Forsaken Hero — Story 4-16

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Story 4-16  『The Lonely War』(Unfinished)

In short, the twenty-four hours felt very long.

In the meantime we made arrangements for the future. Since Katsuragi-kun is not here right now, I managed the meeting for the first time.

I collected everyone’s opinions.

Of course, the purpose was our counterattack.

We can not lose at all costs.

The main point was definitely whether or not we could bring Katsuragi-kun back.

“… So, for going to rescue Katsuragi-kun. I want to do it.”

Therefore, I bowed my head in request towards everyone who had already guessed as much.

“Sh-Shuri-san? Even if it was not obvious, the role is yours.”

“–No, I oppose it.”

Lily-san gave a counter opinion towards Arianne-san’s statement.

Since I expected her to say that, I bowed my head.

To show sincerity.

“… Certainly, you are the most suitable choice … However, is there a guarantee that Hero-sama will return if you go? I do not want to send someone with a half-baked resolution.”

Lily-san gave a dubious stare. I failed her trial. It was natural for her to feel uneasy.

… That’s right, I did not realize back then.

But I’m different now.

Thinking about it, I lost my way and suffered, arriving where I am now.

I’ll believe in this feeling in my chest.

“Yeah. I’m confident. Because, because I will bring him back.”

“… Is that the truth?”

“Do you know how much I love Katsuragi-kun? To the level of madness you know? Since I’m no good without Katsuragi-kun … I’ll do it, even if it costs my life.”

Lily-san’s eyes were clearly fixed on me as I announced that.

We stared at each other for several seconds before she averted her eyes. Grinning with her canines sowing, she stood up.

“… Got it. I’ll entrust it to you.”

“Yeah, leave it to me.”

“… Yuuma! We’re leaving too!”

Saying that much, she lead Yuuma-san into their room. Following that, Arriane-san and them also went back to their rooms.

With a few words from each, they supported me. I was glad.

“… Thank you.”

When everyone finished giving their consent, I immediately started preparing.

And so, it was now the final stage.

As the appointed time steadily approached, I prepared to head towards Nanamin as the representative of the demon king’s troops. In order to borrow a certain thing from Katsuragi-kun’s room.

Privacy? There is not something like that between a husband and wife and I’d be defeated if I minded it.

“… There.”

Though I wondered if he put it away because it was cherished by him, I found it easily. Putting it in my pocket, I looked around.

… Yeah. I’m privately thankful that he hid it inside the cabinet …

… J-just a bit …

“… Oi, Shuri. Did you forget what you’re doing?”

“-! Ii-it’s nothing like that !? Hey, I have not found it yet so …”

“Like I’d take that lie? You just put it in your pocket.”

“Uuu … Leadred-san’s a meanie.”

“I do not want to be called that by a pervert.”

Haah … she sighed.

… For a bit, I feel she’s treated me unfair …

Be that as it may, the jokes were moderate. I left the room and headed down the stairs, leaving. Everyone was already there clothed in their usual battle clothes, brimming with motivation.

“Did you find what you were looking for? Hamakaze-san?”

“Yeah. I’m ready now … Finally.”

“… We leave Hero-sama to you … Do not mess up.”

“It’s alright. I will not kick the bucket just by going you know?”

Incidentally, it was not just me leaving our home. Lily-san and Yuuma-san are also departing with me.

Their target was the [Labyrinth of the Sleepless Dream].

It was talked about after the matter of Katsuragi-kun yesterday. Then taking into account hearing it from Lily-san, it absolutely would not let those have it.

Lily-san mouth loosened from my cheeky reply, showing off her canine teeth. Yuuma-san gave me a thumbs up.

“… Hamakaze-san. Someone should follow you after all …”

Hayase-san anxiously looked this way from the entrance.

Though she even pointed out the possibility of it being a trap, I did not think that Nanamin would do something like that. She, who was a close friend to me, would not do something like that.

I returned a wave.

“It’s fine, it’s fine. Even if I’m alone. It’s what I asked for.”

“… I understand. Off to do work.”

Hayase-san nodded forcefully.

Leadred-san came over in front of me. She did not say anything, but stuck her fist straight out. I matched it, hitting it with a bump.

“… I’ll give it my all.”

“… Yeah. Bring him back even if you have to drag him.”

Saying that much, her white teeth showed. I also smiled.

“Then, I guess … we should go soon.”

Then one by one, clapped my shoulders and back and began to walk to their destination. In the end, I was the last person left.

I looked up towards our home. It felt like Yui-chan was watching.

“I’ll be back!”

Leaving behind those words loudly so they would reach my close friend, I made full use of “Wind”, heading towards the place specified by Nanamin.

The distance from our home to the western entrance was small.

Advancing step by step, that figure that slowly grew dimmer little by little clearly came into view.

There were two people.

One was the person who was responsible for this, Sajima Nanami. She had a comfortable and warm smile as usual. Next to her was a familiar boy dressed in black.

Katsuragi Daichi.

The distance shortened – before long, we stood face to face.

The sky was clear. The scattered stars shined as if to exaggerate themselves.

Such beautiful and captivating scenery that you and I would want to look up towards it together.

However, right now I’m facing you.

With a tool for killing in my hand. Not as a comrade, but an enemy.

“Heya ~, Katsuragi-kun, Nanamin.”

When I greeted them lightly, Nanamin gave an unexpected reaction.

“… You’re more energetic than I though you’d be, Shuri-chan.”

“Why’s that, Nanamin?”

“No, I should say determined … But, I plan on saving Yui-chan. Though I was definitely sad … there are no mistakes in what Terias-sama does.”

“… I understand that feeling. For a period of time, I also thought that everything Katsuragi-kun did was right … But you know, Nanamin. No one is perfect.”

She seemed to have understood what kind of meaning I meant with my words. Her smile was a little awkward.

“… What do you want to say?”

“I just want to return Nanamin to her true self. Being together with that man is not a good thing.”

“… You do not know Terias-sama, do not insult him.”

… She really is the same way I used to be.

Blindly believing. Not wanting to doubt. Terias was the most righteous in her word.

But that’s wrong.

I need to free her from that curse.

What can I do to demolish her world?

The answer is simple. I just need to defeat the god (Terias) of her world. But, unfortunately, I can not.

In order to do that, I first need Katsuragi-kun one way or another.

“… Well, it’s fine. I do not think Shuri-chan understands … However, your loved person seems to understand you know?”

Regaining her composure, Nanamin sneered at me. In response to her words, Katsuragi, that had stayed silent the entire time, stepped forward.

Embracing me with his big body.

But I could not feel anything from now’s Katsuragi-kun. Therefore, my heart did not throb either.

I could keep my cool.

“… Shuri. I want you to listen calmly.”

“… Is that the reason you called me here?”

“Yeah, it is … Sajima will tell you it, a way to revive Yuina. So, it looks like everyone can live if we cooperate a bit.”

“Heeh … such a wonderful method … will you let me know it too?”

“Yeah … it’s easy.”

Giving an empty smile, Katsuragi-kun said something unexpected from his mouth.

“Kill Messiah. If we do that, everyone will be saved.”

I exhaled deeply.

I did not need to think about it.

With a resigned smile, I answered back clearly.

“Katsuragi-kun. Rejected.”

Undoing the embrace, I pushed him away with my arm.

Probably because it was unexpected, Katsuragi-kun stumbled.

“… Sh-Shuri?”

“Shuri-chan? W-what are you doing? You can live if you become our comrade you know? You can keep Katsuragi-kun to yourself you know?”

“I do not care. Because if I take back Katsuragi-kun, I can hog him from now on. So do not interfere.”

“Shuri … please reconsider. Think about it.”

“I will not change my mind. So I will change your’s. Katsuragi-kun.” (Shuri)

I held my pair of daggers. To show my will.

“By all means, if you defeat me. Let’s try this the hard way.”

“… I got it … Sajima, do not interfere …”

As he said so, his eyes became like a fierce beast’s.

He extended the point of his sword as though to pierce my throat.

Bloodlust thrusted towards me from my favorite person was a terrible thing.

Feeling obedient, I wanted to surrender.

But, since I love you.

Since I want us all to smile together in the end.

I’ll stand in front of you. I accept this fight.

“… I will receive Katsuragi-kun’s attack. So, let’s go all out? We’ll understand each other by our attacks and feelings colliding from head on. We’re still young. Forgiving, not forgiving, it’s natural. One or two failures are obvious. Failing many times, we find the right answer. Since I’m prepared to to stay with you. ”

I was like that so far.

Outwardly, every day was happy and empty. Just looking at the contents, every day was a failure. I made huge mistakes.

I, who knew that, almost broke. I fell into an illusion that broke my mind.

But, towards such a me everybody, he supported me. Towards me, he gave me another change.

So now, it’s my turn.

“So, let’s take a step forward .– Towards the correct answer.”

Using my trump card in order to compete with him, I gripped my two knives.

It was the thing my close friend’s valuable thing, the ring she left in this world.

“For those who die for their lord. Soul transfer. Ring of Death.”

When I completed the invokation, Katsuragi-kun’s face became surprised. That’s right. This tool takes away magic power from the person who holds the other ring.

With this, Katsuragi-kun could only use minimal magic.

Already, he lost his means to fight me with anything but a sword.

“Open.”

I opened my status, staring at the item written at the bottom.

“Demon Killing, activate.”

Ten minutes.

If I can lead Katsuragi-kun to the correct answer in time, that’s good.

誰が悪かったとか間違いだったとか関係ないよ。

勝ちも負けもない。

だって、これはあなたの、自分自身との……独りぼっちの戦争だから。

視線と視線が重なり合う。

それが始まりの合図となって

「「天風(ウインド)!」」

私たちは同時に飛び出した。

ぶつかり合う剣と刃。激しく鳴り響く金属音。

初めて受ける桂木君の一撃は予想以上に重い。『鬼殺し』を発動している今の私の状態でも下手をすれば瞬殺されてしまう。勝てるかどうかはわからない。今の桂木君は何度も死んでパワーアップしている。

一撃が重い。だから、私は受け流すことに徹する。唯一、勝っているのが素早さだ。スピードを減速させられたら勝機はないだろう。

「朱里。そこをどいてくれ。頼む。俺はお前を殺したくない」

「いやだよ。私が好きなら桂木君が引いて」

「好きだよ、朱里。でも、俺は同じくらい結愛が好きなんだ」

「それは……困ったね!」

双の刃をクロスさせて桂木君の斬撃を受けると弾くようにして距離を取った。そこから見据えた桂木君の顔はひどくゆがんだ、今にも泣きだしそうな、そんな顔をしていた。

もういっぱいいっぱいで器に入りきらなくて、無理やり詰め込んで、すぐにでも爆発してしまいそうで。そんな脆さがあった。今なら簡単に壊れてしまいそうだった。

「お願いだ、朱里。お前がうなずいてくれたら、あとはミーシアを殺すだけで……結愛は戻ってくるんだ」

桂木君は私を説得しようとしてくる。

本当に優しくて、甘い。こんなことをしていても彼の本質は変わっていないんだ。

「もうやめよう、朱里。お前は俺には攻撃できないんだ。お前はどうあっても俺を倒せないんだよ」

その通りだ。私は彼の『死の王(ワイト・キング)』で生き返った者。つまり、彼には一切の攻撃が封じられている。でも、だからって……諦める理由にはならない!

「な? 朱里。みんなで平和に暮らそう。幸せに暮らそう。だから、そこをどいて――」

「嫌だ」

「――っ……! なんでだよ!?」

二度目の彼が私に浴びせた怒号。ついに桂木君の感情をせき止めていた防波堤は崩れ去った。

「お前がそこをどけば、受け入れてくれたら、結愛は助かるんだよ!」

「嫌だ。だって、そんなの結ちゃんは望んでいない」

「お前は結愛を助けたくないのか!? 大切な仲間だろ!?」

「それでも嫌だ。だって、今の桂木君を見たら結ちゃんはきっとがっかりするだろうから」

「ふざけ――」

「私は!!」

桂木君の言葉を遮るように私の思いを乗せた言葉を重ねる。

「私は今の桂木君なんていらない。あなたは私の知っている桂木君じゃない!」

「俺は俺だ! お前に俺の何がわかるんだよ!?」

その言葉が胸に突き刺さる。それは事実だから。だけど、今はもう|事実だった《・・・・・》って言える。過去のことだって、自信を持って言える。

「そうだよ……。私にはわからなかった……! だから! ずっとあなたを見てきた! そばであなたのことを知ろうと見てきた! 全部、全部! だからこそ、今の私ははっきりと言えるの。あなたは桂木君なんかじゃないって!! 好きだった桂木君じゃないって!!」

「なら……本当にわかっているならそこをどけよ! 俺がどれだけ苦しんで、悩んで、この結論を出したと思ってんだ! お前らが生きていけるように考えたと思ってるんだよ!」

「…………」

「どうしようもないんだよ! 朱里も知っているだろう? 風子の力でもわからない。佐島の……テリアスの言うことを聞くしか結愛を救う道はないんだ……! だから……だから……!」

泣き腫らしてグチャグチャになった桂木君。

そこにはただ一人の、なんの力も持たないただの少年の懇願があった。

「だから……そこをどいてくれ……朱里……」

少年は泣きすがるように叫ぶ。弱弱しい震える声。

もう見てもいられない。今すぐにでもその辛さから解放してあげたい。

だから、だから、私は。

「絶対に嫌だ」

私は彼の願いを切り捨てた。そのうえで言葉を続ける。

「だって……だって、そんなの……」

頬を何かが伝っていた。体が震えていた。握り締める力が強くなっていた。頭の中が真っ白になって、目頭が熱くなった。視界に映る彼の姿がぼやけて見えた。

私は、感情のままに想ったことを口にした。

「そんなの……桂木君らしくない」

「――――――――――」

「汚い手を使ってもあきらめないのが桂木君だもん。罵倒されようが、どれだけ殺されようが、折れない強い人が桂木君だもん。どんな状況だって、苦しい場面だって、小さな可能性を見つけて……。そのためなら自分の命だって簡単に捨てちゃって。くじけないで、未来を切り開く。そんな人が、それが――」

ついに涙がこぼれる。熱い想いが頬を伝う。でも、精一杯、私は微笑んだ。

「それが――――私たちが大好きな桂木大地だよ」

「――――ぁ」

小さく漏れる嗚咽。次にカランと剣が地に落ちた乾いた金属音。

桂木君はその場に崩れて、涙を流した。

私は泣き叫ぶ彼の元に駆け寄り、抱き寄せる。桂木君はただ身を預けて、私の腕の中で泣き続ける。

今だけは、今だけはこうしてあげよう。

そうすれば、きっと数分後にはまた強い桂木君がいるはずだから。

だから、この弱い桂木君は私が受け止めてあげよう。

だって、そんなところも含めて、全ての桂木君が好きだから。

そう思って、彼の頭を撫でた。.

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