Another victim appeared since then with the culprit no closer to being caught.
For the past few days, Suimei has been walking around the Imperia Capital looking for stray cats in order to memorize the layout. Despite his group, the Yuusha, and the military police all searching for the culprit, nothing has turned up. The culprit may be reducing its attacks due to having so many people in pursuit. Because of that, Suimei is once more recruiting help from back streets, around bushes, and vacant lots.
At present, Suimei steps out of an alleyway carrying a pair of cats in his arms. "Hey, quit gnawing on my finger. It isn't that tasty."
Did it like getting pet that much? Suimei is troubled by the one cat play biting the index finger of his right hand. Cats have the habit of biting prey they plan to attack or the spoils of their hunt, but this one is relaxed. It might just want to be pet more.
A familiar person appears before him as he strokes the cat. "Suimei Yakagi…"
"—Oh, twin tails, eye patched girl? It's been a while." The only person with those characteristics is Liliana Zandark.
"Twintails… What kind, of incomprehensible, name is that?"
"No, it's nothing. Still, running into you here is pretty unexpected. Are you here for some candy?"
Liliana isn't in the mood for Suimei's jokes. She cuts through his words with her usual sharp tone. "Incorrect."
"You don't want any candy?"
"I am, not interested in, that."
The usual atmosphere Liliana carries herself with changes into a severe aura. The intensity with which she stares at Suimei's chest chips away at his composure. However, the only things there are the two cats. "Then, what's up?"
"M- Mr. Cat… Give him, to me."[i]
Liliana demands the cat be given to her as she steps forward with both arms spread open.
–Where is Your Cape, ★ Cute Star?–
Suimei, having been requested of a cat by Liliana, sits on a bench next to a fountain.
"Nyan, nyan, nyan, nyan." Liliana pays him no mind as she imitates the cries of a cat. Both of the cat's forepaws are in her hands as she sways side to side. Lost in her bliss, she appears to be preforming a famous nursery rhyme. The smile shinning on her face is one Suimei has never seen before. "Nyan, nyan, gyuu~." She hugs the cat at the end of her rhyme.
She must really love cats. Well, cats are adorable.
Suimei says, "Looks like you're having fun."
Liliana appears to have completely forgotten about him. "—!? Fo- for how long, will you stay there, Suimei Yakagi!"
"Until you return the cat?"
Liliana's expression turns stiff as she asks, "Return? This, child to, you?"
She stares at him with cold eyes while saying, "I believe this child is a stray, not yours. Why are you, abducting Mr. Cat? Answer carefully, or you might receive a death, sentence from the military court."
Abducting? Not to mention, she's threatening him with a death sentence without hosting a proper investigation. What a dangerous thing to say. The cat said, "Nyan" and went with him. He says, "Because, I wanted to pet cats."
"Mu…. Really? In that case, I guess it's fine."
That works? They might be having trouble understanding one another because Liliana is still playing with the cat in a blissful daze. Suimei says, "You really like cats."
"Not just Mr. Cat, I like Mr. Dog too. All animals are good children." After a spell of time, while still looking at the cat, she throws Suimei a question. "I heard you're, competing against the Yuusha, on capturing the one, responsible for the comas?"
"Yeah, you're well informed."
Liliana, without adopting a prideful attitude, says, "Because information, naturally comes to my ears."
That must be because she part of the military intelligence department.
Liliana continues, "Why, do you feel the need to, compete against the Yuusha?"
"That's because two of my companions are on the line."[ii] Suimei explains his circumstance to her.
"If those are the Goddess's words, then isn't leaving them in, the Yuusha's care alright? He isn't someone who'll get into trouble and you'll be able to have a comfortable life. As for the Goddess's oracles, those aren't that rare."
"What a coldhearted statement."
"It might be coldhearted, but it's, also logical."
Liliana gives Suimei an irritated look at his apparent disgust. "That's right." She then turns towards the bandages wrapped around his left hand. "I'd like to hear, what happened to, your hand?"
"You want to know about this? It's that culprit's doing."
"…How bad, is it?"
"Not that bad, actually. It'll heal soon."
"Heal…? It will heal!?"
Suimei tilts his head as he says, "Hm? Is it that surprising?"
Liliana turns away and says, "N-no, I heard from the, colonel that it was very severe. That's why…"
"Is that all? Well, I won't change my mind."
"You won't change your mind…. Do you understand what, you're saying? The culprit is a dangerous person who, has attacked a lot of people. You should stop for, your own good."
"What's up? You've been snapping at me for a while now. Could you be worried about me?"
"—Not at all." She replies in an instant.
"I've said something similar recently, but I wouldn't have accepted this match if I intended to lose."
"Why? Why are you going, that far? If you're trying to save the world—"
Is she saying giving up is normal? That the few should be sacrificed for the greater good? Humanity's impending crisis might encourage others to reach such conclusions without a second thought, "Before that,"
"What is it?"
"Let that guy go, already." Suimei points at the cat held between Liliana's arms. At some point it started waving its tail left and right. "Cats wave their tails like that when they're unsatisfied. Being held that way might be making it hot."
Regret laces Liliana's voice as she says, "…It's that uncomfortable?" She releases the cat who in turn stares at Liliana with curiosity while tilting its head. It doesn't seem to hate her. The shine returns to the eye staring at the cat upon being told. "My question."
"Yeah, why am I standing against both the Goddess and the Yuusha?" Suimei sighs out at Liliana's nod and says, "Isn't there someone you want to protect?"
"Someone, I want, to protect?"
"Exactly, that's how it is for me right now."
"I'm having trouble, understanding what, you mean. However, there's no need, to do something that unreasonable…"
"It's giving you trouble? Then… how about using your family as an example?"
Suimei feels as though he's hearing something that can't be voiced out loud. "What's wrong?"
Liliana's tone turns cold as she says, "I don't have a family."
Did I step on a sensitive topic? Suimei is positive the soldier with the swept back hair he ran into three times is her father, so he isn't sure as to what sparked her anger. "Isn't that person your father?"
"The colonel, before, being my father, is my commanding officer."
What does she mean? Don't most families in similar situations place the role of being a father first during times of peace?
Liliana's head drops downward before Suimei can voice his question. "The colonel isn't my real father. My parents, abandoned me."
"….So that's how it is, sorry. Did I touch on a sensitive topic?"
Suimei once more says, "I'm sorry," before returning to her question. "Well, we haven't known each other for very long, but they're still important to me."
"Which is why you'll do the impossible? How stupid, you'll die an early death."
"What a horrible thing to say."
"But, I also…"
"No, it's nothing."
Suimei says, "Really?" but upon seeing Liliana shake her head, lets the question drop. A glimpse of her eye reveals that the light faded from it some time ago. She's absentmindedly playing with the cat's paw.
After watching her for a moment, he looks around for a cart selling frozen desserts. He goes to it and returns with two servings. "Here, thanks for earlier."
Liliana stares at the frozen dessert with her sleepy eye upon noticing it being offered to her. "I've already, said I don't want any."
"It's fine. It's not like you're losing anything, so just take it."
"I don't need it."
"Well, I already bought it…"
Liliana's head drops and after a moment, says in a melancholic tone, "Why are you, so kind to me?"
"Why am I…?"
"Everything would be fine if you were callous towards me like everyone else, if you treated me with disgust."
Darkness, her eyes, my reflection off them, maybe even everything around her, it's dark. Abandoned, treated with disgust; those words remind her of her circumstances.
She continues, "Aren't I creepy? Even though I'm small, I can wield magic to hurt anyone who stands against me."
"Is everyone like that? Like the other day?"
"Within the Empire, I am something to, be feared. I'm hidden within, the shadow of the intelligence, department that created me, a dark stain against the light."
"That's why you said there's no one else like me?"
Liliana's warped sense of purpose drives her to continue. "That's right. There is no, one else like you, except for the colonel…" Speaking helps her regain her composure. Her shoulders droop as her spirit falls and she turns silent.
"He doesn't say much, but he's a good person." Suimei voices his impression about Rouge. While doing so, he pulls out some soft jerky from his pocket and offers it to the cat. "Still, isn't it painful?"
"It's my job. I cannot abandon, it just because, it's unpleasant."
"Then, you've resigned yourself to your current situation?"
"I am the colonel's pawn. I'll lose my, purpose if I reject my position."
A girl of about 12 or 13 shouldn't have already decided her own future.
Liliana says, "We're only talking about myself."
"You're curious about me?"
"…Why did you, come to the Empire?"
"I have to take care of a minor issue."
"Where did you learn, that strange magic?"
"From my father."
"How did you find, the criminal?"
"I was looking around and got lucky."
"What? Is this an interrogation? Did Colonel-san ask you to investigate people with my build?"
Liliana's casual reply makes Suimei wonder if there is no problem in admitting that fact.
At that moment, "—What a surprise to see you here, Suimei Yakagi."
Suimei turns towards the voice coming from his side and finds Yuusha Elliot.
Liliana says, "Ah, Yuusha-sama?"
Could he be taking a walk, or is this part of his search? Either way, it is a random encounter.
Elliot says, "In the middle of a break? You're sure taking it easy. Or, could it be that you've run into a dead end?"
"What about you? Should you really be selling oil?[iii] I heard you haven't been making any progress."
"Aren't you getting carried away? You got lucky and found the culprit, once. Right now, you're just playing with animals."
Even though Suimei and Elliot are having a heated exchange, it doesn't develop into a dangerous situation. Elliot only approached with the intent of a greeting. That fact allows both Suimei and Liliana to remain calm despite how the conversation started.
Suimei says, "Your priestess isn't with you today?"
"Crista and I aren't always together. She does what she likes. Besides," Elliot looks to Liliana. "Aren't you hanging out with a different girl?"
Suimei says, "Are you bad with girls?"
"I suppose I respond better to them than men."
Suimei shrugs at Elliot's joke with a snort while saying, "Can't argue that."
Elliot once more turns towards Liliana, "She's?"
"A soldier of the Empire, not one of my companions. She's currently interrogating me on the grounds of cat abduction."
"There's no doubt you've been caught red handed. You're definitely going to prison."
Suimei sticks out his tongue while saying, "Whatever."
Elliot gives Suimei a side glance before smiling at Liliana. She disregards that he's the Yuusha and produces a wall of killing intent and magical power. Even though Elliot is taken aback by the action, his composure doesn't crumble. He says, "She doesn't like me?"
"Who knows? She's always like this, so I really can't tell." Suimei's response is an honest one since he can't pick up on Liliana's intentions.
Elliot, noticing that Liliana is being mindful of the cats, says, "Hey,"
Elliot responds to Suimei's blunt attitude with a serious tone. "Let me ask once more. Why do you oppose the words of Goddess Alshna? Even if her oracle is beyond comprehension, isn't she still the Goddess of your world?"
"I could ask you, someone who comes from another world, the opposite. Why do you blindly accept the words of this world's god?"
Elliot gazes up towards the cloudless sky as he says, "I'm not blindly accepting them. I accept them because I believe that that is what I should do."
Suimei is struck by a sense of familiarity at those word— Could Reiji be the same?
His friend Reiji was also motivated by a similar irrational sense of responsibility towards a world not of his native birth. He was also obstinate in justifying his actions by claiming they were on behalf of the people of this world. Seems to be a common feature.
"Isn't Goddess Alshna the god who created this world? I've heard that she's an omniscient being who protects her people from wickedness. Think about it, could the words of such a noble existence really be nonsense?"
"A noble existence, huh?" Suimei repeats the words with a laugh through his nose as though he just heard a terrible joke.
Elliot, who was anticipating a serious answer, is overcome with fury. "What's so funny?"
"What's funny? Everything. Omniscient? Noble? Are you seriously claiming that some god is acting out of an innate goodness towards humanity? Do you really think those things are noble? They'll use you for their own benefit and mercilessly cut down those they deem useless. Don't get swallowed up by such petty illusions."
"Illusions? Although, you don't seem to have any basis for your opinion?"
"…That might be, but can you disprove it?"
Elliot is unable to reply to Suimei's words.
Suimei says, "That's how it is. Is there really anyone who'd let an unknown existence choose their path for them?"
"You're right. I'll admit that you have point there."
Suimei's face twists with confusion at Elliot's agreement.
Elliot says, "What?"
"….No, I'm just surprised. Judging from last time, by slighting your god, I thought you'd make me out to be an enemy of humanity like your companion did."
Elliot adopts an attitude of indifference and flicks his hand while saying, "I don't discriminate against others based off their beliefs. Back in my world, we weren't limited to just one god, after all."
"Really? Then it'd be great if you could implement that mindset into the current situation."
"This and that are two different issues. If it's for the sake of saving the people of this world, I'll take that girl with us even if I can't understand the reason for it."
"You're still saying that?"
"Everything in this world is connected by the cogs of fate. Nothing that happens is without meaning."
"If that's true, that makes our match pretty strange if you think about."
"I think you should just withdraw."
"That's just stupid."
Those words convince Elliot into giving up on trying to persuade Suimei. Then, even though the conversation should be over, he claps his hands. "Sorry for bothering you, but I'm glad your someone I can talk with. However—" He pauses to let the implication of his words sink in, "I don't like you."
"What a coincidence, I can't get along with you either."
Elliot walks past Suimei to continue in the opposite direction of him.
Did he come to check if we were unable to communicate with each other? Then, has he confirmed it? Or is he just wasting time? While Suimei is trying to determine Elliot's intent, Liliana's glove gets caught in one of the cat's claws. She tries to pull it free, but ends up rolling it down and exposing her arm.
"—!?" Liliana instantly re-covers her arm.
Apparently, Elliot didn't see what was hidden underneath as he says, "Is something wrong? Are you alright?"
Liliana doesn't respond. She looks towards Suimei in a fluster and runs off saying, "Excuse me!"
Suimei stares at Liliana's back unable to say anything as she runs away. The hand hidden beneath her glove appeared demonized. It was tar black and covered in a leathery, bumpy, texture.
–Where are Your Tights, ★ Cute Star?–
Suimei, upon returning home, interrupts Felmenia and Lefille from their magic lesson to mention his discovery. Their feet clatter against the floor as they run up to him. Felmenia still wears her glasses as she says, "—Suimei-dono, did you really discover who the criminal is?"
Weary cats clinging to Lefille swing around as she says, "Is that really true, Suimei-kun?"
Suimei nods despite his mixed feelings, "…Yeah."
Lefille says, "What's wrong, Suimei-kun? Shouldn't finding the culprit be a good thing for this country and ourselves?"
"That's true, it's just…" Suimei sighs as he makes a trouble expression.
Felmenia frowns in confusion as she says, "What happened?"
"Remember how I mentioned running into Liliana? I was in the middle of looking for cats earlier when…" Suimei gives Felmenia and Lefille an outline of what happened. He tells them everything up to his conjuncture.
While they listen with focused concentration, he contemplates his next move. What do I believe in? What should I do? He questions himself in regards to the people now close to him, to his life in this new world, to the events occurring in the new world, to how he'll overcome his competition against the summoned Yuusha. No, this isn't something I need to think about. What he needs to do is no different from what he's always done.
Suimei hardens his resolve. The words his late father left him echo within his ears.
—Save the girl who can't be saved.
T/N: Here's a thought, what if the hero's blessing also includes some sort of brainwash to make the Yuusha sympathetic to Alshna?? If the Yuusha is too strong willed, or won't bend, then it makes the Yuusha more receptive by wiping away the memories. Who knows, maybe Reiji getting caught in the summoning saved Suimei. Well, that's that for this chapter. If you find any mishaps, point them out for me so I can fix them.
P.S. I made a twitter. 😉
[i] I was torn as to whether I should leave it as Neko-san or translate it. After thinking about it, I decided that translating it better captures Liliana's innocence.
[ii] Okay, that clears up the issue one whether Felmenia had been dragged in or not. I think the previous chapters are fine, but if anyone sees anything contradictive, let me know.
[iii] Selling oil is a proverb that means to spend time chatting or waste time during the middle of a task