I told him.
It is not my intention to leave this scar upon your heart.
However, that I am someone so dear to you makes me incredibly happy. It is a point of pride for me. Perhaps it was too much of me to have said this.
——You are already a tool no longer.
From now on, you must live on as a “person.”
And then… the ebony knife pierced through my chest.
Yuuki interrupted his reminiscing, gazing outward through an open window.
The weather was fantastic.
The warm rays of the sun felt wonderful. Yuuki stretched and returned to work… only to notice a young girl’s head, sticking halfway out of the entranceway, watching him.
“…What are you doing, Tina?”
“Um, um… Tina’s done cleaning the store, and we’re ready to open. I was going to report to you, Master, but you were lost in thought. ——M-Master, can I ask what you were thinking about?”
My most bitter memory – such an answer would be pretty meaningless, wouldn’t it?
“I pulled back the bandage to see how the wound was doing.”
“Y-You’re hurt? Let me see!”
Tina’s frantic expression made Yuuki burst into laughter.
“It’s okay. It’s already fine… though it’s left a scar.”
It still was anything but a happy memory, but he found the pain thereof had left him. It didn’t matter how grievous the wound, as long as you survived, time would heal all wounds.
“T-That’s good to hear. ——But um, if anything does happen, be sure to let Tina know, alright? I’ll definitely be of use to you. I know I don’t really have any divine energy, b-but I’ll definitely find a way… to help you…”
She seemed a bit awkward.
“…Are you okay? You’ve sure seemed a bit off recently.”
She’d been full of enthusiasm just a bit earlier, only to sink into a depression in an instant. Her emotional ups and downs were quite drastic.
“It’s nothing!” Tina denied.
At the meeting a few days ago, Tina had formed an alliance along with the “Shinki who Supports the Sky,” Lea, the “Shinki who Scatters the Stars,” Elfriede, and the “Shinki Crowned with the Moon,” Kaya. That said, their “alliance” wasn’t anything complicated; they’d simply called a truce. A violation of the truce would inevitably create suspicion that the party in question was the Serpent of Demise, and thus even Elfriede would temporarily cease hostilities.
Arrangements to meet the remaining Shinki had been left in Lea’s hands and was something they’d left for the future.
“You sure don’t look like there’s nothing wrong. There’s no need to hide it, whatever it is; just go ahead and tell me.”
“…That’s the problem.”
“Hiding… Master, even if you say that, you’re always worrying about things by yourself, thinking of how you’re going to handle everything alone. Even the truce we formed, that was something you did. Not that I’m not grateful – I am – but… am I really not someone you can trust?”
The small Shinki looked up at Yuuki.
“That’s not how it is at all. You’ve been a great help.”
He wasn’t just saying it. He thought for a moment and then continued.
“Whatever it is that worries you, feel free to share it with me. I’ll answer as best and truthfully as I can.”
Tina looked slightly embarrassed.
“What concerns me is the thing with your former master. ——Did you really kill those adventurers?”
This time it was Yuuki’s turn to not know what to say. However, he’d just sworn not to hide anything from her.
“After Muriel became the Serpent, we thought up many ways to control her impulse to kill.”
The simplest way, of course, was simply to allow her to kill, but she’d rejected that out-of-hand.
Their second plan had involved allowing her to indirectly experience another’s death.
Yuuki had discarded the name of the “Snow Blade King” and had set himself to ending disputes between adventurers. It was about this time that the name of the “Black Demon” began to spread.
Unfortunately, before long, this ceased to be enough, and so the two had taken to hunting Void Beasts.
Although it wasn’t people that were dying, the fact that she was personally able to kill proved incredibly effective. Her mind and the impulse to destroy were constantly at war with one another, but he pushed her to kill those Void Beasts. If she were ever to kill a person, she would undoubtedly take her own life. That outcome had to be avoided at any cost.
That she had changed did not matter. All that mattered to Yuuki was that he be allowed to spend even one second more by her side.
“Alas, not long passed before something happened. ——Once, we were deep within the labyrinth when we caught sight of a Void Beast. Muriel planned to unleash her powers upon it.”
It had been a huge one. Killing it would calm her impulse for quite some time. Just as that thought had entered Yuuki’s mind… a party had appeared and killed the beast.
That had been Elfriede’s party. On the off-chance something terrible would happen, she’d brought not just her Duelist with her, but all of her finest subordinates from her Oath Legion. They had been plumbing the labyrinth’s depths looking for the finest Reliquia – the Dragon Fang Gems – as well as dispatching any Void Beasts in their way. They declared their claim over any and all Dragon Fang Gems.
Yuuki couldn’t care less. The problem was that Muriel’s passions had been denied an outlet.
“And so I killed the noisiest of their number. I figured if Muriel saw someone die then perhaps it’d ease things a bit.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
The thought that “I made Yuuki kill” became the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Her powers had rampaged out of control, killing every human present. Elfriede had only just managed to escape with her life by teleporting back to her temple.
Once Muriel had regained control of herself, she had determined to end her own life.
Yuuki had taken up his black blade and killed his master.
“Her wish that I ‘live on as a person’ were her final words to me. As well as my dream.”
“And that dream… has it come true?”
“Yes. She taught me how to laugh, what happiness was, how to help others – as well as the pain of loss. The pain that wracked my heart as I took her life was the final proof that I had indeed become ‘human.'”
He laughed, but the laugh never reached his eyes.
“She really was someone precious…” Tina murmured.
“Anyway, what happened after that you know. Old Man Boris picked me up, I entered the training school, and lived as I do now.”
Monstrous power, priceless Reliquia, even celestial Dragon Fang weapons had lost their meaning. Aside from the MorsBlack Death Seax, the symbol of his sin, he had discarded it all.
“I had originally planned on simply living like this for the rest of my life.”
“My plans have changed thanks to the appearance of a certain someone. ——Anyway, let’s open shop.”
Yuuki tussled the small Shinki’s hair and made his way to the store.
Franka was visiting as usual.
“Good morning,” Yuuki replied in turn.
“…Did you two have a fight?” Franka asked, looking at Yuuki and Tina’s expressions.
Before Yuuki could answer, Tina threw herself at Franka with tear-filled eyes.
“The opponent’s too much. I lost without ever having a fighting chance. And I feel worse and worse. What do I do? What do I do?”
“I get it now. …Accepting everything takes an open heart, hard as that may be.”
“I have no idea what you two are talking about, but getting along as you do, you sure look like a pair of sisters.”
At his words, the two looked at him with complicated expressions carrying just a hint of reproach.
During the incident a few days before, Franka had brought Selim and Edgar safely home. She’d run into her brother, whom had been investigating the situation, and he’d seen them home.
“By the way, I ran into Nii-san on the way. He’s apparently decided to form a new party and continue his work in the Legion.”
The siblings had once walked different roads, but that gap seemed to have closed just a little.
“It seems like he’s run into a bright young girl and a quiet one. A support specialist and a cleric, I think? I introduced them to this store, so you might meet them later on.”
“I’ll keep an eye out, but I don’t expect too much,” Yuuki replied with a bitter laugh.
Recently, their store had had some new customers.
Edgar and Selim visited whenever they had free time. That said, they only came over to play, and never bought anything, so it was hard to call them customers.
Next were Kaya and Jahar. He’d formed a pact with them aside from the truce. Jahar would bring Reliquia and Yuuki would share intel with them as well as advise them on how to deal with the other Shinki, forming a united front.
When it came to Kaya’s relationship with her Duelist, she was as polite as ever though she now seemed capable of making her position known. Her former cowardice had not reappeared. Jahar, on the other hand, didn’t seem to know what to make of Kaya now. Indeed, it seemed her sneak attack and the hole she’d left in his chest had left him with a healthy respect for his master.
Alfred was the same as always, and came and went as he pleased. Even now that his identity as an observer had been exposed, he hadn’t changed in the least. Yuuki wasn’t sure if he was just slow or if he just really didn’t care. That said, Yuuki had no intention of blaming him for anything, and so it didn’t matter.
Tina conversed with Franka as she organized the store inventory.
Yuuki had noticed how she couldn’t help but compare herself with his former master, Muriel.
He pondered inwardly whether he should tell her that there was no need for such things. He was pretty sure that she wouldn’t listen if he said as much, though. What should he do?
He’d never had to worry about such things during his time with Muriel. His relationship with Tina was quite different. It was pretty unfathomable.
(——”This Shinki, Albertina, declares that ‘even if I die,’ I trust him!”)
Yuuki thought back on Tina’s words.
She had likely noticed that he’d overheard her. It had been thanks to that sentence that he’d finally managed to free himself of his tortured past, and had had the resolve to once again take up that which he had once sealed, the MorsBlack Death Seax.
Muriel had been his savior. And now, with great force, Tina dragged him ever forward.
When a Shinki died, another would be born in their place. When the Serpent of Demise perished, another took its stead.
What had caused such a situation?
Was there another path that bypassed all this death?
This, above all else, he wanted to have made clear. In order to repay those two.
“Master! The price tag on this sword’s fallen off – how much is it?”
“Give me a moment. I’ll take a look.”
Yuuki made his way to the side of Tina, gesturing exaggeratedly, and Franka, smiling faintly.
Yuuki Takamigahara was unable to protect this world. However, from the bottom of his heart, he wanted to protect this scene.
The difference between a “tool” and a “person” came in whether or not you could feel pain.
Yuuki wished to never again have something stolen from him by this system that had been constructed by some unknown force, and operated for some unknown reason.
And so… with these two hands, he’d change this world.
Translator notes and references