Disclaimer：I cannot guarantee the complete accuracy of this translation
Naala: The outside……?
I wonder how many days it has been since I last breathed the outside air?
With a mix of joy and confusion, I asked Noor a question.
And when I did, Noor replied with a kind voice that was unbecoming of him――
Noor?: Yes, we’ll be heading to our destination.
For some reason, Noor never returned to his own room.
There were no preparations for the journey, if anything, we were constantly turning corners and passing through tunnels. And these baffling actions just kept repeating.
Naala: Wouldn’t it be best if you greeted Touya…?
Noor?: We don’t have much time.
Naala: ? Is there a reason to hurry?
Noor?: ……Please grab onto me.
Without an answer to my question, Noor began moving the moment he spoke. And from the shaking and wind brushing against my body, I could tell that he was running at a shockingly fast speed.
His hast was suspicious, but I was afraid if I were to make him stop, my hopes would be shattered once more.
I don’t wish to lose this gentle Noor.
Noor?: ……Are you scared?
While clinging onto him involuntarily, I was comforted by that voice. Compared to what I heard down in the basement, it was the difference between heaven and earth; it was filled with warmth.
I may not know the reason for this change, but I wish to believe at least in that.
I shook my head lightly, and that was when,
???: Where do you think you’re going?
Said a low, demanding voice. And Noor stopped sprinting and turned towards said voice.
The arms holding me tensed slightly, and I could sense that he was wary.
???: I’ll ask you again. Where do you think you’re going?
Noor?: ……It has nothing to do with you. Let us through.
???: Is this betrayal?
???: You swore absolute loyalty to him… Yet, why?
Noor?: ……I’m grateful to him. However, never once have I sworn my loyalty to him.
???: You, who had once been his hands and feet, is claiming that? ……To think I once admired you, the strongest assassin.
Noor?: There was nothing else I wished to do, so I was fully devoted to my job, that’s all.
???: Seems like convincing you is pointless.
???: ――Well then, I’ll now have to dispose of you as a traitor.
Noor?: If you can, that is.
He took a short breath, and in the next moment, I felt like I afloat. ――He had taken a large leap.
From there, he changed his course and started sprinting again.
Despite the huge turn, without losing his grip on me in the slightest, he rapidly accelerated.
Naala: W-What exactly is…
Noor?: It’ll be alright. Trust me.
Noor?: I will protect you without fail.
While making a firm landing on the ground for just an instant as he fixed his hold on me, he briefly took his right hand away and threw something behind him.
Immediately after that, I heard a scream mixed in with the sound of the wind.
Noor?: ……Hang on tight. Careful not to bite your tongue.
Where are we heading? Why are we being attacked? ――I couldn’t decipher the information picked up from my ears alone.
The strong headwind that feels as though it was hindering our way was eerie.
Noor?: I’ll definitely protect you. So… Please believe in me.
The chest that was shaking with anxiety was calmed by his powerful words.
I may still lack my bearings, but for now, I wish to believe in the words of the Noor who’s protecting me.
Placing my cheek onto his burly chest, I nodded.
Noor?: ……Thank you.
Through woods, across streams, and through caves――even if it were only sensed through sound, Noor was running through place after place.
I was shocked by his superhuman strength and mental fortitude; despite all that running, his knees did not falter.
And while I was admiring him, we switched to traveling via what seemed to be a pre-prepared horse.
As several hours passed, although he was merely holding me in his arms, his strength was waning.
If Noor pushes himself any further, he really might die.
And just as I was about to voice my concern, the horse’s pace slowed.
Noor?: We’ve arrived.
Based on the smell and sounds, we were out in the middle of some forest.
Naala: This is?
Noor?: It’s a hide-out that I kept around as insurance. Since I have not disclosed this location to anyone, there are no worries about us being discovered.
Noor?: Just that, compared to life at the palace, there’s nothing here……
As he spoke almost apologetically, Noor carefully dismounted the horse with me still in his arms.
It was the first time in my life where I was treated with more reverence than a secluded maiden.
As he set foot on the ground and adjusted his hold, he examined my arms and cheeks as if he were checking for scratches on something he held dear.
Filled with a sense of relief, nervous words slipped out of my mouth.
Naala: ……Why were we running away?
Noor?: Once your eyes heal and the effects of the drugs fade completely, I’ll explain it to you.
Naala: Why can’t you do it now?
Noor?: ……I suspect that, right now, all that speak to you are “Noor” in your mind.
Naala: That’s right. Why are you stating the obvious?
Noor?: …..And that’s why we’ll discuss it later. You can decide your questions and choice of actions then.
Noor?: So until then, I’ll take care of you as your hands and feet, as well as your eyes.
It didn’t sit right with me, but even if I were to oppose this situation, there was nothing I could do.
Moreover, I didn’t wish to increase my sense of anxiety any further either, so I nodded despite my confusion.
Naala: ……I understand.
I was gently lowered onto what I believe was a bed. It was soft and it felt nice.
Naala: Have you been coming here lately?
Noor?: What makes you think that?
Naala: Because the futon’s fluffy and not dusty at all.
When I explained the reason for my question, I heard breaths escape a bitter smile.
Noor?: I made preparation before I came to retrieve you. There’s nothing here, so I wanted it at least to be clean……
Naala: For my sake?
Naala: Hehe. It’s almost as if you weren’t Noor.
Noor?: ……You must be exhausted from today, so please take a rest.
(My mind was a bit hazy again, but…like Noor said, surely it’ll fix in time, right?)
It was the Noor who set up this environment that told me, so there must be no doubt about it.
But the more I thought about it, the stranger it felt to have no choice but to depend on the very person responsible for my horrid treatment.
Although they should’ve been the same person, the difference between the way they are now and the way they were then is so vast that they felt separate.
Noor?: Is something the matter?
Naala: I was thinking that the Noor who performed those terrible acts and the present you are almost like two completely different people.
Noor?: …..Is that so?
Naala: Yes. After all, that Noor never spoke this gently to me before.
(That’s right, such……)
Come to think of it, did Noor possess such a voice…?
Once again, I was struck with sharp pains in my head.
It was so painful that I could not continue my next thought and I fell into a deep sleep……
I sensed that I was asleep for a long time.
Dejected that my eyes still can’t see, I slowly propped up my body. And when I did, I smelled something delicious.
(Something smells nice…)
Noor?: Are you awake?
Noor?: How does your body feel?
Naala: My headache’s gone, but my eyes are still can’t see. So, what were you doing?
Noor?: I was procuring items necessary for living and preparing your meal.
Naala: Noor, you were cooking for me?
Naala: Haha… How should I say it? It’s like I’m in a dream. I can’t believe that you’re going as far as to cook for me.
Noor?: You’re recuperating, so this much is par for the course.
Noor?: Yes. I’ll be bringing you your food now.
I waited for a bit and Noor returned with what seemed to be a tray in hand.
I could hear him blow on something before he placed it in front of my mouth.
Noor?: Go ahead. I cooled it, so you can eat it right away.
Naala: You didn’t have to go that far……
Noor?: But right now, it’s difficult for you to even lift up your arms, no?
Naala: That’s true, but…
Noor?: Well then, please open your mouth.
Naala: I-I get it…
He pressed me kindly, but a little overbearingly.
Enduring the embarrassment, I opened my mouth, and when I did, he slipped the spoon inside and I could feel something warm touch my tongue. I then slowly chewed it then swallowed.
As the mellow taste of milk and the sweetness of the vegetables spread inside my mouth, it warmed not only my body but also, my heart.
Naala: ……It’s really delicious. You’re so skilled at cooking.
Noor?: I’m glad you liked it.
From there, Noor continued quietly feeding me the soup like a parent bird would its chick.
And when I finished eating everything, he patted my head as if to praise me.
(……I’m happy that he has become this gentle, but wouldn’t this be a problem for the subordinates of Noor stationed at the royal capital?)
Naala: That reminds me, Noor, your aide, Esta……
As I muttered the name I happened to remember, I don’t if he was surprised by the abruptness, but Noor’s body shook noticeably.
Noor?: ……What about him?
Naala: Since you’re here, things must be difficult for him.
Noor?: ……A fair amount of your cognition has returned to you, it seems.
Naala: ? What do you mean?
Noor?: No, it’s nothing……
Naala: I wonder if Esta’s angry.
Noor?: Over what?
Naala: Noor, you’re here because of me, so wouldn’t he be angry that his workload has increased because of that?
Naala: Haa. I wanted to get along with him one day, but…that wish has no chance of coming true either.
Noor?: ……It has already come true.
Naala: What do you mean?
Noor?: ……Please rest for today.
Without saying a word, he lightly caressed my eyelids, closed my eyes, and left the room.
I began thinking while curled up on top of the one-person bed.
My eyes can’t see, my body’s handicapped, and I’m constantly filled with worry; however, there was one thing I could believe in.
The Noor whom I’m living with currently would never cause me harm. And that gives me a sense of security.
(Though, this might not continue to be the case……)
Nevertheless, right now, I shall wager on the tenderness one would call “unconditional love.”