「Eh……? ………Not a human, what? 」
It was likely something she never expected to hear. Luciel’s threatening attitude previously disappeared as if it was a lie.
Ardis who regretted his impulsive blunder gave up keeping it a secret and revealed everything.
It was before they met in the facility. When he woke up, there were numerous people with the same appearance as himself.
And all of them had similarly digits carved on their forehead. Including himself, none of them had the concept of ego.
Injured countless times within his vague memories, self-inflicting when told, dying in suffering, becoming familiar with killing―― without any suspicions, the days of living in that environment without thinking anything.
Gaining sentience completely by chance, absorbing the other people finally becoming him today.
The story that he never even told Greyth and the others, Ardis revealed it for the first time.
「Something like that……」
Luciel shook her head as if not believing it but, the reason why she can’t outright deny it is probably because she has an idea.
The first time when he found Luciel, she was tied on a bed with leather belt.
Seeing how she was afraid seeing Ardis with a white cloak, 『I really did what they said』, from her words, it’s obvious that she had interaction with the people in the facility before.
Luckily, she seems to have memories prior to being brought into the facility.
Although she pretended to have not known her own name in front of Greyth, it’s likely everyone there saw through her lies.
On one hand, there was Luciel who was brought out of the facility retaining her human self, and on the other, Ardis who lost his human self.
Although in the same place and circumstances, there was a distinctive difference.
「Unlike Luciel, I don’t have any memories of the past, no family of the same blood. That’s expected since I’m not a human after all. 」
Although Luciel had an expression wanting to say something, Ardis continued ignoring that.
「Luciel has a place to return to right? If there’s one, returning to those who waits for your return is natural. Survival is the utmost priority for that sake. People who have a place to return―― people who have a daily life to return have the value to survive. ……But I don’t have any of that. Born with the purpose of only imitating a human. No one will be concerned even if I disappeared. Then it’s obvious whose life should be prioritized. 」
That’s why Ardis extended his hands to Luciel. Although it was only an impulse at first, she became a reason of existence for the human imitation.
After knowing his own truth, Ardis’s spirit was kept in balance thanks to the purpose of protecting Luciel.
Before the balance is broken, he wanted to bring Luciel back to a safe place, or welcomes a meaningful death protecting her.
Ardis who decided either one of those paths was rejected by Luciel outright.
「There’s no way it’s like that! 」
Luciel yelled strongly like never before, and then as if bothered by it, her voice became softer as she denied it while looking downwards.
「Don’t say something like that please……」
The paining expression as if she was the one who got hurt, while facing down, her fists were tight.
「Ardis is a human. Not an imitation. Isn’t it Ardis who brought me out of that place? Isn’t it that hand that pulled me out? Isn’t it, you that shared your food even at your own cost for me? When I was shivering―― isn’t it you that kept me warm throughout the night? 」
Luciel faced towards Ardis. Light glimmered within the black eyes.
「Is that not enough to make you a human? Isn’t it a human to care for another? If Ardis is really a human imitation, then something like that must be impossible. If Ardis is not a human, then who would be? I don’t know……」
While her eyes were red, gritting her lips close, the words filled with emotions unable to be suppressed conveyed.
「……That’s wrong……, definitely a human. If……, if not for Ardis, I’m sure I won’t be here. Because of Ardis…… I’m able to be myself here. Ardis is the person that offered me a hand there. My greatest benefactor that I cannot be more grateful to! That’s why……, don’t say something so sad like that. Don’t speak ill of yourself! 」
Luciel was glaring at Ardis. Tears that cannot be suppressed spilled further. However, the reason behind it is not entirely sadness.
「Even if it’s Ardis, I won’t forgive anyone condemning my benefactor! 」
Inside Luciel’s eyes, there were some sadness, but everything else is anger. She is fuming, towards Ardis who depreciates himself, towards Ardis who spoke ill of her most important person.
Unable to accept those emotions from the front, Ardis chose to escape from her gaze.
But he couldn’t. He felt like taking Luciel’s anger lightly would be the greatest sin for himself more than dying.
In a situation where anger was directed towards himself for himself, Ardis who was stuck with words could only utter.
The words that finally managed to come out sought forgiveness. Luciel’s expression loosened.
Her fist loosened, and then both her hands wrapped around Ardis’s hand. Her tremble came through Ardis’s hand.
「Even if anyone say otherwise, it doesn’t matter. For me, Ardis had always been a human, a person. Only I can confidently say that Ardis is a human. That’s why, don’t forget it, Ardis. At the very least, I will be sad if you died. So, please don’t treat yourself badly. I won’t forgive you if you do that. If I ever hear things like I don’t matter anyways, I’ll be slapping you mercilessly. 」
Still a little angry, Luciel made sure to let Ardis know. Seeing her face, Ardis for the first time felt like his legs is on the ground.
Regaining his ego, the uncertainty and anxiety after recognizing himself as himself. The question that wouldn’t yield a question no matter how, who is himself. All of them melted away like snow under the summer sun.
「……I understand. I won’t ever throw myself down. 」
「It’s a promise. 」
「Yeah, I promise. 」
The comfortable silent filled Ardis. The sun in the sky, the sound of the shallow stream hadn’t change from before.
Ardis and Luciel were the only ones there. However, Ardis felt like he entered a completely different world than before.
It was Luciel who broke off that silence.
「Ah, right. 」
As if remembering something, she searched in her pocket, and took out a piece of cloth.
「This, I made it. I’m not good at sewing, and there isn’t any good fabric around, so it might be awkward in some places but. 」
Luciel handed Ardis a piece of violet cloth that’s slightly larger than his palm. Picking it up, Ardis notices it is in a band form.
「If you’re bothered with your forehead being seen, then how about hiding it with this? 」
The creator, Luciel explained that it’s a headband for Ardis. It seems like she knew Ardis is very bothered about the digit on his forehead already.
Although it’s normally hidden by his bangs, it had been exposed in some circumstances.
Luciel had probably noticed Ardis’s unnatural movements to cover it up every time it happened.
「See, it’s the same as mine. 」
Turning sideways, Luciel showed her hair. The long black hair was neatly tucked in.
A big ribbon to tie up her hair. The color is the same violet of the headband Ardis received.
While alternating between the headband on his hand and the ribbon on Luciel, Ardis felt something warming deep in his chest.
Being needed, being important to someone. The life of an imitation that had no value seemed to gain something meaningful.
「I’ll have you know that I’m someone who will definitely repay a favor. I don’t like being told ungrateful, and this much is not enough. Be prepared for more. 」
As Luciel smiles in a pressing manner, Ardis’s expression naturally loosened.
「Thank you. 」
Replying the challenging words with appreciation, Ardis put the headband on himself.
The digit on his forehead is completely covered by the cloth.
Something that much. Something that much was enough to fill Ardis with satisfaction.
The plain and ordinary violet headband not only covered his engraved forehead, he felt like it also wrapped up the anguish and loneliness lurking in the depths of himself.