Arifureta - Volume 8 - Chapter 9
The This and That After the Reunion
While the sound of Kouki's desperate voice subduing the silence, the person whom the words were directed to pretended as though he didn't hear anything and walked towards Shia's side, beside the collapsed Meld.
Thinking there was no longer a need to protect Kouki's party, Yue also walked towards Hajime and Shia. ’’Ahh, One-sama!,’’ Suzu's shout, whose heart was just like a small old man, came from behind her.
’’Shia, how's Meld's condition?’’
’’It was almost too late. He would not survive if we were even a little slower... I used ’’Holy Water’’ as instructed, but... was it really okay to do that?’’
’’Ah, I was indebted to this person. Besides, the hole Meld left would be too big in a lot of ways. It'll be especially problematic if someone weird took over the training of the Hero's party. Well, seeing their current state, it looks like Meld was unable to finish their training properly... but it isn't a mistake that he is a man of character. He is a person who will cause regret in various meanings if he died.’’
Kouki was currently glaring at Hajime. Supported by Ryuutarou, he walked towards Hajime accompanied by the other classmates. Shia was asking him for the reason of using Holy Water on Meld. Incidentally, what he meant by ’’someone weird’’ was the person from Church of the Saints such as Ishtal.
’’Yue. Thank you for listening to my request.’’
Yue had arrived at the time he was still speaking to Shia. While gently patting Yue's cheek who was looking up at him as she called his name, Hajime conveyed his gratitude. Yue's gaze expressed, ’’Don't mind,’’ while delightedly narrowing her eyes. Naturally, Hajime's gaze softened and the two were watching each other.
’’... You two, please read the mood... Come on, return to your senses! Everyone are almost gathered here!’’
Hajime and Yue began to create their own world which could already be called a disease for them. Thus, Shia clapped her hands and retorted to make them return to their senses.
Apparently, the glares coming from Kouki with different meaning had increased and Hajime noticed it. Especially a glare coming from different direction than Kouki and the others. It made him feel a chill running down on his spine.
’’Oi, Nagumo. Why did you kill ...’’
’’Hajime-kun... even though there's much I want to ask, how's Meld-san's condition? From what I see, the injuries had been closed and his breathing is also steady. But, he should've been mortally wounded...’’
Kouki's words to press a question onto Hajime was interrupted by Kaori, who came and knelt by Meld's side with a serious expression and asked Hajime the details of Meld's condition.
For a moment, Hajime felt the chill in his guts from Kaori's gaze, but thinking it was just his imagination, he decided to answer Kaori's question.
’’Yeah, that's because... I used a rather special medicine. The liquid type that will instantly heal a person completely even if the person was dying.’’
’’S-Such a medicine, how come I've never heard of it?’’
’’That is because it was once only a legend... and no one would be able to obtain it, normally. That's why, Yaegashi, you need to be healed by magic. And here is the potion to recover magic power.’’
’’Eh, yes... Thank you.’’
Being called by Hajime, Shizuku received the potion and slightly stammered while she said her gratitude due to the gap between the current Hajime and the Hajime in her memory. Hajime didn't especially mind Shizuku's reaction and he gave another magic power recovery potion to Kaori. Kaori caught the potion bottle and drunk the content after she said her gratitude to Hajime. With the Lipovitan-like taste spreading inside her mouth, her energy gradually recovered. The classmates should be immediately healed as long as Kaori recovers.
For now, Kaori and the others breathed sighs of relief because they understood there was nothing to worry about in regards to Meld. Then, Kouki once again opened his mouth.
’’Oi, Nagumo, I am grateful about Meld-san's matter, but why did y ...’’
’’Hajime-kun. Thank you for saving Meld-san. Also, thank you... for saving us.’’
Thus, he was once again interrupted by Kaori. Kouki now wore a truly subtle expression. However, Kaori completely not noticing Kouki's expression since she was looking straight at Hajime. Even though she received a severe shock from Hajime's changes, there were things she wanted to say. She walked up until she was right before Hajime to say her gratitude about Meld's matter and how he saved them.
Afterwards, while grasping her skirt with both hands, guh, the things she wanted to say were on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't say anything and her tears began to fall. Although she was sobbing, she didn't look away from Hajime as though to confirm the him before her was not an illusion. Hajime silently returned Kaori's gaze.
’’Hajime-gun... dank God, gusuh, dat you'r alive. Dat time, I am sorry... hic... dat I couldn't protect you... waaa.’’
Amongst the classmates, the girls held warm gazes because they could guess Kaori's feelings. Some of the boys also had warm gazes, but Kondou and some others had bitter expressions, while Kouki and Ryuutarou were dumbfounded since they could not understand Kaori. The most dense protagonist on earth, Kouki, and the muscle for a brain, Ryuutarou, made it hard for Shizuku and it could be seen in her eyes.
With troubled expression, Shia said, ’’Uh, by any chance, is she a new rival?,’’ while Yue was looking at Kaori with the usual silent and expressionlessness.
The Kaori before him was crying which messed her face, and Hajime wore an indescribable expression when he realized Kaori had been worrying about him since the day he fell just as Endou had said.
The truth was, he had told Yue once about his circumstance along with the story about Kaori, but that was when they were still in the abyss, and he had completely forgotten about Kaori until he met Aiko and the others in Ul. That's why, he was gradually feeling guilty because she thought of him this strongly.
After sporting a troubled and at lost expression, Hajime answered Kaori's words with a bitter smile.
’’...What to say, looks like I've made you worried. I am sorry for not immediately telling you about it. Well, just as you see, I am alive... so there's no need to apologize... Also, umm, please don't cry.’’
Hajime said while looking at Kaori with the same gentle gaze when he was worrying about Kaori and said, ’’Please protect me.’’ Upon seeing his gaze, Kaori felt her chest being filled with the memory of the night when they exchanged the promise. Inadvertently, Waahh, she cried and jumped into Hajime's chest.
At a loss of what to do about Kaori who was crying while clinging on his chest, Hajime held up both of his hands. If it was another classmate, he would have mercilessly threw the person away since he would feel irritated and use yakuza kick to make the person unconscious. However, the pure and never changing goodwill which was the same even before he fell into the abyss made him incapable of treating her coldly.
But with Yue by his side, he couldn't embrace another woman and could only hold up his hands as though someone had pointed gun's muzzle at him, becoming a half assed respond since he just let Kaori cry. It was truly not Hajime-like.
’’My best friend is crying! So, hug her!,’’ was what Shizuku's gaze who was beside him was saying, but it was hard to move because Yue was also watching him in silence. Being helpless, he lightly pat Kaori's head to stop her after a while. Really, Hajime had became a good for nothing.
’’...Fuu, Kaori is really gentle. She even cry in joy from her classmate's survival... However, Nagumo killed a non-resisting person. We need to talk. That's why, that's enough and you should get away from Nagumo.’’
’’You, read the mood!,’’ was what some of the classmates criticized Kouki with their gazes. Even in such time, this boy was still unable to be considerate to Kaori's feeling. While glaring at Hajime mixed with condemn, he tried to pull Kaori away from Hajime. Maybe it was simply because he didn't want others to touch Kaori or because the caution he held from being beside a murderer... or maybe both.
’’Wait, Kouki! Isn't Nagumo-kun the one who saved us? How can you said such things?’’
’’But, Shizuku. That woman already lost her spirit to fight. There's no need to kill her. So what Nagumo did is something I can't allow.’’
’’See here, Kouki, can you cut it out already? To begin with...’’
Kouki's objection was rebutted by Shizuku. The other classmates were flustered since they didn't know what to do, but Hiyama's gang who never liked Hajime began to support Kouki.
Gradually, it became a discussion about Hajime's action. Kaori had already separated from Hajime's chest and wiped her tears, but there was still the shock she received from a while ago, so she fell silent with a difficult expression while she was thinking of something.
Suddenly, a voice came to douse them with cold water.
’’...What foolish people. Hajime, can we leave now?’’
’’Ah~, yup, let's go.’’
The one calling Kouki and the others ’’foolish’’ with tone so cold as if it was in absolute zero was Yue. Although the voice was spoken in small mutter, it clearly resounded even inside the commotion of Kouki and the others. For a moment, silence wrapped their location, then Kouki and the others moved their gazes towards Yue.
To begin with, the reason Hajime came here after hearing Endou's story was his obligation to Kaori, and it had been accomplished. Thus, he went out of the room following Yue who pulled his hand. Shia followed after them without minding the others.
As such, the action of Hajime's party made Kouki and the others stop.
’’Please stop. Our talk here isn't over yet. I won't take Nagumo as my comrade if he doesn't tell me his real intention. Besides, just who do you think you are? Although I am grateful for your help, to call us foolish at our first meeting... isn't that rude? Just what is foolish about us?’’
Kouki once again talk about something out of topic. Although what he said was correct in such situations, comparing their circumstances made Yue wanted to say, ’’Try to think while putting your hand on your chest.’’ To even go this far, it wouldn't be strange to say Kouki was cursed by something.
Maybe because Yue had forsaken Kouki already;she didn't look at him, expressing there's no value in looking at him. Kouki was slightly irritated and frowned being of Yue's attitude, but he immediately floated a gentle smile again, thinking she was just an ordinary girl, and he tried to talk to Yue.
Because this wouldn't end with the way it was going and he felt Yue's discomfort, Hajime decided to answer a little and sighed with an expression as though saying it was a hassle.
’’Amanogawa. I have neither care nor obligation to answer everything to you whose existence is a joke in more ways than one. But, I'll point it out to you a little because you are being persistent about it.’’
’’Point it out, you say? Are you saying I am wrong? I, I only say something obvious as a person.’’
Because, It's troublesome, truly!, was what Hajime expression turned to. Kouki irritatedly objected Hajime's words which was then ignored, and Hajime continued his words.
’’You can't fool me.’’
’’What's with that...’’
’’You, you are not angry because I killed that woman. You are only feeling unpleasant to see a person's death. However, you knew you are mistaken to blame me to kill the woman who murdered the Knights and tried to kill you. That's why you're using ’’killing a non-resisting person’’ as your main point, right? Being made to see something you didn't want to see and for someone to easily do things you couldn't... those are the cause of your anger. However, you tried to cover it under the name of justice. What worse is you yourself aren't conscious of it. You never change, huh. You interpret things at your own convenience as natural as breathing.’’
’’Y-You are wrong! Don't say something for your own convenience! It is the true you killed a non-resisting person!’’
’’I killed my enemy, what's wrong with that?’’
’’Wh-!? What are you saying? It's murder! Of course it is wrong!’’
’’Haa, I don't want to discuss with you, so can we end it now? I, I won't give any mercy to my enemy. If someone opposed me, as long as I don't have any other need for it, I will absolutely kill that person. I don't care whether they are good or evil, resisting or not. Hatefully, I knew I'd be dead if I show even a moment of weakness. This is my sense of value cultivated inside the abyss, and I won't force it to other. But, if someone doesn't like it and tried to block me...’’
Hajime instantly closed the distance and pressed the muzzle against Kouki's forehead. At the same time, Hajime's ’’Pressure’’ activated and the dense killing intent fell into the surrounding like a large, powerful waterfall. Kouki's party held their breaths. Even Kouki, who was able to chase after Shizuku whose movement was the fastest among his comrades, could not even perceive Hajime's earlier movement and he trembled in fear.
’’I will kill them, even if that person is a former classmate of mine.’’
’’Don't misunderstand, okay? I never thought of returning to you. Also, I am not your comrade. I only came here to pay my obligation to Shirasaki. It's a goodbye after we get out of here. I have my own path to take.’’
After saying so, he glared at Kouki who couldn't say anything and was holding his breath. Hajime returned Donner to its holster, and with ’’Pressure’’ deactivation, the classmates exhaled greatly while looking at Hajime with complexed gazes. However, Kouki still could not accept it and tried to argue some more. But it was prevented by Yue's harsh words while she wore a disgusted expression.
’’...The one who fought was Hajime. The loser who ran away after being defeated in fear has no qualification to criticize him.’’
’’Wh , you say I ran away...’’
Actually it was not a coincidence Hajime's party could pinpointed their location. The truth was, Hajime guessed the explosive torrent of magic power he felt to be coming from Kouki's party when he was still in upper floor. Then, he used full advantage of his perception type skills to search for people presences downstairs and used transmutation along with pile bunker to pierce through the floors.
The torrent of magic power he felt at that time was Kouki's ’’Supreme Break.’’ Feeling the huge power, Hajime's party understood that Kouki would be able to defeat the demon race woman in that condition. That's why they could see through that Kouki hesitated to kill and invited their predicament after coming to their location. It was why Yue said, ’’he ran away after being defeated in fear.’’
Kouki tried to refute Yue, but a deep voice interrupted him.
’’Stop it, Kouki.’’
Meld's consciousness had returned a while ago and he heard the conversation between Kouki and the others. Still somewhat in a daze, he stood up and shook his head to clear his mind. Next, he saw his abdomen which surely had been injured, and so he tilt his head in confusion.
Kaori explained to Meld in details about what had happened. Knowing he was miraculously helped with a valuable medicine and hearing the owner was Hajime, Meld was happy from the depth of his heart that Hajime was alive. Moreover, he thanked Hajime for saving him. He grandly prostrated for being unable to save him at that time which made Hajime felt uncomfortable to receive his apology.
Rather than not minding it, Hajime had completely forgotten when Meld said, ’’I will absolutely save you,’’ ... but he read the mood when Meld was before him, apologizing while bowing deeply.
When his conversation with Hajime ended, Meld turned towards Kouki and apologized just like what he did to Hajime.
’’M-Meld-san? Why, why are you apologizing?’’
’’Of course. I am your trainer... but, I forgot to teach you an important thing during a fight. It's the resolution to kill a person. When the time comes, I've thought of making you experience killing people by setting them up as thieves while making it look like a coincidence... After all, that experience is something necessary if you participate in war against the demon race... However, I've spent a lot of time conversing with you which made me think if it was really okay to let you experience that... Thus, I've hesitated. If I am thinking of my position as the commander of the Knights, I would have taught you even earlier, but... a little longer, just a little longer, until we cleared this. Things dragged on in this manner and reached this situation... I am just being half-assed. It's my mistake as your trainer. That's why, to make you face death... I apologize.’’
Saying so, Meld once again bowed which made the classmates try and comfort him in hurry. Apparently, Meld had been considerably worried about Kouki's party. He was likely being pulled apart by his mission as the commander and him as a person.
Meld is a citizen of the Kingdom and a believer of Church of the Saints. Therefore, it wasn't weird that he felt it was natural and an honor for Kouki and the others, the ’’God's Apostles,’’ to fight the demon race. However, he doubted as he fought along with Kouki's party which meant he was a good or maybe a gentle person, and at the level of a man of character just as Hajime said.
Hearing what was in Meld's mind, Kouki fell silent. After knowing that he must kill people in due time, he recalled his fear when he was about to kill the demon race woman. At the same time, he received shock from Meld's words saying they would kill people masked as thieves for the sake of training. If it's thieves, then we have power to overwhelm them. But to purposely killed them... he thought.
On the other side, Kaori was also silent. But it was not because she heard Meld's words. For a long time, she had been thinking about Hajime's words.
The sense of value cultivated inside the abyss where enemy would be killed without hesitation even if it was his classmate... were impossible words coming from Hajime of the past. However, he proved he was serious with the previous killing intent. The Hajime who was gentle and acted by putting the sake of others before him had unhesitatingly turned his killing intent towards them. Kaori was perplexed and shaken by the differences between Hajime she knew and Hajime before her. Thinking of the Hajime who was worried about her from a little ago was an illusion, Kaori was uneasy.
While she was thinking, Kaori suddenly felt someone's gaze. Before Kaori was the blond-haired, red-eyed beautiful girl. A beautiful girl that made even Kaori instinctively charmed. She was quietly observing Kaori with eyes where no feeling could be felt.
Kaori recalled the girl had been fairly intimate with Hajime which made Kaori interested and turned to look at Yue. For a while, the two watched each other.
However, Yue was the first to avert her gaze while sneering.
Kaori inadvertently held her breath. It was because she noticed the meaning behind her sneer. It was, ’’If you are shaken by this, just forget about Hajime,’’ something like that.
Yue had of course guessed how Kaori feels about Hajime from her attitude. Thus, hearing she believed of Hajime's survival even though he fell into the abyss, a strong rival in love might show up, I must stand tall!, was what she thought.
However, when she saw Kaori comparing the past and current Hajime, and it resulted in her being shaken and perplexed while being taken aback by the differences. Although that reaction was as natural as possible for a person... it made Yue see her as insignificant.
You can't even become an enemy. From now on, Hajime is only mine. Hajime's ’’special’’ person is me! The implied declaration made Kaori's face red;red from shame and anger. However, Kaori could not refute since she had lost sight of the human called Hajime. The first encounter between Yue and Kaori resulted in Yue as the victor.
Leering at Kouki and the others whose mood became subtle, Hajime took Yue and Shia along, collected the pile bunker's stake, and tried to go through the opened hole. Noticing what he was doing, Kouki and the others began to follow Hajime's party. Endou had proposed for everyone to take advantage of Hajime's party until they reached the surface, and Meld was being carried by Hajime after they pleaded him.
On the way to the surface, the demonic beasts that tried to obstruct them were instantly killed by Hajime which made them once again amazed by his strength. The classmates wore various expressions thinking whether he was the same person who was once called ’’incompetent.’’
Hiyama was glaring at Hajime with paled complexion, Kondou's gang were sending him begrudging gazes, and Nagayama's party were looking at him admiringly as they wore complex expressions due to Hajime clearly saying he was not their comrade.
Even though Kondou's gang had closely seen Hajime's prowess and shrunk before it, they still thought Hajime was the same as the previous him. On the other side, Nagayama's party knew what kind of treatment Hajime received from Hiyama and his gang and pretend to not see it, so now they felt guilty about it. They thought it could not be helped that Hajime didn't think of them as his comrades...
Receiving various gazes from Kouki and the others behind him, Hajime just ignored them and advanced on his own road.
On the way, Suzu's inner oldman caused commotion as she tried to talk to Yue about various things. She also barraged Hajime with questions about what happened, then she turned her aim towards Shia's huge breasts and rabbit-ears. When she realized the two just ignored her, she was then physically stopped by Shizuku. Kondou's gang tried to talk to Yue and Shia fully loaded with desire, but were completely ignored, even so they kept being persistent. They tried to touch Shia's rabbit-ears without permission which awarded them with Hajime's rubber bullets. They vomited after receiving yakuza kicks, and fear was driven into them when they received a slight killing intent leaking from Hajime various things happened, and finally the group reached the surface.
Kaori was still looking down, worrying. Shizuku was also worriedly watching Kaori and drew closer to her. However, a situation where an impact blew away all of Kaori's worries had happened. It was a situation she couldn't overlook as a woman whose heart was set on Hajime.
It happened when they arrived at the entrance of «Orcus Great Dungeon».
’’Uh! Myuu, huh.’’
It was the appearance of a little girl calling Hajime papa.