That shining back is burning bright above all
Editing: Skythewood, Deus ex-Machina, yuNS, AMetroid
― Father was a quiet man.
I could vividly remember him every time I closed my eyes. He did not get easily excited and was like a man devoid of emotions, simply sitting on his wheelchair like a statue: Yakagi Kazamitsu.
He simply sat on the rocking chair by veranda and looked out at the endless sky beyond the window.
He was the best magician of the eastern world. He was the very epitome of “silent” and rarely spoke. He stood by the saying that words have consequences ― but the relationship between me and my father, even if you excluded the fact we were a magician family, were far from normal.
We had small, everyday conversations but never anything deep. Only thing that was close to a deep conversation was when he was teaching me magic.
After teaching the mysteries of magic. After teaching the attitude of a magician. And then, only then, did he speak as if he remembered all the passion he had forgotten somewhere in life about the philosophy of the Association: To establish the research topic that the leader of the Association spoke of.
There lied what he sought after. He spoke of it it like a habit: to seek out the mystery and realize one’s potential.
If anyone else heard it, they would think it’s some child’s wild dreams.
I thought so too when I was young. When my father enthusiastically spoke of the philosophy of the Association, I asked why he clung onto something like that. He remembered the days he could never return to and spoke of it only once.
― He had a woman he wanted to protect.
She was a woman who was cursed with the curse of destruction. A woman who went hand in hand with cold rain and sadness filled with pain. A woman who couldn’t blossom in both light and the dark. She was a pitiable woman who was shunned by others for her fate to meet an unhappy end and lived in a hellish state of no one even glancing at her way.
She was always beside father and always cried in his arms. Father said even he had seen her truly smile only once. He said even the smile on her last moment was her trying to console him. He had promised to protect her until the end, but couldn’t keep that promise.
― I couldn’t protect your mother.
That’s what my father said before he passed away. In the last moments of subjugating a dragon which revived. While pressing down on the wound he received from protecting me as he was about to deliver the final blow to the dragon. Why was he telling this story just now? There were plenty of opportunities before. Why did he keep that story all wrapped up to himself. Keeping it secret even to his only child.
When I asked that, he replied.
He didn’t want to burden me with it.
I was a child born between an unlucky woman and a foolish man. From the moment I was born, a relationship with a cursed person was forced on me. If he talked about it, I would chase after the Research Topic like he did, and would walk down the path of hopelessness just as he did.
That was why he didn’t talk about it.
Then why was he saying it now? Did he have a change of heart and wanted to come clean with everything? Why did he swear never to reveal the secret, yet told me all about it just then?
It was a question that didn’t need an answer. It was because he suddenly became talkative while on the death’s doorstep. More than he had ever spoken. Even more so than when he taught me magic.
Was his sigh born out of self-deprecation of the hopeless path he had trodden thus far? Or did he simply feel pitiful at his talkative self?
After his sigh, he said something that didn’t suit him.
― That he still had regrets. It didn’t matter if his body rotted and disappeared from the face of the earth, but the memories of the dreams he shared with her, the emotions they shared, he didn’t want it to all disappear along with his body.
His feelings never reached their fruition, and it was a path filled with pain and worries. Even then ― he wanted at least me to remember them. That there was a man like him and a woman like her. That they had dreams together. That there were days they walked together in pursuit of their happy future.
It was out of nowhere. Also, what was I supposed to do when he confessed his feelings like that in here of all places? There was only one answer I could give him.
Yea, there was no choice. I was a magician just like my father was.
But ― what he said lingered around me.
“― Suimei, if there was anything I’ve chosen in my life, it was magic and Shizuma. Now, I have only you to rely on. So I implore you. Find the Association’s philosophy. If the truth the leader seek really exist, then there is no one who can’t be saved in this world. So ―”
― Save the women who cannot be saved in my place.
After leaving behind the word “Sorry”, the man who dreamt of a happy future with his family passed away. Without even listening to my replies.
As if he already spoke everything he wanted to say. Like a real statue this time. The dreams he had imagined in the sky just beyond the window. Without ever being able to see the happy family he had hoped for.
He was willful. He forced me on an abnormal path, a dangerous path. And to preach such a happy dream to me.
It all felt abrupt.
So that’s why. That was why I shouted at the dragon that was letting out its last roar.
― I will achieve your dreams. At any cost.
… Yes, there was a day like that. The day I howled at the grief of losing my father. The oath I shouted back then. I never once felt my actions were wrong since then. Thus, after chasing the mystery, here I was.
To walk towards the end of the path and prove that there was nobody who cannot be saved.
It was a childish dream. It wasn’t realistic and there was no feasible chance of reaching the end of the path. It was more faint than looking for a slightest outline of a figure in thick morning fog. But I wanted to achieve that dream. It was a dream that I wanted to achieve.
Science and magic. Regardless of the discipline, the wisdom that is said to lie at the end after solving the laws of nature: the Akashic Records.
Past, present, future and the astral plane as well. The record which contains everything. If a happy future for those who could not be saved was written down, then they could be saved. The leader’s philosophy to pursue happiness for all. If someone could find the record, it would validate that the path those two had trodden on was not pointless.
The oath like confession now was a vow.
“.... Father, the words you left behind might have been a curse binding my future. But I am your son and a magician. I want to see what you chased after. So ―”
Just like you, I will go to save those who could not be saved. I will save them no matter what. In this world as well as that world.
I closed my eyes and slowly chewed on my oath. Never forget. I steeled my resolve once again. I will save her. I will save that girl crying from the misfortune she has to carry with her.
When I opened my eyes, a disgusting desert filled my sight. Just glancing at those creatures filled with evil and malice was enough to make me feel disgusted. They were swarming like maggots on a piece of rotten carcass.
It was a funny situation. I made all that ruckus back in the castle because I didn’t want to run into something like this. Now here they were. What a cruel irony.
I blew away any sense of self-deprecation with that snort. I remembered what Rajas said to Lefille and glanced left and right furiously. They were probably that thing’s subordinates. How many of them were there? Thousand? Ten Thousand? It was no use thinking about it now, but I didn’t like how many of them there were.
Suimei took a step forward towards the sea of monstrosities.
They probably noticed his movement as the mazokus rushed to attack. Creatures that were touched by the breath from the god of death which preys on this world from outer realm. They were minions befitting it. Possessing neither mana, nor qi, nor astral body, they were abnormal and irregular creatures that possessed black aura-like power.
It was annoying. What was a mazoku? They were creatures principally opposite to human in fantasy setting like a game or a novel. Why do I, a modern magician, need to fight something that comes out in a fairy tale? It was annoying. The philosophy of the Association. The dream father chased after. Why am I fighting a Demon King hell bent on destroying the world instead of chasing after my small dream―.
That’s right. My other deep inside self came to a realization and looked at me with its cold eyes. Ahh… I was sick of it. Sick of it all.
Mazokus bared their claws and charged at Suimei even as he closed my eyes and sighed. They simply rushed forward like a charging boar, as if they knew nothing about fighting.
“Ex hoc loco evanescent.” (Return to dust.)
With a chant, a lightning bolt streak past the body of the Mazoku. All that’s left was a blue magic circle and a magical symbol. The mazoku flew back along with its now amputated arm, and Suimei didn’t even look at these shattered pieces.
Suimei could feel a cold psychic aura from inside the wall of bodies and focused in that direction, and increased his powers. Were they trying to cast some sort of magic? The spell bore some resemblance to the evil cult that worship the evil god of Solomon’s 72 pillar, as they transformed their black aura into fireballs.
The flame flew relentlessly. Needless to say, it was headed for Suimei.
But it was slow. Compared to a HEAT round fired from a tank, it was slow in comparison. Even at a glance, by the time the flame took shape and flew over, Suimei could have cast three spells.
He didn’t even bother looking at the fireball and sidestepped. The fireball simply passed on by.
Its firepower wasn’t great either. If Suimei really wanted to defend, he could have casted a spell that could block a stream of metal jet travelling at mach 20 that would pierce any armour. So there was no need to worry about some mediocre explosion behind me. He only needed to look forward.
Even if there was a mazoku attacking from air, there was no reason to let it pass by him.
“Et cadens in terram.” (He shall fall to the ground)
A single phrase. His right feet, which was imbued to the limit with mana, stepped on mazokus that were stuck flat on the ground without any heed. They were weak. Suimei thought there was something wrong with himself to consider them a threat. If you knew how to fight, this was how things were. They were even less of a tripping hazard than a small pebble.
Suimei was a fool. He was a fool, but he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop because he promised.
― I decided to break out. Through this road.
― That’s what I decided. I will follow this path.
Even if I fall or tumble, I will never give up this route. I resolved myself there.
To prove that it’s possible to save someone if you wanted to save them. To reach the Akashic Records and realizing father’s dream. My father’s and my dream.
It was foolish to simply cut through the middle of mazoku army. But this path definitely lead there.
“―Archiatius overload.” (Mana furnace overdrive)
With the spell, what appeared at the tip of his feet was rainbow coloured magic circle. What was its diameter? A magic circle roughly five meters in diameter containing complex pattern of numbers and letters awakened as if it had been waiting.
And the mana that was released. The mana source rotated with exploding sound at furious pace when the core overloaded. There was enough mana to cause lightings and they sent out shockwaves all over the place. Furious tornado struck, ground exploded and the mazoku’s fence flew high into the air.
The ground shook and groaned. The scenery of everything in the vicinity being shattered and turning into dust was a masterpiece. Once the mana overdrive stopped, the abnormal creatures gathered like a cloud and charged once again like an avalanche.
Suimei shook off the dust on his coat from the mana whirlwind. The mazokus in front of him still filled the plain. Funnily enough, he remembered was what his father said.
“A hopeless path huh…. Fufu― Just the way I like it!”
In front of the swarm of those abominable creatures, Suimei spat out those words.
He didn’t care about the Demon King. He didn’t care about going back to my world for now. Suimei just didn’t want to give up protecting that girl.
Was that sharp voice the shout to resolve her fighting spirit or the despair of a girl fighting against futility?
Lefille carried her outburst of emotion onto her honed sword and delivered a flare like attack to Demon General Rajas.
The strike created glowing crimson mana wind. Mana wind would normally cut through the earth, the mountain, the sky, without discriminating the size of the target. However, Rajas simply blocked the attack with his dark aura surrounded arm.
The power of the spirit which had exterminated countless mazokus and monsters thus far couldn’t even scratch his skin and the aura was enough to deflect the attack. It was as if Rajas himself was saying that kind of power was laughable.
“Hahaha!! What’s the matter, swordsman of Noshias? Is that the best you can do?”
She replied his ridicules with a scream. What she struck next with was another crimson strike, the ‘May Rain’. Rajas countered the wild yet regulated strike directly with his ominous aura-filled fist.
Red lines collided with dark lines and retracted. It was a clash of strength. The ground both party stood on could not withstand the power and cracked with each exchange between the sword and the fist.
Lefille was losing. If Lefille and Rajas’ strength could be put on scale, it would lean towards Rajas. If she retreated a single step, he would advance two steps and if she swung ten times, he would counter eleven times.
Whatever she did, she couldn’t win against Rajas. The number of wounds on her body only grew.
Amidst flurry of attacks, Rajas prepared to launch a massive strike to finish the fight. She noticed it ― but her body didn’t listen. Normally, she could deliver five strikes while the opponent was preparing for such a cumbersome attack, but because of the injuries to her hand, even a single strike was difficult. She barely withstood Rajas’ fist using the giant sword as a shield.
She groaned at the shockwave that bore through her body and retreated.
When she knelt on the ground and breathed harshly, Rajas spoke with a mocking laughter.
“Kukuku. This is just like the repeat from that time”
“Yes. Repeat from when we attacked your home. Just like that time…”
She could remember her home when he spoke of it. Just as Rajas said, the day when mazokus invaded Noshias. She could never forget that sight. While battling the endless tide of mazokus, what appeared amongst a sea of minions was Rajas. With immense strength standing above any mazoku, it destroyed everything in its path.
In the face of overwhelming strength, she knelt just like now.
Blaming herself for not being strong enough while watching her comrades get mercilessly slaughtered before her eyes. After that, she fought him multiple times at different places and time until the capital fell, but the results were only repeated.
At the end of every battle was her kneeling and someone sacrificing themselves to save her. Comrades and friends. It was always someone precious to her.
They sacrificed themselves protecting her, someone who lost to mazokus.
When she was moaning from the resurfacing memories, Rajas raised a corner of his mouth.
“Isn’t that right? You cannot win against me with your strength.”
She couldn’t win. It stuck to her heart. It was already proved. It was the fact. Merciless words that denied everything she stood for. It was like a sound of distant thunder. It was loud and noisy like a coming thunder cloud. Rajas’ voice was the same. Loud miscellaneous noise buzzed in her heart.
“Do you feel scorned? Seems like I’ve nailed it on the spot. ― But you, you ran everytime. Even though you claimed that you would protect your people and comrades so loudly, you showed your back to us many times. You always refused to fight to the end.”
“Shut up…. SHUT UP…..! Shut your damned mouth!”
“Shut my mouth? So you want to hear nothing of your cowardice? Seems like you’re not proud of it. Kuku ― I suppose everyone wants to hide their shame. You don’t want others to see it. You don’t want others to criticize you for it. Especially so since you know what a shame it is. But didn’t you abandon those who went to their death? Didn’t you run because you wanted to save your own precious life? Is anything I said wrong?”
She wanted to smash that smug smile and attitude as if he saw through everything. He knew nothing. Nothing about her, who had to crush her heart many times due to her fate. Nothing about those who sacrificed themselves to protect her. Nothing about the emotions involved. Knowing nothing.
“Do you know what happened to every human after you escaped Noshias?”
“W, what are you talking about…?”
“Your comrades, your friends and your family. I’m talking about those who risked their lives to smuggle you out. In the end, they suffered.”
“What did you do to them…..”
“What did I do? I ripped off their limbs and played with them slowly until they died! I remember it being fun. They tried to sacrifice their lives for something they believed in, but they all screamed in pain, fear and eventually cursed your precious goddess. Well, they didn’t show much reaction at the beginning, so it was somewhat boring. Ku-hahahahah!!!!”
His laughter shredded her heart. Scenes played out in her mind that appeared and disappeared as Rajas spoke. It was the sight of those who met an agonizing end. How painful would it have been? How much would they have put up with? How much did they despair? The empty eyes of those who had died for her gazed at her. Voices of the phantoms that doesn’t exist seeped into her heart.
“Nonsense… father… everyone…”
“Do you see now? Do you see what happened in your home and the pitiful end of your beloved ones? Hahahahah!”
“How dare you… how dare…!!”
“Are you angry? Are you unable to contain your anger? Swordman of Noshias, this is your punishment. It is a fitting punishment for running away every time.”
She rushed at Rajas who was saying that she was the cause of it all. It was a strike with all her spirit. It was an attack without a form nor balance. It was almost a foolish frontal strike that lost all shape due to rage and chaotic emotions.
But it was deflected. Rajas’ fist deflected the sword and more mocking words flew her way. Everything was insufficient. Her sword. Her emotions. Her shouts. Everything.
But it wasn’t over yet. It was when she clenched her teeth to deliver another strike.
With a sneering voice, aura that had been circulating in Rajas’ hand quickly expanded.
― It was
Despair that seem to sap the strength from her entire body revived.
The scene she had watched multiple times from Rajas’ hand passed in her mind like a phantasmagoria. Her spirit, which had been driven by rage up until this point collapsed. This was that magic. The reason why Rajas was called the “Demon Chief”. It was Rajas’ ultimate magic that disintegrated a fortress without a trace in a middle of battle from that time.
A crimson coagulated mass expanded to form a bead big enough to swallow a grown man ― and maintained its form. It stopped momentarily like a calm ocean before a storm, and started to shake as if it was the signal for its release.
There was no way to dodge it. It was powerful enough to destroy an entire fortress. It was not an attack one could dodge due to its wide area of effect. Only thing she could do was draw as much power from the spirit to protect herself.
― and a dark tidal wave swallowed her whole.
Ominous dark energy surrounded her. It felt everything was being destroyed. It felt everything was being taken away. Amidst darkness that seem to prophesize the end, all five senses went away.
…. And after what felt like an eternity, everything around her was gone. Trees, rocks, the adventurer’s corpses, that girl’s corpse, everything.
She could withstand the attack. But what’s left was only her battered body after having spent all her strength. It was the same as before. A repeat. Only her, who possessed strong spirit power, survived. Carrying only the burden of guilt and pain of a survivor.
Her entire body was pulled as if it was pinned to midair. Then.
“Let me go ― Kuuh!”
A fist found its mark on her stomach. A heavy strike from an arm as thick as a log broke through the weakened spirit defense and impacted her intestines.
Rajas, filled with gratification, raised a corner of his mouth and a flurry of fists commenced at the same time. Countless strikes. Countless strikes without an end. The boulder like fists all found their mark. The pain-filled moans flowed out from her mouth every time the fist struck. Only sound she could make was pain-filled moans that pleaded to stop.
In the end, she threw up everything in her stomach. Then her body was discarded onto the ground like a piece of tissue.
“Ha ugh, ha… ugh…”
She lay flat on the ground writhing and drooling as she opened her mouth to breathe. It was as if she became a caterpillar, no, something even lesser.
Everything was painful. It was painful. Her heart hurt even more than her body. Physically and mentally. After withstanding countless attacks from Rajas that slowly gnawed at her heart, she couldn’t move her body. She couldn’t put her strength into anything. She couldn’t think anything. She wanted to give up on everything.
But Rajas didn’t stop his attacks.
“Did you try to protect others with only that kind of strength?”
A question flew at her while she was trying to stand up, using the sword as a support. It was meant to make her think about it, but there was no need to think about it. There was no meaning in thinking about it either. Because―
“So, were you able to protect them?”
She already knew it.
“If you could go back in time, do you think you can change the outcome?”
She already knew. So―
“That’s right. You can’t protect anything. Not a single person.”
― please, stop….
Everything was as Rajas said. Not just her comrades from back home, but she couldn’t protect the merchants as well. Even if she went back in time, it would have been a repeat. That despair, those tears, she couldn’t stop them.
She could never win against this mazoku. That was right. Never.
It was painful. The cold reality was more cruel than the physical pain. Bitterness of having to hear that she couldn’t do anything. That was the main point.
“Acknowledge it, no, you’ve already started to acknowledge it, didn’t you? About what a pathetic existence you are.”
“I…. I am….”
“It was your fault. All of it. No exceptions. They all died because of you.”
“Isn’t that right?”
She dropped the sword that was supporting her and all strength went out from underneath her. Arms hung carelessly and shoulders drooped without any strength.
There was no strength left to hold on to the sword.
“― finally broken?”
A joyous voice that carried a conclusion pierced her body.
That was right. She was broken. There was no more will to fight against Rajas. Everything that was precious to her, all her pride, her body which had everything taken away from; She didn’t care what happened to it.
“Hmph. Now you don’t even have any worth for me to kill you personally. Just like your loved ones before you, it’s fitting that you die after being played around.”
She could see Rajas signal his subordinates after speaking. Several mazokus that were being protected by his dark aura immediately responded to his signal.
At the end of her fading sight, she could see mazokus drawing closer. Racing to be the first one to kill her. What came clearly in her sight were the claws that would rob her life, unkempt appearances, disgusting smiles and malice-filled murky eyes. Everything turned into a slow motion as they drew closer.
That was what flowed out of her voice.
….. Why was it? Why was her end like this? Was it not enough that everything precious to her was taken away, that she was humiliated and had lost? Did her heart had to be crushed as well? She wanted to live upright so far and lived upright until now.
But it was a mistake. Why was it a mistake? Why did it lead to such a tragic end.
Hope didn’t exist. Then who made the word “hope”? What was the word made for? It didn’t exist anywhere in the world.
That was right. It was useless to chase after a hope. It was useless to cling to it as well. Hope was nothing but a cruel trick to sink humans deeper into a pit of despair. How foolish was she for having believed such a thing existed until now?
What sprouted along with tears was a curse against the world that forced miseries on her. And―
What came out of her mouth was a desire truly like her. How could she wish for a salvation even after everything turned out like this. There was no way such a miracle existed in this world. Not a single chance, but―
Just as she was about to close her eyes against encroaching darkness, thundering noise passed by her.
Glowing blue lightning blinded her and everything became white. Mazokus that were attacking, sky filled with darkness, everything disappeared. The ruinous earth, Rajas, everything disappeared into the white light.
When the noise and the blinding light died down, all the mazokus that were rushing towards her had disappeared.
She looked around her. Without her noticing, someone gently wiped the warm tears that obscured her vision.
And there stood―
“Who are you?”
Something black fluttered. The one who stood before her was someone she knew. That boy who wore black and gave off a silent aura never seen before was―
― It was natural to close the eyes before a burning white light and let the after-images pass away. Suimei predicted when the light would disappear and slowly opened his eyes.
The atrocity that laid before his eyes made him fume quietly.
Aah, evil exist in this place as well. Evil that ridicules those who try to live honestly as foolish. Evil that steps on those soaked with tears and mourn. Evil that traps others in sadness and despair yet feel no guilt about it.
Evil that snatches away the pride of someone who strives for justice.
Evil that knows nothing of the nobility of those who fight to protect others.
That unforgivable evil.
That’s right. That evil incarnate which robs others of even tiniest shred of hope for happiness.
Admist the gradually flash of light, Suimei walk with a leisurely pace to Lefille and stood in front of her.
After the light disappeared, what soaked her eyes were tears. The torrent of tears were endless. Suimei wiped away those tears with his finger. He didn’t want her to cry anymore. He wanted the tears to disappear immediately.
Her eyes were swollen red from crying. Her battered body. The reason why it was pitiful just to look at her was because she had gone through unimaginable pain.
Suimei whispered “I’m sorry for being late”.
It was a soft voice that flowed out from her heart before it could fully become an emotion. It was like the last sigh before the light in her heart burned out.
She was a girl who spent countless days being sad, filled with pain, blaming herself and in the end, couldn’t forgive herself. Why did that girl, that kind girl have to suffer something like this? Why did the girl who was never greedy and pursued justice in the world have to suffer this kind of an end? Why did the world need to push only the people like her into the edge of misery?
― Those who make others cry, remember. That there is no rain of sadness that cannot be overcome.
― Those who cause others pain, remember. That there is no ember of pain that cannot be destroyed.
― Those who are drunk in evil, do not forget. That there is no place on this world for evil creatures such as yourselves to tread on.
“― Who are you?”
“A magician. Yakagi Suimei.”
I’ll prove it with my body that I am a modern magician right here and right now.
A gust of wind passed by: did the voice of the boy standing quietly beside her summon it, or was his voice the gust itself? A single phrase that passed by with a cold breeze in heated air. Rajas must have heard it as well.
Rajas frowned and repeated Suimei’s words. He didn’t recognize Suimei for a moment due to his different clothes, but soon made an expression of recognition.
“Yes, you’re that…. annoying mage kid from that time.”
Suimei remained silent, leaned sideways and stared down at Rajas. Rajas spoke in bemused tone as if he was pleasantly surprised.
“So, a mere mage managed to get here past all my subordinates. There should have been quite a lot of them, hmmm?”
“Yea, needlessly many. You seem to have scrapped all kinds of trash together. I almost threw up.”
“Seems like you had quite the fun with those trash. Considering your state, I can feel the genuineness of your words. Kuhahahaha!!”
Rajas smiled mockingly while twisting his words. But Suimei’s appearance was indeed pitiful. There were no visible wounds, but his black clothes were torn everywhere. Neither his stance nor movement felt spritely, his rough breathing felt somewhat laboured and there were even faint sword marks on his face. It showed that getting here must have been quite a chore.
Rajas looked at Suimei and asked as if he was still interested.
“― So? How did you get here? Did you go through them all or did you try to run?”
“I simply removed the ones blocking my path.”
“Hoo.. Talking big when you look like that.”
Rajas laughed mockingly again. Perhaps he saw Suimei and thought of it only as a bluff of a wounded person. The way Suimei talked confidently only appeared as a bluff from someone who did not like losing.
“So tell me. Why did you go through all that to come here?”
“I don’t think now’s the time to be nitpicky about a small detail like that.”
“... You’re not going to say you came to rescue that girl over there, are you?”
“What if that’s the truth?”
Suimei replied to Rajas’ question. He came to rescue her. To be her strength. Even though she refused his hand for help. Even though she didn’t need to do that. It was too late now.
Rajas noticed Suimei’s will and exploded into laughter a beat later.
“What?! HAHAHAHAA!! You really said something like that!! You came to save a girl in this situation?! You must be out of your mind!”
That was right. Just like Rajas said, he was out of his mind. He couldn’t have been thinking rationally to go through an army of mazokus to walk into the jaws of death. There was nothing he could gain by coming here. There was nothing a human could want. He would only have things to lose by coming here. But why?
“Do you think this wench is worth saving? This tramp who couldn’t save anything and ran from every battle to save her own precious life?”
What was he thinking, nodding with his eyes closed? He admitted that it was a foolish action and knew it in his heart. To him Rajas ―
“Fufu― what make you go so far for her? Isn’t it fine for you to avoid getting injured and simply ignore this wench? Isn’t it fine for you to forget about her as if she never existed in the first place?”
“I can’t do that. If I did that, I couldn’t save her.”
When Rajas frowned at the unexpected answer from Suimei, Suimei spoke challengingly.
“And saving the unfortunate. Saving those who cannot be saved is the path I believe in. I simply couldn’t abandon that path. So that’s why―”
That’s why I came all the way here to a place like this.
That was right. Suimei triumphantly declared himself. He declared that he was there to save her and to fight him.
Rajas looked stunned to hear the resolve of Suimei’s declaration for a moment, but soon let out a sigh.
Rajas mocked Suimei’ declaration.
“Uhahahah!!! How foolish! For that kind of reason! You came here for that?! You walk into the jaw of death going through my subordinates! And this is what you say? Saving those who cannot be saved? To think you came all the way here with that kind of useless ideal. There’s a limit to how stupid you can be!! Uhahahahah! It’s hilarious ―”
What stopped Rajas’ rambunctious laughter was Suimei’s cold reply.
A gust of wind: colder than the chilly wind sweeping the northern lands froze everyone’s heart and took away even the sound of laughter, and sound of fear, as if they were not necessary.
What filled the area was chilling cold. It was not that the temperature was cold. There was a source of coldness that was enough to flay skins and rob consciousness. Areas that had just been heated up by Rajas’ spirit appeared as if they had turned into a sheet of ice. And the boy who created this situation, Suimei, looked at the Demon General who laughed at his resolve unwaveringly in the eyes.
“.... Boy, you better change the way you’re looking at me. I don’t like it.”
“You think I’m going to listen to you?”
“Then I’ll make you listen by force!”
What came out of Rajas’ mouth was a roar loud enough to shake everything around them. The shockwave stirred up dust into the air and pebbles to shoot off in every direction. In a moment, an arm and a fist resembling an ancient oak tree trunk flew towards Suimei.
What resisted the arm that would turn everything in its path into a pulp of meat was a unique spell that Rajas never heard before.
“Primium ex puinoim excipio.” (Five-layered wall)
Five magical circles glowing golden formed from the tip of Suimei’s extended arm to form a shield. Whether it was drawn or formed, the shattered fragments came together to form their original shape.
The golden defense was perfectly on time. Rajas’ fist and Suimei’s magic collided.
Golden spark flew everywhere and whether it reached its limit or its purpose was different in the first place, the second magic circle flew back and so did the third circle.
The fist tried to penetrate the magical circle and the magic that that remained firm in place with golden sparks flying out from every punch. The ground cracked as it failed against the shockwave and windstorm swept the area. They soon formed a wind stream and dyed the air with the dread of the battle.
Amidst the exchange of shouts between both parties, the fourth magic circle started rotating. And then―
The massive force that was directed at Suimei suddenly changed direction. With a thunderous sound, Rajas’ immense body sheared the earth as it was thrown back over a hill by a tsunami of wind.
“Che. Even with the 5th Wall (attenuation wall) he only flew back that much…. Man, he’s unnecessarily strong…”
Suimei shrugged his shoulders while cursing Rajas, who had disappeared beyond his sight. But he was weakened as well. Considering how many he had to fight while coming to rescue Lefille, it was only natural.
Out of nowhere, he turned to face her, and―
“Stand up, Lefille. Let’s take him down.”
He said that towards me. Let’s fight together. The two of us can fight together. As if he wanted my co-operation― no, to encourage me, who had given up. They were sincerely genuine. The eyes that looked at me glowed mysterious crimson and shined honesty above all. Passion that shined through those eyes were like glowing red hot steel.They were passionate eyes. Eyes of a man who will never compromise his belief.
But I didn’t have enough strength left to stand alongside his resolve.
It was all used up in the battle with Rajas just before. So I couldn’t―
That was right. I could only drop my head and give up.
“I can’t. I can’t win against him. You can’t win against him and neither can I. He’s going to kill us both.”
“Oi…. Lefille, what happened to you?”
Suimei asked as if he was taken aback. He probably believed that we could combine our strength to fight. That two of us could defeat him.
But now, everything was hopeless. Because….
“We can’t win against Rajas. That mazoku is too strong. Even if we combine our strength, we can’t win.”
“How can you know without trying?”
“No, I can tell. Rajas is strong. Even the elites of Noshias’ army fell before him. We can’t defeat something like him with just our strength. It’s impossible. It’s both yours and my fate to die by Rajas’ hands.”
That was the way it was meant to be. It was an unchangeable fate. My prediction of the future probably sounded like me being weak to him. But it was the truth. No matter how strong one’s heart was, no matter how courageous one was, it was nothing but a midsummer night’s dream in front of those with absolute power.
Looking at the sight of me, Suimei dropped his shoulders and closed his eyes. Was he disappointed in me? He was looking down so I couldn’t tell his expression, but he was surely thinking that.
“.... Is that alright with you? Are you really alright with an ending like that?”
“Yes. I don’t care how it ends. I give up everything. I’m tired of it all.”
I could hear the reply. Did he realize it? The truth that everything was over already. There was no more need to resist. Everything will be fine after a few moments of pain.
Suimei was already standing with his back turned to her.
But that wasn’t the way she wanted him to be. That black robed figure was standing to meet the threat of Rajas head on.
“Then I’ll do what I want. If Lefille thinks that, then all I need to do is make that evil creature surrender.”
Suimei’s words showed his belief in hope. His belief was so short sighted, my own voice became harsh.
“What are you talking about! You don’t even know Rajas’ full power! Rajas is fundamentally different from the mazokus you defeated so far!”
“He probably is. But if I give up here, I can’t save you, Lefille and I can’t reach what I chased after either.”
Was what he declared triumphantly to Rajas just before what he was chasing after?
“To save who cannot be saved? You idiot! People who will be miserable will exist in the world! Anywhere and anytime. There’s no exception!”
“It’s all a fantasy! A fraud! A story that would come out in a child’s dream.”
“What about ‘even then’? If you say some empty words like that, does it suddenly save us?”
“..... That kind of thing, it’ll never be achieved. It’s impossible. Never….”
That was right. It will never happen. Somewhere in this world was a person going hungry. Somewhere in this world was a person collapsing from sadness. Somewhere in this world was a person dying with rage in their heart. And someone who could not be saved existed here.
There were no exceptions. Someone who could not be saved existed. Always.
He probably knew that, deep down inside. If he was someone with rational sense, if he faced the truth, it was a fantasy that he should have abandoned a long time ago.
But still, as if he was trying to explain something to a child who couldn’t understand, he swayed his head and―
“Lefille, that’s not something you decide. Whether I could save someone or not will be found out at the end of the path I walk.”
“What are you going to do chasing something like that? It’s abstract and uncertain. Do you think it will just end at not finding it if you keep walking down that path? At the end of that path is the despair of someone who was betrayed by hope.”
“But I’m not going to look back. Isn’t that right? My dream does not exist behind me. The day I give up my dreams, that man who swore an oath back then doesn’t exist anymore. So―”
― So, just watch me. The hope that I dream of. Watch me chases after my hope.
Why was that figure, who defeated my argument with simple ‘watch me’, so bright? It was the brightness of the soul that none had witnessed before.
Rajas who was thrown back returned, crushing the earth with each step. Glaring murderously, focused on Suimei.
“Boy, you dare…..”
“Stay down when you get thrown back, you fiendish bastard!”
With that roar, a ball of energy in Rajas’ hand grew exponentially. Black swallowed black and casted jaded purplish-shadows all around the area. It was Rajas’ magic that had obliterated a Noshias’ fortress and turned this land barren.
“It’s time for you and that wench to disappear forever!”
This was the end. The end. I didn’t have any more spirit powers left, so there is no way to withstand that attack. There was no magic strong enough to resist that kind of power in this land. That was why…
“Suimei…. That’s enough…. Let’s give up….”
Even though nothing would change, Suimei ignored my words and chanted magic as if that kind of attack was nothing.
“Non amo munus scutum omnes impetum invictus.” (My shield is not a shield. It is strong before any attack and unshakeable under any fire.)
The mana grew larger with the casting chant. Golden mana spread as if resisting the darkness and started rotating like a tornado.
“Invincibility immobilitas immortalis cumque mane surrexistant castle.” (Indestructible slab of rock, the castle decorated with golden light formed from the essence of the stars. Its name is...)
Each ray of the golden light split and headed to their respective destination as if trying to carry their own mission. They started to form into the shape of a glowing gold lightning. Clacking sound, as if they were fitting into each other, sounded and―
“Firmus congrega aurum magnalea!” (My sturdy and radiant castle)
At the end of Suimei’s chant, the magic circles came together to overlap each other. At the same time the magic circle formed, darkness swallowed the scenery as if it would take everything away.
…. This was the end. End of everything. The onslaught of Rajas’ attack would suck in both body and soul into darkness.
But― It wasn’t the end. I had closed my two eyes in anticipation of death. When I opened my eyes, Suimei and I were unharmed and still living.
After the cloud of sand settled down, I was not the only one standing in surprise.
“H, how could this be….?! My power was strong enough to blow away an entire fortress. Why? Why isn’t it working now?”
While a shocked voice rang out, there was a breathtaking sight happening nearby.
There were letters and numbers arranged geometrically projecting a barrier around the area. Golden mana light surrounded them. In the magic circle drawn on the ground, there were clock hands for hour and minute drawn on it. Other magic circles were spread out as if protecting the nearby vicinity. Big and small magic circles, and there were magic circles I had seen before as well. We were surrounded by numerous golden magic circles.
That was right. It was like a fortress of magic circles.
“Hmph― Don’t compare my golden fortress to something insignificant. This is a copy of a military base from the other world. If you wanted to penetrate it, your attack should have been several times stronger than the ‘Roar of the Red Dragon’ .”
“ ‘Other world’...? You mean you’re….”
“Hmph, that’s not of your concern!”
When Suimei extended his right arm, a silver-ish sword formed, and along with Rajas’ surprised voice, blew away dusts and debris alike.
Rajas finally seemed to have recognized him as a strong opponent and attacked with all his strength. The one who waited for Rajas to attack was Suimei. He eliminated the defensive fortress with mana and charged with the edge of the blade standing.
Rajas’s way of fighting was simple, but he was nimble and strong.
…. Rajas was gigantic. For a mere human, even a scratch from that fist would turn a man into pulp. But Suimei took this fight to the close-quarters.
That feeling of approaching death was palpable. Still, Suimei’s spirit did not diminish.
He dodged Rajas’ undiscriminating attacks and fought with the mana imbued silver sword while chaining words together to cast magic.
It was a difficult battle and even a single strike from Rajas’ fist was deadly. But he didn’t appear pitiable. As if he was saying that red hot resolve in his heart was the source of his energy, his back was sturdy like they were embedded with metal implants. His appearance of never bending and standing straight was stronger than anyone here.
Every time the mazoku’s qi brushed by his skin and clothes, small gashes increased on Suimei’s face and body. But he didn’t stop. The boy’s courageous roars dispelled oncoming tide of fear. All atmosphere that discouraged my heart, he repelled and penetrated through them.
… While he was fighting a heated battle with his wounded body, while he was soaked in the heat of battle, I came to my sense.
― Just what am I doing.
While he was fighting, I abandoned everything, denied all his words and just knelt there. I was simply watching. I decided that there was nothing I could do and just watched. I didn’t know for how long, but I watched.
What was visible was his back. That single minded back. That determined heart of a boy who wants everyone who cries at this unjust world to be happy. That shining back.
Save those who cannot be saved. His determination to say such a thing. Is it fine to be fascinated by him yet do nothing―?
Suimei’s body bounced off Rajas’ fist and flew back in front of me. He was hurt all over. But his strength to get back up, nor his determination did not diminish one bit. He stood up strong as if he was saying he didn’t lose yet.
I didn’t realize when but I was talking to him when I realized.
“Suimei…. Why do you go so far…..”
What drives you to go so far? When I asked that, he spoke curtly while still facing forward.
“Because I want to protect you.”
When I listened his words, something revived within me. The heated heart lying at the center of the broken heart.
“You know how it feels, right? You have someone you want to protect as well. You came here because you had someone you wanted to protect even if it cost your life, right?”
I wanted to protect. That was right. His thoughts and beliefs were the same as mine. That was why he was standing tall here no matter how much he was hurt.
Was it alright for me to give up like this? No, it wasn’t alright. I didn’t want that kind of an end. I never wanted that kind of an end. I wanted to run towards my dream once more. Never stopping, just like that boy with the same thought as me.
….. That boy charged towards the gigantic enemy once more. To push forward his belief.
When I realized it, I couldn’t sit by any longer.
So once more. One more time. Give me the strength to fight once more. I prayed dearly with my bloodied, pain-filled and unsightly figure.
“Our goddess, Alshuna. For me, who couldn’t change anything on my own. For me, who couldn’t change on my own. Please give me the courage to change myself just once. I implore you, just once. Just one more chance for me―”
It was a sincere wish and dearly prayed words. To encourage myself and blessing of revival to be able to grab the sword once more. But the goddess would never help. I already knew it. Because she didn’t exist in this world. She simply watched on. So all these words were to help myself change.
Then when I opened my eyes, my body was filled with strength that was not there before. As if the time I knelt and gave up was a lie, the weakness that occupied my heart did not exist anywhere now.
The one who gave me this strength, this courage, was that boy standing in front. He taught me to push forward with my belief. He showed me physically, he awoke me, so I could stand again.
I grabbed the sword I had dropped and swung with all my might.
The red wind created by the sword cut between Suimei and Rajas.
“Haaat― that wench?! Where did you get that strength?”
What greeted me, who stood up once again, was a face of shock and a face of happiness. There was no need to explain to whom each of the face belonged to.
The power of spirit. I released all the power I could muster. Red Wind. Everything dyed crimson as if the spirit of war and fire Ishaktoni’s crimson flash. Rajas couldn’t withstand the sudden gust of wind and stepped back.
“K..kuuh….. This is.”
Rajas blocked his face with his arms to avoid the gale. I spoke out my resolve while pointing the sword at him.
“..... Rajas. Watch closely with your own two eyes. This is the power that will exterminate you mazokus. The disciple of the goddess. Power of the spirit.”
“Power to destroy what? You’re just a wench who ran because you were afraid of death!”
“―Shut up….. I won’t run anymore to live like who I am right now! No matter what or who. Even from this fate!”
“You stupid girl! Only thing you can do is blabberrrrr!”
I faced screaming Rajas’ fist with the greatsword and crimson flash. A fist and an arm with strong aura extended this way, but I didn’t fly back this time. I wrapped the sword with the red wind and striked at Rajas’ fist, deflecting it.
“Kuuh! W, what?! That was completely different from before……”
The difference was natural. My weak self died moments ago, and what stood here was my new self. Attacks that pressed me until now didn’t work anymore. And I didn’t have the time to explain something like that to him.
I put even greater strength into my hands that were swinging the sword as if saying my ears no longer wanted to hear his baffled voice.
This round was different than just before. I didn’t fall behind in speed and my number of attacks were greater. The power of the attack was also enough to pierce him.
Perhaps he was shocked, but Rajas flailed his arms around randomly. It was random and inaccurate attacks, but luckily, Rajas spotted a chance for a critical strike. If it landed, it wouldn’t end at a mere injury. Of course, that was based on the assumption it would find its mark.
― So I became like the colour of light which surrounded me, a crimson flash.
No one could watch my movement to the end. The crimson wind surpassed all speed and left no shadow. The swiftness was wonderous. With speed fast enough to mistake for a teleportation, I moved behind Rajas’ back as if I was sliding.
“You wench, when did you―”
By the time he noticed and turned around, it was too late. At the same time I finished materializing, a precise strike slashed Rajas’ chest.
Rajas’ boulder like chest split open. It was not a fatal blow, but from the wound, the source of mazoku’s power, which had tormented her until now, steamed out.
This was the perfect opportunity.
“Gala varna!” (Basan)
I swung the greatsword above my head and struck like a flash with all my strength. With my posture so low I was almost touching the ground, a crimson flash erupted, taking the form of a gigantic strike and cut through the sky and earth.
Then the attack hit Rajas, who was surrounded with steam like source of power―but
Rajas was still alive and well despite having received Basan’s attack head on. There were cuts everywhere on his body with steam sprouting everywhere, but he was standing. He was struck with Suimei and my attack consecutively. Just how strong was this mazoku?
While my face was frowning with anxiousness and tiredness from consecutive attacks, Rajas suddenly took a huge step back.
I was tense wondering what his plan was, but his gigantic body turned around.
Was he planning to cut and run?
“What― stop right there!”
“... We’ll push back this duel to next time. Swordsman of Noshias.”
He probably decided that it was disadvantageous for him to continue. Rajas, who spoke as if he was outraged, attempted to escape. It seemed he had some strength left as he flew and moved far away in a blink of an eye.
I launched a torrent of attack towards Rajas as if I would cut his backside whole. But the speed of the red wind couldn’t match Rajas’. Crimson flash that couldn’t close the distance became weaker and turned into a normal breeze.
― He got away. There was no way to land an attack with that kind of distance. The story would be different if I could fly like Rajas, but I couldn’t.
That was why it ended here. I could finally get here thanks to Suimei. He helped me, but the enemy I needed to defeat managed to get away from the place where I was suppose to defeat him.
The duel was postponed to later. To end things in such a clammy manner… I just needed to take one more step… Just a little bit… If I surpassed him just a little bit more… Then I might have…
The duel was postponed to later. To end things in such a clammy manner… I just needed to take one more step… Just a little bit… If I surpassed him just a little bit more… Then I might have…
― It was when I bit my lips in dejection.
Intensity of mana rose behind my back. No, a lukewarm expression like “rose” wasn’t suitable to describe it. This was the shockwave occurring when mana explosively increased. And the one who was creating it was of course ―
Did this boy have no end to his mana? Did he still have strength left over after defeating the mazoku army, defend against Rajas’ attack and even fight him? He walked over here while maintaining his power. It was like he was taking a leisurely stroll and soon he stood beside me. And what rang out was the magician’s voice.
“Abreq ad habra.” (Death, you will be destroyed before my thunder)
…. Gigantic crimson sword-like wind turned to mere winds just behind him.
It was dangerous. To think that wench stood up again in no time. No, not only that, but to get even stronger. I don’t know what happened, but it was probably because of that mage brat.
He grinded his teeth after tasting the bitterness of retreating.
“I won’t forget this humiliation, humans. I’ll pay you back once this wound heals….”
Rajas flew towards even greater elevation while captivated by rage and muttering endlessly.
“...It might be dangerous to pass through a cumulonimbus cloud with this kind of injury, but it can’t be helped.”
What I looked at was the escape route I needed to go through. There was a possibility they could catch up if I flied too low. Considering how far away they were now, it wasn’t likely to happen, but this was after that dramatic reversal in battle. I knew I could hide for certain if I went past the clouds.
It was infuriating, but I had taken severe damage due to that wench’s counter-attack. If I just jumped into the cumulonimbus cloud in my current state, it wouldn’t be pretty. But now wasn’t the time to be concerned with something like that. This was the only way to go back.
― That’s right. It was the time to worry about penetrating through the cumulonimbus cloud.
I noticed it when I looked up.
My mind went blank at the unexpected turn of events. That was right―
There was no cumulonimbus cloud. Nowhere in the sky.
I was so surprised I looked around left and right furiously. Something that should have been there wasn’t there. That cumulonimbus cloud carrying thunder with it, that loud thunder, it was just there until moments ago.
I stared at the spot wondering if I was seeing things, but there was no cumulonimbus cloud. There was only the cloudy sky hiding the starlight.
There was thunder sounding from somewhere since some time ago. It was incredibly noisy even during the battle. But how could it have been? Where was the thunder noise coming from even though there was no cumulonimbus cloud?
I looked down in that moment.
I couldn’t say anything at the abominable plight occurring just under my feet.
At the end of the gaze was an incredible sight that stopped my breath. The army that was assembled in the plains, mountainside and the forest was nowhere to be seen. In their place were burning flames, and sunken earth.
Ones trapped in never-melting ice, ones boiling and melting in the sea of eternally decaying ocean of poison and acid. And on the ground was a figure with a familiar-like shadow. The most shocking thing above all was the fact the remains did not match the number of his minions.
The army I had brought wasn’t there as if they never existed in the first place.
“W, what happened here….”
There was no way something like this could have happened. Even if the humans sent an army, they could never create such a horrendous sight. I knew that extremely well from battles at Noshias. But if an atrocity like this happened here, there must be a culprit as well―
If there was a culprit, it was probably him.
― I simply removed the ones blocking my path.
That boy’s words came clearly to the mind as if he had whispered it into my ears. Those words and the atrocity below connected.
That was right. Before that boy reached me, my minions would’ve have blocked him.
And the one who stood in the centre of it all was that boy. That human who proclaimed himself a magician.
…. The thunder smashed the ground and the wind howled. It destroyed everything at random. The power generated by the boy at the centre threw back sands and stones, and turned it all into soot.
A shockwave. It was a shockwave. Because the power that formed the magic was too strong, the shockwave was annihilating everything around him. The way thunders pulverized everything around it, the way eye of the tornado was localizing, they were only miniaturized version of what would happen in the near future.
“T, that’s the precursor….? It doesn’t make any sense―”
― That was right. There was no way for the Demon Chief Rajas to know. Abra Merin, Abrahamic magic type. Commonly known as “Divine Magic” or “Holy Magic”. This magic was the most famous and powerful of the magics that burrowed power from holy guardian angels to repel, dispel and control demons ― Abrakadabra (Pour the thunder unto your death).
He took the spell as a framework and turned it into his greatest offensive magic spell against demons and ghosts using modern magic theories.
Behind the back of the man who appeared like a haze was a figure of a woman. There was no feeling of life from the figure shaped like a woman. It was as if the sculpture was made from colour of minerals existing between grey and grey. It was neither holy nor evil. But there was immense power emanating from it.
That sculpture opened its mouth wide and shouted to summon a pillar of lighting from the sky.
…. I had never seen something like that before. A mere human commanding this unknown power, a mysterious power. That kind of power was not something a human of this world could possess. Even if he was a hero called from another world, it was impossible. A hero received the goddess’ power when summoned. A hero could never possess an ability like that.
That was right. A hero was a being summoned with absolute blessings of the elements and strength far surpassing a normal human. But that man did not possess any of the traits. So it was not possible.
That was a magic without the elements’ blessing. It controlled uncontrollable ideas, changed the reality and changed this world created by the Goddess as it pleased. That thunder in front of my eyes was holier and more frightening than anything ever encountered before.
I’ve never heard of anyone possessing that kind of strength, that kind of abilities. No human in this world wielded that kind of unreasonable power. None whatsoever.
But where did that man.... How…
― Magician, Akagi Suimei.
“A magician….? What’s that?! That boy isn’t a mage?!”
The thunder split into thousands of strands, leaving torrent of echos after a loud noise and gathered at the centre of the pile of magic circles.
The sculpture shouted endlessly and blue flashing light filled up the world from the sky to the end of horizon. At the end of my sight was the face of a similarly shocked and resolved crimson eyes from that cheeky boy. And the unmistakable aura of death that cannot be dodged―
― Now, you evil creature that sucks on humanity’s despair like honey. Rot away and disappear before the association magicians’ holy path.
I could see the man’s lips moving clearly.
After that, he placed a finger at the centre of the magic circle.
In a moment, deafening thunderous noise passed by. Thousands of strands of light inside the radius of the magic circle formed a gigantic pillar and consumed everything in sight.
The darkness of the god of death I worshipped did not exist anywhere. Nowhere.
And thus, the Demon Chief Rajas screamed in rage before being sucked into a strand of light created by the holy thunder.
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