Chapter 287: Research Result
“… Good of you to come all the way here. Perhaps the result of the war has already been decided, but I will not step down here.” (Atlas)
“Atlas, just give up already!” (Fohl)
Just in front of my lab’s final line of defense, Atlas, Firo, and Kiel waited for the fake party.
And Fohl screamed at Atlas.
“Onii-sama? No matter what sort of disadvantage they face, the Hakuko race is not permitted to run. That’s something I thought you of all people would understand.” (Atlas)
“… I see. Then Atlas, for your sake, I will harden my heart and discipline you.” (Fohl)
“Kiel-kun, Firo. When this is over, I’m going to give a hell of a lecture to Naofumi-sama, so you’d better be prepared.” (Raphtalia)
“I’ll be the one to protect Niichan!” (Kiel)
“I definitely won’t lose.” (Firo)
The person to make the first move is Atlas.
Atlas uses her hand like a sword to slash at Fohl and the fake, and Firo rushes at Ren and Motoyasu in the style she’s accustomed to.
Finally, Kiel closes in on Itsuki and Rishia with an irregular step pattern and begins her assault.
“Atlas-san… we fight every time, but it seems you’re progressively getting stronger.” (Raphtalia)
“I need strength… Getting stronger is my greatest desire. I still… need to become stronger to defend Naofumi-sama!” (Atlas)
“Atlas… You’ve grown up well… But still, I won’t accept that man as he is right now!” (Fohl)
Atlas presses the fake and Fohl with questions as she keeps a low stance. She dodges and parries their blows waiting for an opportunity to strike.
The battle is so tense, that you don’t get the feeling she’s at a disadvantage, even when it’s two on one.
In that regard, Firo’s battle is the same… no, Firo’s at a greater disadvantage.
Her opponents are two heroes and three Filo Rials.
「High Quick!」 (Firo)
「Spiral Strike!」 (Firo)
Her battle experience and actual level are high, and she has gotten an understanding of both magic and Chi. She casts acceleration magic and hits Motoyasu’s groupies, sending them spiraling off.
“Gu… Over this week, I’ve fought you a couple times. But once more, I must say you’re quite an amazing child.” (Ren)
“Firo-tan! Amazing! Even though I used the strengthening methods, you can push me back this far!” (Motoyasu)
Without dodging, Ren and Motoyasu lift their weapons and block the blows of Firo’s onslaught.
“Atlas-chan is the same, but why do so many fighting geniuses gather around Naofumi?” (Ren)
“Because Firo is the one who will protect master!” (Firo)
The effects of High Quick wear off. Firo flaps her wings and releases traces of magic as she hovers to the ceiling, kicks off it, and sends her foot on a straight course for Ren.
Ren narrowly dodges it, and he swings his sword at her as she passes, but Firo kicks the flat of the blade, redirecting its path.
Aiming for that moment, Motoyasu lets loose a skill. The spear in his hand changes to… Sadina’s harpoon.
Perhaps he borrowed it from her and made a copy.
「Triaina!」 (TL: It’s trident, just not in English)
A single bolt of Lightning flies at Firo, and shockwaves course through her plumage.
“KYAN! … No, I won’t fall.” (Firo)
She is blown away by Motoyasu’s skill, but she rolls before hitting the ground and recovers her stance.
“Woof woof! Rishia-oneechan, prepare yourself!” (Kiel)
Kiel continually assaults Rishia and Itsuki in her Kielberus form.
“FUEeE! Kiel-kun, just give it up already!” (Rishia)
“No way! Niichan is… even if it’s just us, we’ll always protect Niichan!” (Kiel)
“… Kiel-kun, I’ll apologize beforehand. I’m sorry, but you’ll be sleeping for a bit.” (Itsuki)
Itsuki… aims a skill at Kiel. He pulls his bow fully and creates an arrow of light.
“As if an attack like that can hit!” (Kiel)
With a grand gesture, Kiel dodges Itsuki’s arrow… or she should have, but as soon as it passes her, it turns around and returns, as if connected by some invisible wire.
Kiel frantically sweeps away the returning arrow with her tail.
“Splash Arrow… ability, Sleep Arrow.” (Itsuki)
When the arrow comes into contact with Kiel’s tail, it bursts open.
“Kyan! Uu… not yet…” (Kiel)
“No, unfortunately… you’re done for.” (Itsuki)
“Eh… Ah…” (Kiel)
Kiel’s expression turns blank. Eventually, the whites of her eyes reveal themselves, and she collapses on the ground.
“As I guessed you would dodge like that from the beginning, I shot a Splash Arrow with a sleep effect. For a while, your conscience will not return…” (Itsuki)
“Kiel-kun… You really cared for Naofumi-san, didn’t you.” (Rishia)
“Well then, the battle still goes on. Let’s assist.” (Itsuki)
Itsuki and Rishia set their aims on Atlas and Firo and each unleash their own skills.
“Kyah… No, I’m still standing.” (Atlas)
“GYAN! Uu… Firo can’t lose!” (Firo)
Even though they are sent flying and take various attacks, Firo and Atlas refuse to admit defeat. They continue fighting even when blood starts erupting from their mouths
“Atlas, just stay down.” (Raphtalia)
“I- I still have fight left in me!” (Atlas)
“I see…” (Fohl)
Fohl clenches his fist and thrusts it into Atlas’s abdomen.
Up ‘til now, Atlas had been easily avoiding his attacks by bending backwards and spinning. She had gotten here with minimum damage.
But this time, the attack lands exactly on mark. Atlas cries out and goes limp.
“Atlas… this time, it’s my victory. Your brother is full of nothing but praise for you.” (Fohl)
Holding the unconscious Atlas, Fohl mutters in an emotionless voice.
Last is Firo…
At this point, I activate my final weapon.
We’re outnumbered. With just Firo, we have no chance to grasp victory.
They’ll arrive in the next room soon enough.
I’d like to see this battle through to the end, but I need to use the last bit of energy left.
I’m sorry Firo. Please buy me just a little bit of time.
Eventually, my weapon begins its activation.
I drain the liquid out of a large tank. What emerges is a fully armed, battle-ready body controlled by Rat’s monster, Mii-kun.
Not only is his body bigger than the last one I made, I also bestowed various abilities unto him.
In the worst case, I’ve given him a self-evolving function, so perhaps he will become an Eighth Generation Raph. I’ve buried my research reports somewhere around his core.
After I die, perhaps someone will pick up my research. If they only follow my notes, Raphtalia will revive.
This one has done quite a bit in the battles up until now.
Of course, due to my own failure in tuning him, he’s gone berserk numerous times. This time, we have no time for something like that.
The battle data I loaded onto him is a compilation of that of all the Raphs I’ve made until now, and I’ve even given him the ability to change to liquid in case of emergency.
If the core piece gets damaged, it will endlessly regenerate. With this monster, I can force the fake party into an endless battle.
I guess a weakness is that its aerial abilities are below Firo’s.
By sending magic to its tail, he can float, but it’s only a able to carry him for short amounts of time.
“You get it, right? You are the last line of defense. Wait for the fakes in front of the protective equipment in the next room and defeat them!” (Naofumi)
A large sound echoes with every step, and Miikun exits the laboratory room.
Next is… I’ll just have to accept what happens.
After activating Mii-kun, I used the energy that recovered to observe Firo’s situation.
… As I thought, Firo was beaten as well.
She’s been captured by the fakes, and is lying on the ground.
And… the Fakes confront my last defenseive mechanism: Mii-kun.
“T-this child is…”
Hmm? Rat joined them while I wasn’t watching.
They’ve met numerous times, but besides his first breakdown, they’ve fought without much problem.
Even if they encounter each other now, I doubt anything will change.
Now! Annihilate the Fake and her Heroes!
Mii-kun beckons them forward with his hand and surrenders the road to the fakes.
“What the hell!” (Naofumi)
He kindly destroys the defensive devices for them, forcefully opens the door, and even begins guiding them around the building.
“Um… what is this child doing?” (Raphtalia)
“Ah… Mii-kun. Could it be that you were using the Marquis, and you were waiting for an opportunity to join our side from the beginning?” (Rat)
He nods and gives a bright smile at Rat.
DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMNNNNN IT AAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!
I thought he was working diligently, but he was using me from the beginning!?
I won’t forgive this one!
Just in case something bad happened, I made it so I could modify him remotely.
I use a stone tablet and activate my ability from a distance.
Mii-kun spits out the remote control core I implanted and stomps on it.
Ku… Perhaps giving it the ability to turn parts of its body to liquid was my error. I didn’t properly manage the parts his core could control.
DamnitDamnitDamnitDamnit! Sadina, Gaelion, and you all had no intention of serving me!
This isn’t even a joke anymore.
I guess it’s time to activate the self-destruct function.
However, there are still a few slaves in this facility that have yet to evacuate.
… For an emergency escape, there isn’t enough energy.
The reason is that I put too much of it towards making the eighth generation.
I could use the portal to run alone, but after destroying the defensive armaments, Gaelion cast his Dragon Sanctuary, making that impossible.
At this point, I have no regrets.
That means there’s only one thing I must do.
“I’ve finally found you, Naofumi-sama!” (Raphtalia)
The fake bursts into my lab with her heroes and various others she picked up along the way.
Hmm? Motoyasu’s spear’s shape has also changed.
“How good of you all to come and visit me, fakers.” (Naofumi)
I activate my second final weapon.
It’s something I made out of Bioplant. A vehicle form Plant Golem.
The ground rumbles, and the Golem appears under my feet. I settle into the cockpit and begin controlling it.
It has a skull motif, and I’ve granted it a flight ability as well.
I clear away the lab’s walls and rise to the ceiling. I unload my main armaments on them.
I haven’t tested the firepower, so that factor is an unknown.
Though I did set it to be something quite formidable.
“Now shall we start our final battle, fakes?” (Naofumi)
“Ah… Raphtalia-san, what should we do?”
“Let’s destroy all of the defenses devices protecting him. If we don’t, I doubt he’ll even listen to anything we say.” (Raphtalia)
The heroes all charge their various skills with EP and SP.
「Triaina, new form Brionac!」
The window in front of me notified me of the damage to various parts of the body.
I truly am outnumbered.
Losing even the ability to float, my Plant Golem falls to the ground. I move it to prepare for ground battle.
“Naofumi-sama, grit your teeth.” (Raphtalia)
“Who would ever grit their teeth for a fake!” (Naofumi)
“… I’m at the limit of my patience. Even though you may be Naofumi-sama, I’m going to get a little bit violent.” (Raphtalia)
The fake quickly approaches me while brandishing her sword.
“Take this!” (Raphtalia)
I move my Shield to take on her sword.
A foreboding snapping sound rings out.
At the same time, pain raced through my head.
And… I feel something passing through my body.
With a perplexed expression on her face, the fake thrusts her sword at me again, and again.
Her speed has dropped considerably from the first blow.
However, every time, something within me… I feel Chi coursing through my body with every strike.
Manipulating Chi, was it? I can’t remember how I was able to do that.
“Naofumi-sama, could it be…” (Raphtalia)
With her unarmed hand, the fake slaps my cheek.
It isn’t a hard blow, but my body contorts quite a bit.
I taste blood inside of my mouth.
This is bad. Did something in me break?
“As I thought.” (Raphtalia)
“What’s up?” (Ren)
“This Naofumi-sama has absolutely no defense. If any one of us were to seriously attack him, he’d die.” (Raphtalia)
Ku… She saw through me.
That’s right. As she stated before, my current Defense stat is… 0.
In exchange for all of its splendid abilities, this is the price for the New Seven Sin Series. It has absolutely no defense.
Or else there’s no way I would stay holed up in my base the entire time.
“Why is his defense so pitiably low?”
“It may be due to his curse.”
“Uwah… that’s no joke.”
“Marquis… isn’t it time for you to surrender already?”
“Fu, who the hell would surrender!? I will continue fighting until I succeed in reviving the real Raphtalia.”
At this point, I’m simply desperate.
After I beat these fakes, I’m going to rule the world. There are plenty of curse skills I haven’t dared testing yet. I can’t go out here.
If I use a Curse Skill on the Castle Plant… right, I’ll make those who oppose me into fertilizer for my base.
“I won’t let you!” (Raphtalia)
Before I can even begin chanting a spell, the fake grabs me by the collar, choking me.
The pain prevents me from collecting my thoughts.
“Naofumi-sama, please surrender. If you do so, we’ll be able to think of a way to free you from that cursed shield on your arm.” (Raphtalia)
“Hmph, I refuse! You false idol!” (Naofumi)
She shakes my collar violently, and I break free.
I prepare to use a Curse Skill again.
“Naofumi-sama! Please just quit it already!” (Raphtalia)
With teary eyes, the fake leaps at me.
She pushes my head to her breasts.
“Please remember. Naofumi-sama, I said this before, right?” (Raphtalia)
The imposter takes a deep breath.
“Please believe. I know that Naofumi-sama never commited any crimes. He shared his precious medicine and saved my life. He’s the Hero of the Shield-sama, the man who taught me how to live, and how to fight… I am his sword, no matter what path he chooses to tread down, I will accompany him… For me, and everyone else who chose to follow him, could you please let him come back home?” (Raphtalia)
What? These words are… I am… I am…
“Firo, Atlas-chan, and Kiel-kun. I understand why they chose to serve you. Even when under a curse, your base nature did not change. However, I… want you to turn back.” (Raphtalia)
A familiar rhythm beats out near my ear.
And the warmth of this chest…
But how could I accept this.
If this is so, then my… reason for existence… everything I strived for… gu…
“The Naofumi-sama I believe in is quiet and unsociable. Because he has a trauma regarding women, he is incapable of loving someone else. He laughs at other’s misfortune. While he’s kind, he’s also strict. Yet there are many parts of him I have yet to come across.” (Raphtalia)
‘Ku… Let me go! Don’t touch me anymore!’
Is what I want to say, but I cannot speak.
“You are definitely one of those sides of Naofumi-sama. You lamented so much over my loss. I can tell by looking at the monsters you made. I understand just how much you trusted me. That’s why I must offer my words of gratitude.” (Raphtalia)
In front of me, the… fake…
“Thank you. Because you came out, I was able to understand yet another part of Naofumi-sama’s heart.” (Raphtalia)
Her face is red as she gently looks over mine.
After speaking, she takes something out of the bag hanging on her waist.
It’s a ball made out of balloon skin and a small flag.
“I brought these to make Naofumi-sama remember. To him, perhaps these were merely cheap goods, but for the current me, they are priceless treasures.” (Raphtalia)
And… the fake… no, Raphtalia puts her lips to my cheek.
“I really don’t want him to return to his original world! However… more so than this world that does nothing but hurt him, I think it would be better for him if he went back.” (Raphtalia)
At that moment.
Something shattered. The outside of my shield falls to pieces, and the New Deadly Sin tree disappeared.
And then I blacked out for a second.
… I see.
From the start, I was never Naofumi Iwatani. I was merely a personality created by the New Seven Deadly Sins series. Merely a false identity made with his mind as the base. A false mind with false aspirations.
Along with my scream, I feel my sense of self disappearing.
No, I’m merely returning. As part of the mass known as Naofumi Iwatani.
That may be… for the best.
I am… already satisfied.
I no longer care about the fate of the world.
Raphtalia is alive. She’s living here. She’s thanking me.
The ground shakes, as the Castle Plant begins to collapse.
The Castle is controlled by my Shield–my Shield is its centerpiece.
With a normal shield equipped, there’s no way it can maintain its form.
Mii-kun signals everyone to evacuate.
Raphtalia starts to run, carrying me on her back.
It’s… already time for me to go, it seems.
If the world grants me one last wish, then I wish that Raphtalia and the others get out of this laboratory safely. I wish with all of my heart.
Hey, that is the Hero of the Shield. The real Naofumi Iwatani.
You are… you should realize your true feelings already.
Otherwise… you will definitely regret it.
Now, I’m going to become one part of your heart again… the part of your heart that loves the girl named Raphtalia.
But still, I do regret it.
For me to call her a fake this entire time, yet be a fake myself.
There’s little time left until the next wave.
Was this a complete waste of time…?
“I see… so that’s it…”
With my fading consciousness, I come to a single conclusion.
Based on my brief eight days of existence, I realize that the waves are a fight for_______.
This pointless phenomenon will perhaps ________, but the world will ________.
I remember my enemy’s words.
Why is he with Raphtalia…?