Before His Grave
A FEW DAYS had passed since I took Roxy as my wife. Lately, my fear that another disaster was about to strike had gradually begun to fade. The future seemed brighter than that, though I had still had a lot of concerns about Zenith.
She had claimed one of the other large bedrooms in the house for herself. I’d advised Lilia against it, given that the previous resident of this house had been killed in there, but Zenith had taken a liking to it and refused to leave. Seeing that, Lilia brushed off my concerns, saying, “I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.” It was true that if she was going to look after Zenith, a spacious room would be preferable to a cramped one.
I also took Zenith to a doctor; one of the Ranoa Kingdom’s most prominent practitioners, referred to us by Ariel. Unfortunately, the man threw his hands up, saying he had no idea what kind of medical issue she had, and therefore no idea how to treat it. With the current medical technology in this world, there really was nothing they could do to restore her memories. Perhaps it was because of healing magic that the medical treatment in this world was so unbalanced.
Regardless, we took steps to draw up a rehabilitation plan formulated specifically for someone with amnesia. I didn’t know if it would help, but it was better than doing nothing. If I had the opportunity, it might be a good idea to search for a magical implement that could help with recovering memories. Granted, I had no idea if such a thing even existed.
It was probably best to consider her treatment a long-term endeavor. I had no idea what her family back in the Holy Country of Millis would say about this, either. Everything remained uncertain.
Sylphie’s progress was right on schedule. When I tried to grope at her swollen breasts, she got pretty angry with me. Apparently, it hurt if I grabbed too hard. The way she implored me to be gentle made me want to jump her bones. I’d bought into her temptations many times before and had my way with her, but she was pregnant this time, so I couldn’t let my desires go unfiltered. I couldn’t help wanting to touch her just the same, but I was cautious—gentle—as I caressed her.
Pregnancy brought changes to the body; her breasts were no longer the ones I was accustomed to fondling. And when I considered how I had been the one to bring about this change to her body, I felt indescribable joy. This was probably what people meant when they talked about a “sense of domination.”
Ahh, Sylphie’s all mine.
But, as you might have guessed, having no left hand sucked. I thought longingly of the days I could grope her chest with both hands. Now that I was missing one, my satisfaction was halved.
Soon her breasts would begin to produce milk. I suspected she’d be cross with me if I asked to taste test. Maybe she’d even scorn me. But it might be worth asking, even if the odds were against me. It was probably in my best interest to keep the question to myself, but just once couldn’t hurt, right?
“You sure do love my breasts,” Sylphie said.
“Yeah, I do. They’re tiny, but they’re the best in the world.”
“Best in the world…” she muttered. “Can you really say that after you’ve groped Roxy’s?”
“Forgive me for my sins,” I said dramatically.
“Hee hee, I’m not angry!”
We engaged in playful banter, our relationship as strong as ever. If this had been my previous world (more specifically, Japan), our relationship would’ve probably been quite strained. But in this world, Sylphie was understanding. As long as I loved them equally, I could have two or three wives.
As for my other wife, Roxy had taken up one of the smaller rooms on the second floor. The smallest, to be exact. I suggested she pick a more spacious one, but she apparently liked cramped spaces, which I understood. I didn’t mind them, either.
Roxy became a professor at the university. At the same time, I went around introducing her to everyone and announcing my return, but we’ll save that story for another time.
Another month passed, and finally, on a day with heavy snow, Sylphie gave birth. It was a normal delivery with no real complications. Neither breech nor premature. The only issue was that the blizzard outside was so strong that the doctor we called couldn’t make it in time. In my previous world, that would’ve been a cause for panic, but fortunately, we had Lilia.
As someone experienced in delivering babies, she was able to move swiftly, with Aisha as her assistant, never asking me for a thing. She performed each step carefully, walking Aisha through the process. Roxy and I were on the sidelines in case anything happened. If an emergency arose, healing magic would be our ace in the hole.
Although, notedly, my nerves were completely shot. Healing wasn’t even in my head at that point. It was all I could do to grip Sylphie’s hand in mine as her face contorted in pain.
“Seeing you like this brings back memories of when the mistress gave birth to Norn,” said Lilia.
That gave me flashbacks, too. Norn had been a breech baby, with both mother and baby in danger during delivery. Paul had been useless, completely choked up. I’d managed to keep my cool and assist the delivery back then, but look at me now. I’d been much more capable in the past than I was now—not much different than how I’d been in my previous world.
“Don’t worry, Mistress Sylphie will be just fine. There’s no need to stress,” Lilia said as she worked briskly, handling everything with such practiced expertise that I was floored.
But no matter how she tried to soothe my nerves, my mind wouldn’t settle. The only thing I could do was cling to Sylphie’s hand and say, “Breathe in…and out. In…and out,” wiping the sweat from her brow as I did so.
The anguish on her face was clear, even as she giggled in the face of my panic. “Um… Rudy, you can relax a little, you know?”
Aisha snorted with a laugh of her own, which earned her a swift smack from Lilia.
Sylphie watched the two of them and giggled again.
Just as the room seemed to relax, the first wave came.
“Mistress Sylphie, we’re ready now. Push!”
I watched quietly as she struggled. The only thing I could say was, “You can do this.” I felt like there was something I should be doing, too, but there wasn’t anything I could do.
Sylphie matched Lilia’s calls to push, her face clenching each time, until…
The baby was born.
She let forth a fierce cry as she was delivered safely into our world. A little girl—an adorable one with the same hair color as me. Lilia lifted her up and handed her to Sylphie, who held the newborn tight and sighed with relief.
“I’m so glad… Her hair’s not green,” she whispered.
I mussed Sylphie’s hair—hair that had once been green but was now a beautiful white.
Even if our baby had been born with green hair, I wouldn’t have blamed Sylphie for it. How could I? Green was my favorite color in this world; the color of both Sylphie’s hair and Ruijerd’s. Even Roxy’s, in the right lighting, would shine emerald. I loved green. If someone wanted to discriminate against green hair, they’d have to go through me. I’d face them, even if it meant making an enemy of the whole world.
“You did wonderful, Sylphie.”
While I had the resolve to love green hair, the rest of the world did not, considering it an ill omen. I thanked God for our good fortune that my daughter had the same hair color as me. Speaking of God, she was actually in the neighboring room with a staff gripped firmly in her hands, looking pale as a sheet.
“Here, Rudy. Hold her,” said Sylphie.
I took her in my arms. Her body was warm, her voice fierce as she cried. Her head was tiny, along with her mouth and nose—her entire body overflowing with life. My heart flooded with emotion when I thought about how this little girl was mine, my baby that Sylphie had given birth to.
Tears sprung up.
Paul was gone, but now we had a baby. He’d saved my life. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t be here holding my child. But in exchange, Paul would never again hold his own wife, his own daughters, or his grandchild.
Would he be bitter that he couldn’t be here? Or would he laugh and boast, “This was all thanks to me”?
Either way, I had to keep living. For my child’s sake, I couldn’t die. I had to protect Sylphie—my family.
Sylphie and I took the first two letters of our names and altered them slightly to come up with her name: Lucy. Lucy Greyrat. Aisha laughed, calling it a cheap name, and Lilia smacked her over the head again. I was just glad she was a girl. If we’d had a boy instead, I might have named him Paul.
Lilia chased me out of the room after that. There was much to be done, apparently, so she told me to wait outside. I moved to the living room and planted myself on the sofa. I hadn’t really moved at all, yet I was exhausted.
Roxy settled down beside me, looking weary herself, and sighed. She’d done even less than me, so hers had to be mental fatigue. “That was my first time watching a person give birth,” she said. “It was amazing.”
“I’ve…seen it a couple times now. About three, I guess. But it wears you out even more when it’s your own.”
Sylphie was probably even more drained. I would have to really show her my appreciation later.
“I guess that must be how I was born, too,” Roxy said thoughtfully.
“Well, it’s how everyone’s born, isn’t it?” I didn’t know much about how the Migurd reproduced, but considering they looked just like humans, there couldn’t be too much of a difference, right?
“…I’ll be giving birth like that too eventually, won’t I?”
When I glanced her way, I found Roxy peering up at me, her face burning red. I slipped off my shoes and folded my legs under me on the couch, sitting as stiffly as I could. “Yes, I hope I can ask you to do that for me.”
Now that Sylphie’s baby had been born, it meant that Roxy and I would be starting the baby-making process next. Honestly, I was looking forward to it, even though Sylphie’s baby had only just been delivered. I really was hopeless. Not that I hated myself for it—I couldn’t, not when I considered that Paul had probably felt the same way in the past.
I can’t wait, I thought with a laugh, and Roxy flushed a bright shade, wrapping her arms around her body.
“Rudy, you’ve got a seriously dirty look on your face.”
“I was born with it.”
That’s right—I was born with it. It was something I’d had ever since I came into this world, or perhaps even before that.
Oh, that’s right. Before I began that routine with Roxy, I needed to announce the birth of my baby.
The following day, I made my way alone to the outskirts of the city, where a graveyard for nobles was nestled on a low hill. This was where we’d put Paul to rest. He might fuss over being lumped in alongside other nobles, but this place had better management than the one for the general public.
I stood amidst the snow, before the Ranoa-style round grave marker. I had no idea what religion Paul had followed. I didn’t think he’d believed in God. He seemed the type not to worry about religion, so even if we’d made a mistake in that regard, I was sure he’d forgive us. Perhaps it would have been more ideal to make a grave for him in the Asura Kingdom where Buena Village had once been. Paul had no connections or relations to the land here. But if we buried him too far away, we wouldn’t be able to visit him.
I’d already informed Geese and the others of this location. We’d even visited once as a group. Each person had brought something along that they thought Paul would like. Alcohol, a shortsword—that kind of thing. Geese and Talhand had sat before his grave and drank themselves silly, earning the ire of the grave keeper.
I set about cleaning Paul’s grave, a bottle of liquor that I’d purchased on the way crooked under my arm. I dusted off the snow that collected on his grave marker, shining the stone with a cloth I’d brought along. The road leading to the cemetery had been covered in snow, but the grave keeper kept the pathways here plowed, so it wasn’t difficult to tidy up Paul’s area.
I cleaned, then set the bottle in front of his grave and placed my hands together. I’d thought about buying flowers as well, but there weren’t any for sale. During the winter in the Northern Territories, flowers were difficult to come by. Not that Paul was one for flowers, anyway.
“Paul… Father, my baby was born yesterday. A little girl. She’s Sylphie’s, so I’m sure she’ll grow up to be beautiful.” I sat down in front of his grave and gave him the news. “I wish you could’ve seen her.”
If Paul had seen her, I was sure he’d have fussed and cooed until Zenith scolded him. He’d have probably taken me out drinking to celebrate, and we’d have both drunk ourselves into a stupor. Then he’d have made a move on Lilia, exasperating Zenith.
It was so in-character, I could picture it clearly—the future that would have been if Paul were still alive and my mother hadn’t lost her memories.
“I’ve made Roxy my wife. I have two now, just like you did. I wish you’d have taught me how to mentally prepare myself for it, though.”
Now that I thought about it, that was probably what Paul had been trying to talk to me about back then in the labyrinth. He knew that Roxy had feelings for me and that I had feelings for her in turn. Most likely, he’d wanted to teach me how to prepare for that.
“It’s not quite the same, I don’t suddenly have two daughters, but eventually Roxy will get pregnant and have my child as well. I’m sure that’s still far in the future, but I hope they’ll grow to be as healthy as Norn and Aisha.”
I had no intention of knocking Lilia’s teachings, but I wanted my children to grow up as equals—to be strong enough to withstand it when people called them half-demons.
“Apparently Sylphie thinks I’m going to take another wife after this. I don’t plan anything of the sort, but they do say that what happens once can happen a third time. Maybe she’s right.”
I wondered if Paul had ever considered marrying Ghislaine, Elinalise, or Vierra. It seemed he did have a sexual relationship with Ghislaine, so I suspected he’d considered it at least once. Then again, Paul was a bit more open-minded than me, so perhaps he didn’t think as far as marriage.
“Maybe I shouldn’t overthink it either, huh?” When I directed my question at his gravestone, it felt as if I could see him grinning mischievously back at me. All I could see was his smile; I couldn’t hear any words.
But it wasn’t as if Paul had never thought things through. I was pretty sure he’d racked his brain for years about things. It only made sense. There were few people in the world who lived without thinking at all.
“Father, I was a terrible son—carrying memories from my previous life. I didn’t love you like I should’ve, as my father,” I said as I took to my feet. I took the bottle of alcohol in hand and gulped once. It was a strong liquor, burning like fire on the way down, and once I was done, I splashed some of it over his grave. “But now I do see myself as your son.”
Maybe alcohol wasn’t the best for someone like Paul, who’d screwed up by drowning himself in the stuff. But surely, today could be an exception. We were celebrating a new life in the world.
“I finally understand now. I’m still just a kid. A brat who pretended to be an adult by using his previous memories.”
I took another swig, then poured some for Paul. Another swig, then a pour. Soon the bottle was completely empty.
“Now that I have a child in the world and I’m a parent, I know I have to grow up right away. And in order to do that, I’ll have to make a bunch of mistakes, grieve over them, and change—slowly, gradually. I’m sure that’s how you had to do it too, so I’ll do the best I can.”
I popped the lid back over the bottle and set it in front of his grave.
“I’ll come back again. Next time, I’ll bring everyone else along, too,” I said, turning to leave.
Many things had fallen into place, with a great deal of pain and a great deal of joy along the way. I’d repeated horrible mistakes along the way, but it wasn’t over. No matter how much I screwed up or got things wrong, it wasn’t the end. I still had a lot of life to live in this world. And that’s what I was going to do: live to the fullest, so that no matter when I died, I’d have no regrets.