“You know, I don’t really like the sea that much.”
As it sometimes does, my voice disappeared into the wind and the crashing waves.
And as if Bern was banned from talking in a louder voice, he murmured and asked, ‘Why?’
“When I was a kid, my family and I went swimming.”
My throat twitched.
I felt like ending that with a, ‘Just kidding.’ I should probably stop, huh? What should I do if he thinks I’m crazy?
No—wait—no, I’ll be at a standstill, the same as always. I can’t take back words I’ve already said out loud. I have to really strengthen my resolve.
Or the reason I keep on losing my nerve like this, is it because I don’t trust Bern?
I glanced sideways as Bern crouched down.
He was completely waiting for me with a surprisingly expressionless face.
Why is he so expressionless at a time like this?!
On the other hand, I was worried that I had let him down and took one big breath.
Somehow, okay, yeah… I’ll say it.
“At that time, I still didn’t know how to swim, and when we were practicing, my father quickly let go of my hands. Then I nearly drowned, and ever since then, I’ve never liked the sea.”
Of course, I’ve never been to the sea before, and even if I lived in a territory that pretty much looked out at the sea, a noble’s child, even more so a girl, would never swim in the sea. It’s impossible. In this world, that is.
And the intelligent Bern should have already realized it.
Even so, he just continued to awkwardly stay silent.
“You’re not going to ask?”
“Do you want me to ask?”
That pissed me off a little bit.
I mean, here I am, speaking about my deepest worries, right? I can’t deny that in the end, I thought of giving up but… But!
“If you don’t want to, then don’t say it in a roundabout way.”
“You’re right.” Having said that, Bern stood straight. When he brushed off the dirt that clung to the cuffs of his pants, bits of sand and pebbles fell. I followed them with my eyes, but I’m not so sure if they’ll immediately join the rocks on the wharf.
“Do you believe in a previous life?”
“Yeah. When a person dies, instead of going to heaven, they’re reborn.”
“… I have memories of a life from before.”
After that, one by one, I told him bits and pieces of my previous life.
Of convenient things in a peaceful world. That I had a family and was a student. That a game with this world as its setting exists and that I’ve played it as well. That Lila and Viola too were most likely like me, born with memories of a previous life.
By the way, probably because it was either troublesome or just plain embarrassing, I omitted the part about the game’s objective.
“Is it like a board game?”
“Well, it’s more like options showing up multiple times throughout the story, and playing with the goal of seeing the ending you want to see.”
“So you mean there’s countless endings?”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s countless.”
Though it’s troublesome to enumerate them.
Bern made a troubled face, his brows knitted, and a slightly low groan. Troubling over something in his head, like solving an extremely difficult question. That’s the kind of feeling he gave off.
“I know that you used the word, ‘game,’ that time you talked with Lila. ‘This world isn’t a game,’ right?”
“I’m sure that if a guy like me was to be tossed into a crowd of women, I’d be popular. Well, it’s sort of a different situation, but… to be honest, this is really hard to take in.”
I figured. Rather than a rationalist, Bern’s more of a realist.
“But I’m slightly convinced since there have been times where you would occasionally bring up unlikely guesses, and it’d make me think, ‘Is that so?’”
“I feel like you just said something rude just now.”
Bern shrugged his shoulders instead of apologizing.
“It does answer some of my questions. Despite any positive proof, I blindly accepted the fact that Lila and Viola should be able to predict the future.”
“Have you talked to Viola before?”
“I’ve only read the memo. But it seems that Viola herself stubbornly insists that it’s the effect of her fortune-telling.”
I stared at the far away silhouette of the island, the Island of Grief, with bitter feelings.
It’d be impossible to comprehend our personal experiences. One first has to comprehend the thought of a person being reborn after dying. That would be hard to accept for those who believe in heaven.
As I looked out to the Island of Grief, falling into reverie, Bern suddenly held his hand out in front of me. I might just be thinking too much into this, but from his expression as he held out his hand to me with a half-bent posture, it seemed like he wanted to say something even though he was satisfied — it made me extremely angry.
“So in the end, do you believe me?”
When I asked, glaring at him from below, he made a slightly confused expression.
“If Lizzy wants me to. I’ll say it makes sense, for now.”
What do you mean, ‘for now’?
Rather, in the end, what do you mean if I want you to?
No, I know what he meant. That probably came from his true feelings.
And because of that, my problem now is not being able to say things are going well. That’s ’cause even until now, there have been multiple instances of that not being the case. Every time that happens, I just swallow it back because there was no helping it, and give up, thinking that it would take time to get him to understand. That’s why this time…
Despite thinking that, I ignored Bern’s hand, got up, and turned my back to him.
My stomach felt like it was noisily raging with something. I firmly closed my eyes, tears seemingly about to come out if I didn’t ready myself for it.
Because I didn’t want that, didn’t want him to know, I walked with huge strides. Bern called out to me with a perplexed voice from behind, but I continued on, not caring. I mean, it’s obvious since he’ll catch up to me if he were to use those long legs of his.
With desperation, I purposely told him in a cheerful and joking manner.
“In the beginning, I thought you were an extremely scary person. That’s because the Bernhardt I knew was like that.”
“And as for Lila, I thought, ‘What if she was the same as me, possessing memories of a past life?’ I had to do my best even more, I had to…!”
“But I was stupid. In truth, I wasn’t completely prepared, and yet, I was half-hearted and told myself, ‘There’s not much I can do to change the future.’ Stupid, arrogant, cowardly–“
Something from behind grabbed my arm with great force and stopped me. At that moment, warm tears spilled out one by one and dripped down my face.
“And yet, no one knew. No one reprimanded me.”
It felt very isolating.
I was… I was lonely.
“I figured it’d be okay if I stayed quiet. You wouldn’t mind anyways, right? I didn’t think it was wrong for me to have secrets myself. Even so, I wanted to ask you. I wanted you to know… You, not anyone else.”
In the middle of the bright red color of the setting sun, we quietly stood for a while, not moving. As if they were trying to cover up the silence, the waves roared hatefully.
I sniffed and violently wiped my tears. With the path turning dark, Bern said,
“What should I do?”
His words were like a hit to the head.
‘What should I do?’
‘What am I supposed to do,’ you mean?
Even I don’t know the answer to that.
But why is he asking me that? So he could do what I want him to, just like a doll? I didn’t ask him for that.
I was just barely able to tell myself that as I thought along those lines.
Even if I tried my very best to tell him, he wouldn’t understand. What I feel, that is.
And then, I somewhat realized something.
Bern is someone who’s bad at figuring out other people’s feelings.
Wait, that might be slightly wrong. He can figure out if the other person is angry or sad, but he doesn’t know why. Even though he understands things on the surface, deep down, he doesn’t know how extremely important it is.
His words earlier may be due to him having earnestly thought of it in his own way.
That’s why despite disagreeing with Bern, I stayed quiet.
It’s no use. I have to be even more patient. It’ll be fine as long as I face him.
With such thoughts, I ran away from having to face things head-on.
From Bern, from reality.
That’s because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know.
“Even if I told you, it doesn’t mean I want you to do as I say!”
Bern’s eyes were wide open, and he drew in a sharp breath at my loud voice. His hand that was gripping my arm lost its strength and released it.
It was painful, like something exploding deep inside me but unable to. All the feelings that had been piling up surged forward and swallowed me up.
“You’re always like this! You would pretend to listen to what I say, and not understanding how important it is! And in the end, instead, you’ll do what you want, and when I notice what you’re doing, you’ll test me by asking if I’ve come to hate you… There’s no way I could ever hate you! If I could, I already would have a long time ago. Are you looking down on me!?”
“I know that!”
Even I know how absurd I am. This is exactly what you would call hysterical.
However, I was suddenly attacked with feelings of guilt for shouting at him, and I hurriedly had to make up an excuse, or rather, an explanation.
“To put it more simply, I just wanted to talk about my previous life, and how miserable I am, and because of that, I got mad when you asked me what you should do, not understanding my feelings at all. But when I thought about it carefully, I was even angrier at the fact that you weren’t able to understand what I really wanted to say, and uhm, uhh…”
In the end, I had my head between my hands — having fallen into a dilemma, not knowing if I should be crying, or groaning.
I’m done. My brain had turned to mush due to thinking too much and anger.
The difference from when Lila and Alois got angry was that I looked like the bad guy for getting angry at Bern. It made me want foolish things, such as melting into the ground like a slime, dripping into the sea, and just disappearing altogether.
Just when I could only think of wanting to disappear rather than fix the situation, Bern, who didn’t move at all after I shouted as if he had turned into stone, suddenly opened his mouth.
“Got it. Let’s summarize the problem.”
What’re you talking about?
“You have memories of a previous life.”
“And in those memories of yours, you remember having read a book that closely resembles this world.”
Well, some of it is wrong, but I nodded for now.
“You used a portion of that information, and the rest, you didn’t. You regret having picked a half-hearted choice.”
“… I don’t have any regrets, but it’s more like, ‘Shouldn’t there have been a better way?’”
When I said that in a voice that was close to vanishing, Bern just only said, “I understand,” in agreement.
“And you were in pain at not being able to tell anyone this.”
“I-I think so.”
It’s embarrassing that he had calmly analyzed it like that, but well, that’s that.
Anyways, I really should have told someone early on when things got really difficult. But I could only say that now after all this time. Ah, but — this isn’t the time for it, but, yeah.
The ‘buts’ persisted.
“And there’s something about me you’re unhappy with.”
Unhappy… Not sure if I’d go that far.
“But doesn’t that mean you hate me?”
And suddenly, there was the problem.
“I told you I could never.”
Having agreed to something on his own, Bern stared into the distance. After that, he started to carefully deliberate something.
Rather than saying that things took a turn, it’s better to say that having been left in the dust, I could only gape at Bern as he brooded.
What’s with this business-like conversation? Weren’t we just arguing earlier? Even though this so-called argument was more of me becoming one-sidedly angry.
When Bern had concluded things with an, ‘Okay,’ he faced me, and talked to me like he would a kid.
“Let’s go back to the inn for now.”
Because Bern looked around with a wry smile, I looked as well, and when I did, I noticed that the workers at the nearby warehouse were looking at us with worry and curiosity in their eyes.
A-Ahhhhhhhhh! Oh, great!
I completely forgot we were in public. Ah, but, there isn’t that many people around compared to the street, but t-this is still embarrassing…
I turned deep red, and was covered in cold sweat as opposed to tears. I followed along with my head down as Bern guided me with his hand on my back.
My anger completely dissipated because of my embarrassment.
“I’ll head on over to the harbor and look for those with boats, so you go rest in the meantime.”
“Boats? What do you mean?”
When I frowned, I felt the area around my eyes sting. This must be because of them swelling…
When I thought that, Bern’s stone cold fingertip gently brushed the corner of my eyes. If this had been earlier, I might have slapped it away while saying, ‘What?!’ I don’t particularly feel that way anymore, but on the other hand, thoughts of how cold and nice it is didn’t gush forth.
“I’ll go and make sure first.”
Make sure of what? Where?
Bern looked towards the horizon, and with no hesitation, pointed.
“To the Island of Grief.”