As proof of the subjugation, Snow and I carried the dragon’s head together down the mountain. It doesn’t fit into 『Items』 because of the size.
Honestly, going down the mountain was more exhausting than the battle with the Drav Dragon. Once we made it down we put the Drav Dragon’s head at the center of the village and the villagers began gathering. With their mouths open wide in shock, they all raised their voices in joy. Due to the fact that there were even some people dancing, I realized just how much suffering this dragon caused the village.
The villagers surrounded us and one by one they thanked us.
Tears rose in their eyes regardless of age and they continued their praise until it echoed throughout the village. As for us standing in the middle of it all, the pressure was overwhelming.
「So th, this is a 『Hero’s 』 treatment…….」
「Nn, Kanami is 『Epic Seeker’s』 『Hero』. Alright ――」
And at the crucial moment, Snow begins speaking.
「Our 『Epic Seeker’s』 Guild Master, Aikawa Kanami, has slain the Drav Dragon that has laid waste to your village! He is the 『Dragon Slaying』 『Hero』! Let us show our gratitude to our 『Hero』!!」
Using her Dragon Newt lungs to their fullest, Snow shouted so that everyone could hear.
The excitement in the villagers increased, and they unanimously chanted my name.
「That is 『Epic Seeker’s』 Guild Master!」
「Kanami! Aikawa Kanami!!」
「To be a 『Dragon Slayer』 at such a young age! He truly is a 『Hero』!!」
The height of their enthusiasm causes me to feel dizzy.
I felt something similar to the time I interacted with the nobles and merchants at the ball. Although the calculativeness that was at the ball isn’t present, the excessive expectations and praise placed on me only makes me nervous. And the fact that the one who triggered that is the person who hated the ball so much makes it even worse.
Forcing a smile, I wave my hands towards the villagres. Apparently it’s in the roots of my nature to be weak at these things. As if running away, I head to the one in charge in order to report the dragon’s subjugation.
On the way, I reproach Snow in a quiet voice.
「―― Snow, I don’t need that publicity. That 『Dragon Slayer』 title too, it would’ve been fine for Lowen to have it……」
Snow and Lowen immediately reply.
「That’s no good, Kanami. This is something necessary right now. And the villagers are happy aren’t they?」
「The one who fell that dragon’s neck was you, Kanami. All I did was cause a mistake and bothered Reaper. Although regrettable, 『Dragon Slayer』 belongs to you」
You two, you’ll force that 『Dragon Slayer』 title on me no matter what won’t you. There wasn’t anything I could do but let out a sigh and continue walking. Snow and Lowen continue talking behind me.
「Kanami, act more 『Heroic』. That’ll definitely be beneficial to everyone……! 」
「The 『Glory』 earned this time around belongs completely to you Kanami……. But next time, I’ll surely grab onto that 『Glory』……!」
Unable to comprehend the enthusiasm of the two, I say nothing and enter the chief’s house.
Inside are a group of people that belong to the Walker house. Seeing that we came, and guessing that we were successful, they immediately begin calculating the quest’s expenses.
It’s great that they’re as skilled as ever. Thanks to that, all I had to do was stand there.
And so, with the subjugation confirmation and reward taken care of, the village chief informs us of a banquet that will be held. I’d expect a development like that in a game, but judging that there wouldn’t be any benefit in it for me, I try to refrain. However, the other three really wanted to participate, so there was no way I could refuse.
In a flash, the village became busy as it began the preparations for the banquet. Snow secludes herself in the carriage in order to prepare a speech, and Lowen and Reaper go and play with the kids.
Having been left behind, I walk to a nearby plain alone. It is in part due to me not wanting to be bombarded by the villagers’ questions, but also because I wanted to think about the 『Ball』 from yesterday and the 『Dragon Subjugation』 that happened today.
―― And so, time passed, night came, and the banquet began.
In the village at the western end of the developing lands, a bonfire begins shining in the dusk. The Drav Dragon’s head is hoisted high into the sky, and surrounding it are people with various instruments playing jovial music. Some people begin singing to that music while others dance.
Many cuisines are laid out onto the tables. It seems like this is following the rules of a buffet. Every person here is drinking alcohol and biting into meat with cheerful smiles.
It was a banquet made on short notice, but even then the scale was greater than I expected. To begin with, it might just be that this village has a habit of hosting periodic banquets.
And right now, I’m in a seat at that banquet surrounded by many people as I force a smile.
One of the villagers begins speaking to me with sparkling eyes.
「―― Kanami-sama! May you tell me how you defeated the dragon!?」
Following that, many others also ask to listen to my heroic tale.
I couldn’t feel anything but an itch. If I handle this poorly, this can end up even worse than the time at the ball.
All I could do was detest the distant Snow for telling the minstrel like person an exaggerated tale of the dragon subjugation. People are taking that seriously and gravitating towards me. It’s like some kind of elaborate harassment
「No, everyone already weakened it, all I did was land the finishing blow……」
I answered honestly. But the people who heard Snow’s exaggerated tale wouldn’t believe it.
「How humble, Kanami-sama. I heard that you chopped the neck of the flying dragon in a one on one battle」
It’s really a nuisance. Reinforcing my forced smile, I continue repeating myself.
But the more I insisted that it was a victory achieved through the four of us, the more they saw me as a humble 『Hero』. It’s obvious that that’s what Snow was leading them to believe. If anything, this makes me want to act arrogantly and ruin everything in an instant.
However, I can’t do that as the Guild Master. It’d betray the expectations of the women before me, and the kids in the surroundings. The kids see me as a 『Hero』, their eyes are sparkling.
I take an objective look at my face using 《Dimension》.
…… An exhausted face.
A face identical to the one at the ball. Similar to the one I saw on Glen-san that day.
Maybe Glen-san felt the same as I currently do.
As if ignoring that feeling, I continue speaking. During that I spot Lowen a little ways off. He’s surrounded by villagers just like me.
But, his complexion is much better than mine.
Therefore, although I’m sorry for this, I bring up Lowen.
「―― The one over there, Lowen, he’s actually my sword master. I was only able to do this because he’s the one who taught me how to battle monsters. If you’d like to discuss the sword, wouldn’t it be more interesting asking him?」
With my best smile today, I endorse Lowen and redirect the villagers interest to Lowen. After that, I tell a lie.
「Excuse me for a bit. I have to go and greet the village chief」
Before anyone can sense anything unnatural about that I quickly escape the encirclement.
However, no matter where I go, the eyes of the people are always pointed at me. If it stays like this I’ll be surrounded again.
「――Magic 《Dimension Gladiate》」
Therefore I use magic to escape the gaze of the villagers. Capturing the movements of their eyes, I constantly move in the direction opposite of them. And so, the moment I managed to escape from everyone’s gazes, I took a silent leap.
In a way that no one will notice, I successfully move to the top of a roof. And so, just as I was about to cut 《Dimension》 ―― I notice Reaper is also on a roof.
Concerned about her, I move across the roofs to get closer.
「……What’s the matter, Reaper? Does it still hurt?」
She’s staring out into the starry sky in a daze. It’s because she was in such a quiet state that I thought something might’ve been wrong.
「……Uun, that’s not it. I’m just thinking」
In contrast to my sudden appearance, Reaper answered without any change in her behavior. She might’ve also noticed me with 《Dimension》.
「It’s a long awaited festival. You won’t go down and play?」
The usual Reaper would have been making enough noise to annoy me. Silently looking up at the sky like this isn’t like her.
「It’s fine, just looking is fun. And, what is it? Onii-chan」
With a smile, Reaper asks for my business. However, I only came out because I was worried so I don’t have anything in particular. I churn the insides of my head searching for a topic.
There is something that’s been on my mind since yesterday.
First, about myself. And also, about Snow, Lowen, Reaper, about everyone ――
In the end, the words that came out ――
「Hey, Reaper, what do you think of a 『Hero』? Do you think it’s something good? As someone who can bring anyone 『Happiness』……. Do you think it’s such a convenient existence?」
That was vague and round about, but even then I thought it was a question that hit the heart of the matter for someone like me.
「……Eh, 『Hero』? That came out of nowhere. …… Uun, let’s seeー. I don’t think it’s such a good thingー」
My face lights up when I hear Reaper’s answer.
「That’s right isn’t it…… A hero, it’s not like it’s always something good. Thank goodness you said that Reaper. I couldn’t keep up with Snow and Lowen and was starting to feel at a loss……」
It feels like Snow and Lowen blindly accept the existence that is a 『Hero』.
Compared to those two who are desperate for a 『Hero』, I can’t sympathize with them at all.
「Yeah. Snow Onee-chan and Lowen are a bit strange」
Having found a companion I can sympathize with, I feel my heart loosen. Having to be with the two who ceasely continue their pursuit for fame has tired me out a little. However, Reaper isn’t someone who blindly believes in that.
Her sense of beliefs are similar to mine.
With those thoughts, I try to continue the conversation ―― but Reaper’s calm voice interrupts.
「But from what I can see, Onii-chan is the same?」
「Eh……? I’m the same…….?」
Reaper said that I’m also like Snow and Lowen.
The enthusiasm I had of having found someone that understands me dampens.
「Lowen is trapped by the 『Duty bestowed by the Araith House』, and Snow Onee-chan is trapped by the 『Duty bestowed by the Walker House』. And finally, Onii-chan is trapped by the 『Duty bestowed by Someone』. Maybe there’s a sense of alienation because among that group Onii-chan is the one that doesn’t need a 『Hero』? …… From my point of view, what everyone is doing is the same」
Honestly, I couldn’t understand it immediately. I carefully ruminate over Reaper’s words, realize that the essence of those words saw through everything, and her wisdom shocks me.
Lately, Reaper has taken a step back and contemplated many things. However, I had no idea that she was thinking about those things while watching us from behind.
「『Duty bestowed by Someone』, what does that mean……？」
I repeat her words trying to search for the meaning.
Maybe, if it’s the current Reaper, then maybe she will understand all my current worries.
And to that though of mine, Reaper ―― didn’t sympathize.
「 I, am fighting against the 『Duty Bestowed by Someone』. Onii-chan」
Reaper isn’t looking at anyone. She is simply, gazing at the sky, and speaking of herself.
As if she were in pain, she continues.
「Because I absolutely 『won’t mistake my own wish』――」
There is no leeway in her expression. From her state alone I understood that Reaper is constantly worrying about herself. Those words before, they may be a byproduct of continually searching for an answer for herself.
Reaper……, she’s been facing her problem head on……. Unlike me…….
I realize my patheticness in trying to rely on Reaper. Although she’s worrying by herself, and fighting by herself, I tried to get an answer for my worries from someone else.
Right now, Reaper, who is magic, is suffering over her nature. And yet, she decided her reason for living on her own, and she’s doing her best to protect that.
I reconsider and take a step closer to try and be of help to Reaper.
「Hey, Reaper. If that 『Urge to Kill』 is painful then I can ――」
「It’s fine, Onii-chan. This is my problem. I’ll do something about it」
In the end, Reaper refused.
Many emotions were mixed together in her expression.
She wants help, but she won’t seek it. She wants an answer, but she mustn’t hear it from me. She wants to be saved, but she mustn’t be saved. ―― It’s an expression filled with many such contradictory emotions.
From Reaper’s point of view, I’ve probably 『Mistaken my own wish』and I should worry about myself before thinking of others. Or it may simply be that she can’t trust in me who 『Constantly makes mistakes』.
I clench my teeth and nod. With that, I shift my gaze and my eyes move to the 『Bracelet』.
The problem I’ve continually ran away from. I’m convinced that this is the cause of everything, but I ignored it. I thought that I’d take my time since there’s still plenty left. Believing that the current status quo was for the best, I put it off.
Although the young girl before me is enduring the suffering and facing her problems head on, I didn’t even try to look at mine.
I recall Reaper’s words.
『Don’t play with another’s fate』『Lies are unforgivable』『I won’t mistake my own wish』
As if those words were my own, they permeate my heart.
Those words fit the current me better than any others I could think of. And that feeling supports a certain conjecture. The conjecture that has been in a corner of my mind begins taking form, I have to think about the cause and root of it all.
Before I knew it, I sat by Reaper’s side and began deliberating.
My gaze naturally fell down to the village banquet. With 『Parallel Thinking』, I capture Lowen’s figure participating in the banquet. I see his situation and words spill out.
「Ah. That’s…… When we came here, the kids Lowen taught……」
Lowen is surrounded by many people.
And at a point further away, those kids are in a troubled state.
「Un, they’re there」
Reaper answers still in a daze. She’s probably the same as me, pondering over our own situations. But even then, words continue spilling out. And as if confirming it ――
「Lowen is surrounded by a lot of people, they can’t reach him……」
Because he’s surrounded by adults, even though the children want to talk with him, they can’t.
「Can Lowen not see the kids from where he is……?」
「Maybe his position is bad……」
It felt like that scene held the answer to everything.
And then, I notice. No, I didn’t notice. Reaper taught me ―― no, that might also be wrong. If my guess is correct, then the one who taught me is myself.
I steal a glance at Reaper besides me.
…… She looks like she’s in pain.
However, my expression is the same. Reaper is conveying to me what I’m really feeling. Therefore, I’ll follow Reaper.
「Reaper, I decided…… I also 『won’t mistake my own wish』……」
Reaper hears that and slowly nods. She looked a bit happy.
―― I finally decided……
I’ll face my problem directly. I can no longer put it off. I shouldn’t have done so. After all, the solution to that problem, the actions that should’ve been taken, and the answer to myself, I already knew it all.
I probably knew since the beginning. Since the morning of that day, since the moment I opened my eyes in 『Epic Seeker』, the cells in my body have been screaming since the beginning. But I ignored it. I acted like I didn’t notice.
―― Because it was very comfortable there. Because it was very 『Happy』.
Having my 『Sister named Maria』 there had unraveled me
I gave up on doubting those faultless days.
―― Because that’d be the easiest choice. On top of that I was even promised 『Glory』.
However, that’s a deception.
I see Snow, I see Lowen, and I realize that that isn’t such an important thing.
I see Reaper, and I realize what is truly important.
Everything up till today, they were chains that snatched my freedom. The one who set those chains is Palinchlon Legacy. Most likely, he isn’t my life savior. If anything…… its 『Enemy』.
―― I realized, but I was too afraid to break those chains.
I knew that 『Lies won’t save anybody』, but I couldn’t extend my hand to the 『Truth』.
From my conversation with Rail-san, the memories of my past seem to be 『Unhappy』. An 『Unhappiness』 that rivals Maria losing a part of her body.
No, they don’t seem. Ever since I heard, I knew the true identity of that 『Unhappiness』.
Not that my memories were stolen. Not that my sister’s name is wrong.
―― Aah, with this, everyone’s time of 『Happiness』 will come to an end.
In my priorities my 『Sister’s Happiness』 is more important than 『My Life』. If I take that into consideration then the answer to my 『Unhappiness』 can only be one.
―― My sister isn’t in this different world.
That is the answer.
It can’t be anything else……. The girl named Maria isn’t my sister……
I face the answer I’ve continued to avoid and a terrible nausea assaults me.
It feels like my stomach is turning inside out, like my heart is crawling out of my throat
If, this answer is correct, this isn’t the time for me to be doing these things. This isn’t the time to be acting as a Guild Master. I have to go and help my sister as soon as possible.
I must return. Even if I were to use my life, I have to at least bring happiness to my sister.
Right now, the determination to take back the 『Truth』 became certain.
However, in exchange I feel an extreme chill. A dizziness as if top became bottom.
The fact that the thing more important than my life is in a place I can’t reach, it’s painful.
However, I can’t afford to run from that pain.
Reaper who’s sitting beside me is the same. A thing more important than her life was arbitrarily decided for her, and now she bears her suffering and reaches out for what she decided is important to herself.
If Reaper who’s younger than me isn’t running away, there’s no way I can run.
At that moment, Reaper notices the change in me and she moves her eyes towards me.
Even now the pain I’m feeling doesn’t change…… but just like her, I show a smile that shows there’s no need to be worried.
But I no longer have the leeway to think about Reaper’s situation. I don’t have any leeway to be occupied with anything else. Surely, Reaper is the same. Of course she is. If I’m using all my strength to deal with myself, there’s no way there’s space to deal with thoughts of someone else.
I laugh at my shallowness from before and begin desperately thinking to the point that it feels as if my brain were melting.
Hurrying to a solution will also benefit everyone. The sooner I finish this, the sooner I’ll be able to help Reaper.
Snow and Lowen too, I’ll be able to help them in the truest meaning.
Together with Reaper, I continue gazing at the banquet and night sky.
Although there was panic at the leading actor disappearing, I ignore it and the two of us, Reaper and me, continue thinking ――