The Land of Wolves: Death unto the Weak, Mercy be None 7
“You said you lost your memories, but exactly how much is missing?”
The one asking the question was Katya, who sat across the table, after having had meals brought to her room for them to eat. With a mouth full of potato, Rem’s eyes widened as she placed a hand over her mouth.
It was in the Imperial Capital of Lupgana—in the mansion of Berstetz Fondalfon, the Imperial Prime Minister—where Rem had been taken to and placed under house arrest. Here she had been given the role of Flop’s caretaker—an injured person also under confinement. But outside of healing Flop’s wounds with magic, Rem did whatever she wanted with her time, and in the past few days had grown quite close to Katya, who sat opposite her now.
Katya had also been placed under house arrest for reasons unknown—she was a captive just like Rem—and Rem’s nature was such that she couldn’t leave her alone; they had gotten closer to the extent that they shared meals like this, but…
“…What is it?” questioned Katya. “I won’t get annoyed even if you make me wait until you swallow that.”
“…Okay, I’ve swallowed it,” replied Rem. “No, I wasn’t thinking about making you wait and all.”
“Then what is it?”
“Surprisingly, I’ve never really been asked anything regarding my memories before.” It wasn’t hesitation or discomfort on her part, but genuine surprise. In fact, thinking about it, Rem felt that all the people she had met until now had tiptoed around the subject of her lost memories. Of course, she wasn’t going to accuse Katya of having a lack of consideration, but…
“…A-Are you implying that I lack consideration? That I should think about others before I speak? Are you badmouthing me?!”
Even if Rem said nothing, Katya would end up saying it herself. That was the difficulty with her personality.
Katya glared at Rem and resentfully bit her lip. Part of the reason why she has such an aggressive—or rather demeaning—attitude, is because of her bad legs, thought Rem. Supporting her body weight is something called a wheelchair. Unable to use her legs freely, she depends on a tool to move about—something she belittles herself for.
“Though I can’t make it the sole reason since I’m also using a cane…”
“D-Don’t…act like it isn’t just a decoration. Mine is…it’s not…the same. You’re…more proper than I am…”
“I don’t get the feeling that I’m being praised.”
“I’m not praising you! This is like… W-We’re just licking each other’s wounds.”
Lowering her gaze, Katya returned her knife and fork to her plate. As far as Rem knew, Katya tended to only eat small amounts, but more than half the food had been left on the plate. There’s no way she’s full, she thought.
“Miss Katya, you’ve left far too much food…”
“What’s wrong? Am I not being considerate enough to the chef? Are you going to blame me for that, too?”
“No, I was thinking you might get hungry in the middle of the night. Would you like to save some bread for later?”
“S-Stop talking like some poor peasant!” she shouted, shoving the breadbasket back at Rem. If she were to persist, Katya, with her stubborn nature, would only get angrier. Rem was aware that giving up was crucial, and so secured the bread herself so she could give it to her later.
“We got off track a little, but I believe we were talking about my memories.”
“…W-Were you actually going to tell me? I thought you were evading the question since you didn’t want to talk about it.”
“I already told you—I was just surprised; it’s not that I didn’t want to be asked. Even if I had something I didn’t want to be asked, I wouldn’t remember it.”
Of course, Rem probably did have a secret or two, but, unfortunately, with her memories completely gone, she couldn’t recall what they were and thus had nothing to hide or be shy about. In all honesty, I’m not sure I’ll be able to give Katya the answers she’s looking for, she thought.
“You really don’t remember anything? For example… For example, about your family?”
“A person who insisted they knew me before I lost my memories told me that I have a twin sister. We look like two peas in a pod according to him, but…”
“A twin… Did the person who insisted this seem trustworthy?”
“No… No, nevermind… Wait… Maybe not?”
“Which one is it! Why can’t you make up your mind?”
Unable to make a decision, Rem was caught between hesitation and distress, and Katya glared at her. Rem wasn’t entirely sure why she was finding it so difficult to answer that. If she were to be forced to give a reason, however, she would say it was just like bad-tasting medicine.
“If I don’t take it, my body will get worse, but it’s bitter and difficult to take…or something like that.”
“Are you…talking about a person? Not a food you don’t like?”
“It’s not that I dislike him… But I don’t like him either.”
The first words that she’d said had been entirely reflexive, but she immediately altered them with more conscious thought. At Rem’s response, Katya’s lips trembled, and she let her eyes wander. She knew exactly how the flustered Rem felt—and she was struck by a sudden feeling of guilt that she might have said something mean.
“I think that’s enough about me? Let’s talk about you instead.”
“Yes. Go ahead.”
“That’s an absurd way to begin a conversation…” Her lips trembling, Katya’s face reddened. But due to the guilt she felt from before, she sincerely searched for a topic of conversation. “You just mentioned you had a twin… I had an older brother.”
“Katya… You don’t…” Her cheeks tensing, she tried to stop Katya from talking about it.
She knew of Katya’s brother, as it had been mentioned here and there. He was an imperial soldier who lost his life during the rebellion here in the fortified city of Guaral.
It was her who had pursued the topic in the first place, but she did not want to hurt Katya, nor open old wounds. However…
“No buts! Y-You’re the one who started this conversation. So… So listen to me! I’m not trying to make my brother into a painful memory.”
“He wasn’t the type of person who deserved admirable treatment…hic.” Biting her nails, Katya forced the words out of her mouth.
To Katya’s sincere appeal from the heart, Rem suddenly felt the same guilt at bringing up such a topic as Katya had moments before. In other words, I’m the one who’s actually lacking in consideration.
Rem had mistakenly considered it a kindness to avert her eyes and try to avoid opening up old wounds. “What sort of older brother was he?” she asked, having accepted that it was rude of her to have thought that way.
Katya looked around aimlessly at Rem’s query, then started stammering some words about her dead older brother. “He was a thug, and selfish, and his voice was too…it was too loud… I hated him.”
“My household had three children in it… I was the youngest, and the older two were my brothers. My oldest brother died in a rockfall accident, which left just me—who wasn’t very good at anything—and my brother.”
“Both your brothers…”
“…Well, the brother I want to talk about was the second son. My eldest brother didn’t like him very much… But they’re both dead now.”
Seeing that Katya had started talking, Rem was careful not to interrupt her story, and could guess how she felt as she told it. Since it was no easy task to say that talking about it would make her feel better.
“But he was good to you, right, Katya?”
“H-He didn’t have a lot of consideration for others, so there were a lot of times where he did unnecessary things. For example… If you didn’t already know, I’m the daughter of a lowly count…a part of the Empire’s nobility.”
“I…didn’t know that.”
As Katya explained while touching her shoulder, Rem’s eyes flickered to her wheelchair. She didn’t have a particularly vast knowledge of it, but she knew that the chair she sat in had been specially made.
In the beginning, Subaru had made a chair that he strapped to his back to carry Rem, whose legs were bad. Even so, merchants like Flop had tried to purchase it because of its rarity, so she understood the precious value of such a wheelchair.
“By any chance, did your brother also make that wheelchair…”
“Not my brother, but someone my brother brought along… Well, that’s a different story. Anyway, I am the child of a nobleman and it was a school where people like me were enrolled.”
“Schools nobles attend…”
If she were to be honest, Rem did not understand the differences between nobility and other people. Roughly, Katya was a noble, Flop was a merchant, Mizelda was a Shudrak, and Priscilla was someone who made their own path… I guess that’s one way to look at it?
“Are you saying that that school is what made you who you are today?”
“…No. Have you been listening? This is a story about my brother. This has nothing to do with me, but that isn’t the main topic.”
“Anyway! Ch-Children of nobles all have high self-esteem, do nothing but boast, and are incredibly dislikable. I was a good outlet for them.” Katya gently pointed to herself with both hands as she spoke of such terrible things, but for some reason she did not speak of it sadly, but with a hint of excitement.
“If you were harassed by those around you, aren’t they bad memories?”
“See…seeing my brother, beat them up was rather, refreshing.”
“Beat them up… was that okay?”
Rem also wanted those who had done bad things to Katya to receive punishment, but was he really fine with being outnumbered, or rather acting violently in a public place?
“O-Of course not. Both me and my brother were kicked out immediately,” Katya affirmed to Rem’s question with vigor.
Sure enough, Katya and her brother were expelled from school, and most likely stripped of their noble qualifications.
“Actually, no. W-We just had very little value living as lowly counts who had not been educated. My brother was fine, actually, as he was talented in swordplay and such.”
“What did you do? If you couldn’t go to school…”
“Our eldest brother was alive at that point, so it wasn’t too serious. Normally, we’d be able to depend upon a tutor at home, but…”
“When no one was around, even that tutor…” Gripping her own arm, Katya’s face twisted in pain.
The rage and hatred that collected on her face made it obvious that she’d been harassed by the tutor too. Even ignoring the wheelchair, the impression you got from Katya in one glance screamed ‘frail’. Such a disposition was unfortunately the kind that inspired sadism in others.
And guessing from where the story is going that tutor…
“When my brother realized I was acting strange, it was a bloodbath…”
“I-It served them right, but…it was the final nail in the coffin. My brother and I became outcasts in the family, and then our eldest brother had his accident.”
“…How is your family now?”
“My mother…disappeared. My father…destroyed his body with heavy drinking.” Katya’s family’s situation worsened, as though tumbling down a hill. It was as though they were cursed, she thought, and Rem wanted to complain to fate for not having any mercy. Katya, however, seemed to be taking it very differently.
“My brother says we must be lucky or something.”
“…Even though you went through all that?”
“…He’s always said that it’s our enemies who get the worst end of the stick. S-So, no matter what we have to deal with, it’s always for our benefit.” Placing a hand over her chest, Katya divulged the words she had received from her brother in days gone by.
The absurdity and—to a certain extent—arrogance of such a thing shocked Rem so much that her jaw dropped. If only taking into account the particulars of the story, it’s true that everyone has encountered misfortune—the students in the school, her tutor, her eldest brother whom she and her brother didn’t like, and even her parents. But laughing it off like that while being in the middle of such misfortunes is…
“You think it’s foolish too, don’t you?”
“Umm… I’m not sure how to answer that.”
“That’s the same as just saying it is foolish…but that’s right.”
As Rem averted her eyes at the difficult question, Katya glared at her with her gloomy eyes. Katya had voiced the derogatory remark that Rem hadn’t, but she didn’t seem to be feeling negative about it. There were some violent and unsettling parts to the story, but even so, the unforgettable memories she’s sharing are important to her and her brother. And it…
“…If we’re talking about my brother’s foolishness, we’ve not even scratched the surface.”
…is obvious from her timid appeal that she isn’t done yet.
“O-Of course, it’s fine if you’re tired of listening, or think it’s pointless…”
“…If I’m being honest, then I think it will be difficult for me to have a good impression of your brother.”
“That’s a bit too honest…”
“But I believe, as we talk, we’re getting closer to your objective… I’m of the thought that you don’t want the memories of your dead brother to only be sad ones.”
Having forgotten so many things, Rem’s past was lost to her. Whether or not she should regain her lost memories, or how to face her lost past, Rem hadn’t found a clear answer yet. But the way of thinking that Katya had chosen was one answer to the question.
I don’t think that it’s fine not to know. But acting like you know something when you don’t is not just arrogant but cruel, thought Rem.
Rem had always ignored Subaru. It was partly because she found his scent difficult to bear, but also that he clearly knew of her past, which she actively refused to let him tell her about. If she’d let him, he would have clung to her—probably not with any bad intentions, but not with particularly good intentions either.
“But even so, I do think there is a minimum amount of consideration that is necessary…” As she pointed out her understanding, and also posed a challenge, Rem looked at Katya in front of her. Her cheeks hardened at that look. “Katya,” she called out. “Please tell me your brother’s story, until you’re satisfied to your heart’s content.”
“…Hearing that makes me not want to say anything at all.”
“Don’t make this difficult. Please stop complaining. Now, go ahead.”
“I really dislike the way you worded that! Umm… Where should I begin…” As her lips trembled, Katya’s eyes wandered, and then she started talking about her next memory.
As Rem listened to Katya’s unsteady words, she furrowed her brows and gave it some deep thought. If it were right here and now, I wouldn’t mind hearing Subaru’s story either—or even all about my past and my lost memories. It used to be uneasiness and impatience that dominated my thoughts, but I’m sure my feelings will be different moving forward. I’m incredibly grateful for the fact I was able to meet Katya—a troubled girl who helped me to feel such things.
As Rem examined her feelings, she also came to one other conclusion:
Katya’s brother is good-for-nothing, though I’ll never let her hear that herself.