It obviously becomes battle for control of range if bow and blade face off against each other. Bow has the advantage at long range while blade has the advantage at close range.
But Rena and Raven’s fight didn’t proceed this way. Raven who should be closing the distance wasn’t moving.
Rena was about to aim her bow but frowned.
“What are you thinking?”
Was he planning to deflect the arrow with his blade? Of course, she knew that Raven’s skill with the blade was amazing. It was to the point where there were very few in Elrios that could match up to him. It wouldn’t be difficult for him to defend himself even from rain of arrows.
But if Raven is master of blades, then Rena is master sharpshooter. They knew each other’s skills very well because of the time they traveled and fought side by side.
Rena who had been staring at Raven’s face for a long time lowered her bow.
“So, you don’t care what happens.”
“You’re just planning to stand your ground regardless of if you can deflect my arrows or not.”
Rena let out an anguished sigh. She had sensed something was odd and she was right…… Raven had no intention to guard his life in the first place. Blocking Rena’s path right now was a symbol of his will that he’ll stop Rena no matter what….. It wasn’t because he was confident in his skills.
If Raven was thinking about fighting properly then he would have tried to secure a safe distance first. Rena looked at Raven regrettably while letting out a sympathetic sigh.
He was basically saying shoot me first if you want to get past me…… but Rena just couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Rena might look like she’s always gentle but she also possessed ability to make cold and level-headed decisions. If it was necessary, she wouldn’t hesitate to take the target down even if they were her acquaintances.
Since the El Search Party was in danger, she could do anything to assist them.
If the one blocking her path right now wasn’t Raven.
And if the method he was using to stop her…… wasn’t so much like him.
Raven stood silently. Rena who had been looking at him sympathetically asked slowly.
“Do I die?”
Raven’s eyes shook very slightly. Rena became certain now from Raven’s wordless answer.
“So, there were times I died.”
Raven was hesitant if he should answer or not but he chose to keep silent. But Rena had already understood everything.
“Inside this endlessly continuing battles….. I died countless times, right?”
It wasn’t that she remembered being killed clearly…… but there was no way she would have been unharmed if such dangerous battles occurred countlessly. Even if Rena’s archery skills transcended common sense, the enemy was a devil who controlled time.
It was difficult enough to fight Dark Nephilim that D enhanced…… the result of a direct confrontation was obvious.
“So, that’s why you’re stopping me from joining that fight. To prevent me from dying.”
Raven gave up keeping quiet. Rena’s face looked as if she was about to cry. Raven begged.
“Just ignore it, just for a bit.”
D will win after just little longer then open the Space-Time Gate. The situation turned out a bit strange but the El Search Party couldn’t overturn the fundamental differences in strength.
But Rena didn’t listen to Raven’s plea. She looked hesitant, but slowly began to approach him.
Raven had numerous thoughts as Rena came closer.
What should he do? Suppress her with force? He had never done such a thing before. Technique to make her unconscious won’t work anymore. But he couldn’t let her get past him. He even thought about suggesting they should run away……
As Raven became completely halted from not being able to choose any of those options, Rena stood right in front of him.
“Even we’re standing still, time is still moving. No one can stop that.”
Rena spoke with an anguished expression.
“Even if the result is someone’s death.”
Raven gritted his teeth. He didn’t want Rena knowing the truth in the first place. Rena would certainly act like this if she knew about the truth of the Time War.
The reason Raven acted separately from the El Search Party in the first place was because he wasn’t confident that he could continue to keep the truth from Rena.
Insider the time that kept repeating because of D, amongst 9 members of the El Search party, five that became aware of the truth were Eun, Aisha, Elesis, Raven…… and Rena.
Rena had originally known the truth of the Time War. But, she had forgotten up till now when Add turned back time to resurrect her.
Make Rena forget everything.
That was the deal between D and Raven.
Raven shook his head as memories of the far past resurfaced. So many nauseating scenes rose up in his mind as various emotions whirled around within him.
Raven had no idea what he should do, or what he should say.
“Even so…… I don’t want to see something like that again.”
Raven’s shaking voice. It was such a weak voice but this was honestly his true feelings. He was afraid of what face Rena was making so he continued his words with his eyes closed.
“I know this isn’t right and that this is cowardly. But even so, I can’t bare to……”
He couldn’t bare to see Rena die anymore. This was Raven’s one single wish during the Time War.
But…… he couldn’t convey this feeling straightly. The feeling of not wanting to see someone important to you die was given for any people, but Raven couldn’t help but to feel guilty about himself for his actions.
Because Rena looked strikingly similar to the fiancé he lost. So similar to the point where they could pass as same people.
Seris was killed right in front of him and he couldn’t do anything to stop her death. Raven was thoroughly broken by this fact and fell to the very bottom of the abyss as a result.
Until he met Rena who looked ever so like Seris.
He could make a new resolve and pull himself together because of the times he spent together with Rena. He could look at tomorrow instead of getting tied down by the brutal past.
But that Rena dies.
Under the name of the Time War, D’s dice rolls, El Search Party members were put through enormous pain and Rena wasn’t an exception. No, she suffered the most out of everyone because unlike Eun or Aisha, she chose to face D head-on.
Raven couldn’t stand this anymore and got a promise out of D to not lay hands on Rena in exchange for his cooperation. Of course, there were times when Rena fell by someone other than D, but it was still much better than before.
Yes, it was a reasonable decision if you only looked at the cause and result.
A man who couldn’t stand to watch her suffer anymore that he joined hands with the devil and erased her memories……
Maybe from view of a third-party, they might say his actions were understandable, that he didn’t make a wrong choice…… but Raven who was directly involved couldn’t dare to say he was right.
“Don’t go any further than this.”
Raven slowly stretched his hand out with his head still lowered. He could feel her soft cheek then her round shoulder. He was afraid to confirm what face Rena had, what she was feeling as she looked at him acting like this.
“It’s my selfish request…… I can’t stand it anymore.”
Did Raven really do this for Rena? Wasn’t it just for his self-satisfaction?
He couldn’t stop Seris’ death.
The biggest, irrevocable regret in Raven’s life.
So he at least wanted to protect Rena who looked similar to her no matter what…… could he really say he didn’t have such thoughts?
Can he be sure that he wasn’t equating Rena and Seris on his own? That he wasn’t projecting his feelings of regret as he pleased?
Raven asked himself countless times during those innumerable repetitions of time but couldn’t find the answer in the end. But he was at least aware that he could never say that he made the right choice, that he had no shame in the path he walked.
Yes, it was greedy, it was selfish. Equating Rena and Seris… projecting them in each other is…… such a huge disrespect to both of them.
He knew down to his bones that this wasn’t right.
But he didn’t want Rena to die.
He wanted her to live.
Watching her smile brightly at him, towards the very person who made her unaware of the Time War, made him happy but guilty at the same time. If you looked back, the biggest reason he separated from the El Search Party was….. Because he couldn’t look at her smile directly.
Because it felt like her smile was reprimanding him for his sins, because he couldn’t stand the sense of guilt that he was tainting her smile.
He heard Rena’s voice coming from above his head. Raven didn’t want to raise his head but Rena was waiting for him to. When Raven suppressed his fear and slowly raised his head…… he could see Rena’s face.
Rena was smiling with a face as if she was about to cry.
“It’s okay now.”
“You don’t have to overburden yourself anymore.”
Rena conveyed quietly as if she was whispering.
“Raven, you’re an extremely righteous person. You’re not someone who would feel at ease doing something wrong.”
Tear trickled down along Rena’s cheek.
“If you were to do something wrong, it’s for someone else. It was for me.”
He couldn’t say it was out of such pure intentions. But Rena slowly shook her head.
“I know, so you don’t have to say it.”
Rena continued to speak slowly, being cautious of each word she said.
“I know about what you lost, what you’re afraid of.”
It wasn’t that she heard directly…… but she could tell from times she spent together with him. That Raven was bound by regret from his past, and that he was being very careful so that his feelings of regret wouldn’t get conveyed to Rena.
“No, it would be too inconsiderate to say I know everything. I think two of us……”
Rena forced herself to smile.
“Were too careful with each other.”
Rena tried her best to make this sound light as possible.
“Isn’t it strange? You and I have been together for so long. Not only that, but time has repeated countlessly…… but there’s a wall between us. We never opened up to each other until now.”
“I know. You didn’t want to talk about what you lost and I avoided bringing it up out of respecting your choice. We were together but you were in that past and I didn’t know what to do about it.”
Rena grabbed the Nasod hand lying on her shoulder and slowly brought it to her cheek. She felt the cold steel on her cheek.
“So, we both ignored and didn’t touch upon that topic. I thought that was the right thing to do. But……”
Rena had quite an hesitant expression but spoke out in the end.
“I shouldn’t have done that. If you were caught up in the past and in pain, then I should have brought you to the present. Even if there might have been conflict in the process, even if we might have misunderstood each other……”
“Since you wouldn’t have had to feel so much anguish for such a long time.”
Raven didn’t know what to do from the sense of his heart being struck…… then he let out a sunken voice.
“It’s…… what I chose on my own.”
“And you wouldn’t have had to say something like this.”
There was no way to beat her with words. When Raven kept quiet, Rena slowly stroked the Nasod hand on her cheek.
“I didn’t want to break the wall between you and me. Because I thought that was respect. But it wasn’t respect, it was ignorance. I didn’t try to break through even knowing you were in pain.”
Rena forced herself to smile.
“In the end, I was afraid too. Afraid that I might hurt you.”
Raven agreed wordlessly. His precious lover, Seris whom he couldn’t protect and Rena who looked just like her….. Trying to look at them separately was extremely difficult…… so there was no choice but to distance himself.
Rena spoke quietly as if understanding Raven’s feelings.
“But I’ll have to be brave from now on. I don’t want to leave you inside the wall suffering in pain. Even though this is rather reckless, I have to break the wall.”
“You can stop sacrificing yourself for me now.”
Rena looked at Raven earnestly. Just like she said…… she was being brave.
Their relationship was where they cared for each other but felt more difficult about each other at the same time. Rena was now trying to break that wall.
“Instead of you one-sidedly protecting me….. I’d like you to fight together with me. I want you to stop being bound by the past and help open up the future together with me in this present.”
“If you’d like……”
Dark shadow descended on Raven’s face just when he was about to answer. He recalled how brutal Rena’s demises were in this despair filled Time War.
Rena spoke gently as if she noticed Raven’s thoughts.
“We fought together before we joined the El Search Party. It’s now time to fight together again.”
“If our time has stopped, then let’s fight together to get our time back. No matter how many times it takes.”
Rena’s voice was small but the will contained inside it was indescribably powerful.
“Never giving up, even if you die, or I die, and once again next time.”
Hoping these words can comfort this man’s heart.
Was this how it felt for one’s heart to be moved? Raven realized something that was shackling him was disappearing.
It would be shameless to entrust everything to her gentleness and understanding…… but something was saying it was okay.
It should have been like this from the start. This was the right path.
“I…… may not be able to protect you.”
“Then I’ll protect you.”
“I…… may not be able to protect you.”
“Then I’ll protect you.”
Rena opened her arms and gently embraced Raven. Blade and Bow, their skills were equal but the strength of their minds were dimensions apart.
Beautiful Elf’s sincere voice unlocked his worn-out heart.
“Thank you for protecting me until now, Raven. Now let’s fight together. For each other.”
Raven gave a long sigh. He never imagined Rena would make such a choice after knowing the truth…… He never thought she would ask him to fight together even if the battle was only filled with despair.
Rena that Raven knew would have first thought about how to exclude Raven from this fight, she wouldn’t have asked him to fight together with her.
Just like she said it herself, she broke the wall and took one step closer towards him.
She was stopping distancing herself from Raven and asking him to be together with her till the end, no matter what dangers and ending awaited.
And Raven couldn’t refuse.
“……Because I wanted this too.”
Just like her request, it had been so long since Raven had joined his strength with someone else to break through obstacles. It was a time he couldn’t remember clearly…… but the feeling that it was ever so joyful remained intact inside him.
In this moment, Raven realized what he had really wanted during this Time War.
Stopping Rena’s death was nothing more than an emergency measure. What he truly wanted was to end the Time War…… and fight together with Rena shoulder to shoulder.
Rena gently held Raven’s Nasod hand as she smiled.
The man who was being weighed down by his past realized his reason to fight in the present.