※ It is not a side story, but it is Gilbert’s POV.
What the heck happened?
My mind blanked for a moment and I could only shout her name.
The beloved girl lying in my arms whispered soundlessly, “Be careful,” while blinking her eyes that were out of focus. I was still laughing a while ago, so how did it suddenly happen?!
The only magic in this room is the barrier . . . So how?!
While pulling Meryl towards me, I surveyed the narrow room once again. The sense of foreboding I felt the moment I entered the room disappeared when the “Box Dimensional Barrier” materialized. No matter how many times I checked it, no other magic has been set in this room.
If that’s the case, then outside . . . No, it can’t be.
On the way here, I sharpened all my senses and protected Meryl. If that person tried to harm her, I should have been able to hit that person first.
“Meryl . . . Meryl.”
The small hand I am grasping tightly was gradually getting colder. Fortunately, she doesn’t look like she is suffering, but her peaceful sleeping figure looks frightening on the contrary.
I shook my head when I thought, “Meryl will die at this rate”, so I pulled her towards me more tightly so that I could share my body heat.
Why is she the only one affected?
From the start, it was Meryl who was summoned here. The culprit clearly wanted to harm her. Even if that person almost killed Meryl after he/she saw her, I came with her and I feel all right, but why is she the only one who collapsed?
Think… A magic that can specifically harm a person . . . There should be something.
All that came to my mind were only related to attack magic . . . Wrong, that’s not it! Remember the reason why I studied in this academy for six years!!
The books about magic I have read so far, the writings on the board during classes, the lectures of the teachers . . . I turned all my knowledge and memories inside out. However, I can’t recall a magic technique. In the first place, things such as “designating a specific person to harm” are generally classified as “sorcery”, and most of the schools and, of course, the countries prohibit its use.
It is difficult to think that students who use such techniques are attending this school.
Hearing a faint groan from her, I hugged her body in a panic. Her body temperature is increasingly declining. We have to get out of here immediately. Barrett-sensei, please notice it soon!
My knowledge is limited and I don’t know the cause. Hurry, I have to let a specialist examine her.
A prominent family, so what? I can’t even protect Meryl alone just by fighting. What was I doing until now?!
Damn, if only I could look more into another field [of study]… Information……… Books?
Suddenly raising my eyes, what came to my eyes were the bookshelves that line up to the ceiling. Of course, some of them are also within the range of the Box Dimensional Barrier. If there is a book about magic here, I may be able to understand Meryl’s condition.
That’s what I thought as I stood up…… I regret how lame I am.
Even though all the bookshelves were packed with books, there’s a shelf within the barrier that was completely empty. And despite it being empty, there are books on our feet. No matter if it is a storeroom in a special building, it is hard to imagine that these materials were treated carelessly.
“……My prejudice had narrowed my outlook.”
I left Meryl as far as possible from the door and reached for the books at the foot of the shelf. They were “assembled” in a circle, as if they were piled in a casual way.
Hidden in the middle of the pile of books is a small flask used for experiments. It contains a small amount of transparent liquid which emits a thin smoke. As I reached out for it, I finally understood. It is only a small amount but dust and molds were mixed in the musty smell. I “smelled a lot of it” back in our house.
“This is a neurotoxin!”
Certainly, among all the poisons, it is relatively easy to formulate and it can be obtained at a reasonable price. It is one of the poisons which my relatives have told me repeatedly, “Look closely and remember”. It is something that I could not understand no matter how I try to use my brain. Because the cause is not magic.
“Really, it’s because of this that ‘magicians are stubborn’.”
As I ridicule myself, I put my uniform’s scarf* at the mouth of the flask and wrapped the container tightly with my jacket. I was able to stop this for now but . . . [T/N: It says ‘scarf’ but I doubt it. It is probably a neck tie.]
“Meryl, please hold on.”
I placed the flask as far as possible in the corner of the barrier and then embraced Meryl’s body once again. Her body temperature is very cold and the sighs that escape from her small mouth have become faint.
The reason why that poison was only effective for Meryl is simple. I am a noble, so I can tolerate poison to a certain extent. Though it was troublesome and there’s no getting around it, I wish I could exchange our bodies.
The effects are close to that of *hypnotic drugs. Paralysis and coma?
No, I was wrong to consider my physique. Meryl is thinner and smaller than me and cannot tolerate poison. Besides, she mentioned something about the smell of the room earlier and I bet she is sensitive to such things. I have to get her out of here a minute or two as soon as possible.
“Meryl . . . Just a little more. Please endure it.”
Her small, pale face slightly nodded in reply. I tightly, tightly hugged her cold body, trying not to suffocate her as much as possible in the process.
* * *
How long has it been since we were trapped?
It has been a while since I heard the hustle and bustle when we first arrived here. Because there is no clock in this room, I can only estimate the time with just my intuition . . . Strangely, it felt long. Even though I am spending the time with Meryl, every second is extremely slow.
I kept on calling her name. She would slightly nod and clutch my shirttail every time, but her reaction is gradually becoming less alert.
When I let her hair flow, its deep color contrasted her pale face. Her adorable eyes were closed, and the shadow which her long eyelashes have cast on her cheeks made me feel miserable.
“Are you not cold?”
I took her small hand and gently touched her palm with my fingers. Her whole body is cold, and even the pulse in her wrist is weak. Hurry, I want to get her out of here immediately. It is still quiet outside the door. I can only wait and it is frustrating.
I wonder how many times I said it. My beloved’s name. Whenever I say it, it felt warm but painful at the same time.
Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry. I don’t care who it is. Someone, please notice. Meryl is so cold.
“Hm, what is it?”
Unusually, she called my nickname in a feeble voice that almost disappeared in the air. She grasped my fingers . . . . . . . and her hand dropped.
Flop. It slid down my hand and it dangled, not moving a bit. It felt like the sounds from the surroundings disappeared.
“Meryl? Hey, Meryl?!”
Drawing her face, it didn’t move, not even a twitch. Like the sand in an hourglass, something like a rustling sound was heard.
Dying . . . in my arms . . . ?
I shouted unconsciously.
Immediately after a faint heat, there is something heavy in my hands. My own staff, painted black from top to bottom resembling “someone’s tool which takes away life*”, appeared and I reflexively kept it away from her. [T/N: Grim reaper’s scythe?]
《Dark things surging with rage, gather under me and turn into a purgatory!!》
I said the chant, screaming. As far as I know, what came out of my mouth was the highest level of destructive attack magic.
There was an explosion at a point-blank range, and the interior of the small room was instantly dyed red.
However, what I heard next was not the sound of destruction but a grating noise like that of something scraping a glass.
When my visual field returned back to normal, the scenery did not change. The neither thin nor thick “Iron Wall” lined with squares is still there.
“No… Meryl! Someone, I beg you, please notice us―!!”
Even if I hit it with my fist, it doesn’t make a sound. It only vibrated in my bones. If we cannot leave here right away, it will be too late for Meryl.
“Meryl, what should I do…?”
The cold body I am holding in my arms did not move. Her cheeks were pale and her small lips have lost their color.
I gently touched those lips. Her usual rosy lips have gone dry. But it is still soft and lovely.
“……I’m desperate. Is there . . . no other way than this?”
To be honest, I always wanted to experience it. I always wanted to do it with Meryl. But because I “really like her”, I couldn’t do it.
It’s because this act has “meaning”. I do not want to resort to this. I do not want to touch her because of this situation.
But if this is the only thing that could save her . . .
“………Meryl, I like you.”
I gently laid my lips on hers.