Editors/Proofreaders: Namo-Namo, Rockgollem, Ferro, M, Noir-chan
The cold night wind whistled past.
It stirred up Brain Unglaus’ hair and ruffled his clothes as well.
“…It’s freezing out here…”
The cold wind swept away his pale white breath and his mumbling and carried them into the distance.
Even the deepest parts of his body felt like they were frozen.
Brain was staring aimlessly from atop the walls of E-Rantel, where the three of them had stood together before they had moved out with the army.
There was nothing out there except darkness.
During the battle― no, the massacre of the Kattse Plains, many of the Kingdom’s people had lost their lives.
He remembered what he had seen when he crawled off that battlefield.
The defeated people dragged their feet lifelessly, their clothes were tattered and they looked utterly wretched.
Even though Brain was a warrior who trod the edge of life and death on a regular basis, the image of that hellscape ―created by a single magic caster― was seared into his eyes.
Although E-Rantel ―protected by its city walls― could not be considered a safe place by any means, the fleeing soldiers, tired and worn out from exhaustion, collapsed like puppets whose strings had been cut. They curled up anywhere they could, and slept as if they were dead.
Upon this unmanned tower, Brain slowly exhaled again.
Then, he looked silently to the sky.
“I just keep thinking… nothing really matters anymore.”
Brain looked at his hands.
While he was carrying the lifeless body of that man, he felt a massive weight pressing down on him. Try as he might, he could not forget it.
He was a great man, and the greatest rival, who had always been a step ahead.
That man ―Gazef Stronoff― his death was a very real loss to Brain.
To Brain, Gazef was no mere rival. His existence could not be summed up by just that one word.
It was because that man fought him during the martial tournament, because he had roundly defeated Brain and his ever-growing pride, because of Brain’s burning desire to defeat Gazef, it was because of all of these that Brain had become the person Gazef was not.
Brain Unglaus lived, grew and refined himself because of Gazef. The strength of the man called Gazef was enough for Brain to invest his life into surpassing it. He had been like an impassable wall… and the closest thing he had to a father.
And then, the thing he should have surpassed no longer existed.
Gazef Stronoff stood tall, like a majestic mountain, even as he passed into death in front of Brain.
Brain once saw the true meaning of power in the form of Shalltear Bloodfallen. So for a time, he had lost himself in depression and could not free himself.
Because he was overly confident and relied on the fact he was strong, when Shalltear smashed his confidence, he knew he was weak. The Brain who stood here now could admit that.
But Gazef was different.
“Ainz Ooal Gown must surely be a monster of the same caliber as Shalltear Bloodfallen. And Gazef challenged him anyway.”
At that time, Gazef did not request the duel for a worthless reason like his own survival. The conviction he displayed was completely different from the way Brain had flailed his sword wildly at Shalltear while crying like a baby.
What on earth made him do that?
“I don’t understand. Why didn’t you run?”
Forcing the words out was like coughing up blood.
“Why did you choose to die? Wouldn’t it have been fine to run from that monster? Wouldn’t it have been like conserving your strength? Why?! If you had to die, I wanted to go with you!”
If he couldn’t surpass Gazef, then he wanted to die with him.
Brain turned his vision to the weapon at his waist.
It was Razor’s Edge, which he was temporarily allowed to carry.
Brain drew Razor’s Edge, and activated the martial art.
“「Fourfold Slash of Light」.”
The technique Gazef used to defeat Brain in the martial tournament.
Four arcs of light cleaved the nearby railing to pieces. There was virtually no resistance and the blade flowed through the metal like it was water.
“You… like this… I admired you… I wanted to die with you. Why wouldn’t you let me fight by your side? Why didn’t you tell me that I could die with you!”
Brain covered his face.
His eyes were hot, but the tears did not flow.
At this moment, a steady sound of footsteps filtered into Brain’s ears. Only one person would come here.
“I heard that when men get older, the tears don’t flow any more. I guess that’s true.”
“I think the pain of losing someone precious to you has nothing to do with age.”
It was the hoarse voice he expected.
“…Forgive me, Climb-kun. In the end, I left everything to you.”
Brain rubbed his eyes, and sheathed his sword. Climb stood before him, a bizarre expression on his face.
“However…well, even if I was there, it would have been useless, right? Under these circumstances, nobody’s going to try and kill the King. Tell me, what happened after that?”
“Yes. Because Prince Barbro hasn’t returned until now, they decided to send out a search party for him.”
And because they couldn’t spare enough soldiers for this duty, they were planning to use adventurers instead.
“After that, there was the matter of ceding E-Rantel ― it was a unanimous decision. All the nobles approved. Even the King agreed.”
Even the nobles of the Royal faction had approved.
During the demonic disturbance, the power of the royal faction had grown. Although this increase in power meant that they could mobilize the vast army they had sent to the Kattse Plains, it also meant that the grievous losses they suffered there would have massive consequences. And if they gave away E-Rantel, which was directly administered by the Crown, then the royal family would be the ones losing the most. This was probably done purely out of the desire to survive.
This time round, the royal faction had been severely weakened, while the noble faction had grown stronger.
What would all of this mean for the future?
He inadvertently glanced toward Climb, and saw his body shaking.
He wasn’t trembling in anger, but in fear. He must have remembered the horrific sights from back then, and his trembling was probably a sign that he was screaming internally. That absolute despair must still be coiling around his body and heart.
“…Even now, when I think about them, my body shakes uncontrollably.”
‘They’ must have been the inhumanly strong things at the battlefield.
In his memories, he saw Climb standing with him, against the Sorcerer King. Maybe he knew the answer, he thought.
“Hey, tell me something. Why did Gazef ask for the duel?”
Climb’s face was a picture of surprise. Just as he was wondering if he hadn’t spoken clearly, and was about to repeat himself, Climb answered him.
“This is just my personal opinion, is that all right?”
“Ah, well, it’s fine, go ahead.”
“…Could it be that he wanted to show it to us?”
“…Show what to us?”
“The power of the Sorcerer King, Ainz Ooal Gown. And then… he must have wanted to give us a future.”
“Yes. It was so that we’ll have some tactics and information in case we have to do battle with him in future.”
That was a bolt from the blue.
It fit perfectly. Climb had the right answer.
That man had bet his life in order to squeeze out what little information he could for them. Although, he didn’t think that the Sorcerer King, as a magic caster, would willingly enter melee combat again without bodyguards by his side. Even so, he still staked his life on the miraculous, hope-against-hope possibility that it might happen again. Then, who would he entrust that opportunity to?
Brain laughed at himself. I never even thought that might be the case.
In that case… how would he live on, now that he knew what Gazef’s thoughts were.
As Brain lost himself in thought, Climb asked a question, as though he were unable to bear the silence.
“…If I’m not wrong, Stronoff-sama won’t allow himself to be revived?”
“Gazef was that kind of man.”
Even if they used resurrection magic, it didn’t necessarily mean the dead would come back to life. The legends said that people who were happy with their lives would refuse resurrection.
“The King doesn’t seem to have accepted that yet.”
“That’s only to be expected. However, that guy won’t be back… Still, it’s quite a surprise.”
“Yes. I don’t understand what Gazef-sama was thinking. Shouldn’t he come back to life and continue pledging his loyalty? It’s what I would do.”
“Is that so? As for you, Climb, I think you would do that. As for me… don’t bring me back after I die. I’m not happy with how I lived and… I don’t think I could bear to go on with it.”
“For my part, I would still choose to return. I want to grind this body to dust in service to Renner-sama, if I can afford to.”
Only one person in the Kingdom could use resurrection magic. There was no doubt the price she would ask would be staggering… but that was the price of defying the grave.
During the demonic disturbance, all the adventurers technically belonged to the same team so there was an exception, but under normal circumstances, resurrection would cost a sizeable amount. It was a sum that would make one’s eyes pop out, and normal civilians or soldiers could work their whole lives and never be able to afford it. The same went for Climb.
Your Princess-sama would gladly pay up, Brain didn’t say. Instead, he replied, “Is that so?”
The silence descended on them again. This time, Brain broke it.
“I really wanted to defeat that guy…”
Climb didn’t answer. And Brain didn’t want him to answer either. No, if he thought about it rationally, these words were useless to Climb. However, he didn’t know why, but he had to say them, all the things he’d been piling up in his heart.
“In the past, I lost to him. So I thought I wanted to beat him. But now, that’s impossible… Ah, I let him get away,” Brain said as he looked to the night sky. “Dammit…”
What should I do?
What should I do about Gazef’s will?
“No, it should be like this. What am I confused about? There’s only two choices. Carry it on, or don’t carry it on. I want to… triumph? Ah, is it like that…”
Wasn’t there only one answer, in the end?
Brain’s face sported a fierce smile, and he raised Razor’s Edge to the sky.
“Hmph! Anyone can carry it on or whatever!”
Brain shouted loudly, from the bottom of his heart.
“You chose to die! How dare you take the easy way out! Go regret it in the other world! I ― I will, I will surpass you in my own way! Climb! Let’s go drink! Let’s get some wine and have some fun!”
He didn’t know what to do.
However, he knew that he didn’t want to simply inherit Gazef’s will. If he did that, no matter what he did, he’d never be able to beat him.
Besides, in future, he’d probably end up thinking about Gazef over and over again. But for now, he could lose himself, and forget.
He clapped his hand on Climb’s shoulder, and forcefully stepped forth. The weight on his hands seemed to lighten, if only a little.
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