Could I say that his time was short compared to the one hundred years I went through?
I couldn’t know which was more painful. Even though I only wandered around for a brief moment to look for Walter, the medium, I couldn’t forget the chilling sensation I felt. It was meaningless to compare this horror to my hundred years.
“Do you remember the person who came to you?” I said, trying to get to the matter at hand.
He rose from his seat and took out a scroll from a drawer from the other side of the drawing room and held it out to me. Two portraits were revealed when I opened the scroll.
“These are the faces of the people who came to find me,” he said.
I became quiet for a while. “Did you draw this in advance?” I asked.
“Once I realized that I had been deceived, I thought someone would eventually come to save Hoiore. I drew this so I wouldn’t forget them… It’s lacking, but for me who’s only been living in this mansion… painting is my specialty.”
His smile looked dimmer, so I rolled the portraits up without another word. I put it into my bag so it wouldn’t get crushed then drank some cold tea.
“As for the Countes…” he suddenly turned to me, “how long were you in time magic? I heard that the time magic in Acrab only lasted for a day… Being here made me think about it. Perhaps time in this place flows differently from the outside.”
I smiled at him. “The esteemed son of Hoiore is smart,” I said, nodding.
“You can just call me Walter. Aren’t we both comrades of time magic?”
He said it like a joke, but I couldn’t find humor in it. Calling us comrades of time magic… it was a ridiculous thing to say. Walter seemed to have realized the same way when he saw my forlorn expression. He cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry. It wouldn’t have been a good memory.”
Walter who had cried out his sorrows and secrets finally was more at ease than before. I couldn’t blame him. I spoke in a similar conversationalist tone.
“Everyone asked me how I was able to stay sane, but they didn’t ask me how long I spent in it. You’re the second person to ask me this directly,” I said.
“Who was the first?” he asked curiously.
“It was my master.”
“Ah…” Walter nodded silently, as if he remembered that I was a disciple of the great wizard Kaichen.
I didn’t know what came over me, but I blurted, “I spent a hundred years.”
“I spent a hundred years in Acrab’s time magic.”
“It’s hard to believe, right?” I said, words came spilling out of my mouth the next second, “‘Tomorrow’ doesn’t come and ‘today’ repeats itself like a reset button no matter what I did. I spent a hundred years without growing old or dying.”
“Have you ever tried to die here?” I asked.
Walter flinched in surprise, his eyes widened in shock. Then, he slowly shook his head.
Of course, I smiled bitterly. Walter, who had stopped time to live, would never do something like commit suicide. No matter how painful he felt, he wanted to live. He wanted to live and see his beloved, even if it was just one more time.
I seemed to have scared him so I continued in a relatively light tone. “It’s time magic… Everything would stop the moment it activated. But have you thought that you would die if you were wounded enough?”
Walter remained silent.
“I thought time magic itself was difficult to interpret, but a person wouldn’t know unless they tried it.”
Smiling, I put my teacup down. The air from the fireplace warmed up the drawing room and made me feel drowsy.
“Walter, I’m someone who’s lived the same day for a hundred years. Unlike you, I really wanted to die during that long time,” I said. “But now, I don’t want to die. Not anymore. I have a reason now. I can understand why you would also fight to live.”
There was a sharp intake of breath. Walter turned his gaze down and sobbed. Perhaps it was from relief that someone who finally understood his feelings finally appeared after three months of blaming himself.
I leaned back comfortably on the sofa, giving Walter time. Kaichen would’ve nagged me to sit upright. I smiled at the thought. However, to see him, I needed to solve this problem first. I muttered to myself as I leaned my head back and stared at the antique ceiling.
“Everyone from the northern territory is gathered here in this city, right?” I said.
Walter hiccuped. “… You knew about it?” he asked me.
“All the private houses I saw on the way here were empty.”
Walter stayed silent before speaking weakly. “If this magic is destroyed, then I… will die.”
However, if it wasn’t destroyed, then the people of the North were similarly doomed to a life like this. Walter knew that, and he continued to suffer in conflict with himself.
“I’m not saying you have to sacrifice yourself for them,” I said, looking at him resolutely.
“…Why? Didn’t you say you came to save the city?” he asked.
“I had the same experience as you.”
“The decision is up to you. If you’re going to continue this magic, you’ll have to be prepared to bear the guilt. If you’re going to destroy it, you’ll have to be prepared to die.”