“What are you saying? You can’t win!”
“Yes, I feel the same.”
“But I can’t let it be, either.”

Mom patted my head kindly.
I don’t think she had ever patted me like this before.

“The truth is, I don’t have that long.”
“Eh? But you’re only thirty, so you should have 10 years more at least.”

Due to a curse on our bloodline, our lifespans are halved.
The average lifespan of a human was around eighty in this world, so our lives would end by forty.

According to her age, she should have 10 years left.

“Lain would only feel anxious about it so I kept quiet, but when a woman in our family gets cursed, some of her lifespan gets sucked into her child during childbirth.
That’s why our lifespans get even shorter.
In reality, the woman lives a shorter life in exchange for her child getting to live slightly longer.
Though there is a chance it might get killed in the middle of its life, so you never know.”
“S-, something like that, I haven’t read…”

I had read a fair share of literature on this topic, but I had never read anything about this.

As my eyes started swimming, mom starts to grin at me.

“Of course not.
It’s all recorded by our ancestors.”
“That’s right.
I haven’t told you yet, but there’s a hidden door at the base of the tree buried in the garden.
From there you can go to the hidden room.
The records passed down from generation to generation have been stored there.”

There was a large tree buried in our garden.
It’s not like we could go flower-watching there or anything, so I hadn’t gone near it till now, but apparently there’s a hidden room there.

That would also explain mom disappearing occasionally in the middle of the night.
I was sure she used to leave for training, despite it being the middle of the night.

“I had my diary which is why I didn’t tell you, but today is the day I probably die.
Please take care of that room.
Take over it until you can defeat this dragon.”
“Th-, then that’s all the more reason for you to not fight, you might get to live longer.”

As I clamp down, mom flips over the cloth on her right upper arm.
There she had a gross looking tattoo on her skin.
The only difference between it and a regular tattoo, being that this one was throbbing.

“This is a testament to the curse’s progress.
It spread throughout my body over the course of 5 years, while slowly disabling it.
The sensation in my right arm has already gone weird.”
“F-, five years is nothing.
You just have to live five more years, that’s all.”

If she lived for five years, we might just find a way to break the curse.
If she lived for five years, we could do a lot more.
We could ditch our responsibilities as anti-demon aristocrats and live somewhere faraway.

“Let’s think of countermeasures after returning home, okay?”
“If I miss this opportunity, I might never get to fight this dragon again.
Then all this would have no meaning.”
“That’s better than dying!”
“Doing nothing right now is the same as death.”

Mom looked at me with empty eyes.

“Abandoning my dreams, abandoning my goal, abandoning my will to fight, just to spend each day in fear of waning.
Just eat, shit, and sleep everyday.
How is that any different from dying?”
“I want to live till my very last moment.
Until this heart of mine, stops beating on its own.”

Nothing I could say would stop mom.

I let go of her clothes which I was gripping on to till now.

“…What a troublesome child.”

Looking at me who was about to burst into tears, she makes an especially kind face and pats my head.

“I didn’t make such a face even when I saw my own dad off.”
“…Did you, see off your father here too?”
My dad.
It was a good death, for sure.”

Mom looks into the distance.

“This thing won’t chase after those who only run from it.
That’s why you will keep watch from here without butting in.
Once it’s all over, you run without looking back.
Got it?”

I couldn’t say “yes” immediately.
I don’t think I’ll be able to stay still, while mom fought on her own.

But the world moved on without waiting for me to speak.

“Guess it’s waking up from its nap.”

The dragon opens its eyes, and begins moving slowly.
The sky was already deep red with the setting sun.

“Time for me to go.
Make sure you watch till the end, okay?”

Mom approaches the dragon slowly.
Her crimson hair starts to flutter in the wind.
The dragon stares at her, after recovering from its groggy state.

It had confirmed mom’s presence, but it didn’t seem like it would move any time soon.
Almost as if it had judged her insignificant.

“Oi! Giant lizard! I am going to exterminate you right here, right now.
I’m sure you want to know the name of the person who defeats you, which is why I’ll name myself.”

Mom starts naming herself.
The dragon kept staring at her.

“My name is Arteria. Arteria Wallfeed!”

Saying so, she slices into the dragon.
Thus, the battle between my mom and the dragon started.

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