I approached the tunnel heading to Aricalen.
“Rodo, hold me tight.”
With an anxious face, Ko turned his body and hugged me.
Are tunnels scary when you’re not afraid of dark places?
I firmly hugged Ko with the arm that’s not holding the reins.
However, as we advanced, Ko began acting strange.
He breathed shallowly and sweated a lot.
He looked like he’s in pain so I urged Sig to turn back.
At that time──
Flop…Ko fell limp in an instant.
I supported him in a hurry…
(…I can’t feel his magical power…?)
Ko’s magical power is considerable.
But suddenly, I couldn’t feel it.
I suspected that he fainted, but his magical power shouldn’t suddenly disappear.
Even when I called out, he didn’t move.
The sweet scent peculiar to a mate also faded.
“Go look at Ko!”
I called out to the healer who accompanied us, but it seemed that healing magic didn’t work for the current Ko.
The healer who was holding a hand to Ko shook his head.
Not being able to heal meant that the other person was “not alive”.
The dead cannot be cured.
“No! You can’t leave me!!”
I can’t depend on the healers.
So I turned back the way I came and made Sig run.
I could hear a voice from behind, but I couldn’t afford to stop.
Watching Ko’s arm sway weakly, I desperately endured crying.
(If this is what happens, I shouldn’t have gotten in…!)
Ko was scared at the entrance of the tunnel.
Did he mean this?
If I lose Ko, it doesn’t matter what happens to Aricalen.
Why did you still enter the tunnel?
I regretted it.
After passing through the tunnel, I got off Sig.
“Ko! Wake up! Open your eyes!!”
Even when I called out and shook his body, Ko didn’t open his eyes.
I couldn’t breathe when the fear of losing Ko suddenly struck me.
My body went cold, probably because I’m sweating a lot.
(To lose Ko like this…I don’t want to think about it.)
I hugged him and tried to warm him up with my body temperature.
I could only call him many times, and I hated my powerlessness.
How long have I been doing that?
At least, it’s been a long time for me.
It might have been a short time because no one had appeared from the tunnel yet.
Then, Ko opened his eyes.
I could immediately feel the scent of my mate and his magical power.
“Ko! …Thank goodness.”
I was overwhelmed with relief.
Ko’s voice reached my ears and the tears I endured overflowed.
I’m just happy about that.
Then, Ko’s words made my head bright red with anger.
I didn’t listen properly but I heard that he’s going to Niho.
It’s unacceptable for me to lose Ko again right now.
I want to prevent it more than anything.
However, that seemed to be my misunderstanding.
I didn’t understand what he meant by “I died in Niho”, but Ko didn’t seem able to return to Niho.
Ko then licked my tears and rubbed his cheeks against mine.
He’s been doing that lately and it’s too adorable.
As Ko said, that “someday, Kou might return to Niho” anxiety had disappeared.
There’s still some anxiety about Ko, but the fact that he could spend the rest of his life with me meant that my greatest anxiety had disappeared.
The fact that I didn’t have to worry that “he might disappear tomorrow” or that “the moment I take my eyes off, he might return to Niho” gives me a lot of leeway in my heart.
Is it because I felt relieved?
I feel inferior to Ko who behaved so adorably──
“Wait until tonight?”
I was told before I could say anything.
“Ko! Are you okay?”
My parents approached then.
They were dazed when they saw Ko not accept healing and seemed to have returned to their senses just now.
“Yes. Sorry for worrying you? …maybe only my soul returned to ***. It’s been at least three years over there.”
“? …is that so?”
My parents didn’t seem to understand what Ko meant.
For me, as long as Ko is here and will never return to Niho, that’s fine.
He said some other words, but I can’t understand them.
“Let’s go to Aricalen soon?”
But all three of us disagreed.
Since I saw Ko so scared before entering the tunnel, I don’t want him to enter the tunnel again.
My parents were also worried about Ko’s abnormality in the tunnel, so they persuaded him to go home.
“It doesn’t matter what happens to Aricalen. No one is more important than Ko.”
“…I’m okay. I don’t have any unpleasant feelings anymore.”
However, no matter what we say, Ko said he’ll go to Aricalen.
“You don’t have to worry about me disappearing anymore. Call me “Ko Serafine” and I’ll behave as such. …because “*** Kou” doesn’t exist anymore.”
He said Ko’s name, the one he said when we first met.
It’s still a name that I can’t pronounce properly.
It’s Ko’s name in Niho.
…and, I just noticed that Ko called himself “I”.
Sometimes when he didn’t want to give his name to strangers, he’d say, “I don’t want you to know my name”, but to us, he’d use “Kou”.
Does that mean he no longer had to remember the words he used in Niho?
When he gave his name, Ko called himself “Kou Serafine”.
His real name was difficult to pronounce so no one could call him by his real name.
And yet, he said we could just call him “Kou Serafine”.
Was he prepared to cut off the 18 years he’d lived in Niho?
…if that’s the case, maybe I should accept it as his partner.
I should have accepted every environment surrounding Ko, who was born and raised in Niho.
I couldn’t do that.
It’s unacceptable that one day, he might disappear in front of me.
I don’t want to believe that his life was too short.
And I don’t want to lose Ko.
I don’t even want to imagine being left behind by Ko.
And I have long since abandoned understanding Ko’s “race”.
If Ko left or died, I’ll follow him.
──I’m only thinking about that.
And Ko understood that.
For me, who didn’t think deeply in the first place, it’s impossible to think more.
“You don’t have to worry, you know? Because my whereabouts will be next to Rodo.”
He smiled and decided to go to Aricalen.
Once we arrive at Aricalen, I decided to never let go of this arm…
We entered the tunnel again, but unlike before, Ko didn’t look strange.
He didn’t breathe shallowly and he’s not sweating.
He’s not scared at all.
As expected, did he somehow know that that would happen?
You said you only went with your soul, but what does that mean?
He said he’s dead, but what did he see in Niho?
…but from what he said, it’s unlikely that I’ll understand.
I brought my face closer to him and sniffed.
Ko’s sweet voice and his scent as my mate calmed me down.
Ko’s the only one who could shake me emotionally and calm me down.
─Rodo’s side end─