Arifureta - Volume 9 - Chapter 1
Madness and Jealousy
’’Shit! Shit! What's with this! What kind of joke is this!’’
It was midnight. Inside a park located on the outskirts of the post town, Hol-ad, one boy was cursing in a hushed voice, punching one of the trees repeatedly. It was Hiyama Daisuke. Hiyama's eyes were shaking intensely in hatred, agitation, and impatience. Those were truly ugly and impure eyes, from which it was not an exaggeration to they were full of madness.
’’As I thought, you really did lose your temper... well, I know it can't be helped though. After all, your precious, precious princess Kaori was snatched by another man before your eyes, right?’’
A voice filled with scorn and slight sympathy rang out from behind such a Hiyama. Fwip, Hiyama immediately turned around. Next, he momentarily raised an expression of relief when he recognized the other person was the one he meeting in secret, and, following that, with his fists clenched, he replied with a voice that was just like a beast's howl.
’’Shut up! Shit! This... this shouldn't have happened! Why, why is that bastard alive!? Just why did he did that...’’
’’Don't be distracted by yourself, I want to have a talk, you know? Also, it will become a serious matter if someone sees us meeting in secret.’’
’’... I, I don't have anymore reasons to go along with you... my Kaori is already...’’
In between the trees' shadows created by the moonlight was a person's silhouette, to whom Hiyama bitterly spoke as he pummeled his fists on the tree.
Hiyama cooperating with this person was only because he heard that he would be able to make Kaori his own. That's why, with Kaori leaving, he had lost his reason to cooperate, and it was too late to threaten him with exposing his attempt to kill Hajime as the victim could have said it himself.
However, the person in the darkness smiled as its mouth turned curved into a crescent at such a Hiyama, and it once again tempted him just like the devil.
’’If she is snatched then just snatch her back. Is it wrong? Fortunately, we have good bait here.’’
Not knowing what it meant, Hiyama dubiously tilted his head which made that person grinned and nodded.
’’That's right, bait. Even if she puts priority on her feelings and parts from those comrades of hers... her best friends that were always by her side, her childhood friends... do you think she can just leave them be? Especially if she knows they are in a predicament.’’
’’It is easy to call her back. So, there's no need to be pessimistic about it. Especially in this case, even I got a chill... but I am glad that it resulted in something convenient for me. Yup, it could be said as a godsend. Shall we finish everything once we return to the Imperial Capital? Then... you will surely obtain what you desire, you know?’’
Though knowing it was useless, Hiyama glared at his accomplice that stayed in the shadow. Even receiving his gaze, the person before Hiyama laughed normally.
Though he didn't know all of this person's plan, from their previous words, Hiyama could have guessed that it'd involve injuring the other classmates. For their own objective, they could easily betrayed their comrades, with whom they shared joy and sorrow with. Following that, a chill ran down in his spine as he couldn't feel any guilt from that person.
(A nasty person as always... but, I also cannot back down anymore... I must do it to get my Kaori back... that's all. There's nothing to hesitate about. This is for Kaori. I am the justice here.)
Hiyama only thought of himself and his confusion had already been disappeared. Because of his accomplice, he was made to look away from the thing he must see, believing that his action was justified, while it all stemmed from his desire for Kaori.
The silhouette turned silent as it understood Hiyama's feelings. Smiling, it waited for Hiyama's answer.
’’... Okay. Just like before, I will lend you a hand. However...’’
’’Aah, I understand. I will obtain what I desired, and you will obtain yours. Give and take, isn't that a nice word? From now on is crucial. The case in the Imperial Capital too, can I leave that to you?’’
Without minding Hiyama's distorted expression, that person turned on their heels and disappeared, as if merging with the space between the trees. Afterwards, what was left was the fallen boy whose eyes were filled with darkness.
* * *
On the other hand, at the time the suspicious meeting happened in the outskirts of the town, another boy and girl were also standing under the moonlight.
They weren't in the location where the secret meeting happened, they were on a small, arched bridge, above one of the waterways that passed through between the shops and back alleys of the town. A lot of waterways were built for the large number of restaurants and service buildings, and the boy on the bridge was looking down on the flowing water's surface as it reflected the moon above it, under the moonlight.
More accurately, he wasn't looking but ’’drooping his head’’, moreover, his expression was dark, far from its usual shine. The boy's appearance was just like that a person whose company bankrupted, incurred large amount of debt, and was now despairing about his future as he looked far into the distance, into the twilight. It was our hero, Amanogawa Kouki.
’’... Do you not want to talk?’’
A voice called out to Kouki who didn't look away from the moon reflected on the water surface. It was his childhood friend for ten years, the pair of the girl that went away, Yaegashi Shizuku.
Unlike Kouki, Shizuku was entrusting her back to the bridge's railing, looking up at the moon in the sky. Towards the railing, her trademark ponytail was swaying, playing in the wind. Without looking at his childhood friend, and Shizuku who also not looking at him, Kouki replied as he continued to look at the moon.
’’Is there something you want to say?’’
There was no answer, no, Kouki just could not answer her. Even though he was looking at the moon reflected on the water's surface, what was in his mind was the spectacle of Kaori speaking her feelings. Within her anxiety and rejoice, as if praying, she spoke her feelings without any hint of a lie, which even convinced Kouki, whose denseness was at the level of a chronic disease.
Kouki and Kaori were friends for around ten years, but he was hurt when he saw her beautiful strength, he had never seen Kaori made such expressions. It was just like a bolt out of the blue for him.
Every time he recalled her expression, an unspeakable feeling sprang up in his mind. It was dark and heavy, a truly murky feeling. Unconditionally, without any basis, he believed his thought was a natural one. That was that, his childhood friend, Kaori, would always be by his side, without any change. It could be said he thought of Kaori as his. In other words, he was jealous.
That jealousy, Kouki himself didn't know as to whether it came from love or just his desire to monopolize her, but the feeling that she was ’’snatched’’ from him was swirling in his mind, intensely.
However, it was Kaori herself that decided to go along with the one who ’’snatched’’ her away, Hajime (though he would surely object to it). Moreover, he didn't want to believe and tried to deny the existence called Hajime by challenging him to a duel where he was defeated. His misery, resentment towards Hajime, doubts about Kaori's feelings, and a lot of other feelings were mixed together, making Kouki's mind a mess, just like the inside of kicked trash can.
Thus he kept looking at the water and unbeknownst to him, his other childhood friend was already standing beside him without saying anything... his reply from before was also truly not like him. Unable to find his next word, Kouki turned silent.
Sneaking a glance at such a Kouki, Shizuku frowned her brows and with an atmosphere that expressed ’’It can't be helped,’’ she moved her mouth.
’’... Right now, Kouki, you are being a pain.’’
’’... A pain?’’
Shizuku's unexpected reply made Kouki inadvertently parrot her. Shizuku moved her gaze from the moon towards Kouki, and continued her words.
’’That's right. About Kaori, from the beginning she isn't yours, you know?’’
’’... That's... then, are you saying she is Nagumo's?’’
Prick, Kouki's eyes were shaking as he guessed that, he desperately tried to object that as if cursing it. Hearing that, Shizuku answered with a strong forehead flick. ’’It hurt-!?,’’ Kouki instinctively covered his forehead, and leering at him, Shizuku scolded him with a cold voice.
’’Idiot. Kaori is her own. Whatever she chooses, wherever she goes, it is up to Kaori to decide that. Of course, even who she wants to be with... is up to her own decision.’’
’’... Since when? Shizuku, you must have known that, right?’’
Without asking ’’what do you mean,’’ Shizuku nodded.
’’You know... Kaori met Nagumo-kun in middle school... Well, he must have forgotten about it... Rather I also don't know in what kind of situation they met.’’
’’...What's with that. Just what are you trying to say?’’
’’That is for you to ask Kaori yourself. After all, it is bad for me to say it without her permission.’’
’’Then, the reason Kaori was always talking to Nagumo in class was truly... that is... because she loves... him?’’
’’Hmm, that's right.’’
Shizuku easily told him the truth he didn't want to hear, which made Kouki make a reproachful gaze. However, Shizuku only thought of it as a passing wind. Angered by her attitude, just like a child throwing a tantrum, Kouki began to spit out what was in his mind.
’’... Why, why is it Nagumo. When we were still in Japan, he was an otaku, unmotivated, and he nothing special in terms of sports or studies either... always forcing his laugh, and being out of place... He took a noncommittal attitude whenever Kaori talked to him... he was an otaku... if it was me, I wouldn't treat Kaori coldly. I'd always think of her as important, and I would do my best for Kaori's sake... Besides, Nagumo was waited upon by those girls in such a manner, isn't he the lowest to treat them like that? Not only that, he is a murderer! He killed a non-resisting woman. So, do you think I was wrong!? That's right, it is strange for Kaori to like such a bastard after all. He surely must have ’’SWISh!’’ Guhah!?’’
Heating up as he spoke, Kouki began to badmouth Hajime with fabricated truths which once again awarded him a forehead flick (No Beat ver.) from Shizuku. What are you doing!?, was conveyed by Kouki's glare which was ignored by Shizuku who was wearing an amazed expression.
’’Again, your bad habit is coming out, you know? I've kept saying until now that you should stop interpreting things at your own convenience.
’’Interpreting things to my convenience... there's no way ’’
’’Haven't you noticed it yet? Kouki, you don't know anything about Nagumo-kun, right? You don't know anything about the time we were still in Japan or in this world... and those girls looked happy, no, they really were happy, you see? But you ignored that fact and said something selfish... The current Kouki is only trying to make Hajime out to be a bad person who is unsuitable for Kaori. If that isn't called as interpreting things at your own convenience, then what is?’’
’’B-But... it is the true he killed a person.’’
’’... At that time, even I was about to kill her. However, I couldn't muster my strength. Even in the future... if a similar thing happens, then I will surely swing my sword to kill, for the sake of surviving, for the sake of the people important to me. Though I don't know whether I can do it, since I will only know when the time comes... For now, the thing I did was only attempted murder... but, are you going to despise me if I become a murderer?’’
Shizuku's confession made Kouki speechless. His childhood friend, Shizuku, held a stronger sense of responsibility and justice than others, so he suddenly felt like she was a distant existence after hearing she was truly going to kill. However, Kouki shook his head when he noticed the shadow of anxiety and the fear of injuring a person in Shizuku's bitter smile.
Seeing Kouki's reaction, Shizuku continued her words which could be called a soliloquy.
’’Certainly, his transformation is surprising... and thinking about his character when we were still in Japan, it's not an exaggeration to say he's a different person... Well, even so, it looks like Kaori still thought of him as ’’Nagumo Hajime,’’ and it looks like not all of him has changed... but one thing you must not forget, he fought that woman to save us and killed her in our stead.’’
’’... Are you saying it is right to kill.’’
’’I... I don't think it is right. A murder is a murder after all... I can neither justify it nor do I want to.’’
’’Even so, we aren't qualified to criticize Nagumo-kun. It was no one's fault, but our own weakness...’’
In short, he should solve it himself if he has a problem with it. It was simply that he was not strong enough, so he couldn't reach the result he hoped for. It was a mistake to complain about the result to the person he left everything with.
Noticing the unexpressed words, Kouki recalled that he could only crawl at the time Hajime displayed his peerlessness. Unable to object, he fell into sullen silence. His dissatisfied expression was obviously saying, ’’But, it is the truth that he killed a person!’’
Towards Kouki's obstinacy, with an admonishing tone, Shizuku tacitly warned him about what had happened thus far, along with what she felt after coming to this world.
’’I don't hate Kouki's straightforward sense of justice.’’
’’However. I think it's about time for you to start doubting whether you are actually in the right.’’
’’Doubting my justice?’’
’’Certainly, a strong feeling is necessary to get things done. But, a distortion will surely appear if you don't doubt it and just keep moving on, blindly believing on it. That's why when that happens, I want you to react to it by wondering if you are really in the right, or whether you still need to do it ’’even’’ if you know it is wrong... it isn't bad if you continue to think like that, okay? ... truthfully, it is difficult to keep on living rightfully. Having come to this world, I cut lives even though they were demonic beasts... I've come to think so.’’
Totally ignorant that Shizuku was thinking thus every time she killed a demonic beast, Kouki became pop-eyed.
’’Kouki. You are not always the correct one and even if you are in the right. You should know that your rightfulness can become a lethal weapon. Well, the way you interpreted things at your convenience this time was not coming from your conviction of ’’justice,’’ it was coming from your jealousy.’’
’’N-no, for me to feel jealous...’’
’’It is uncool to make an excuse to deceive me here, you know?’’
Kouki once again cast his gaze down, looking at the moon on the water surface. However, the dark mood from a while ago had weakened, and he seemed to be thinking deeply about something. Anyway, he had avoided rushing into a spiral of negativity, and Shizuku leaked out a relieved sigh, knowing that.
Thus, thinking it was necessary to leave him alone for now, Shizuku stopped leaning on the railing and tried to quietly leave the place. Then, Kouki's mutter came from behind Shizuku, who had already turned on her heels.
’’Shizuku... you won't go anywhere, right?’’
’’... What's with this all of a sudden?’’
’’... Please don't go, Shizuku.’’
Kouki's words were as if he was petitioning her. It was a line that would made the female students in Japan and the girls of the Kingdom that fell for him go kya kya, but unfortunately, Shizuku only displayed an ’’amazed’’ expression. He might be weakened by the feeling of loss because Kaori had gone... Shizuku looked over her shoulder, towards the blurring moon. It was the moon that was on water surface which Kouki had been looking at previously.
’’At the very least I am not like the ’’moon’’... I won't just leave a man that is depending on me.’’
Saying thus, Shizuku left the place. Left behind, Kouki watched the alley where Shizuku disappeared for a while, then once again, he looked at the moon reflected on the water surface. Next, he noticed the meaning behind her words.
’’... I see... the moon reflected on the water's surface.’’
Flowers reflected on a mirror and the moon reflected on the water's surface. Those were words speaking about a thing that could be seen but not be reached, visible but with no substance, just like a reflection. He unconsciously looked at the reflected moon as Kaori, and certainly it was not something he could reach. Especially after seeing Kaori's expression at the time she confessed her feelings to Hajime.
Shizuki said she was not ’’the moon reflected on the water's surface’’. So, it's possible for him to reach her. However, her next words were severe. Kouki inadvertently made a wry smile. He thought about what he had just said to his childhood friend.
Kouki stopped looking at the reflected moon, he looked up at the sky. He had unconditionally believed that he could reach ’’it’’ if he just stretched out his hand, but he realized ’’it’’ was awfully quite far. Letting out a deep sigh, Kouki began to think about the words coming from his strict and gentle childhood friend.
To change or not to change... it was up to Kouki.