Hey wait I just checked Baka-Tsuki, and someone registered me all the way up to 305. It’s not like I wasn’t planning on doing them, but please don’t register me.
Chapter 304: A Price Too Great
I step in front of the bursting Houou. To protect Raphtalia. To protect the Heroes, and the slaves, and the Allied Armies. I stand against the flames scorching the ground before me.
I have no time to worry about the damage from Blutopfer.
I can only count on the Wrath Shield’s defense power.
Perhaps the Spirit Turtle Shell would work as well, but this one has higher defense at the moment.
I let out my voice, as I go forward, step by step, to push away the flames coming at us.
Besides the area I defend, everything is charred black.
Gu… It’s gotten past my Shield’s defenses, and I feel the excruciatingly hot flames eating at my flesh.
The sense of feeling in my arms disappears, along with the pain.
My instincts scream that my body is in danger.
Should I switch to the Spirit Turtle Shell?
It has high fire resistance. I imagine it changing in my mind.
And, from the Shield… I feel something screaming out.
If I change to that shield, I still won’t be able to stand this.
I change one of my Float Shields to the Spirit Turtle Shell.
… It was burned to a crisp in no time! I deploy the Shield again in front of me to buy some time.
Even with the Wrath Shield, I’m taking this much damage.
If this attack gets past me, those behind me will be reduced to nothing but cinders.
I feel the world around me slowing down.
I guess this is the sensation you get when your life is in peril. I think I read about it in a book somewhere, once. When humans sense their lives are in great danger, their thought process hastens, and time seems to pass slower.
The merciless flames from Houou keep attacking me. In order to turn everything into ash.
Barely… I’m barely containing it, but I get the feeling that only 5 seconds have passed in real time.
How long will I have to do this?
I deployed Meteor Shield long ago, and it was instantly destroyed.
There’s no point in using a reflecting Shield, and my Float Shields are already out.
But by deploying my floats one after the other, I’m just barely getting through this.
What do I do?
「Dreifach Resist Fire!」
Something from behind me… is it Ren? A magic that increases my fire resistance flies at me.
I guess it isn’t Revelation level because there wasn’t enough time.
A wise decision.
I feel that the damage I’m taking has reduced ever-so-slightly.
But that’s merely delaying the inevitable.
Houou’s fire’s output increased.
As if to tell me there was more to come, the fire power suddenly jumps up. The flames burn through me.
The heat seeps through the cracks forming on my Shield. My shoulder is now a nicely baked entrée.
Raphtalia and the others call out to me.
A few of them cast recovery and support magic on me. I’m impressed they were able to muster that up in this short amount of time.
But it’s still not enough to handle Houou’s inferno.
I frantically put all of my strength to keeping my Shield arm steady.
The force hitting me seems like it’ll blow me away at any moment. My limbs are turning into charcoal. The HP bar on my status is unsteadily teetering into the critical zone, and I guess I’ll be burned away to nothing at this rate.
I’m impressed that the past Seven Star Hero was able to take on this monster.
Looking back, isn’t this explosion more powerful than the one on the mural?
In ten seconds or so, I’ll be blown away, won’t I?
No, there’s a single way.
If I use that, I’ll save everyone’s life.
But if I do, I’ll definitely die…
“I just have to do it!”
It happened at the same time as my scream.
Next to me, a single little girl stood.
“It’s fine. I’ll protect… I’ll fulfill Naofumi-sama’s wish.” (Atlas)
Me and… that girl’s brother cry out.
The girl firmly nods… she holds out her hands as she jumps forwards.
I can’t let her challenge the impossible. I immediately reach out my hand to grab her.
But my outstretched hand never reached Atlas.
Having studied defense under me, that girl… uses one of the attacks we made together. 『Collect』. She directs all of the flames towards her, and collects them. She creates a Wall to redirect them, and sends them in a direction devoid of human life.
In response to my voice, the girl’s mouth forms a kind smile.
She’s letting off an immeasurable amount of sweat… the meat on her arms has been burnt to a crisp, yet still, she uses her chi to redirect the flames… And in response to her great will, the flames obeyed.
What came next was an explosive sound strong enough to destroy my ears, and a flash too loud for me to keep my eyes open.
When I open them, the smoke prevents me from seeing anything.
“Geho, Geho! Atlas!” (TL: Sound of coughing)
I wave my arm as if to brush away the smoke. I shout out.
And I turn and ask a question.
“Are you okay! Is everyone safe!?”
The smoke clears, and behind me, I see everyone standing.
It seems that we managed to change the direction of Houou’s flames, but the flames we missed came into contact with the army, and caused large casualties.
There are corpses all around. Many have collapsed on the ground.
More importantly, Atlas.
She ran in front of me, into the flames. I look for the young girl who took drastic measures to save us.
And… I look up.
And I realized the fact that something was falling down from the sky.
I hold out my arms to catch it.
Heavy emotions run through my head, yet the item in my hands is so light… that thing, that item… was a girl missing an arm, with both of her legs turned to charcoal. It took me several seconds to realize that I had found Atlas.
Fohl runs over
At the same time, the shadows of two large birds cover us.
“Naofumi! We have to retreat!” (Ren)
Ren shouts at me.
“The current you can’t fight! We have to heal your wounds! And… We need to hurry up and treat that child! There are many injured people. This is the time where… the best healer among us should step forward. This is the time for you to act!” (Ren)
No words can come out of my mouth… what do I do? What can I do!?
“Quickly! Leave this place to us!” (Ren)
“Raphtalia-san, hurry and get those two out of here! Fohl, you get back too!” (Ren)
“Y-yes! Firo!” (Raphtalia)
In response to Ren’s stern words, I was brought to the back lines. My mind was still blank.
I still can’t form any words.
Atlas is on the verge of death.
Looking closely, it isn’t just her legs that have turned to charcoal. Everything under her stomach has been burned to a crisp.
It’s amazing that she’s still alive.
“Hah… ha… hah…”
I leave her to rest in a temporary medical tent, and go around treating those on the verge of death with the rest of the medics.
But the most severely wounded is Atlas.
The rest are… only those that survived made it here.
In my blank mind, I look over everything I saw and heard once more.
“Atlas! Get a grip!” (Fohl)
Fohl grips Atlas’s remaining arm, and desperately starts talking to her.
Atlas responds in a whisper.
What I have to do now is treat the wounded.
I need to save as many lives as I can.
I’m a hero. I’m the Hero of the Shield.
Defense, Support, and Recovery. I’m perhaps the best in the world in those aspects.
… I can’t concentrate.
Even so… I can’t let anybody… I can’t let Atlas die.
Calm down. Concentrate, and cast the highest level healing you can.
The glow of my recovery magic envelops Atlas.
But… it didn’t bring back her missing limbs.
Healing Magic is all-purpose, right!?
Ah, right, when I got back, the magic they cast on me healed my wounds, but it didn’t seem to have an effect on Atlas.
No… It’s probably healing her, but her wounds are too severe…?
Then… I take out Yggdrasil medicine from my Shield, and apply it to Atlas.
It works as an ointment, and if drunk, it can save patients on the verge of death. If I use it in all ways possible, she should get better.
There’s no sign of Atlas healing.
I take out my anger on a nearby healer.
“Why won’t she heal!?” (Naofumi)
… She’s crossed the line where healing is possible.“
Rat came forward, and muttered this.
“What… do you mean?” (Naofumi)
“The fact that Atlas-chan is even living is something close to a miracle. Starting with the healers, and the Marquis’s magic and medicines, keeping her alive is the best we can do. Also…” (Rat)
Under Rat’s arm, Mii-kun’s core cried out.
“This child also had her body destroyed as he protected everyone. He did this much…” (Rat)
“Rat-san. Is there any way you can save Atlas?” (Raphtalia)
“Can’t you do anything!? Can we give her life like that Mii-kun in your hands?” (Naofumi)
“Monsters and Demi-Humans are different. If we used homunculus technology, then perhaps we could get her arms and legs to move, but that girl’s also burnt up most of her organs. Alchemy isn’t omnipotent.” (Rat)
“This can’t be…” (Raphtalia)
“Even by replacing parts, it’s not enough. No matter what we do, she won’t be saved.” (Rat)
“That’s a lie!”
I won’t believe it! Never! There has to be a way!
Where!? Where is the Shield that can save Atlas’s life? There has to be one.
What the hell is the Hero of the Shield? What the hell is with this hero that had to sacrifice a little girl to survive…
“Naofumi…… sama…” (Atlas)
I turn to Atlas.
“Did we protect everyone?” (Atlas)
“Yeah, but more importantly, you-” (Fohl)
“Onii-sama… please bring Naofumi-sama here…” (Atlas)
“… Okay.” (Fohl)
Fohl grabs me, and drags me next to Atlas.
“… I know. I have no time left, right?” (Atlas)
“What are you saying? You have as much time as there’s time in the world.” (Naofumi)
On my answer, Atlas, weakly shakes her head.
“Naofumi-sama… It’s fine already. Don’t worry about me.” (Atlas)
“Of course I would worry about you!” (Naofumi)
Right. If one Yggdrasil medicine was no good, then if I use more, I should be able to save a single life.
But my supply is limited to two. But if I just get more, then definitely.
I signal the healer to come closer, and order him to bring some Yggdrasil medicine.
“Quit it already, Marquis! I just said it, but she’s past the limit.” (Rat)
“We won’t know if it works until we try!” (Naofumi)
“And I’m telling you because we do know!” (Rat)
I ignore Rat, and apply the second vial to Atlas.
First, rub it on the wounds…
But as I touched her skin, I noticed.
The parts that had become charcoal wouldn’t come off no matter what.
I took a knife meant for medical use, and cut off the charcoal portions.
But… still, there’s no sign of her healing.
It seems she can do nothing but breathe. She puts her remaining hand on mine.
“Please… stop already.” (Atlas)
Don’t say such things in front of me!
No matter what happened, I never gave up.
Even when I was betrayed by those I trusted, even when I was called a devil, even when I was almost killed, I never gave up.
Even so… I can’t give up in the face of this… this unreasonable turn of events!
“Naofumi… sama. Please understand… I can’t be saved anymore. I’m the one who understands that best. Every second, part of my chi, my life force leaves my body, so… I understand.” (Atlas)
“But ,even so-”
Water scatters from my eyes, which I thought had withered long ago.
“With Naofumi-sama’s miraculous power, I am… here talking to you. Please… calm yourself.” (Atlas)
Weakly, as if her body would crumble at any second, Atlas stroked my face.
“Hah… hah…” (Atlas)
I close my mouth, and Atlas smiles. It’s a smile like one a mother would give to comfort a crying child. Using her hand, she wipes away my tears.
“Naofumi-sama, I love you more than anyone else in this world. And I said this before, right? I wanted to become your shield.” (Atlas)
“… Yeah.” (Naofumi)
And that means you’ll accept a fate like this!?
If you died because you acted as someone’s shield, do you understand just what sort of emotions the person you protected would experience!?
When I was thinking that, I understood what Atlas was trying to tell me.
What she did was exactly what I was trying to do.
Using Collect to gather the flames, and release them somewhere else.
If put into practice, what would happen? I was the one who understood that best.
If Atlas didn’t step in front first… I would be where she is now.
“Even so.. this…” (Naofumi)
I can’t muster up anything but a cracked voice from my throat.
“I am… satisfied. Like this, I was able to use the life you saved to save yours.” (Atlas)
“No, you can’t die. You can’t die from protecting someone like me.” (Naofumi)
That was something that I should have been doing.
It’s not like I wanted to die.
If it was me, I may have survived it.
“Naofumi-sama… I don’t think I can… answer that request.” (Atlas)
I know! I already Know.
But can’t I pray for a miracle too?
Someone. Anyone is fine. God, I pray to you.
I don’t believe in anyone, but I’ll pray to you!
I’m well aware that this is a selfish request.
Even if the God of this world is the Four Heroes, even if I go against myself, if you can save the girl before my eyes, then… I…
“Naofumi-sama, please… listen to my last bit of selfishness.” (Atlas)
“What? What is it? I’ll definitely grant it. That’s why you can’t do anything like dying!” (Naofumi)
“… I wished to become your Shield. That wish hasn’t changed… and… I don’t want to return my blood, flesh, or soul to the earth.” (Atlas)
The hand grasping mine moved to my Shield.
“I knew from the start I could never become Naofumi-sama’s number one.” (Atlas)
“What are you…” (Naofumi)
“But still, I wished for it. If at least this body can be closer to yours than anyone else…” (Atlas)
I remember the Atlas that came to my room every night.
She always wanted to be by my side.
“Even if I lose my form, please let… me be with you.” (Atlas)
At this girl’s goal… I trembled.