When Felix Argyle was young, the world was a colorless, transparent place.
Without color, without sound, without flavor, without warmth.
Nothing was given to him, and nothing was taken away. From the start, he possessed nothing.
In a room so dark he couldn’t see even his own hands, atop a bed he’d laid on for so very long that his own scent had worked its way into it, passing the time by thinking about nothing was all that he had.
Occasionally, food was pushed in through the gap under the door. Depending solely on the faint light, he crawled on the floor and rushed eagerly to the food like a dog would. Grabbing the cold food in his hands, occasionally pushing his nose into the bowl like an animal, sloppily getting his face dirty while biting and chewing his food.
When he finished eating, he would push the tray and dishes against the door, return unsteadily to his bed, and pass the time silently. If the dishes happened to be removed at some point, he paid it no mind.
Even if he’d lost sight of what it meant to be alive, he had no reason to die so he didn’t die. Putting the food that was offered into his mouth, too, had no more meaning than that.
He opened his mouth and tried to speak. Whether his voice emerged or not, he wasn’t really sure. Perhaps his ears were dead; perhaps his throat was dead. Or perhaps in truth it was he himself that was dead?
Idly giving himself to pondering such endless thoughts, Felix passed the time. Thinking back and forth about life and death, too, was something he had repeated more times than he cared to count.
Once more, it felt like the air was shaken. His mouth was closed. He hadn’t tried to speak. What was it that he thought he’d heard? Perhaps an insect had made its way into the room. His unsanitary self, and the food he’d scattered as he ate. It was the sort of environment where insects might breed and fly around.
Even though he felt nothing, the thought of passing the time in a room together with an insect was somehow unpleasant. For someone who was even less than an insect to think that; would the insect mock him for it?
He heard something again. Had he laughed, perhaps? Trying to touch his own face, his fingers sliced through thin air. He’d lost track of even the location of his face. He let out a sigh at his completely broken mind.
…It was the next moment.
“I will take a lack of response as agreement…!”
Right after he thought he’d heard a gallant voice, the door was kicked open from the outside with a violent crash.
The hinges were sent flying by the impact, and the dishes that had been heaped in front of the door were scattered. At the sudden intrusion and sound of breaking pottery, Felix’s body shook and, from atop the bed, he looked towards the door.
Brilliant light poured through the doorway that had lost it’s door, and even the agitated dust could be seen floating in the air like something from a fantasy. A small silhouette advanced calmly through that light.
“Is Felix Argyle, the firstborn of the Argyle family, here?”
Felix felt that the voice was terribly strained with emotion.
After all, if you listened closely, it was the voice of a young child. A high-pitched voice suited to that age was intentionally ornamented with gallantry and firmness, turning it into a voice that would pass through the eardrums and pierce the heart.
But, it wasn’t something that seemed overdone. There was nothing forced in the attitude of the voice’s owner. It was simply that the development of the speaker’s body couldn’t keep up with the speed of her heart.
Still lying prone on his bed, Felix stared wordlessly at the intruder. Her eyes were narrowed in the dim light, and when they adjusted to the darkness, she finally noticed Felix.
And, changing her expression to a little smile,
“I see you there. …Come now, the time has come for you to be freed from this injustice.”
Saying that, she clasped Felix’s filth-covered hands without any hesitation.
As warm water was being poured on his head, Felix was at last able to feel that this was really happening.
The water traversed his long-grown hair, and washed off the grime all over his body. The clear water that had been poured on his head had been colored pitch black by the time it reached the floor of the bathing room.
“This is quite refreshing, isn’t it.”
Watching as the filth was washed off of Felix, the one bathing along with him spoke cheerfully. It was a young girl, wearing nothing on her pale body. Her green hair was long, and a strong conviction dwelt in her eyes. Her beautiful, dignified features made her seem more fearless than one would expect from her age.
Even though she was no older than him, Felix couldn’t help but turned his gaze downward due to the great difference he felt between them.
“Don’t cast your gaze downwards. Your eyes will become clouded. If your spirit grows dim, you may lose sight of your reason to live, as well.”
She smoothly cut off Felix’s fears. Taking the arms that Felix was still unable to move properly, the girl’s skin touched his as she cleaned his body with a washcloth.
While having the filth washed away from his body, Felix finally wondered who she was. Why had she taken him out of that room, and why was she close to him now?
“The Argyle household is under my household’s jurisdiction. Seeing a problem, and taking action, are only natural.”
“That’s right. It seems there had been rumors for quite a while. The eldest son of the Argyle family was an illegitimate child, he was seen as detestable, and his existence was hidden deep inside the mansion, they said.”
At the words “illegitimate child”, Felix’s body trembled slightly.
They were words he’d heard many times before he was thrown into that darkness. Even though he didn’t understand their meaning, he knew that they meant something unacceptable. That was why he was put in that place…
“You were seen as an illegitimate child because of those ears atop your head, you see.”
“The Argyle household is a family of humans. Naturally, both of your parents are human as well. For you to have demihuman ears in spite of that, it was only natural for infidelity to be suspected. However, it’s already been proven that that was an error.”
On the verge of looking downwards again, Felix raised his head at the girl’s declaration. Her face was right in front of his eyes, close enough to feel her breath, and his cheeks began to redden involuntarily.
“Because of a blessing I’ve had since birth, I can see through the lies of others. Your mother was not unfaithful. I confirmed it myself. After that, I climbed up the Argyle family tree and found the cause. Your ears are a throwback, a recessive trait from a distant relative four generations back.”
Felix was holding his breath. She smiled at him, and continued.
“It was all begun by a misunderstanding. …It is no sin for you to be alive.”
“Raise your head, look forward, and live with unclouded eyes. It might be difficult to do it right away, but I will help you as well. So for now, please believe in me.”
At that time, the smile she ended with looked like the carefree girl’s true face.
When the bath was over, the new clothing he put on was his first in longer than he could remember. Having the fabric not stick to his skin, and being able to slide his fingers along the cloth, were quite nostalgic as well.
The wind blew across his freshly-cleaned skin, and the flaxen hair that had grown long was waving in the breeze. Following a servant of the mansion going before him, he pressed forward bit by bit, with a faltering motion, as though remembering how to walk.
“…Felix-sama, we have arrived.”
Saying that, the elderly butler opened a door, and with a burst of wind, a large room came into view.
In the Argyle manor’s great hall, food was placed out buffet-style, and he could see that preparations had been made to welcome back the eldest son who had been freed from the darkness.
All eyes were focused on him, and Felix became aware that his heart was beating rapidly. His pulse became more strained, and he started feeling short of breath. He started feeling that he wouldn’t be able to stand without leaning on something, and looking around for something to support himself with, Felix placed a hand on a nearby table.
Out of the quiet murmuring, that voice found its way into Felix’s ears.
Without thinking, Felix looked towards it and noticed. It was the voice of a woman looking intently towards him with trembling eyes, a woman with long flaxen hair.
Mother. Mother’s expression was stiff, and she was covering her mouth with a hand. Next to her was a bearded man, and he finally realized that the person holding his mother’s shoulder was his father. His parents were standing right there.
“Felix, I’m sorry. I…we…”
The parents who had thrown him in a place like that, were right there.
His mother took a step forward, and tried to speak with a sobbing voice, but Felix wasn’t listening. His hand wandered about the table that had been supporting it, and the moment it felt something hard and cold, it gripped firmly. A knife. Holding it in a reversed grip, he looked up at his mother as she walked unsteadily towards him.
If he stepped forward, it would reach. The moment he was sure of that, Felix’s body sprang towards his mother.
But after being shut away for so long, his legs faltered, and the strike he’d aimed at his mother’s chest cut through the air without even grazing her. She let out a shrill scream, and his father and the others nearby realized the cause of her cry. But there was no longer any way for him to stop.
Hate. Hate. He hated everything. He hated everything so very much, and he could not stop.
He jumped once more towards his mother, who had fallen backwards and was now scrambling away. He wouldn’t let her get away this time. He raised the silvery sparkle over his head, and it’s point shone as it aimed for his mother’s chest…
The feeling of the blade burying itself in flesh filled his hand, and Felix was struck by a fierce impact, falling to his side on the floor. The knife clattered on the floor after being ripped from his hand, and the great hall’s carpet was spotted with red.
He’d definitely stabbed her. He’d done it. With these hands, the object of his vengeance had…
The stagnation that had pooled in his chest vanished as though it was draining away through a newly-opened hole. A dark smile appeared on Felix’s face at that sensation, and he raised his head.
…The green-haired girl was bleeding, and lay collapsed on the great hall’s floor.
At this scene he had not imagined, Felix’s thoughts came to a halt.
Sound faded from the world, color faded, and it seemed as though even motion had faded. A world opened up, the same as the one he’d been in in that dark room, and the only difference was that the girl’s bleeding would not stop.
While no one else was unable to move, Felix made himself crawl over to the girl, and arrived at her side. Taking her listless form in his arms and raising her, he spoke.
“Wh…why… why did you…?”
The girl’s eyes were closed, and she gave a brief answer to Felix as he trembled. She feebly forced open her long-lashed eyes, and looked at his wretched face.
“Open your…eyes. Raise your head, and look forward. To live with unclouded eyes… does not mean to fulfill the darkness you have inside.”
“But, but I… then what should I have done? It’s cruel, isn’t it? It’s unfair, isn’t it? After being treated like that…… how can I forgive everyone……?”
“There’s no need… to forgive……don’t misunderstand. Your feelings are legitimate. It’s only natural. It’s simply that you tried to go about it the wrong way……”
“Wrong way…. What’s… the right way?”
“A way of living, that brings no shame to your soul.”
Her weak voice became clear for just a moment as she passed on that conviction. Strength returned to her eyes, she raised her head, and she looked straight at Felix as she spoke.
“Never forget, Felix. ……Live in a way that brings no shame to your soul.”
“Ah, aah, aaah!”
Having said what must be said, the strength left the girl’s body. When he could tell that the body in his arms was becoming heavier, even as the life in it became lighter, Felix was assaulted by a horrible sense of dread.
Back in that place, during the time when he couldn’t even tell if he were dead or alive, he’d been conscious of his own death many times. A fear that he never felt during any of those times, ruled him now.
“N…no. No. No, no, no, no…… You…can’t. You can’t……!”
A life being lost. The one he owed a debt to. The girl’s honest eyes, that looked forward. His own soul.
Countless words flew around in his confused head, and Felix looked up at the ceiling and screamed aloud. With his throat shaking, and crying out until it seemed he would cough up blood, he denied the deepening shade of death enveloping the girl.
Instantly, blue-white light poured from all over Felix, and it then spread to the girl’s body.
Felix blinked. It was a talent for magic that even he himself was not aware of, that had never had a chance to blossom – Felix Argyle the “Blue”, who would become able to utilize healing power sufficient to have his name recorded in the history of the kingdom. It was the light of his first healing.
The healing power bestowed vitality on the girl’s body, closed her wound, and compensated for her life’s mana that had flowed away. Color returned to her pale cheeks, and her halted breathing began again.
“…It appears I… escaped death. It would seem… you are telling me to live on.”
“…Mhmm. Um…yeah. I mean, yes.”
As the girl opened her eyes, Felix nodded at her, and spoke politely.
Beyond any doubt, there was only respect in his voice. The girl had used her body as a shield to protect him from his mistake. When he’d been as good as dead, she made him raise his head, and taught him how to live.
If she wished for him to live in a way that brought no shame to his soul, then…
“Please let me stay beside you. I want to use up my life by your side. I know it will be the best place for me to make my soul shine.”
He could tell that her eyes narrowed once as she listened to the words of one who had stabbed her. The girl sighed at him as he waited fearfully for her answer, unknowingly holding her tighter in his arms.
“My name is Crusch Karsten. You should learn the name of your master, at least.”
Though her body still would not move on it’s own, she smiled proudly.
When he realized that he would be allowed to stay with her, Felix looked upwards, and cried.
With a loud voice, with tears dripping and dripping, like a child that had forgotten to cry, like a child that had recalled how to cry, like a newborn babe raises its voice.
With Crusch stroking his head with her palm, he continued crying for a long, long time.
<< Continued in The Saga of the Great Crusch-sama Begins, The Book of Vows☆ >>