did not wish to see.
That was none other than the memory of when she was last alive – she was by the palace garden, admiring the blooming flowers, and when Johann passed by her, she called out to him with a cheerful,’father!’, so he also turned around, but what greeted him was—
—the face of his beloved daughter covered in holes.
“Uu, ah, aHHHHHhhh!?!?!?”
Something seemed to crumble with a sound, and as if in desperate denial of the hallucination beheld, a scream that was the very picture of that despair poured out of Johann’s lips.
The smile of his daughter, the last smile, the most recent, that which should have been the most radiant, surfaced to his mind rotten, covered in holes, as though consumed by worms.
“The cruelest verbal attack yet.”
“Nakamura-sama is in excellent form.”
The maids had no way of knowing exactly what was unfolding within Johann’s mind, but his frantic behavior, his loss of control as he yelled incomprehensibly left little to imagination.
There was no knowing the exact extent of his despair, but the thought of realizing that he could no longer remember someone he loved so much to the extent that he fell into depravity for her was certainly terrifying.
Shinichi mercilessly prodded and poked at his vulnerable emotions to expose such a cruel truth, so it was only natural that even the maids could only wryly smile.
The princess, however, was love-struck.
“I think that just goes to show how angry he is,” Kite said.
Kite came stumbling along, showing signs of having recovered somewhat, but there was a delighted expression on his face, as though he approved of Shinichi’s wicked deeds.
“Looks like everyone getting hurt so much really ticked him off, huh.”
“Shin is the kind of person to care about that.”
“He cares too much…”
Joy, apologetic, frustration… Even if they could understand his reasons, their reactions varied widely. None of them blamed Shinichi however because they could understand how he felt to some extent, and there was no denying that they had been helpless.
That’s why they instead blamed the
“Uu, ahh, gah!?”
That perpetrator screamed incessantly like a toy that had been broken, but as though even that hadn’t been permitted to him, he was grabbed by the hair and forced to look straight into that crescent moon smile, causing him to scream from the fear, which for better or for worse, temporarily brought him back to sanity.
“Pathetic. Once the great Sorcerer King, now but a depraved old man obsessed with bringing back his daughter from the grave. Yet you don’t even remember her.”
Were Shinichi’s hands free, he might have actually clapped for him, but they weren’t, so he just laughed at him instead. Truly, it was becoming more and more a mystery who between these two was the villain, but of those present, not one sided with Johann.
“Stop it! I should still have time! My soul shouldn’t have deteriorated so quickly! Damn it, why!? Why can’t I remember!? Filia, Filia!!”
“The deterioration of the soul?”
“Stop wailing, it’s noisy.”
The father wailed as though in yearning for his daughter, but Shinichi just indifferently slapped him shut as if to mock the intensity of his pain, and his chilling voice that seemed even greater than the agony the man felt quickly shut him up.
“You reap what you sow. You were the one who chose to go down this path despite understanding the consequences. Soul Transfer may have certainly been the optimal solution for extending your lifespan without changing yourself, but… A soul that has left its vessel cannot remain for long.”
That was an immutable law of life, an irrevocable decree. Body and soul shared an intimate bond. One part alone would render the other half incomplete.
The soul existed because of the body, while the body’s existence was made meaningful by the inhabiting of the soul.
And with few exceptions, there was no changing that.
Once separated, regardless of the means, the soul would begin to deteriorate.
“Guardian spirits of ruins or equipment harboring the souls of heroes are still fine. Though their consciousness is spread out, their ego remains asleep, emerging only when need, so they can endure the passage of time and last for centuries.
It’s for that reason that you created a body so young. You wanted to trick your soul into believing that it was still in its youth and in so doing suppress deterioration, but in the end, the body you created was merely an imitation of your physical form. It has long reached its limits.”