Arifureta - Chapter 269
Arifureta After II At Synclea's Capital Last Part
「Are you okay, hero-sama?」
「I'm not okay at all! Why are you here!? Or rather since when!?」
Kouki was cowering in fear while raising his voice, his hand tightly grasping from above his clothes his heart that was jumping around inside.
He even forgot to use polite language against the royal family and made tsukkomi with his usual way of talking.
That was how scary Koone-tan who sneaked behind him with a bright grin was. It was simply a horror. He wanted to yell 「Enough with this little girl already-」 with all his strength.
「Fu-fun! Koone's ’’stealthy skill’’ that cannot be noticed even by hero-sama is amazing right!」
「It's not in the level of amazing......even <Presence Detection>doesn't work......」
「H~m. Koone doesn't really understand what is this thing called <Presence Detection>about but......hero-sama's focus was completely directed somewhere else you know?」
Koone tilted her head. According to her, with how he was completely distracted, what's more in his exhausted state, it was comparatively easy for her to sneak at him by using her special technique and her heaven's blessing art at the same time.
「Using heaven's blessing art at the same time? If I remember correctly, Koone-sama's art is <Regeneration>isn't it......」
「Fufuhn. It's called <Regeneration>because it can bring back greenery to the desert but, its essence is direct interference art that focus, attach, or adjust blessing power.」
Like that, by adjusting and harmonizing her own blessing power with the miniscule blessing power inside the air, her existence became harder to comprehend──to say it further she was able to ’’adapt’’.
「It's Koone-style ’’Stealthy Art - Level 2’’.」
「What are you using the unique ability of the royal family in full for......」
Kouki massaged his temple repeatedly as though he was getting headache.
「Hero-sama, hero-sama. Won't you talk a bit with Koone?」
「......No, I'm going to rest──」
Kouki whose respect toward royalty was blown away completely to somewhere easily tried to reject Koone's invitation.
But, his gaze suddenly met hers. He was suddenly at loss for words after seeing Koone's gaze.
That gaze was really deep. To the degree that he held his breath in surprise. There was earnest and pressuring feeling inside that gaze. Different from the figure of the tomboy and wild and mischievous princess, those were the eyes of someone with unknown depth.
「Won't you talk with Koone a bit?」
「......What is it?」
Kouki's reply made Koone's mouth burst open in a smile. With rapid steps she stood beside Kouki before she gazed at the direction of the oasis──the capital.
「How was it today? The capital is a good place right? Everyone was all good people right?」
「Yes, very much so. They are really good person. While knowing the current situation where the tomorrow is unknown, yet they don't despair......everyone choose something, and they hold pride......that their choice is correct.」
Koone nodded. But, her expression for some reason didn't look at all like the proud expression she showed him when she gave him the tour through the capital. Rather, it was an expressionless face that looked as though it lost emotion.
Kouki who had only seen her acting innocently until now held his breath again.
「Do you now want to help us?」
「.......So, that's your aim just as I thought.」
Kouki sighed. As expected, Koone wasn't just a naïve and innocent princess.
「Yes. That too is one of Koone's aims. Because it seems that hero-sama has hesitation.」
It was likely that she had heard from Moana too. How Kouki felt hesitation about fighting. That he was trying to show a path where there would be no fighting to even the <Dark Being>.
Koone seemed friendly, but perhaps she actually didn't believe him at all. Thinking that should be only natural, Kouki gazed at Koone while staying silent.
「Koone more or less is a royalty, so I want to save the people. Koone understand that Synclea kingdom, no, the human race is already at the limit. There will be no salvation without relying on hero-sama.」
'But see', Koone continued, to which Kouki directed at her his dubious expression. And then, he was speechless hearing her next words.
「Based on the circumstance, or perhaps based on hero-sama's feeling, if you think that it's impossible then──please escape.」
While speaking of wanting help, while speaking of there was no future already, she told Kouki to escape by his own decision. 'I don't mind if you forsake us', 'It's fine for you to not save us', she said such unbelievable thing.
「However, at that time, please take away Onee-chan together without fail.」
After telling him to leave everything else, she asked him to allow just her big sister to survive. As expected, Kouki couldn't reply to those words. It wasn't because he was refusing the request. It was because he couldn't understand Koone's thinking.
Koone finally met her gaze with the confused Kouki.
「Hero-sama, you have a rough idea of how to return to your own world aren't you?」
「Wha-, how do you......」
「I heard from Onee-chan. Hero-sama at first confirmed whether you can go home or not. In other words, from the beginning hero-sama's condition is to go home. But, I heard that when hero-sama was told that it's unknown, hero-sama didn't even look upset.」
In other words, he had an idea of how to go home.
「But, most likely that method isn't something that hero-sama can do by yourself. Perhaps the timing, or some kind of special phenomenon or item is necessary──possibly, someone will come to pick up hero-sama.」
「Why, do you think so?」
「Because hero-sama hate killing and fighting right? A world that ask such thing from hero-sama must be a despair. If someone in such situation is told that they cannot go home, normally they should be more despairing or upset. Hero-sama is still composed because hero-sama has the belief that you can go home.」
「......Haha, you got me there.」
He was seen through by a little girl who wasn't even ten years old. Furthermore, she also showed an attitude of conviction that her hypothesis wasn't mistaken from Kouki's reaction. It seemed he was also led around by the nose.
Kouki couldn't help but smile wryly.
He was still composed. That was a fact.
It was clear that there was no way Shizuku and others would abandon Kouki. The fact that he was summoned to another world would surely be told to them by Liliana, and not long from now the gate would be opened. He should be able to go home without doubt, and when the time came, he could even be like that demon king, abandoning this world because this problem was unrelated with him.
He was agonizing because of his own heart, not because he was cornered.
In a sense, that was exactly the reason he was able to concentrate only at his own emotion. Yes, even more than toward the crisis of this world.
While he understood that this world was in the depths of despair, in the end, he prioritized himself.
Kouki thought. 'Aa, I'm really a coward.'
「Hero-sama isn't a coward you know?」
Those words sounded as though his heart was read. Kouki opened his eyes wide in surprise and looked at Koone.
Koone made a troubled smile.
「Hero-sama, don't have any duty at all toward this world. There is no need at all for hero-sama who is a complete stranger to feel guilty. The reason is──」
──Even herself who was a royalty, was prioritizing her own feeling and told him that it was fine if he didn't save them.
「Certainly, Koone love everyone in the capital, Koone want to save them. That is my true feeling without any falsehood in it. But, for Koone the most important person is Onee-chan. If Onee-chan and all the people are weighed in scale, the scale will tilt toward Onee-chan. Rather than the many that Koone loved, Koone treasure my only dear family.」
Those words were surely unbecoming for a royalty.
「Onee-chan is at her limit already. She used heaven's blessing art too much at the previous battle, now she has no power remaining anymore. She overused it to the degree it cannot recover anymore. If she has to fight that <Dark King>one more time she will die with certainty.」
「That white hair......so it's because of that just as I thought......」
「Yes. Koone's father and mother, big brother and uncle, all the cousins, every~one died. Donar and Spenser are like family for Koone, but even so, for Koone my true family is, the one I loved the most, is only Onee-chan now. For Koone, only losing Onee-chan is──unbearable.」
She understood that it crossed the limit of being mischievous, even so she sneaked inside the baggage of the soldier force using her all and rushed out of the capital. This was the reason.
Evil hand was drawing near her most beloved big sister who left the capital following the oracle. If she heard such thing, she wouldn't be able to not rush off. She didn't have any leeway to consider the duty of royalty or about being nuisance to other people.
Even while she understood that what she did was the worst conclusion toward everyone, that it was an outrageously horrible betrayal, but living in a world where her big sister died was something Koone couldn't think about. If something happened to her big sister in the worst case, she was even prepared to suicide by the sword beside her corpse.
That was why, because she was such a person......
「See? After all someone like Koone, is just ’’someone that is like a princess’’.」
It wasn't a kind of joke. Koone herself was the one who didn't recognize Koone de Shelt Synclea as a royalty the most.
Kouki stared at Koone. He wondered just how much emotion this small girl was hiding inside that small body.
──Rather than the many that were looking for salvation, a person who was important for herself was more
What crossed Kouki's mind, was that guy's figure who once said the same thing at him.
Was it selfish?
Was it irresponsible?
Was it an ’’evil’’ that ought to be scorned?
「If I run away」
「If I choose to run away while taking away Moana-sama, Koone-sama will also come along right?」
For some reason Koone looked puzzled at Kouki's question and,
「For Koone, if Onee-chan is alive then it's fine with that. If it can let Onee-chan to stay alive somewhere, then Koone will be able to do my best by that much. And so, Koone will take the baton pass as queen.」
'Just as I thought', Kouki thought.
If Koone was a person who could abandon everything other than her big sister, there was no way she would be liked by the capital's people that much. There was no way she would run around with the pretext of pranking and showed out her face throughout the capital.
And then, surely this wise girl was convinced of their defeat in the future. Whether the future where many humans were caught and turned into livestock, and also the future where few humans would continue painful battle as guerilla fighter, and how she would be needed as the cornerstone to support the battle of such people, surely she had imagined it without doubt.
After all her heaven's blessing art <Regeneration>would only really shine at such devastated world, in order to support the foundation of people's living.
Kouki reflexively almost said the words「Then, all the human in this world, take them to another world somewhere」, however, he gritted his teeth and held his tongue.
When he suggested it at Ragal, his heart was messed up like a library that had all its bookshelves pushed down. It was just a desperate proposal.
Now that he was calm, he couldn't speak it out so easily. The reason was that the one who could accomplish that wasn't himself. He didn't even know if he could pay the compensation. Even if he could pay, he didn't know if his suggestion would be accepted.
He couldn't say such uncertain hope.
Against Kouki whose expression distorted looking somewhat painful, Koone's opened her mouth with an atmosphere that suddenly relaxed.
「Now then, that's all Koone want to say. In conclusion, if possible Koone hope hero-sama can save the world okayyy~. Ah, but if it's impossible then super run away taking just Onee-chan with you! Leave the rest to Koone then! Like that! Koone is cool. I'm super cool is what Koone think!」
'Coool Kooone, coool Kooone!' The usual innocent Koone twirled round and round while repeatedly yelling so. Kouki's expression became speechless seeing such Koone.
When Koone stopped still her twirling coool Kooone dance, she then pointed sharply at Kouki and gave him a mischievous expression.
「Now then, let's cross the last item in the list today! Hero-sama, hero-sama. There is a peerless beauty at the terrace located in the west of the palace you know? If you go there now, you will be able to meet a se*y beauty with alcohol provided! This might be a chance to deepen relationship?」
'Get done in by Onee-chan's charm, and like her so much you won't be able to abandon her by any means!' Such voice of heart was resounding loudly.
Kouki tried to ask Koone somehow.
「By the way......my right to refuse?」
Koone spoke with a bright smile.
「I'll yell you know? 『Nooo──, hero-sama, what are you doinggg!? Dragging Koone into your room! Just what are you going to do with this ’’niice bodyy’’~~~』 Koone will yell that loudly you know?」
「I'll go right away! I really want to meet with pretty woman quickly-」
Kouki answered energetically. He didn't even have the composure to make a tsukkomi how nasty she was.
Koone-tan was simply scary even without her sneaking at him. Especially her smiling face.
Kouki arrived at the place Koone taught him.
Midway, Spenser appeared from the shadow of a building and asked him threateningly「Where are you going at this time?」, but when Kouki answered with dead fish eyes 「It's Koone-sama's......guidance」, he conceded him the passage with similar dead fish eyes while saying 「......Is that so, I'm sorry」.
This royal guard captain gave off sorrowful aura that made him thought that various things had surely happened to him too in the past......
'Now then, where could Moana-sama be', Kouki wondered while running his gaze around.
A voice came from above him. When he looked up, he found the figure of Moana looking down wonderingly at him from a terrace at the second floor.
With the moon that was half hidden because of the spire as the background, her appearance with her cheeks slightly red was indeed charming.
The moonlight also made her hair that was like snow to be tinged with phosphorescence, that charming figure which looked mystique made Kouki to gulp reflexively.
「What's the matter, for you to be here?」
「It's Koone-sama's guidance.」
Perhaps because of his agitation, Kouki repeated that answer like a pious believer that worshipped the god Koone.
Moana looked puzzled before a beat later she couldn't endure and start chuckling.
「I see, I see. It cannot be helped if it's her guidance. Come on, get up here. Accompany me drinking for a bit.」
「Ah, yes, then......」
Kouki who was assaulted by a strange embarrassment entered the building and climbed the stair hastily. It seemed the place where Moana was at was adjacent with the corridor, the door was left open.
At the spacious chalk white terrace, Moana was leaning on the splendidly molded handrail with one of her hands swirling a glass. Her soft smile shaken Kouki once more.
「What's the matter with you since just now? You are strangely stilted. Did something happen with Koone?」
「......We only had a little talk.」
Kouki took advantage to blame the cause of his agitation because of Koone. She had thoroughly shocked him, so it should be allowed for him to do this much. He pulled himself together while thinking that and stood up beside Moana.
「What kind of talk?」
Moana asked him that while presenting her glass at Kouki.
Kouki hesitated at what she meant with that gesture. When he looked there was bottle placed on the handrail, but there was only one glass which was the one Moana was holding. That was only natural seeing she was drinking alone. In other words, she told him to accompany her drinking was by sharing the use of her glass together......
In the end, was it fine to drink from the same glass with the queen......
Looking from the expression of Moana who was pushing the glass at him, he saw how she told him to not mind it.
Kouki persuaded himself 「Well, fine I guess」, and put the glass on his mouth. The amber colored alcohol looked like whisky in a glance, but the taste was fruit liquor. From the fragrance and taste that he had familiarity with, he guessed that most likely this was something that used kukuri. The alcohol content was also not high, the sensation in his mouth was nice with extremely delicious taste.
Moana who saw that Kouki was pleased with the drink smiled happily while intentionally pouring a second helping.
Kouki felt obliged while answering her question.
「We talked about how the people we met today are good people.」
「I see......and do you think so?」
Kouki nodded. And then he hesitated a bit. Should he talk about Koone's request to him that was unbecoming for a royalty? But, he immediately shook his head and shook off that thinking. In exchange, he spoke about another matter.
「Then.......we also talk, about how you are at your limit.」
Moana stiffened for a moment. And then, her expression became complicated and she took the glass from Kouki in a flash, this time she drained up the glass empty. From the sigh 'fuu' that she breathed out, the fragrance of sweet fruit wafted out.
「It was......a horrible battle.」
「Is it about the battle five years ago?」
「Yes. He was really a monstrous fellow. He spouted out miasma to empty air, then all of it become countless number of weapon, or become beasts. That kind of <Dark Being>, I had never seen it before.」
Her way of talking returned to casual and her gaze flew to the past. She took off the mask of the queen and spoke her words as just Moana. Kouki stayed silent and lent her his ear.
「The army's number was also dreadful, everyone without exception fought desperately. I too used my <divine Protection>power continuously. But, no matter how much we fought desperately, everyone died. No matter how much <divine Protection>I used, I couldn't protect them.」
With the light of blessing power from heaven's blessing art <divine Protection>, the erosion of miasma could be blocked. That was to say, against attack type where weapon formed from the miasma used by <Dark Being>was wielded, this art also became an immense barrier.
In that hellish battle, Moana had the role to protect the soldiers.
But, in reality, she couldn't protect them to the end no matter how much power she wringed out. Just how much the sense of powerlessness felt by this girl who understood that her role was as a protector......
「I was determined to offer up my life. I planned to use up all my strength in that fight. Because, the one who should survive isn't me, it should be my big brother.」
Kouki reflexively almost interrupted, but Moana's vast eyes and the fierce regret whirling inside them stopped his words.
「Big brother's <Heaven Light>was a heaven's blessing art that excelled in killing ability. The one that used the opening father and the others created by throwing their life to deeply wound the <Dark King>was also big brother. At that time, even though if only I could just protect big brother from the last counterattack of the <Dark King>, there would still be hope for him.」
Moana's big brother──Nada de Shelt Synclea struck a sure attack at the <Dark King>with the life of his father the king and others as the price. But, the <Dark King>that bore a deep wound that was fatal unleashed an attack of all his might at the very end.
As the result, Nada who stiffened after using a big technique got taken by surprise and died, and the <Dark King>was also carried away by his subordinate and retreated. That was the conclusion.
In order to protect Nada, Moana used <divine Protection>to the full extent of her ability, but it wasn't enough. Nada's death when Moana was just a step away from exhausting her life forcefully rescinded the <divine Protection>.
Her regret was the thinking that perhaps if she used <divine Protection>by pouring all her life the moment <Dark King>counterattacked, then she might be able to save her big brother.
At the time that was her full strength. That was why, it was useless to even think about it. But, she couldn't help but think it.
「<Heaven Light>is more effective for bringing down the escaped <Dark King>. And Koone's <Regeneration>is indispensable for returning the world to before after the <Dark King>is exterminated. What the world need, isn't a used up wreck like me.」
「That's speaking too far, Moana-sama.」
Moana drank one more glass of the fruit wine before speaking a self-torturing sentence. Kouki gently took away the glass from her.
Moana directed her gaze at Kouki. She stared fixedly at him while letting out a faint voice.
「Hey, Kouki. Did Koone, say to you that she wanted you to take me away and escape?」
「Ahaha, sheesh that child, as I thought she asked you that huh.」
Just how was this pair of sisters could take him by surprise like this? Kouki grumbled inside his heart with the feeling of venting his anger.
「How does Moana-sama know that?」
「Of course, that's because I'm her big sister.」
「You pair of sisters are just too sharp.」
Moana chuckled just a bit cheerfully and warned him still with that light mood.
「I'm telling you I won't run away okay? Just spare me from anything forceful.」
「......You will still fight, even in that completely worn-out condition? Even though you understand that next time you won't be able to endure?」
She easily chose the path of death. Something inside Kouki was stirred awfully hearing those words.
「......Why, are you that strong? Why is everyone, can easily do what I can't? You might die you know? You will have to kill someone by fighting you know? Don't you feel scared?」
「Why? Why are you able to choose such choice without hesitation? What should I do so that I can live confidently without hesitation like that-」
Kouki's voice was rough as though he was venting his anger, he stared at Moana glaringly.
「What should I do-, so that I can make a choice that I can believe as ’’correct’’-」
Moana closed her eyes. And then she made a troubled smile and formed her words with voice that sounded frail.
「Do you think I have no hesitation? Do you think I have no regret? There is no such thing. I'm always hesitating, and I regret a lot. Kouki is making too much of me.」
In fact, didn't she just speak one of her regrets just now. Told that, Kouki's eyes opened wide in surprise.
That's right. She couldn't protect her big brother. At that time, wasn't she able to do more? Wasn't she able to use more strength? She had spoken such doubt that was even holding herself in contempt.
Kouki looked down in shame from how he lost himself just now.
「On the contrary, I'm really a hopeless human you know? Actually, I unbearably want to hurl abuse at Kouki so much that I need to endure it desperately.」
「Why is it only ’’now’’? If you are going to save us, then why didn't you come five years ago at that day? I'm holding that kind of irrational feeling inside. I understand doing that will be just barking at the wrong tree, so I'm doing my best to not speak it loud.」
'But in the I said it', she scratched her cheek awkwardly as though to say that. Kouki was dumbfounded for a while, but then he responded with a wry smile 「I'm also venting my anger unjustly just now」.
Moana's expression turned serious, and then she directed at Kouki a straightforward gaze.
「I understand Koone's feeling. I also feel responsibility as royalty. When I think how my choice hold the fate of many people, I'm scared and want to run away, even I myself don't know what is right. But see, there is also just one thing that I understand.」
「What is it?」
──Even if I escape now and stay alive, I won't be saved.
In the end of her choice to run away, even if she survived then, it wouldn't be a salvation.
「Kouki is also the same right?」
Kouki's expression turned suspicious because Moana's words were really unexpected for him. Perhaps Moana thought that such Kouki was amusing because she chuckled while slowly pointing her index finger.
A lot of small scar could be seen faintly, however, that finger even looked beautiful instead. It softly stroked Kouki's forehead.
「You are always making a pained face from worrying, creating wrinkle at this spot, but you never stop thinking no matter what. Even though you were called here selfishly, but you don't even complain, far from that you killed an opponent you didn't want to kill while screaming, and saved us all.」
「You try to accept everything, whether the feeling of the people you meet, and also Koone's wish, and even my choice......your words ’’even in that completely worn-out condition’’, I'll return those words to you exactly the same.」
The fingertip that gently brushed his forehead slowly drifted to Kouki's cheek. The sensation of that fingertip felt really pleasant for some reason. Kouki unconsciously closed his eyes.
「But, you won't run away as expected aren't you? Throwing away everything and pretend to forget it, you cannot do anything like that right?」
「......Yeah. That's the only thing that I cannot do.」
「Because, that's not a salvation isn't it?」
「See, aren't we the same?」
When he opened his eyes, Moana's face was there surprisingly close. An aroma like sweet fruit tickled his nose and her sparkling jade eyes caught Kouki's heart. He stared at Moana as though he was enthralled. For some reason, he couldn't avert his gaze away from Moana.
Gentle night wind brushed his skin, and a pleasantly silent time flowed.
「Spenser, shii~~! Right now they are in a good scene so you cannot be a nuisance! Being a nuisance is wrong, is what Koone is thinking!」
A whispering (?) voice was flowing smoo~thly.
Moana slowly and quietly took distance from Kouki. Kouki was persuading himself「Surely <Presence Detection>is taking holiday without permission......」.
And then, when they turned their gaze toward the door with twitching expression, there they saw the royal guard captain biting on a handkerchief with a demonic look behind the door, and a black hearted little girl making a smile that felt like 'hihii~~~'.
「Moana-sama. Thank you very much for the delicious drink and the meaningful talk. I'm thinking of taking some rest soon.」
「Ye, yes, right. Not that. Cough-. You're right. A lot happened today and you must be tired. You can take a good rest for now.」
Bowing at Moana who coughed and smoothed up her appearance, Kouki then headed toward the door with brisk steps. Koone who seemed to not even intend to hide anymore was giving a thumb up at Kouki for some reason. Spenser was whispering「Duty......」 or something. Anyway he ignored everything.
Just before he got out of the door, Moana called out to him. When Kouki turned around, Moana's gaze was swimming around because of being a bit concerned about Koone and Spenser, even so right after that she then opened her mouth after fixing a straightforward gaze at Kouki.
「Kouki is, fixated with rightness......must be because you want to save someone correct? You fear making mistake......because you are scared that you will hurt someone right? That's, Kouki might not Kouki like it if I say this but, I think that's Kouki's ’’kindness’’. That's why, that is why. ──At the very least, that feeling that think of Kouki's someone is ’’right’’. I will assert that.」
Kouki felt like crying very much for some reason. However, he gritted his teeth strongly to not show his unsightly side.
And then, he squeezed out some words,
「......Thank you very much.」
And replied so.
While expelling the sight of the little girl beside him making a black smile that said「Just as planned!」 outside of his field of vision.
Returning back in time for a bit, at the time when Kouki received the tour of the capital.
Past the front line desert area at the western land that was still lushly green, a certain feudal lord of a territory was raising a worried groan.
「What's the meaning of this? There is no mistake in this report right?」
「Yes. I also inspected it myself but, there is no mistake.」
In the office, the feudal lord was making a difficult face with the written report in one hand, before long he shook his head and made a determined expression.
「Report using a letter to her majesty. Tell the messenger to prepare. We have to ask Koone-sama to come urgently.」
「Acknowledged. Right away.」
The vassal hurriedly left the office. The feudal lord watched that while making a large sigh.
「I have a bad premonition......」
That whisper melted into empty air and vanished.