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    Unlike me, who was overjoyed just to be out of the basement, Hyun was quite cautious around me. He was always kind, but didn’t indulge me completely. Sometimes he even avoided me. But I didn’t mind. For some reason, I felt he had a reason to be intentionally acting that way.

    As I talked with him, it was as if I was slowly wiping a dirty window clean – my thoughts became clearer bit by bit. It felt similar to washing out the wrinkles in my brain with cool, clear water. I felt I wouldn’t be able to feel that way again even if I was reborn. Being with him made me feel whole. What magician wouldn’t fall in love with him?

    I did confess my feelings in the heat of emotion before, but my desire to be with him was small. Being together with Hyun was more important to me than consummating our relationship. I was afraid that if his affection for me cooled and he abandoned me, we would no longer be able to be together. Just being together, occasionally touching his collar, exchanging a word or two per day, and seeing his smile was enough to make my heart overflow.

    Around the time the rebellion was well underway, Hyun said something strange. He said he had to go to the military. I couldn’t understand why he had to go to the military when he was already part of the rebel army. And it wasn’t just all talk – his actions were a bit strange too. He would go without speaking and then suddenly be very talkative. He started drinking alcohol when he didn’t use to drink. He would go out alone at night, screaming and running around wildly. He always had some quirks in the way he talked and acted so I brushed it off thinking it was no big deal, but a truly serious incident occurred.

    I realized the facts one afternoon.

    After a conversation with Hyun, I felt a strange sense of foreboding. Something had definitely changed, but I couldn’t figure out what. It felt like something had come loose but also that something was tightened. I only felt that sensation after talking with Hyun. I would feel normal otherwise. I could have dismissed it as nothing, but I had an intuition that the feeling might be more important than my life.

    “I need time to think,” I said, rushing to Ludwig before the intuition disappeared.

    Matthias, who was with Ludwig, looked confused, not understanding.

    “Time to think about what?”

    “A week should do.”

    If it had been any other time, I would have gone into seclusion for a week without telling anyone, but this was a relatively important situation. The imperial army was sending troops daily to kill us, and we were doing our best to defend with minimal manpower while preparing for a full frontal attack on them. I didn’t care if the rebels died, but since Hyun was so diligent, I felt I should at least give them this much warning.

    Hyun really does devote his affection to the most useless things. But even that side of him is cute.

    “So what do you need to think about?”

    “I… I don’t know.”

    “What do you mean you don’t know? You need to talk clearly if you want us to cover for you or not.”

    Matthias growled. I should have killed him back when I first got my strength. What a missed opportunity.

    “I’ve never… never thought about anything before. But I will think about this. So I need… I need to think.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “…A week,” Ludwig finally spoke for the first time. I nodded my head.

    “Seven days. Could be shorter.”

    “Alright.”

    Matthias’ eyes went wide at Ludwig granting my request.

    “Ludwig, are you sure? The full frontal attack is in a few days. Right now, Hyun and this guy are the only usable magicians we have.”

    “Absilon, you’ve never said meaningless words before. If you’re saying this now, then you must need to do this.”

    “Y-yes.”

    “Do as much thinking as you need and come back. We are not so weak that we will crumble from one less man.”

    “Really, Ludwig?”

    “Yes.”

    Matthias clasped his head as if in agony.

    “Ugh… Okay. I’ll readjust the plans then. 7 days is good enough?”

    “Yes, 7 days… will do.”

    As soon as the decision was made, Matthias naturally started adjusting schedules. Now that I think about it, that day was when I started seeing them as true comrades.

    I immediately shut myself in my room and started meditating. And slowly, day by day, I began revisiting past moments. All the thinking I did made my head hot every so often. But for a long time, I was unable to find a suitable moment that gave me that “aha!” feeling. Things had been going well and now they were not, which frustrated me. Still, I did not stop thinking. If I stopped here, I felt I would be stuck at this point forever.

    I had intended to not accept any visitors for the full 7 days, but I received a guest I couldn’t turn away – it was Hyun. He practically broke down the door to come inside. I was irritated at having my thoughts interrupted and was about to throw a fit, but when I saw Hyun’s worried expression, my anger melted away.

    “Hyun… what brings you… all the way here?”

    “You need to eat even when you have a lot on your mind. I heard you haven’t eaten or drank anything for two whole days? At least eat this while thinking.”

    “Ah…. has it been two days already…….?”

    I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t even realize that much time had passed.

    “At least eat this. You’ll ruin your health.”

    Hyun clicked his tongue as he held out a basket to me. When I lifted the cloth on top, I saw sandwiches stuffed with appetizing tomatoes and lettuce along with apple juice inside. Hyun considered eating to be very important. While I was used to being hungry and skipping one or two meals was nothing, Hyun agonized over it as if he was the one starving and tried to make me eat something. I found that side of Hyun to be so lovable.

    “Th-thank you…Hyun.”

    “Eat now. I’ll leave once I see you eat.”

    Hyun sat down and crossed his arms, settling in. I really do like Hyun, huh? Even actions like these don’t bother me, they make me happy.

    “Ah, alright.”

    I smiled and reached for the bread, about to pick it up, when a fragment of a past memory suddenly flashed through my mind like lightning.

    A few months ago in the fields of a territory we had conquered, I discovered a strange phenomenon – a hole the size of a fingernail. It looked as if a corner of the world had been slightly torn open. When I casually stuck my hand in, nothing happened. But there must have been a reason that scene came to mind right now. I grabbed Hyun’s sleeve and cautiously asked:

    “Are you… busy right now, Hyun?”

    “No, I’m free at the moment. I finished up most of my work before coming here.”

    “Can you come with me somewhere? I… I’m craving to eat there.”

    “A thinker with a lot on his mind is being picky about where to eat? Well, eating is important I guess.”

    Hyun cocked his head at my odd behavior but agreed anyway. Fortunately the fields weren’t far from my room. I led Hyun there.

    “The place you suddenly wanted to go is…here?”

    “Yes, right.”

    Hyun looked at me suspiciously for a moment. I made my most innocent face. Making an expression that wouldn’t rouse others’ suspicions was a bit difficult for me.

    “You sure are random as always. Hurry up and eat so we can go.”

    It seemed he didn’t harbor any particular doubts, fortunately.

    “Ah, alright.”

    I spread my cloak I had been wearing on the grassy field and sat down on it. While I busied myself unwrapping the sandwich packaging, Hyun who had uncorked the apple juice bottle and handed it to me, lied down next to me. With his hands behind his head, Hyun watched the passing clouds with his legs stretched out and casually spoke:

    “I’ve been swarmed with work since you’ve been gone these days. I was dying from it all. I don’t know what you need to think about for so long but do it moderately and come back.”

    “Ah, I understand Hyun. I’ll… I’ll do that.”

    As expected, Hyun needed me too. I smiled brightly at his words, feeling delighted.

    The weather was nice. Sunrays filtered between the tree leaves and the wind fluttered about, tickling Hyun’s hair. The warm sunlight seemed to make Hyun drowsy as his eyes kept drooping shut.

    “I’m so sleepy. I’ll take a short nap.”

    “Yes Hyun. Sleep well.”

    “You can’t… leave me. You have to… wake me up…….”

    With those final words, Hyun closed his eyes completely and soon dozed off. I turned on my side and caressed Hyun’s soft cheeks. Stretching them out made me happy – it felt like kneading bread dough.

    I glared at the empty space. The hole was still there. While stroking Hyun’s cheek, I reached my hand towards that spot.

    “…!”

    I still remember the shock when I put my hand inside.

    Tiny text and numbers laid out on the black screen, seeming to break this world I was in while revealing the existence of a new world outside. It seems that some error occurred when the player Hyun made contact with me.

    Having vaguely realized that this world was a constructed one, I promptly returned from my break and came back. I felt I had to hurry and end this war to further investigate this place. However after the war was over, something bigger happened.

    Hyun left us.

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