Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? - lightnovelgate.com
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The Character of a Brave
It was widespread common knowledge that the 17 Beasts held the position of the largest threat to all living beings, but the concrete nature of the Beasts was not very well known, mainly for two reasons. First of all, many mysteries surrounded them, so not even researches knew any details. Secondly, since, as a general rule, those who encountered the Beasts never returned home alive, hardly anyone actually had any direct experience with the creatures.
In other words, almost no one living on Regul Aire had ever considered the possibility of a Beast attack. Even for soldiers of the Winged Guard, the situation hardly differed. The large majority of them had never directly seen a Beast, so, regardless of mental preparation, they simply weren't used to these enemies.
On top of all that, the Beasts couldn't fly. The Teimerre could drift through the air under the right conditions, but that was about it. As a result, the chances of spotting a Beast other than the 6th without going all the way down to the surface were zero.
Basically, Collinadiluche had a fatal lack of knowledge regarding the Aurora.
Terrible chaos descended upon the command headquarters of the Winged Guard. Damage reports came flying in from this way and that. Actual wreckage caused by the Beasts took up about half of those, while the other half consisted of accidents or incidents caused by panicked citizens. And most likely, the majority of the events reported in both categories never actually occurred. Reliable information was a hopeless dream in the midst of the nightmare encompassing the city. Yet still, reports of trouble necessitated military action… the serious soldiers just trying to do their job only contributed to the chaos.
"I guess this is where we come in," Aiseia said with a yawn as she rubbed her eyes.
Sitting inside, she pretty much had no idea what was going on outside. That Beasts had fallen from the sky and that, based on witness information, the specific type appeared to be the Aurora about summed up the extent of her knowledge.
If she remembered correctly, relatively detailed material on the Aurora had been piled up in the reference room of the fairy warehouse. However, no one expected a sudden battle with them to break out, so those resources had yet to be seriously read. The sole exception, Nephren, who would read any material, no matter how boring, from beginning to end, was no longer with them.
Well, lack of information against the Beasts had been a constant factor in all of their previous battles as well, so it didn't exactly present that much of a problem. However…
"This is a pretty irregular battlefield for us. It makes me a little uneasy that this is gonna be someone's first battle."
Tiat, fully donned in her pajamas, let out a silly gasp at Aiseia and Lantolq's comments.
"I-I'll go too! Let me fight!" Lakish raised her hand fervently as she hurriedly thrusted proper clothes into Tiat's arms.
"No." Naigrat shook her head. "Your weapon hasn't even been decided yet, you know?"
"But we have swords, don't we?"
Naigrat fell silent. They did have swords: Valgalis, Historia, Ignareo, and, in addition to the Kaliyons of those three fairies, one more sword that Naigrat brought as a good luck charm. No one, as far as they knew, was capable of wielding it, so it really served no purpose other than a charm. Even as they spoke, its hilt peeked out of Naigrat's jumbo sized backpack.
"I don't want to just wait around. I won't be able to sit still. I want to… maybe I won't be of much use, but I at least won't drag them down!"
A slight spike of pain struck Naigrat in the chest.
"No, you can't go. I can't expose a child who hasn't finished post tuning basic training to such danger. You've only successfully used that sword in a test. That doesn't mean you'll be able to use it in a real battle, you know?"
"But!" Lakish raised her voice even louder. Just then,
"Excuse me, young ladies," a man's voice butted in from the side.
Turning around, Naigrat spotted a few men standing there wearing fresh new suits. An Orc stepped out from amongst the group and smiled. Looking closer, she noticed bandages wrapped around his body here and there under his suit.
"You're… the one from Elpis!" It only took a split second for anger to fill Naigrat's voice.
"M-Miss Naigrat, what a coincidence meeting you here." As the rest of the men cowered in surprise, the orc managed to stand his ground. "It seems like the situation has become quite grave. While I may not have much to offer, I came here wondering if I could be of any assistance."
"How dare you say that!"
According to what Naigrat had heard, Elpis smuggled Beasts onto the island. In other words, the men standing in front of her could very well be responsible for this entire mess. Even as they spoke, dozens were being slaughtered in the streets. The Winged Guard and city forces were probably moving on the defense, but their ordinary guns and cannons would have little effect on the Beasts. Coupled with the utter confusion enveloping the city, she didn't see how they could accomplish much.
"It seems we have a misunderstanding. The chaos outside was not caused by us. According to witnesses, it seems to be an act of the Annihilation something or rather, a criminal organization in this city." The Orc continued to boldly spout blatant lies. "Please don't make such a frightening face. We have come here today solely with the pure intention of lending a helping hand." He waved his bandaged hands in an attempt to show his lack of hostility.
"With the firepower that the Winged Guard can formally utilize, excuse my rudeness, I doubt they will be able to stand up to their foes. However, today, we just happen to have an airship with our weapons on board docked in the harbor." Then, as if just remembering something, he added, "Oh, of course, we brought the weapons here following the proper procedures. I wish to utilize them to exterminate our enemies."
"Th…" Naigrat understood the significance of another island's army being deployed in the city. Anyone who studied the slightest bit of history would know. "That will never be allowed! Under the Constitution of Regul Aire, this falls under the jurisdiction of the Winged Guard!"
"No, no, you are mistaken." The Orc's entire face went into making one grand smile, as if he came all this way just to say these words. "We've already talked with the higher ups of the Winged Guard."
"Oh, one more thing. I think the Orlandri Trading Company will contact you soon enough, but, out of the kindness of my heart, I will tell you now." Acting as if he suddenly remembered something, he added on, "Concerning your post and that little shack, things have already been decided, including a concrete schedule. Also including, of course, the equipment stored there."
"Aw, don't make that face. The facial expressions of the markless are so hard to read, but that face they make when contemplating their helplessness alone is different. It's so obvious I can't help but smile."
The Orc spread out his hands, spun a cane around, and put on a silk hat, both of which seemed to come out of nowhere. "Well there you have it, Miss Naigrat. This town is our stage, so it would be best to avoid foolish actions like deploying the fairies without permission. The treatment your cute, precious dolls will receive once they leave your hands… being as wise as you are, I'm sure you understand the right decision."
With that, the men went off towards the command room, led by the Orc, who stopped just short of bursting out in laughter.
"… whew, the Winged Guard's more rotten than I thought up there," Aiseia mumbled.
"Eh?" Tiat raised her head.
"It's possible that they were forced to agree to a contract before knowing that it would be this large scale. Like doing a little dirty work just to make some extra spending cash but then realizing that it's gone too far to turn back," Lantolq added on.
"Ehh?" Tiat looked over at her.
"So basically, Elpis is confident that they can clean up the Beasts rampaging around right now and look cool, right? … it's kind of frustrating, but if they can do it, then maybe that's fine," Lakish said.
"Ehhhhh!?" Tiat screamed. "L-L-Lakish, did you understand all that talk!?"
"Y-Yeah… not the difficult parts, but I think I got the general picture, maybe…"
"I'm that only one that didn't get it!?"
"I-It's okay, I'll explain it now, so calm down." Lakish pushed back Tiat, who looked just about ready to latch on to her. "Let's see, you know Elpis, right? On the 13th Floating Island, sort of like a slightly distant neighbor country to here. Well, technically a city state."
"Yeah, the country that's always mean in 'The Flames of Elpis and Shadows of Pitos', right?"
"Well, yes, but forget about your impression from crystal movies. Anyways, Elpis, uh… this is just a guess, but they probably want to start a war."
"Why," Tiat said with a face of complete not understanding.
Lakish looked over to Aiseia, who continued the explanation.
"You see, war has this magical effect that can postpone all the problems within a country. For example, no matter how much you and your neighbors hate each other, if someone with an axe might come and attack at any time, you can't afford to be fighting with your neighbors, right? Also, even if you're poor or hungry, in a kill or be killed situation, there's no room for complaining. The existence of an external enemy obscures any internal problems."
As she explained, Aiseia made a scowl fitting of the unpleasant topic. "But when peace returns, so do all those problems that were swept under the rug. When no guys with axes are coming to attack you, you can't help but remember how much you hate your neighbors. When it comes to that, there are two choices, both of which lead to the same outcome. Either start a war with your neighbors, or find another external enemy to start a war with."
"… is getting along with your neighbors not a choice?" Tiat asked timidly.
"It is. You just gotta find your next enemy. Until recently, the Teimerre served as that external enemy, so, in general, everyone in Regul Aire got along. But now that word is out that the Teimerre won't be showing up for a while, some countries are beginning to remember 'oh yeah I actually used to hate those guys'. And the one country among those which immediately took action is Elpis.
They chose a pretty clever method too. If they simply attacked their neighbors, they would be known as a threat to the peace of Regul Aire and made into a new external enemy. So they changed their approach. They called in an enemy from outside and let them go wild in their neighbor's backyard. Then all they have to do is walk into their neighbor's backyard and valiantly slay the intruders. Their neighbors will thank them and willingly come under their control and everyone lives happily ever after." Aiseia clapped sarcastically.
"So basically, they're the ones who brought in the bad guys, but they're going to play the hero and force others to be indebted to them?!" Tiat exclaimed.
"Oh, yes that's exactly it. You catch on pretty fast, huh."
"B-But, being the hero is the Winged Guard's job, right!? Someone else can't just take it."
"They took care of that first. If the Winged Guard, who are supposed to be the heroes, can't be of any use, then Elpis can swoop in and save the day, stealing all of the public trust that the Winged Guard's built up over the years."
"But… that's…" All out of questions, Tiat fell silent.
With nothing more to explain, Aiseia and Lakish followed suit.
"There you are." With light and swift footsteps unbefitting of his giant body, Limeskin came running down the hallway. "Naigrat. Return the fairies to their rooms."
"… yes, I know," Naigrat answered softly.
"Wait a second. Don't tell me you're planning to do as they said!" Lantolq stepped in between the two.
"That is exactly right. That is my superiors' orders, and also one method to end this danger with the least possible damage," Limeskin answered.
"But, in order to not let them have their way, we need to make it so that their weapons don't produce the results they're hoping for. Also, if we go out now, we might be able to reduce the damage to the city, even if just a little bit," Lantolq protested.
"And then you guys might suffer more than just a little bit of damage," Naigrat said, her voice sounding almost like that of a frightened kitten. "We've continued to send you guys out to battle all this time because we had no other choice. No one else but you guys could stand on that battlefield. If that weren't the case, I never would have let you do anything so dangerous. But…"
Strength returned to Naigrat's eyes. "This is not one of those battlefields. This is no more than a hunting ground for Elpis to release, fight, and capture their own prey. There's no reason for you guys to have to risk your lives for this."
"Then everything will go as they planned, you know? Are you going to just keep quiet and let them crush the fairy warehouse?"
"Of course not. I'll resist until the very end. But that's my battle, not something for you guys to shed blood over."
"Hmph." Meanwhile, Limeskin nodded with a somewhat calm face. "I will ask one question. Has the guidance of the wind reached the caverns of your hearts?"
"… what?" An utterly incomprehensible lizard line came out of nowhere for the first time in a while.
"A single blade does not choose its battlefield on its own. If there is a battlefield one wishes for, one must be a warrior. In one's fingers gripping the hilt, in one's arms supporting the blade, one must carry the wind."
"… um…?" It was no use. Lantolq had no idea what he was trying to say. "Aiseia." Poking her friend sitting beside her with her elbow, she whispered, "You know a lot of weird random things. Do you get what he's talking about?"
"You're the one who's studied ancient languages and stuff," Aiseia whispered back. "You're more qualified than me when it comes to different cultures."
"I just do it for fun, I'm not actually good at it. All that reading isn't being of any use right now."
"Well I have no idea what's going on either."
"… um, First Officer Limeskin." As the older ones went back and forth with each other, Tiat took half a step forward. "We love this city. Does that count as a reason?"
"Should you fall here, the next land to come under attack will be further hurt. Do you understand that?"
"No, not really, sir."
"But if Kutori were here, I'm sure she'd say this. Who cares about the next place? A fairy soldier fights for what's important. No matter the reason, I can't run away in such a crucial moment… something like that."
Naigrat gulped. Aiseia made a weird noise. Lantolq gawked silently with eyes wide open. Lakish alone showed no signs of surprise.
"One who chases after the back of a warrior will one day grow up to be a warrior as well… I see." Limeskin, perhaps in a cheerful mood, emitted an odd sound from his throat. "I grant you permission to attack. However, do not overexert yourselves."
"First Officer!?" Naigrat exclaimed, almost like a scream.
"There is no way around it. If we force them to stay, they may decide to break orders and move on their own."
"That's… true, but…"
"And more than anything, this young warrior has without doubt displayed the wind." The Reptrace's giant palm lightly patted Tiat's hair. "Not just anyone can tie together the wind, nor are they allowed to. That is all."
As the others notified her beforehand, Lakish stayed behind. Seen off by Lakish's pale face as Naigrat embraced her with full strength, Lantolq, Aiseia, and Tiat flew off into the morning sky.
Looking down from above, Lantolq realized that she had never flew even once since coming to Collinadiluche. Gazing at the town from a different angle gave her a strange sense of excitement, like being able to peek backstage, or like neatly returning a book to the shelf after enjoying it, then taking a step back and looking at its spine.
However, when she dropped her altitude just a little bit, she could see the wounds infecting the city. Rows and columns of fallen buildings, flat as if cut down in one fell swoop. A single wrecked airship sitting right in the middle. And then, here and there, people lying on the ground, transformed into fountains of blood. Some had red blood, some blue, and some close to colorless. The corpses of a variety of races dotted the streets of town like broken dolls.
To put it objectively, it was quite a ghastly sight. As an extension of their weak sense of fear, the fairies didn't have a very strong reaction to events or scenes related to death. A few corpses lying around wouldn't be enough to evoke any fright or similar emotions. That being said, such a sight overflowing with irrational death and destruction naturally made her angry.
"Ah! Over there, over there! The new weapons!" Tiat exclaimed, her whole body showing the excitement at her big discovery.
Turning to where she pointed, Lantolq spotted a giant suit of metal armor walking down a large avenue below them. It looked big enough to fit two or three giants the size of Limeskin. From its awkward movements, though, she could tell that whatever was inside didn't seem to be an actual Giant.
A few Aurora noticed the giant armor suit's presence and attacked. Using their countless hairs, they crawled up to the armor's feet in the blink of an eye, then attached onto its shins, like leeches in a swamp. However, their needles, supposedly strong enough to pierce steel when hardened, bounced right off the armor, and the Beasts were thrown back onto the stone pavement. A moment later, a colossal war hammer crushed them to bits.
"It's… a bit stronger than I expected," Aiseia commented.
"I agree completely," Lantolq said.
Until just recently, she had thought of the guys from Elpis as arrogant fools. She figured that they didn't actually know anything about the Beasts and had no actual evidence to back up their confidence of victory. However, she seemed to have been mistaken.
The metal armor suit bore a constant covering of intensely ignited Venom, and so did the war hammer. Beasts couldn't be destroyed by normal means, and furthermore didn't take any appreciable damage from anything other than a Venom attack powerful enough to send their body systems into disarray. For that reason, the combination of the Leprechauns and their Dug Weapons had been considered necessary for defeating the Beasts. But before Lantolq's eyes, that metal suit continued to output Venom rivalling that of a Dug Weapon wielding Leprechaun.
"That could really be an anti-Beast trump card…" she murmured.
What piqued Lantolq's curiosity was the source of the armor's Venom, that force on the opposite end of the spectrum from life. Those closer to death could wield stronger Venom. If the armor suit were a mere machine with nothing inside, it shouldn't have been able to use any Venom in the first place. On the other hand, Lantolq couldn't imagine that a race muscular enough to freely move around while wearing that suit would be deficient enough in life force to use Venom either.
This power… it even rivals the output at the instant of the opening of the gate to the fairy homeland. The phenomenon known as the gate to the fairy world, a type of self destruction resulting from a Leprechaun, a very unstable existence, igniting Venom beyond her limit. The literally explosive amount of Venom obtained instantaneously could vaporize any Beast who bathed in the heat directly. To say the least, it wasn't something that could be replicated with technology and engineering.
How in the world… Unfortunately, it wasn't the type of problem that thinking alone could solve. There was probably some cutting edge technology incomprehensible to an amateur like Lantolq at work. But still, she couldn't help but ponder.
She spotted objects which looked like droplets of light pouring out from the area around the armor suit's right elbow. It looked familiar, but, before she had time to remember where she had seen it, a Beast bit onto the suit's right arm, transformed its countless body hairs into needles, then pierced. The Venom defense failed to withstand the attack. Penetrated by myriad thorns, the armor plating, most likely forged from steel, weakened and split apart.
The contents of the armor suit spilled out. Hovering in the sky some distance away, Lantolq still clearly saw it: a large number of the same droplets of light from earlier, and, inside of them, some kind of soft water blue object.
The next instant after she thought she saw them, they disappeared. As for the armor suit, even after losing one arm, it didn't stop moving. After re-adjusting its grip on the war hammer with its right hand, it brought it down and crushed the Beast who just ripped off its left arm with a fluid motion that almost made it seem like the wound didn't have even the slightest effect.
She only saw it for a split second. In that split second, she could guess what it was. But that split second wasn't enough to be certain.
No doubt, it served as the root of the armor suit's strength. A top secret among top secrets. If what Lantolq just thought of were true, why the armor could ignite and manipulate such an immense amount of Venom could be easily explained.
— No… could it… really be? But no, that's a complete violation of the Constitution. Even if they may obtain that authority in the near future, they don't have the permission now.
Reality and imagination, things she wanted to believe and things she didn't, they all mixed into a jumbled mess inside her head, and, for just one moment, Lantolq's mind turned blank.
Meanwhile, Willem was situated in a place even closer to the metal armor suit than Lantolq, and this place also provided him a clearer view of the ruptured right arm. As a result, he could see everything that happened in that split second when that thing in the armor fractured into light and disappeared. It was enough to know everything.
Inside the right arm of the metal armor suit, there was one small girl, bound to the armor's rivets by countless threads. She had bright blue hair the color of water. Moreover, her hornless and fangless appearance matched that of a markless. Due to a black mask, Willem couldn't see her face. Her entire body had been faintly emitting light. Her entire body had also been pierced by the Aurora. Her over-ignited Venom had been running berserk. Put together, those two made for a fatal combination. He instantly knew that the girl could never be saved.
And then, the light glowed noticeably stronger. Then burst. And disappeared. The figure of the little girl was nowhere to be seen. It had vanished from the world for eternity. Then, suddenly, Willem got that intense headache again.
— If… this is a hypothetical question, okay?
— If I were to die in five days, would you be a little nicer to me?
A voice. Willem heard a voice that should have been locked in a box and sunken to the deep, deep depths of his mind.
— If you were going to die, you at least wouldn't want to disappear, right? You would want to be remembered by someone. To have a connection with someone.
Fog blanketed his memory. He couldn't recall the face of that girl who spoke those words. The strong feeling that it was something he must not remember blocked his memories from fully replaying.
— Then, what about butter cake?
Blue hair. She had blue hair the color of a clear, cloudless sky. Her eyes bore the deep blue of the ocean. She wasn't honest at all yet honest at the same time, always put others before herself yet was incredibly selfish. She had that kind of contradicting, impossible to understand personality, but she seemed to be confused at herself too, which meant that there was someone who just recently made her that way.
— W-Wait! Ow! It hurts! I can't breathe! This is embarrassing! I'm covered in dirt and scratches and I haven't taken a bath and everyone's looking — are you listening!?
No. The water blue that Willem saw for a split second just now wasn't the same as the sky blue from his memory. That life that he just witnessed disappear before his eyes was not her's. Obviously. She was already gone.
— I did… I really did…
Willem had wanted to make her happy. He had wanted to cling onto that wish. He had wanted to forget that past and only think about the present and the future. But then, just like now, in the next moment after he made those wishes, he lost both that present and that future.
— Thank you.
That water blue was not her. There was no doubt about it. That little girl was a completely different fairy, but the trigger was strong enough. He had already started to remember. Kutori Nota Seniolis, the girl who wished to be remembered by someone even after she had gone.
A curse escaped his lips, but who was it aimed at? At himself who had forgotten about her? At himself who couldn't maintain his body without forgetting about her? At himself who had now passed the point of no return due to the fragments of his sealed memory surfacing? Or all of them at the same time?
"Willem!" Elq came running over.
"It's okay. There aren't any of those Beasts around us anymore."
"No, not that! There's one right here!"
Her leather shoes scraping against the ground, Elq stopped mid sprint and stood still. "Willem, don't tell me…"
"I'm right on the border. I might still be able to turn back now," he answered in a groaning voice.
He wasn't just saying that to act strong. The seal that Nils Didek, that good for nothing master who was still living for some reason which Willem couldn't understand at all, applied to his memory was strong and flexible. Willem Kumesh was on the verge of becoming a mere Beast. His spirit or soul or whatever had mixed with the substance which fell off of the Shiantor, resulting in a transformation of his physical body. His external appearance hardly changed at all, but, on the inside, he had already stepped outside the framework of normal life.
Nil's seal essentially separated the milk tea inside a cup into two distinct and stable sections of milk and tea. Being stable, some moderate shaking wouldn't be enough to disrupt the balance. As long as Willem didn't put a spoon into the cup and mix everything up, the memories that had resurged just now would have eventually faded into oblivion. Then, once that happened, everything would go back to normal. He would be able to return to those leisurely days in the inn.
But it wasn't too late. He could still turn back. He just needed to wish for it.
He stood up and patted all over his body, checking its condition. There didn't seem to be any major problems. He couldn't see very much due to one eye being closed shut, and his head was overcome with dizzying pain as if someone was banging on a giant bell in there as always, but his four limbs moved. He still had the bones and muscles of an Emnetwyte. Taking a deep breath and exhaling confirmed that his lungs and diaphragm were in order as well. He could still use all his techniques as usual.
"Wait," Elq protested.
"Go back to Carmine Lake, Elq Harksten," Willem ordered sharply as he turned his back to her. "I'm thankful that you stuck with me until now. Now it's time for you to go where you belong."
"Please, do as I say." He turned his head around to look at her and let out a cackling laugh. "I can't bring anyone along with me from here on."
Without answering that last plead, he faced forward again.
What am I? Willem thought to himself. An Emnetwyte. Former Quasi Brave. No specialized Kaliyon. Second Enchanted Weapons Technician of the Winged Guard. Just a decoration. The manager of the fairy warehouse.
The world ended long, long ago. The story of the Braves came to a conclusion in the distant past. So now, what am I doing here?
He couldn't remain himself for much longer. In that short interval, he needed to do all that he could. He had no time to be dwelling on the past. The Beasts seemed to have some method of sharing information with each other, for they all came from their original places scattered around the city to gather around their newfound enemy, the metal armor suit.
Each time the armor swung its hammer, the number of Beasts decreased by one. While there was a large gap in numbers, it was clear who had more raw strength. Not many methods existed for facing the overwhelmingly unreasonable enemies that the Beasts were, but an overwhelming amount of Venom was one of them. While working at full strength, such Venom could not only stand toe to toe with the Beasts, but even overwhelm them.
As time passed, the Aurora steadily disappeared.
"That sure is strong," Willem muttered.
He could form a general guess as to just what, exactly, the metal armor was. A new anti-Beast weapon developed by some army organization, by constantly utilizing a ridiculously overwhelming amount of Venom in both offense and defense, it could both endure the Beasts' attacks and make effective attacks of its own, without relying on the amplification of a Kaliyon. I see. If you can get this stabilized, it's easier to use than unstable girls wielding swords. It really was a magnificent invention. If he hadn't caught a glimpse of what was inside, Willem might've wanted one for himself.
"Development must've been a pain. If word of what they were doing got out before they could explain themselves, everyone involved would've gotten sent straight to jail."
They must have planned meticulously and prepared thoroughly, devoting vast amounts of time and resources. Willem vaguely recalled being struck by similar feelings of admiration once before. That time, he smashed that crystallization of hard work and effort without hesitation, and this time would be no different.
"Sorry, but I can't let weapons like you be used."
He tore off the eyepatch covering his right eye and opened it wide up, exposing his golden pupil. An ashen gray color filled with fury covered his field of vision.
Looks like my inner Beast is pissed off, Willem thought. Destroy erase return send them home crumble — an intense urge to destroy welled up from within, along with an endless flurry of words. But, since he had prepared his mind beforehand, he could resist. For about five minutes, he could move this body while maintaining his own will as Willem Kumesh.
Demolishing Nightingale Dash. With a full force descent forward, Willem closed the distance between him and the metal armor in the blink of an eye. For once I agree with this voice. Let's reduce this guy to sand. The armor suit, appearing to have recognized Willem as an enemy, brought its war hammer down with terrifying speed and unthinkable strength. After a brief pause, a violent gust of wind followed the hammer's path.
Damn, that's scary.
While watching his bangs fluttering around, Willem took the last step forward. That small space of a little over half a step provided the perfect distance. Throwing his body into the air, he spun once horizontally to build momentum, then pummeled his fist into one of the joints of the armor suit.
A noise like an iron board smacking against oil rang throughout the air. The Venom from the armor, its pressure raised explosively for one instant, tried to force his fist away. Ignoring the intense pain of his skin melting and flesh burning, Willem continued to push his fist forward. When his arm was jammed into the armor up to the elbow, he grabbed onto the thing inside, then, while snapping countless threads, pulled it out.
A young girl with dandelion yellow hair came out. As Willem expected, she was already deep into a berserk state as a result of igniting an excess amount of Venom. Her entire body emitted faint light. She could explode at any moment.
"Do you want the pain to end?" Willem asked, although he didn't think she could hear him anyway.
The girl smiled faintly, or at least Willem felt like she did. He put his finger to the girl's chest, then, in a gap between heartbeats, lightly pushed inward. Her heart, having its rhythm disrupted with fatal timing, stopped in an instant. With the flow of blood ceased, the Venom could no longer continue to run berserk. The Leprechaun girl, name unknown to him, passed away silently.
No longer able to acquire sufficient Venom to operate, the metal armor suit stopped its movements. Willem pulled out one more girl from within the machine and put an end to her life in the same way. With a small clap, the two corpses burst into grains of light and disappeared. Standing amidst the grains as they flowed away in the wind, Willem closed his mouth for a moment, as if to mourn their loss.
Inhale. Exhale. He didn't know them. They weren't from the warehouse. In other words, they appeared somewhere in Regul Aire and were captured and used for this weapon before they could be brought to the warehouse. If their luck had been just a tad better, they would've been gathered at the fairy warehouse with the other kids and lived a carefree… even if they would still meet the same end as a weapon, their life up until that point would have been relatively fun. But things didn't turn out that way.
Willem bit down on his lip. This was nothing unusual. From the day he set out to be a Brave, these thoughts and feelings ran through his head time and time again. Whenever he found someone he wanted to save, the situation had already progressed beyond his control.
"… do it." Glaring at the remnants of the metal armor suit with his right eye, Willem gave permission to the Beast inside him.
With a silent cry of joy, the part of him inherited from the Shiantor was released. Its very existence reverted its surrounding environment to its primal form. In other words, almost anything created after the Visitors' arrival returned to either a Beast, dirt, or sand. Once, long ago, the Visitors, or more accurately the Poteau who served them, used the vast land with nothing but ashen sand on it as a base ingredient to create a fertile world. But anything created out of that fertile land could still be called back to its original form.
With an undramatic sound, the broken suit of armor turned into a mere mountain of ashen sand.
Silence had descended on the area. It was only natural, considering that no one in their right mind would want to stay for long in a place with a violent Beast thrashing about. The townspeople had wisely and swiftly evacuated. Looking around, Willem could only spot one figure.
Once he called her name, the girl, as if having steeled her resolve, took a few steps closer. However, she showed no signs of closing the distance any further.
The Kaliyon Historia in her hand faintly emitted light, signaling its battle stance. Willem expected no less from Lantolq.
In general, the fairies, perhaps because of their true nature as children, tended to be trusting. Once they got close to someone, they never doubted that someone no matter what. Lantolq, however, was unusual in that she could make rational decisions… or at least that's what Willem's faint memories told him. So now, even after seeing Willem's face, Lantolq didn't let her guard down and noticed something irregular… Willem decided to not think about the possibility that she had just hated him from the start.
"Since you're up here, that means the Plantaginesta made it home safely, huh. I was really worried, you know? What are you doing in this city?"
"What are you talking about? I should be the one asking that. Long time no see, technician."
"Mhm. Are you by yourself today?"
"I wonder. Maybe others are hiding nearby."
Not only did Lantolq not hide her suspicion, she even used it to restrain him. Willem was once again impressed by her ability to remain calm and think fast. His usual self could detect the presence of a fairy with no problem. The possibility of others waiting in ambush nearby wouldn't have any effect as a threat. However, in his current state, talking while enduring a constant headache, things were different.
"Is the talk of the fairy warehouse going away related to this guy?" Willem asked as he lightly kicked the mountain of sand.
"Where did you hear about that?"
He heard it from Nephren when she came to visit the inn. At the time, due to his lack of memories, he didn't think much of it, but now he understood the meaning of those words.
"A lot happened. Well?"
"You are correct. The Elpis National Defense Force, plotting to steal the authority to fight with the Beasts from the Winged Guard, developed this weapon and is showing it off as something stronger than us."
Lantolq's answer basically matched Willem's predictions, but at the same time surpassed them too. Elpis' intentions were easy to understand, but, given that they actually produced such a powerful weapon, it was hard to do anything to stop them. Wait, no. There was one way that Willem could think of, although he couldn't exactly call it a wise way of doing things.
Agh. His headache continued to intensify. As they stood there chatting, his remaining time only decreased. There was no time to be spending on question and answer.
"I have a question too. Up until now, what–"
"Sorry, but I'm gonna have to refuse any long questions. I'll tell you what you probably want to know most right now."
"Eh… ah!?" Lantolq took a huge leap back. At the same time, a lamp, bench, and sign which, up until a second ago, had been nearby where Lantolq was standing transformed into ashen sand and crumbled down. "That power… have you really become a Beast!?"
Willem laughed. "A subspecies of Shiantor. Probably."
"The Beast inside me is a hulk of homesickness. It wants to take back the world it once lived in. And that desire leads to the desire to annihilate this current world."
"Living in a world where your hometown's disappeared is pretty rough, you know?"
"Well, that's about it for questions. Shall we begin? Miss guardian of Regul Aire–"
Willem cut off his own words and slightly tilted his body. Then, using what remained of his human body to its fullest extent, began to 'fall' sideways at top speed. Demolishing Nightingale Dash, one of the pinnacles of wisdom which the Emnetwyte once created and entrusted their fate to.
Observing Lantolq's breathing, he aimed for a moment in which she wouldn't be able to react and closed the distance. She can't react in time, she's done for… or so Willem was convinced. As always, he stopped a little more than half a step short, then twisted his body. Just like when he killed the two earlier, he aimed for the critical spot in the center of the chest and, going through Lantolq's blind spots, moved two fingers in for the finishing blow–
He stopped midway. In the narrow gap between Willem and Lantolq, a single large blade had been thrusted in. A tiny burst of heat ran through Willem's fingertips for a split second. Lantolq's bangs fluttered.
The Kaliyon, Valgalis.
"Don't you think doing that just with the two of you is a little lewd?" Right beside Willem, when she got there he had no idea, stood Aiseia with her usual smile. "Can I join in?"
"That's okay, but I can't be nice to you, you know?"
"Haha, that response is already nice enough."
With a flick of her wrist, Aiseia sent Valgalis' blade into an unnaturally sharp path straight toward Willem's neck. After bending down to dodge it, the blade, which had been on track to pass overhead, bore straight down.
Rolling backwards, Willem barely dodged the second attack.
"Oh my, dodging that, huh," Aiseia said, pretending to be surprised. "It hasn't missed once yet in actual battle."
"I can see why." Willem's mouth stiffened. Sweat streamed down his cheeks. So I can still sweat after becoming a Beast, he thought to himself. "Starting out with an inertial control surprise attack, huh… you seriously have no mercy."
"Well, truth be told, I am pretty serious about you, technician." Even as she responded with a joke, Aiseia took no rest and came at him again. He couldn't feel that much pressure from the Venom on her blade, but that didn't mean it wouldn't hurt.
"W-Wait, what are you two doing!?" After a few seconds delay, Lantolq let out a scream.
"It's obvious, isn't it? I'm accepting the technician's love."
"That's not something for the one on the offensive to say!" Willem shot back.
"I don't want to hear jokes!"
"Jokes?" After having Valgalis blocked by Willem's fist, Aiseia crouched down, then, before Willem knew it, had kicked off the stone paving and leaped backwards, opening up distance between them. "We're not joking, ya know? Lan, you still don't get why he's doing this?"
"You don't need to tell her too much," Willem complained.
Aiseia, however, continued, still crouching with one knee on the ground. "He's giving us a role."
"I said there's no need to tell her."
"The last and strongest fortresses, protecting Regul Aire from the threat of the Beasts. That title drove us off to the battlefield, yet at the same time protected us. The humongous armor suit from earlier is good proof. Now I clearly see how the guys at Elpis want to use us."
It truly was a magnificent piece of technology. It managed to control all of the enormous amount of Venom resulting from opening the gate to the fairy homeland and running berserk. Instead of ending in a moment's explosion, the Venom served as fuel sustainable through the machine's operation. The fairies' lives met the same end either way, but that way had to be much easier to use them as weapons.
"The technician is going to give us that title once again." Aiseia looked down slightly. "That giant suit didn't stand a chance against him — this Beast. If we can defeat this Beast, that proves that our worth on the battlefield cannot be ignored. At the very least, Elpis' plan will be totally ruined."
Lantolq let out a gasp before covering her mouth with her hand.
Aiseia slowly stood up as she wiped her eyes. "… he wants to protect the fairy warehouse. And he's giving his life for it, that idiot."
"You didn't need to…" Willem didn't need his plan to be understood. If he just played his role as an evil Beast needing to be defeated, the rest would have gone smoothly. "… so, you guys. Do you like the little ones at the warehouse?"
"Huh?" Lantolq, caught off guard, opened her eyes wide.
"Hm?" Aiseia tilted her head.
"The reason you fight with your lives on the line, is it to protect them?"
"W…" Lantolq's face turned bright red. "Who cares about that!?"
Willem burst out laughing. "Ha… haha!" A strong sense of nostalgia came over him. That's right, he remembered. I once asked Kutori the same question. That time, he heard the exact same answer that Lantolq just gave. "Ahh, you guys. I really… really…" Love you guys. He remembered.
He remembered what he had been trying to do in this world. There were no more battles for him in this world, but if there were those fighting with the same thoughts and feelings as he and his companions once did, then he wanted to at least support them. In place of him, who couldn't save anyone, he wanted to help them carry out their wish to protect those precious to them.
In his current state, Willem could not ignite Venom. The closer to death one is, the stronger Venom, a force opposite of life, one can ignite. In return, one gets dragged closer to death at an accelerating rate. On the other side of things, those far from death don't go very well together with Venom. For example, Limeskin and Naigrat, being born as strong and tough races, couldn't even ignite any Venom in the first place.
Willem's body had already ceased to be that of an Emnetwyte. It was questionable whether death even awaited him down the road anymore. Because of that, he could no longer ignite Venom. On top of that, he was unarmed, meaning the only weapons available to him were the martial techniques he acquired over the years and his ability as a Beast to turn his opponent to ashes. The latter, however, probably wouldn't work very effectively against the fairies, who didn't strictly have a physical body. His human skills were the only thing he could rely on.
This'll be a hard battle, but I'll do my best. This time for sure I'll put an end to my fight. Taking in a deep breath, Willem slid his body. Blazing Sun Walk. Detecting the danger, Aiseia's sword suppressed the surrounding air with traces of lightning. Willem slipped through all that and completely closed the distance between them. He spotted Lantolq starting to move just a tad later, but she wouldn't make it in time. His right elbow aimed for Aiseia's chin, while his left fist aimed for her side. Aiseia let go of Valgalis. Having suddenly let go of the heavy object she had been in the middle of swinging around, her posture of course collapsed, causing Willem's elbow and fist to miss their targets slightly. Aiseia's hand reached out and grabbed Willem's hair, then pulled his entire head towards her chest. He couldn't swat her hand away, as her Venom greatly strengthened her arms.
"Lan!" Aiseia screamed. "Quickly!"
Even as she carried doubts, Lantolq began moving to do what she needed to do. Historia's tip pierced straight into Willem's stomach. The Venom infused blade sunk deeper and deeper into his abdomen, ripping apart flesh as it went. Red blood gushed out. Lantolq's face contorted, as if she were about to cry, and the strength disappeared from her arm.
"Is that all?" Willem pressed his fist against Aiseia's chest and pounded in a blow from above her Venom defense. Her lungs crushed, Aiseia silently writhed in agony and loosened her grip on Willem's head.
"There are two things that Aiseia forgot to mention. If you guys aren't strong enough, then you die here and this is the end. This is a common saying, but it's better to die now than to suffer later." Willem pushed Aiseia away and grabbed the blade of Historia stuck inside his stomach. "One more thing, I'm already a Beast. My sense of self that's allowing me to talk like this will soon disappear. If you can't defeat me, you're gonna need to sink the 11th Island."
Lantolq's face further twisted in pain. She pulled out Historia, revealing a blade dripping wet with red. Then, she took a large swing. Her movements were slow. Full of gaps. Willem could aim and strike wherever he wanted.
She wants me to attack? Willem sent a punch with his left fist and a kick with his right leg at her. Neither were intended to be true attacks, but rather counter provocations meant to draw out Lantolq's real intentions. She twisted her body, evading the trajectories of his attacks, then put all her momentum into Historia's swing.
A fierce wind bearing the sharpness of an executioner's blade roared past Willem's head.
"I see," Willem, who had crept up behind Lantolq, whispered into her ears. "Glad to see your doubts have disappeared. But, if that's the best you can do, there's no way I'm gonna be–"
Closeby, he heard the mighty yet cute war cry of a third fairy.
Tiat. Ah, that's right. I had forgotten. Even though it was none other than me who first took her to this city. This girl is also a fairy soldier. A Kaliyon wielding guardian of Regul Aire. A proper successor to us Braves.
The Kaliyon which Tiat held, Ignareo, was by no means a high class sword. At best, it was a standard sword just a little better than the mass produced models. It's personalized Talent did nothing more than make the sword not stand out.
— She's already gotten the hang of it? How did she grow so fast!?
Of course, this was the result of Willem devoting all his attention to Aiseia and Lantolq. His ceaseless headache probably didn't help either. But even so, being able to get so close without being noticed by Willem at all deserved some admiration.
In the first place, the Talent of a sword was not something that could be understood right away. If one didn't sincerely sit face to face with one's sword, it was impossible to even get a feeling of what to do or what would happen. She'll make a good soldier. Willem remembered the words that a Kikuroppe doctor once mentioned. Ah, you were right. Spot on. You're a great doctor.
However, Tiat still had one step left. Willem pushed Lantolq away and turned to face the newcomer. She had plenty of momentum and spirit, and no doubts or hesitations dulled her movements. But she had a critical lack of stature, physical strength, technique, and experience. While a complete surprise attack might have gotten through, giving Willem Kumesh enough time to respond to her attack meant that there was no hope le–
A giant blade seemed to be growing out of Willem's chest. Its shape looked familiar to him. One of the highest tier ancient holy swords, Seniolis.
— Kutori? No, it can't be.
Confused thoughts whirling through his head, Willem tried to turn around. His body, however, had stiffened. With painful effort, he managed to turn at least his head around.
"Ah… uh… ah…"
There, he found a face streaked with tears. It was a face he knew well, and also a face he hadn't been expecting.
"Uah, ah… W-Wil… lem…"
Why is she here? She's still a little kid… wait, no. That's wrong. Kids grow up. If you look away for one moment, they change just like that. While Willem had been away, new strength had been growing up one after the other in the fairy warehouse.
I'm glad, Willem thought. The half broken souls of children who had supported this half broken world up until now. As he thought, they really were strong. Much stronger than him, who had been lost on the road the entire time.
There was no need to worry about the future. Even if he wasn't with them, even if he couldn't do anything more for them, they would be fine. He could finally put the final period on this story of a failed Brave, which had continued up until now by repeating meaningless words and passages over and over.
"Not bad. Barely a passing score." Willem chuckled. Blood poured out from his mouth. "Ahh, but Lakish. For Seniolis' usage, you're still short of full points. If you're gonna go up against an immortal, then properly use this guy as an immortal killer. It's pretty amazing. I mean, it managed to seal the Visitor Elq Harksten for five hundred years."
"Watch carefully. This is what you do."
Willem held his palm to the blade. Kaliyons increase their Venom in response to their opponent's strength. Willem could no longer ignite Venom, but an excess of power flowed through the inside of Seniolis. All that had to be enough to activate Seniolis' miracle. One by one, he plucked the spell lines running through the interior of the blade. Soft noises filled the air and harmonized together, making it sound as if he were playing a clumsy lullaby on a harp.
As one of the highest tier ancient holy swords, Seniolis was said to be of especially superior quality among the vast number of Kaliyons. As a result, only an extremely limited number of people could wield it. The conditions, when properly written out, would go something like this. One who had no place to call home, one who had given up on returning to the place where they longed to return to, one who had completely thrown out his future. Only then could one be qualified to wield Seniolis.
Not just one whose life was fraught with tragedy. Not just one who had conquered tragedy. Not just one who held no hope. Not just one who had thrown away hope. Only one who had a strongly desired future but accepted that such a future would never be obtainable could pick up this blade and reach out to a different future.
The fissures in the large blade widened. Faint light flowed out from the gaps. The personalized Talent of Seniolis, the mightiest Kaliyon in the human world, had revealed itself. That power, the power to bring death to anything and everything, accepted no exceptions, even immortal beings. The faint light gradually weakened, then disappeared.
"Technician…?" Lantolq looked up and murmured softly.
"Willem…?" With no one to bring the Ignareo she held above her head down on, Tiat blankly called his name.
"Uuu… uaaahh…" Lakish simply cried and cried.
Idiots. Willem could no longer use his voice, so he chuckled bitterly in his mind. You guys won. You defeated a dangerous Beast and saved the island. You are heroes. You proved your worth. You secured your future with your own hands.
So be happy. Rejoice. If you guys are just gonna cry, why am I here on the ground about to die? This is all Aiseia's fault. She spoiled everything, so my plan to become the villain was all ruined.
Ahh, damn it. A failure up until the very end. Why does nothing I try to do ever go well?
— That's fine, isn't it? Always desperately trying your best, that's more like you.
He felt like someone giggled at him. It was a voice he shouldn't have been able to hear. He knew it had to be a hallucination. But still, he was glad to hear her voice one last time.
He had many words he wanted to say to her. Many feelings he wanted to convey. But he had neither the time nor the composure to do so.
All he could do was utter those mere two words inside his head.
Suddenly, his field of view turned pitch black, as if a curtain had been drawn over it. A floating sensation enveloped him. He felt as if he had begun an eternal fall into an endless abyss. Deeper and deeper he went into a vast darkness.
Meanwhile, on the 2nd Floating Island, Nephren abruptly turned around. Before her lay a truly bizarre garden in which the four seasons had been mixed and jumbled together. And beyond that lay only the blue sky, rolling on and on forever and ever in every which way.
"What's wrong?" the Great Sage asked.
Nephren didn't answer. Instead, she muttered, "… that idiot."
A single, small droplet streamed down her cheek before falling to the ground.