I didn’t know how much Lucia was carrying on her shoulders at the time. But I recalled the event every time I held her as she curled up in my arms later on.
Lucia is just a small elf-girl. She’s not a Valkyrie who was trained from a young age like Nier. The training she went through with the imperial guards was much less demanding than the training the Valkyries received. She’s also just an elf. Female elves lack the strength and stamina of male elves by a long margin.
However, Lucia carried me on her back as she struggled forwards. I couldn’t walk at all. I basically felt the same way I felt if I were thrown into water. What was worse was I lost conscious, woke up, lost conscious, and woke up again. My condition got worse and worse. While my mana wasn’t flowing, it was no different to a bowl of water with a hole. What does that mean? It means that the remainder of the water will seep out of that small hole.
The mana dissolving agent in my chest created such a hole, and slowly melted away my mana bit by bit. My body would then automatically replenish its mana, only to be dissolved once again. We were outside. I wasn’t able to eat much since I was weak. As a matter of fact, I struggled to stay awake. The feeling of mana being produced in my body became less and less frequent. When I ran out of mana, I lost conscious.
More recently, I was losing conscious for longer periods of time.
Lucia had no other option. She had to search for a white deer king, search for food and search for a place to stay at night. She had to do all of that while carrying me with her. Lucia couldn’t detect the breathing of that assassin, and consequently couldn’t leave me behind alone somewhere.
Because I couldn’t chew, Lucia chewed berries herself first, then mixed it in with water before feeding it to me mouth to mouth. Our first kiss wasn’t shared under such nice conditions like last time, but instead in a burdensome manner. I couldn’t recover on a diet of just berries, but Lucia couldn’t hunt while carrying me either. Lucia collected all the berries she gathered. She didn’t eat a single berry. When I awoke every now and then, I spotted her eating grass.
Yes, she ripped out grass from the ground and shoved it into her mouth just like an animal, chewed it and finally swallowed it.
Lucia must’ve suffered a lot. I sometimes awoke every now and then at night. I could feel her tightly holding me as she quietly sobbed. She had to carry an unconscious person around and resolutely forge forwards following the tracks of the white deer king. I actually really wanted her to put me down and search for the white deer king on her own, but she never left me. She’s just a girl and yet she carried such a burdensome responsibility.
She had no right to be afraid, and no right to cry, for if she cried, then the two of us would’ve starved to death.
I really wanted to say that it wasn’t her fault. However, the fact is, she failed to protect me as my bodyguard. I felt really sorry for her and really wanted to help. I even wanted her to just put me down and leave on her own, but I couldn’t speak. And even if I hypothetically could’ve spoken, there’s no way she would’ve done that.
“Take a short rest, your highness. Eat a bit of food.”
Lucia put me down and vigilantly checked our surroundings before taking out a few berries. I took a look. The berries were evidently rotten already. The forest isn’t a berry-garden, so it’s not like there were berries everywhere. It was actually tough to find berries. The berries we ate were red in colour and like solanum nigrum that we used to eat when we were young, except slightly larger. You can spot this sort of stuff on plains, but not in forests. These were ones that Lucia found before. We had them with us for two days already.
Lucia hesitated for a moment before tossing away the two remaining berries and looked at me with concern. I really wanted to let her know that I didn’t need to eat, but I couldn’t speak. I was just conscious. Lucia let out a heavy sigh and sat down in a dispirited manner. She reached her hands up to rest her face on and whimpered. Her petite physique shivered before my eyes and yet I couldn’t pull her into my embrace.
I couldn’t even send her a word of comfort.
A second later, Lucia wiped her tears and stood up. She put me on her back again and continued forwards. We never advanced fast to begin with and now we were moving even slower. I regretted it somewhat. If we had been moving faster the last few days, this might not have happened. But who can accurately predict the future? Nobody but my mom could, and evidently, even she can’t predict the future without anything to go off.
As Lucia walked, she checked out the shrubs by the side of our path, fearing that she’d miss a bunch of berries. My conscious slowly started to disappear once again. I went limp on Lucia’s back. The last thought I had before I passed out was that if I survived, I’d never betray Lucia no matter what.
If Lucia ever ends up in a similar predicament, I will carry her on my back too.
When I woke up again, my back was against a cold stone wall. I couldn’t move my body so I could only look at my legs. My head drooped down as I leaned against the stone wall. It was pouring outside. There was a small fire by my side. The scent of meat slowly filled my nose which invigorated me somewhat.
It appeared that Lucia found a small rock cave. It was dark and wet, and even water was flowing inwards due to the shape of the cave, but it was a place we could rest. It was better than sleeping on grass since I was extremely weak. My temperature had dropped significantly. Lucia hugged me tightly every night to help me brace the coldest early mornings.
Lucia lightly walked up to my side, squat down, bit my lip, and passed the chewed meat and water into my mouth before erecting her posture.
I felt like I was a large funnel, allowing the meat juice to freely find its way into my mouth. It sucks that this world doesn’t have IVs. I wouldn’t have to suffer so much if there were.
She repeated the process a few more times before wiping the corners of my mouth, touching my face and weeping as she said: “Sorry…. Sorry, your highness…. I… I… I can’t… I can’t… I can’t bring you along as I try to perform tasks…. If I bring you with me…you’ll die before we find a white deer king…. You’re already too weakened…. I can’t…. I… It’s all my fault…. It’s all my fault…. I no longer ask that I can marry you…. I just hope that you survive. Everything is fine as long as you survive…. Your highness, I’ll prepare some good food for you for the next few days and then I’ll go and hunt a white deer king on my own. Trust me. You must trust me. I will definitely successfully kill a white deer king and return…. I will definitely save you. I won’t run away…. You must trust me!!”
Lucia choked on her tears and couldn’t speak properly, yet I had no means of consoling her. I had no means of saying the one sentence she wanted to hear most, “I trust you”. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to say it, but rather because I couldn’t. I wanted to say it thousands of times, tens of thousands of times, but… I couldn’t say it even once. Lucia’s eyes were red and swollen. She had bloodshot eyes. She did her best for my sake, yet I had no way of hugging her.
I trust you.
I won’t blame you even if you run away.
Lucia sobbed softly as she knelt before me. She then cried out loud as she hugged my arm tightly and curled up against me. All I could do was stare blankly at the stone wall in front of me. My chest and wound were on fire, but I had no way of giving my thanks to my love…
And telling her I loved her.
I previously had no regrets in life, and even felt death was a form of glory. Now, however, the thought of death agonises me so much I want to cry. I don’t want to leave Lucia, I can’t bear to part with everything here. I found everything I once lacked here.
I don’t want to die.
But I desperately wish for Lucia to live more.
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