Arifureta - Chapter 266
Arifureta After II A Fundamental Problem
The brilliant light enveloped the collapsed Moana and others in half-sphere state.
Their miasma stones that had the function of absorbing miasma that made it possible for human to act inside miasma for a period of time were dyed muddy black. The complexion of Moana and others went straight passed white and became ashen color.
Not just Moana and her people, Haumu and the other Arous., the mounted beasts also powerlessly splayed out their four limbs where they could only repeat breathing in short gasps.
They were only barely living. The blessing power inside the body of Moana and others were holding on to their life.
But, it was obvious that it wouldn't be long before the scythe of death god would touch them. Their time limit was near.
Kouki made Moana leaned on Haumu's body, and step by step he walked toward the lizardman who was the <Dark Being>that caused this situation. (TN: I changed the Black People into Dark Being cause it seemed those words could cause misunderstanding.)
The tip of the holy sword that was pointed to the ground was slightly trembling, and his breathing was ragged. The feeling of wanting to run away without choosing anything was clamoring inside himself like a locked beast that was trying to escape from its cage.
Kouki came to a stop after he got out and took a step away from the boundary of the highest class light element defensive magic <Sacred Severance>. An angry yell was thrown to such Kouki once more.
『You-, I'm asking what the hell are you! What's that strange light! How the hell you are able to stand!?』
Sharp dragon eyes. Dragon scales that looked harder than even steel armor. His whole body was bulging with muscles, and his hands were readying a long and large spear.
It was clear just from confronting this Dark Being face to face like this. That he was a strong one that had achieved considerable military achievement.
(He isn't a beast.)
This opponent was a warrior that possessed intelligence.
As though finding a ray of hope, Kouki thought of the six beings that didn't give any reaction to his <Presence Detection>and asked back instead.
「......Weren't they, your comrade?」
The lizardman didn't seem to understand what Kouki was asking him for a moment and he let out a voice of dubiousness. But, he immediately guessed that Kouki was speaking about his six compatriots that performed ’’suicide bombing’’ to scatter highly thick miasma by paying with their life as the compensation, and he answered with a snort.
『Obviously they were my underlings.』
「You, commanded them to die?」
『......Just what are you asking? What are you talking about since some time ago?』
The scaled dragon specious didn't understand the intention of Kouki's question and was getting more and more suspicious.
He must never even imagined that Kouki was getting desperate in trying to find even a bit more reason to make his ’’choice’’.
Because this was a guy that abandoned his comrades, because this was a guy that made light of life without any reason.
That was why, it should be fine to kill him, just like what he did all this time when facing against monster, something like that.
Kouki's expression distorted painfully while stringing his words together.
「If, this is only what if. What are you going to do if I say you can go to another world?」
「If you can migrate together with flora and fauna too, to a new world that is filled with blessing power, and you can live there without fighting human......or it can also be the reverse, the human will be the one that move away. If you can live in a world without human, a world of only <Dark Being>――」
This was the last resort. Because this was a plan that completely relied on that man, it was a proposal without any positive proof. But, if there was that man's compass and crystal key, then perhaps they would be able to find an inhabited world. In addition, securing enough of the necessary blessing power would also be possible.
'That guy is different than me, surely there is nothing impossible for him, that's why', Kouki thought.
The long battle that passed between Moana and her people against the <Dark Being>.
Perhaps there wasn't any more ground for them to coexist together.
Perhaps there wasn't any more room to talk between them.
Then, was the only path left was where one of them conquered everything?
Was battle unavoidable, that one side had to be sunk into the abyss of despair?
Was there really no third path......
The suggestion of ’’separated living’’ by migrating to a new world.
That was an idea that was brought about from Kouki's pondering. <Dark Being>that possessed will and would go hungry if they didn't consume blessing power, and human that couldn't endure the miasma and unable to live without blessing power everywhere around them. That idea came because Kouki couldn't find a clearly correct ’’choice’’ like in a novel or drama where good was rewarded and evil was punished.
If it was about the compensation for that man, then he was determined to pay it in any kind of shape. That was the only thing that Kouki could decided promptly right now.
But, that desperate proposal of such Kouki was,
Kicked to the curb in rejection by a sneer and a violent ’’thrust’’.
Kouki caught his breath, but his reaction was quick. He parried the tip of the long spear using his holy sword. *gigigi* The sound of metals scraping each other resounded along with scattered sparks.
The lizardman immediately pulled back his long spear and launched repeated thrust like surging waves. Those thrusts that were controlled with immense physical strength and flexible muscle were uncommon.
Kouki handled the attack while he raised his voice further.
「Wait, listen to me! I came from another world! The barrier behind me is the proof of that! Even without human and <Dark Being>fighting, perhaps there is a way for a future where both sides can live without annihilating the other! That's why――」
The holy sword blocked a sweep of the spear. *gan* Impact sound resounded and a slight numbness ran through Kouki's arm. It became a situation of sword locking contest. In that situation, the lizardman showed a scorn in his dragon eyes and said his piece.
『That's shocking-. I never thought this kind of coward still exist! Aah, I'' recognize it! You are really a human of another world. There is no way someone like you is a warrior of this country!』
*gou* Miasma spouted out from the lizardman. No, perhaps it should be said instead that he released the miasma. The miasma that was released to blow at Kouki became a physical impact that made Kouki's feet left the ground. When that happened, naturally Kouki got blown away to the side due to the pressure from the sword locking contest.
Kouki bounced several times on the sand before he barely performed ukemi and rearranged his balance to stand on his knee. When he returned his gaze to the dragon scaled species, he saw the figure of the enemy ignoring him while rushing toward <Sacred Severance>.
The lizardman who was ignoring Kouki struck his long spear toward the barrier with a yell of fighting spirit.
『Chih! This hardness is really something!』
The lizardman spontaneously cursed seeing the shining barrier only giving off impact sound without even a scratch.
The barrier was of the highest class. It wouldn't be broken that easily. But, the lizardman also didn't have the time to keep attacking it as he pleased.
Kouki charged forward while cloud of dust was left behind from his momentum and this time he was the one who blew away the lizardman.
Even while getting blown away, the lizardman killed the momentum by crawling on all four.
「Why are you rejecting a path where both sides might be able to survive......, why-, won't you choose the path of living!」
『Don't make me laugh-』
The lizardman easily cut down Kouki's pained appeal.
『You are telling me to recognize that the like of livestock, the like of food has the right to live freely? That's just crazy!』
You are nuts for trying to look for something that doesn't exist from us as though we are human.
Is that because you are a human of another world? That you have that kind of thinking?
The existence of other world, whether it really exist or not. Such thing doesn't matter.
I'll teach you. The truth of this world. Just what is the meaning of living!
The lizardman trampled forward hard *don* and stood up. He stepped firmly on the ground of sand like a large tree, and he threw out his chest without even an ounce of shame.
『Fight, steal, conquer, rule! Those are exactly the long-cherished desire of the living!』
Miasma was overflowing from the whole body of the lizardman. The thickness of the miasma was increasing in concert with his roar.
『We are turning human into livestock, to create a new world where the pain of hunger vanished! So that we, <The Being Clad in Scale Armor>can have an exceptional position! The head of the queen is indispensable!』
A pressure that was unseen by eye assaulted Kouki. That wasn't a distinctive power. It was a dominating aura, a mettle, the power of resolve that he dedicated for the future of the scaled dragon species he was looking at.
『Then, I'll reward my followers who staked their life! Listen-, you half-baked person who possessed strength beyond your position! My name is Ragal! The chief of <The Being Clad in Scale Armor>!』
'Aah', Kouki thought. His heart leaked out a sigh of admiration and also despair.
Did this person ordered his comrades to die? Perhaps, so, perhaps not. He didn't know the truth, but there was only one thing that he was certain about, those lizardmen who carried out the crazy surprise attack by freefalling from the sky and accomplished their objective with their life as the payment, they too also possessed a definite resolve. They didn't perish inside grief and despair that they couldn't oppose and defy by any means!
『I'll kill you, and take――the queen's head!』
Sand pillar blew up. That sand pillar that looked as though it was piercing the sky was the mark of Ragal's step. He wore his miasma like armor and appeared instantly before Kouki's eyes with his long spear that he also covered in miasma.
Kouki evaded the sharp thrust that pierced through the wind by moving half his body to behind. The long spear's thrust instantly transformed into a sweep that ignored the inertia.
The pressure from that attack was far greater than before. It could be clearly seen that the strength inside the attack was ascending further. Kouki immediately used his holy sword as shield, but by doing that it felt like the sword would be thrown away along with his arm.
Kouki desperately braced his legs, but suddenly the pressure vanished and he unintentionally stumbled. The next moment, his feet floated lightly. The miasma that seemed to seep into the ground unnoticed stirred up the sand below Kouki's feet.
The long spear was swung once more at Kouki who lost his balance. Kouki averted the spear by slamming his palm on the flat side of the spear tip, but then the peculiar attack of scaled dragon species assaulted him.
The rotating Ragal launched a spinning kick followed by his sweeping dragon tail.
The upper and middle area was blocked like that. Dodging was impossible.
The claws of the legs were approaching, followed by dragon tail that became like a blade with the miasma enveloping it. Terror was rushing through Kouki's whole body instinctually. He backstepped desperately and only barely managed to dodge.
But, it seemed that Ragal had read the flow of offense and defense until that far. He showed not a shred of turmoil that his attack was evaded, he smoothly formed a throwing spear made from miasma. It was fired like a bullet from close range toward Kouki's head.
Excluding some case that was out of norm, the dynamic vision and reflexes of Kouki who boasted specs at the pinnacle had saved his life until now. When he shifted his body faster than his awareness, the miasma throwing spear passed through with only a scratch on Kouki's neck.
Kouki backstepped even further when his feet touched the ground and he widened the distance.
There was the sensation of warmth and something trickling on his neck.
Without averting his gaze from Ragal who readied his long spear once more, one of Kouki's hands slowly caressed his neck. His fingertip felt something wet, something with raw sensation.
It wasn't a fatal wound. It was only his skin that was cut. But, it was an attack toward his neck. A lump of ice slid down inside Kouki's heart.
Just now, he almost died......
Death was scary.
Nothing convenient would occur. Death was right before his eyes. He wondered, how was he able to say something like「Everything is absolutely going to be okay」 before. Anyone would die when it was the time to die.
Amanogawa Kouki, could die easily.
Ragal was gradually closing the distance. He wasn't letting his guard down or getting self-conceited. He planned to kill Kouki carefully and then returned triumphantly with Moana's head. There was no turmoil or hesitation inside him.
Killing was scary.
Severing the life of a being that possessed will, it was something that was really terrifying.
Killing Ragal. Became the ally of Moana and her people and then killed all of the <Dark Being>to the last.
Surely doing that meant killing the hope of the <Dark Being>.
It meant crushing their dearest wish, severing their thread of life, and granting them despair.
It felt scary to control the survival of someone.
Someone who might be able to live a proper life would get derailed by getting involved with him. Such thing was unbearably terrifying.
Something was moving at the corner of his sight. When he sent a glance that way while slowly taking distance away from Ragal, he saw the figure of the collapsed Moana there.
She was supposedly leaning on Haumu, but it seemed she stirred and fell on the ground. Or perhaps, she was getting weaker that she was unable to even maintain her leaning position.
Death was scary.
Killing was scary.
Making mistake was scary.
――Not being able to protect, was scarier. That was the only thing, that he couldn't endure.
It was only the failure of ’’cannot choosing’’, that he absolutely couldn't tolerate anymore, so,
That was why,
「I'll kill you」
His face looked like it was going to cry, his voice was trembling, however, he spoke his ’’choice’’ clearly.
Kouki took a step forward.
Even saying that it took an instant was still lacking to describe it. It was as though the ground was shrunk closer, his speed was literally like that when he appeared before Ragal's eyes.
A diagonal slash from above that looked only like a silver flash caused Ragal to block it just barely with his long spear even while staring in astonishment. Instantly Ragal's legs were buried into the sand along with a thunderous sound that felt like an earthquake. If they were standing on a hard ground then perhaps there would even be a crater formed.
Speed and destructive power that were incomparable from before. If Ragal let his guard down, the brutal attack might split him into two together with his spear.
In that attack, there was certainly ’’killing intent’’ that was nonexistent until now filled into it.
『Don't underestimate mee-』
Ragal gushed out miasma that was accompanied with impact along with a loud scream of fighting spirit.
Barrier of light manifested between Kouki and Ragal.
The barrier was instantly smashed from the impact it got showered with, but it accomplished enough of its objective to not let its creator got pushed back.
Toward Kouki who neutralized the miasma shockwave just as planned, Ragal used his everything, miasma of thrown spear, spear attack combo with gyration, hand claws, jaw, kick, and dragon tail to launch an offensive that was like a surging waves.
Kouki handled, dodge, repelled, and intercepted all of those.
『-, you are still-, going further up!? You bastard-, what in the world――』
The sword attack finally surpassed Ragal's martial might. Ragal was forced to switch from offensive into defensive, and this time he raised a voice that was definitely shocked and agitated......
An upward slash. The long spear was thrown far away.
Thrown spear of miasma. It was evaded with a twirl.
The two passed each other,
A sword flash drew an arc along with a war cry that sounded like a scream.
Briefly, cloud of dust danced in the air.
Kouki who stayed unmoving in a position of finishing the slash of the holy sword was silent with his back toward the back of Ragal who was in a stance of swinging up his long spear halfway.
『How, can......this be......』
That voice was filled with feeling of shock, despair, and then resentment. Those were the last words of Ragal.
Slowly, the lizard head shifted and fell to the ground. Miasma scattered in a burst and the large body crumbled down following the falling head.
Kouki wordlessly looked up to the sky and took a deep breath. And then, he slowly turned around. In order to see the result of what he had done.
A head that threw an empty gaze at empty air. A large body that lost its head and spurted out blood. Dark red blood that dyed the ground of sand.
The definite proof of a life stolen.
「tsu, oguh, geeh」
The thing that welled up even when he only killed monster that didn't possess will or intelligence overflowed this time without him being unable to hold it back. But, in the first place because he hadn't eaten anything for long, what came out was only the stomach's gastric juice.
Kouki supported his body with his holy sword while falling in one knee. In this moment he looked as though he had aged drastically. His rounded back looked as though something enormously heavy was weighing him down. His trembling back looked as though he was desperately enduring that weigh.
He desperately kept hold of his consciousness that was forcefully shutting down in order to protect his heart from the mental burden. Right now wasn't the time to faint, it wasn't the time to be absorbed with the repulsive sensation remaining in his hand, that was how he persuaded himself.
「-, guh, I have to go......」
Even though his stamina hadn't been used up, but his body was heavy like lead. Kouki dragged himself and walked toward Moana and the others.
Looking at the condition of Spenser and the others, he could see they were still alive. Even Anneal who had the lowest battle strength was breathing faintly.
Kouki let out a sigh of relieve while also tensing his pale face right away in this situation that didn't permit letting his guard down.
He pulled Spenser and others and also their Arous to lay them down near Moana.
「Dissolve grief, clear away the dark clouds. That thing not stained is the light of all creation. The heaven light of salvation――<Vast Sky>」
Light element intermediate level recovery magic <Vast Sky>――a magic to recover from abnormal state.
Before this after he deployed <Sacred Severance>, Kouki applied this magic with shortened chant toward Moana and others who were ravaged by the miasma. The result was ’’no effect’’.
Perhaps, the effect was decreased because he omitted the chanting. Thinking so, Kouki tried to invoke the magic once more but......
「-, it's still not effective......」
<Vast Sky>couldn't clear away the miasma invading their body.
Kouki gritted his teeth while trying out another chanting. Imagining that if Kaori was here then she would be able to display the maximum effect even without any chanting, he became a bit jealous.
「From the pure domain, the holy mother extend the hand of salvation. O those who seek, look to the sky. See the light at the end of the dark clouds. The holy mother didst not abandon thee. Descending with the halo of salvation on her back, inside the embrace of lookout arm, here the holy mother smile. ――<Holy Ceremony>」
Light element highest level recovery magic <Holy Ceremony>――it was a wide area recovery magic for army use. This time Kouki invoked it wing the arrangement of limited area for further increased effect.
Brilliant light became spreading ripple that wholly enveloped Moana and others leaving no spot uncovered.
It seemed there was effect this time.
The one who recovered their consciousness first was as expected the one whose foundation ability was in different level. It was the captain of the royal guard Spenser.
「Kou, ki-dono? What in the world......-, what about her majesty!?」
「Please calm down. I cannot really say that Moana-sama is safe, but she is alive. There also no death among the others.」
「I, I see......I'm glad. The enemy?」
Even though he sounded pained, but his voice sounded a bit clear. Kouki told Spenser about Ragal's plan, how he was defeated, and then how the he was unable to purify the miasma, and how his recovery magic was effective to a degree.
「Recovery magic......something like that is....... Nevertheless the scaled dragon species Ragal......you have finished off another considerable big shot again.」
It seemed that Ragal was an enemy whose name was fairly well known. Spenser showed surprise at Kouki's explanation before his expression suddenly relaxed and he conveyed his gratitude through his gaze.
「To be caught inside the enemy's scheme completely......it's pathetic. If Kouki-dono isn't here just what will happen to us then. My deepest thanks.」
「......No. Rather than that, what is the prospect of your recovery? Is there a method to purify the miasma? Like, the miasma stone is it? ......Can we use it if we collect the stone from Ragal and his underlings?」
Kouki's complexion became somewhat bad saying that but there was still no one else other than Spenser who could talk. If nothing was done about the miasma eroding the body, then the problem wouldn't be fundamentally solved. It seemed Kouki's recovery magic was nothing more than a temporary fix.
「No. Miasma stone cannot be used right away after it get collected. It will need to be purified for about three until seven days before it become usable. Since it's come to this, Kouki-dono. Can you take her majesty and return to the capital?」
「......Spenser-san, you are telling me to leave you all behind?」
「Yes. But, please don't misunderstand.」
Seeing Kouki's expression warped, Spenser smiled gently while adding to his words.
「Thanks to Kouki-dono's technique, it feels like my body can hold on for a while even after getting bathed in miasma. If during that time, you can call for help together with her majesty, then there is still hope for us yet.」
「How long you feel that you will be able to endure?」
「For us the royal guards, about a day. I'm worried about Anneal, but that child too isn't her majesty's personal attendant just for show, so I believe she will be able to endure for half a day.」
「Half a day......」
He heard that they would arrive at evening by riding Arous. From the current position of the sun, the distance could be reached if there was four hour.
Even if Kouki was carrying one person on his back, if he ran seriously he could put some serious speed even though it wouldn't be as fast as Arous. He guessed he would be able to arrive by two hours more than if he was riding Arous.
Thinking about the preparation for the rescue too, when they came back here they would use Arous so it felt like he would make it in time.
「Just in case. ......Celestial ladder illuminating the land unceasingly. That is the light of protection and healing――<Full Scope Heaven>」
「Oo, this is......」
Light element intermediate level recovery magic <Full Scope Heaven>――the effect was low dependent on the amount of magic power laced into it, but it was a magic that periodically invoked recovery magic.
Kouki poured magic power into it so much it felt like something was taken away wholly from inside him and he was attacked by a sense of fatigue, but in exchange for that the effect should continue for a few hours.
「This is the magic that I used just now. It will automatically heal in interval but......does it feel like it can extend the time for all of you to hold out longer?」
「Yes. I had faint consciousness after I got bathed in miasma just now, at that time I felt the blessing power inside my body strangely revitalized. Thanks to that, I got away with only this much even after getting showered with miasma that thick......I see, so it was Kouki's technique. ......This warm light. It's like it's Kouki-dono himself.」
Kouki couldn't find any words to respond to Spenser's words and he kept his mouth shut. He coughed to divert his mind and asked once more how long Spenser felt they would be able to endure. His answer was that it felt like they would be able to hold out half a day longer.
「If possible, I want to move all of you away from this place where we were attacked......」
「That is like putting the cart before the horse, a waste of time. Among the <Black Being>, their rivalry with the different race is fierce. Therefore, you can consider that Ragal won't tell about the surprise attack to other race other than Niebla who he used as sacrificial pawn.」
「......Understood. I will call for help as fast as possible.」
「Yes. I'll leave her majesty in your hand.」
Kouki invoked <Sacred Severance>one more time to make it last for several hours, and then he stood up with Moana on his back.
And then, he dashed right away to the direction that Spenser told him.
He reinforced his body and ran on the desert as though he was gliding while putting recovery magic on Moana.
After about a hour of running, when Kouki thought to stop soon to hydrate himself, it was at that time,
「Moana-sama! You are awake.」
The voice of Moana on his back reached his ear. Kouki stopped running and laid down Moana while one of hi hand was supporting her. He took out a water bag from his luggage and put it on Moana's mouth.
Moana obediently drank the water. Her throat was gulping down the water.
「Nh, thank you, Kouki.」
「No. Rather than that how do you feel? I wish to tell you about our situation.」
「No, that's unnecessary. My condition can also hold out until we reach the capital thanks to Kouki's technique.」
Kouki's eyes widened from hearing Moana's words. He thought she was completely unconscious, but it seemed that wasn't the case.
「Forgive me, but I'm worried about Spenser and others. Can I have you hurry on ahead?」
「Yes, I understand.」
Kouki carried Moana on his back once more and started running. Moana leaned her head on Kouki's shoulder limply while also adjusting her position so she could at least talk, she then revealed that actually she had been conscious all this time even if only faintly.
「Nevertheless, you aren't affected by the miasma. This is a blessing in disguise.」
「I guess. It seems in this world blessing power = life force, so perhaps that is the reason? I felt a bit weary when the miasma showered me, but I don't have blessing power so that might be why it doesn't really affect me, I think.」
「Yes, perhaps that's so.」
For Kouki, or perhaps more accurately for existence from another world that didn't rely on blessing power, perhaps the miasma of this world could be said as something like highly concentrated exhaust fumes. The miasma didn't have immediate effect to shave down his life, but it shared the point where it disturb his health and gave bad effect to his body. Perhaps he would be in danger if he was bathed in it for a long time.
After having that talk, Moana suddenly stirred her body. Her arms that were circled around Kouki's neck tightened a bit and she strengthened her hug at him.
Wondering what was it about, Kouki was about to look back across his shoulder, but before he could, Moana opened her mouth. Her manly way of talking broke down and she spoke with what must be her original way of talking.
Was she apologizing about getting carried on his back like this? Kouki tilted his head in puzzlement and then Moana said out words that made Kouki couldn't help but felt shaken in respond.
「......That was your first time right?」
He didn't ask what did she meant. It was something he completely understood. Moana had been conscious all this time.
Then, in that case, naturally that meant she saw it.
Kouki's discord. Kouki's disgraceful behavior.
Unconsciously his breath turned ragged and his legs almost got tangled.
「I'm sorry. Surely we have made you carry a heavy burden.」
The words of denial that was spoken with hoarse voice melted into air and didn't resound further. It even felt like his body became lead and his gliding footsteps became disarrayed and slow.
Even though he had hesitated when fighting her sworn enemy, Moana's voice didn't sound blaming in the least, far from that, her voice sounded apologetic and sympathizing to him.
「I heard it. ――『why won't you choose the path of living』 You said.」
「......Sorry. Saying that to an enemy that Moana and others had fought all this time with your life in the line....... When it came to it, I still didn't understand. About the relationship between Moana's people and them. About their fundamental sense of value. That's why, I easily said such thing――」
「Kouki. I'm not blaming you. You came to this world only just now, you only heard our story and got told to kill enemy that you don't know anything about. Anyone would hesitate from that.」
Moana's put her hand clumsily on Kouki's head. And then, he softly brushed his head, as though to say that it's fine. And then,
「Kouki, is really kind huh.」
She said that. She said that toward Kouki, a person who was desperately searching for a path so that her hated enemy could survive. There was no ill will in her voice, instead there was kindness.
That was why,
Kouki couldn't endure it. Such misunderstanding.
Because Kouki stopped running and his knees bent, Moana slipped down from his back and her waist lowered to sit on the ground in girl sitting posture.
Moana didn't say any protest, she stared at Kouki fixedly. While feeling that gaze, Kouki yelled with a force as though he was going to vomit blood.
「Stop it! I'm not kind or anything! I'm not some kind guy or anything-」
Usually he could control his heart and he wouldn't spit it out. But, the shock from killing a being with will for the first time was really big, and then the unforeseen kindness toward his greatly shaken heart was more than enough to break the dam of his heart.
「Even I'm being a hero is a mistake-. I'm not a hero at all! I have only ever made mistake-, I cannot see anything-, I keep hesitating――」
Kouki crumbled and meaninglessly grasped on sand tightly. *grit grit grit* The slight sound from sand rubbing each other sounded like the creaking sound of Kouki's heart.
「When it was at the most important time, when I was needed the most, what I did to my comrade-. Even though she was always near me-, I didn't even notice until she was that broken-. My best friend-, my childhood friends-, even though they should be important to me-, I pointed my sword at them-」
For Moana who didn't know about Kouki's past, she must be wondering what he was talking about. The discharged words only sounded incoherent to her, she wasn't clear about their meaning.
But, there was also something she understood.
That Kouki, had made some kind of big mistake.
That he regretted it very much.
That he was blaming himself all this time.
「......Kouki. Why are you that scared? What is it that made you so scared?」
That Kouki was terribly terrified toward something.
Kouki lifted his face. His teeth were clenched, and a deep wrinkle was carved on his forehead. His eyes shook.
「......I, what I'm scared at is.................................I myself.」
He feared himself who approved of killing. Because he didn't understand whether his killing intent was right or not.
He feared that he was fighting. Because he had no resolve of getting killed.
He feared making mistake. Because he knew of reality that couldn't be undone.
He feared making choice.
The reason was,
「I, cannot trust myself............more than anyone in this world, more than any kind of existence.」
The fundamental problem that Kouki held.
Yes, it was a ’’lack of self-confidence’’ to an extreme degree.
The problem that preceded even the question of making the resolve to kill and getting killed. The lack of the most important thing for the sake of making choice.
Even though he doubted, distrusted himself more than anyone, how would he be able to decide his ’’resolve’’ and ’’choice’’ that would only come from self-confidence.
How would he be able to accept the praise that he was a hero?
How would he be able to affirm that said he was ’’kind’’?
「Even so Kouki, you made your choice. We were saved by you.」
Moana said her words toward Kouki who looked as though he was being shackled hand and foot.
「......Because I promised everyone who put their life in the line to save me. I will fight against myself. That's why, only the failure of being unable to choose anything, that's the only thing that I must not do anymore. That's all, there is to it.」
He didn't make the choice because he stepped forward courageously, or because he made his resolve, or because he was kind, such thing was even less true. He was only getting pressed by the time limit and then made his choice frantically because of that.
Kouki said that with an expression that was half-crying half-laughing for a beat of time. Before Moana could say anything, he slapped both his cheeks hard and stood up forcefully from feeling shame toward his messed up self.
And then, he presented his hand to Moana.
「Sorry. This isn't the time for something like this. Let's move ahead quickly.」
「......You're right. No, you're correct.」
Moana's way of talking returned back to before. Kouki put her on his back once more and began to run on the desert wordlessly.
Moana also didn't say anything. Just, her gaze was poured intensely on Kouki's face from the side. Inside her eyes was mysteriously filled to the brim with clearness and tremor as though she was looking from inside water through water surface.
And, a while after Kouki started running, his <Presence Detection>reacted once more. Kouki and Moana got nervous 「Uwah, enemy!?」, but they felt dubious that the multiple presences that were coming with considerable speed were coming from the direction of the kingdom capital.
Kouki decided to look at the situation for the time being and he rushed to the top of a hill, there he caught the figures of a human group riding Arous dashing toward their way in the distant view.
「Thank god....... It looks like they aren't <Dark Being>.」
「Yes. Far from that, we should welcome them instead. It seems the warrior chief who remained behind caught a whiff of the danger that befell us.」
According to Moana, it seemed the group of around a hundred people advancing their way with sand cloud rolled up behind them was a force of Synclea kingdom's knight order. Seeing how they were really in a hurry, most likely they noticed the attack plan toward the queen using some kind of method and so they traveled in a rush like that.
Moana sighed in relieve with tension leaving her shoulders. She then waved her hand in a big way, causing the soldier group to notice the two of them. The group shifted their path slightly and headed their way.
Kouki also slid down the hill in order to link up with the soldier group.
And then, when both groups finally approached each other until a distance where both sides could confirm each other's face by sight,
Such young voice reverberated. Looking carefully, on the Arous running at the lead of the group, the two could see a young girl climbing up the shoulders of the rider of that Arous while waving her hand around.
Her age was perhaps around seven, eight years old? Her chocolate colored skin was wrapped in pure white clothing, her blond hair that reflected the sunlight glitteringly was tied in twin tail.
The shocked expression of the rider that got climbed really left an impression. The soldiers around the leading rider also looked like their eyes were flying out from their socket. From how they looked like, it could be seen that they were shocked that the young girl was climbing up like that, or rather that the young girl was actually here. It felt like the soldiers' voice of the heart 「Why is she here!?」 could be heard.
......It seemed, the young girl wasn't carried to the battlefield by their own will.
And then, as though to represent the heart of those soldiers,
「Wwhaa-!? My, my cute ’’Koone-tan’’, how could she be hereeeeee-!?」
A voice that sounded like a shriek resounded from Kouki's back.
......It seemed this queen-sama, was a person who called her little sister by adding ’’-tan’’.
During the time until the two joined up with the soldier group, in the middle of the desert,
Such yell and,
And such yell resounded repeatedly.