Kookie did 359
Chapter 360: Choice
“Oy! You’re listening, right? Do something!” (Naoumi)
How many times have I called out to the Four Holy Weapons’ Manual and Shield Strap up until now?
The day is already ending…
My parents cautioned me to go study for college, but my body is unable to.
What do you want me to do?
I slam the book shut.
“What is it?” (Raphtalia)
“… Perhaps we’re already too late.” (Naofumi)
We’ve had absolutely no progress since getting here, and perhaps there truly is nothing we can do.
As I was thinking that, I got the feeling that my field of vision was turning pitch black.
“I… think it would be best if I stopped reading this book…” (Naofumi)
The days pile onto each other, and I can’t keep reading the book that records the path leading to the deaths of my comrades.
“Forget everything, and as if nothing happened…” (Naofumi)
On my words, Raphtalia seems like she’s about to burst into tears.
“Please, don’t say something like that.” (Raphtalia)
“I know, but…” (Naofumi)
“Until the end, you cannot give up.” (Raphtalia)
“Didn’t you want to return here after bringing peace to the world? I hate it. An ending that leaves such a bad taste in my mouth.” (Raphtalia)
“That’s true… but even if we were to return to that world, what would we do?” (Naofumi)
“What do you mean by that?” (Raphtalia)
“You know what I’m trying to say, right?” (Naofumi)
My question leaves Raphtalia silent.
Right, the identity of Medea’s attacks remain unknown.
What’s more, she took all the Heroes attacks as if they were on lower levels than mosquitoes.
Even if we got a little bit of damage through, it was but a scratch. It’s best to think we had absolutely no chance of victory there.
My job was to protect. But, insufficient in my role, I wasn’t able to do anything as I was taken out.
I don’t even think it has anything to do with ability or anything.
“To her, that fight was just a game… wasn’t it?” (Naofumi)
She flaunted her advantage so readily. There’s no way I wouldn’t despair over that loss.
Even if we were able to return to that world, we would only end up dead again.
“Even so… I will fight.” (Raphtalia)
Raphtalia puts her hand on my face.
“Naofumi-sa, n, even if you get the chance, please stay in this world. I am… going to follow the path I believe is right. I don’t want to choose the option that leaves me having died a pointless death.” (Raphtalia)
Her words made me remember my own irritation, and made me want to smack myself for becoming a coward.
“That’s right… we can’t just stop fighting because we lost. Even if we may just die over there… it would be for what we believed in.” (Naofumi)
Just what was I so afraid of?
Right now, there truly is a bitch trying to end the world for fun.
Medea said it was for leveling up or something.
As if I’d let it get destroyed for the sake of that!
Tomorrow onwards, let’s increase the scope of our investigations.
There may be some library out there with something like the Four Holy Weapons’ Manual.
“Raphtalia, don’t underestimate me. I would never be satisfied if I ran away here. Because when I met the Spirit of the Shield and Atlas, I made a decision. I would bring peace to the world, and then live in this world with you once I was satisfied with the conclusion.” (Naofumi)
In an instant, color drained from the world, and sound disappeared in its entirety.
When I look out the window, I saw that the birds had stopped in midair, with their wings positioned to flap.
The Four Holy Weapons’ Manual began letting off a faint light, as it floated in the air.
Even though it never reacted once ‘til now, what’s it doing?
The pages rapidly flip back and forth.
The Shield Strap starts emitting light as well, and the light took a form of a person.
That shape was… Atlas.
“It’s been a while, Naofumi-sama.”
“Atlas… san.” (Raphtalia)
“Yes. It’s been even longer, Raphtalia-san.” (Atlas)
“Atlas? Why are you coming out of the Shield? Are you alright?” (Naofumi)
“For now, yes. As you can see, the time in Naofumi-sama’s world is currently stopped.” (Atlas)
I already got that part from the window, and there’s no sound or color coming from the rest of the world.
If it was in another world, I wouldn’t be that surprised, but it’s a bit disturbing over here.
“Is this really my world?” (Naofumi)
“Yes, it is indeed Naofumi-sama’s world. This worlds principle of cause and effect has been tampered with to allow Raphtalia to have a place in it, it seems.” (Atlas)
“Fumu… and? Why did they do something like this?” (Naofumi)
“A reward… it seems.” (Atlas)
Atlas closes her eyes part-way.
A reward, is it?
That’s quite some nice service you’re offering if you’re going to give a reward to the guy who retired before reaching the goal.
Well, looking at Atlas’s expression, I can see this won’t be that nice of a chat.
“From the Spirit of the Shield?” (Naofumi)
“Yes. As an emergency measure, the Spirit of the Shield reluctantly sent you back to your original world.” (Atlas)
“Well yeah, I would have died at that rate.” (Naofumi)
“Yeah, it’s a blessing you had that medicine inside of your Shield.” (Atlas)
“That medicine?” (Naofumi)
“What you put in to unlock the Shield of 0.”
Ah, that dragon-repelling poison.
It had a skill effective against God, so I wondered what other powers it had, but it can even let you evade death?
“Because of that medicine, the Four Heroes were barely able to retain their power, and Naofumi-sama was barely able to fool death.” (Atlas)
That means the possibility Ren and Motoyasu are still alive is high.
Also, if some of the other Heroes die once, perhaps it’d be alright.
“Let me say this first, but the Vassal’s lives aren’t guaranteed. Raphtalia-san was revived on a whim, apparently.” (Atlas)
With a somewhat sullen expression, Atlas says this while facing Raphtalia.
“It was a mistake, a miracle stemming from Raphtalia’s coincidence with Naofumi-sama, and her connection to his heart at the time.” (Atlas)
Sparks seem to fly between the two women.
No matter what happens, she never changes.
“And so? Why are you doing something like this now?” (Naofumi)
“According to the Spirit of the Shield, he wants to ask you what you want to do from here on out.” (Atlas)
“… You mean whether to forget everything, and live in this world in peace, or die in a foreign world?” (Naofumi)
“… Yes.” (Atlas)
Atlas gives her response after a heavy period of silence.
Those options are quite harsh.
For one week, I’ve lived here with Raphtalia. It’s not as if I don’t feel that it would be nice to do this forever.
That’s just how comfortable it was.
“The Spirit of the Shield says your opponent was just too powerful. That there’s no established way to defeat someone even the 0 Skills didn’t work on.” (Atlas)
“So they don’t have any measures?” (Naofumi)
Until the wave ended, didn’t they summon the Four Heroes because they would be able to overcome it?
“Originally, they would just wait for the wave to quiet down, and even in the worst of situations, there was a possibility to avert them with the 0 Skills.” (Atlas)
“What do you mean by that?”
I think I heard something similar from her earlier.
That on the path to overcoming the wave, it would somehow work out.
It’s as if they have some sort of flaw, or disadvantage.
“That much is… it’s just that based on the power offered by the medicine, those of the physical world should be put in a disadvantageous situation if the wave extends for too long… or it should be like that.” (Atlas)
Does that bitch of a Goddess have something like a weakness?
In the first place, there has to be a reason why she never came down to the world in the first place.
For someone with strange powers like hers, I’m sure she’s destroyed various worlds before.
“But the world’s already assimilated.” (Naofumi)
“Yes. It’s already… too late, says the Spirit of the Shield.” (Atlas)
I was summoned as a Hero, and I came all the way here. Yet it just ends with those words?
“As if I could give up that easily.” (Naofumi)
“Yes… and so, the Spirit of the Shield will wring out his last bit of power, and give it an all or nothing chance by opening the door to our world. He’s asking for your decision.” (Atlas)
“So it’s a one-way ticket to hell?” (Naofumi)
“Yes. This time, if you lose, it’s truly the end. You really will die. No… death may be one of the better fates you could receive.” (Atlas)
That goddess can move even the dead to her will. Even if I die, I may end up her puppet.
“Even so… will you go back?” (Atlas)
Even if I survive, I can’t return. That’s what the Spirit of the Shield is trying to tell me.
“I am… always with Naofumi-sama. Raphtalia-san is also here. I do feel bad for everyone, and Onii-sama, but… giving up is still a valid option. No one there would ever blame Naofumi-sama or Raphtalia-san for it.” (Atlas)
“I don’t want to. For me… Naofumi-sama, the world, they’re all irreplaceable.” (Raphtalia)
“As expected of Raphtalia-san. The Spirit of the Hammer is quite happy for you.” (Atlas)
“Naofumi-sama, regardless of what decision you make here, I must follow that path I’ve chosen. I offer my deepest apologies.” (Raphtalia)
“… No? Raphtalia, I just said it before, right?” (Naofumi)
When she class-upped, and in various other times, I said but a single thing.
I want her to choose the life she wants to live.
That even if I wasn’t there, she had to choose her path for herself.
And by that right, Raphtalia has chosen to return to her original world, and fight.
I have not the qualifications to stop her.
This is my problem, and mine alone.
So what should I do?
Let’s see… if all of this happiness was for the sake of this decision, then I think I would curse fate as I accepted it.
No matter what conclusion comes about, in order to not leave any regrets, I want to protect everyone with my life on the line.
“It appears that you’ve already come to a conclusion…” (Atlas)
“Atlas, I’m sorry. I’m going to have to waste the life you sacrificed your life to save.” (Naofumi)
“No… as long as Naofumi-sama is satisfied with is, I will always follow and serve you.” (Atlas)
“Yep, I’m going to return to that world. Even if it ends with my death.” (Naofumi)
As I give my response, the strap and manual glow brighter, and a pillar of light manifests.
“Next… if you enter this pillar, you will cross dimensions, and you’ll probably be able to get there. I think.” (Atlas)
“Oy, oy. Those are some really unreliable words there.” (Naofumi)
“Well, the situation is as it is. Apparently, this path has been connected with the greatest possible conditions to ensure things go well. It took a while to accomplish that.” (Atlas)
“I see.” (Naofumi)
“Apparently, Naofumi-sama and Raphtalia-san’s strong desire to return was one of the necessary factors.” (Atlas)
“That sounds like the plot of an old game.” (Naofumi)
In that game, you win in the end, and get your Happy Ending, but I don’t have much hope for this one.
If you ask me whether I’m scared or not, I’m terrified.
In the first place, in all the fights I’ve been in, there’s never been one where I wasn’t afraid.
And I’ve never faced a supreme being who I had no means of dealing with.
Yep, I’m pretty sure I’ll die.
Even so, I just don’t want to give up.
It’s quite a strange feeling.
When I came to that world, I honestly wanted it to fall to ruin; but now my mind is filled with thoughts of saving it.
What changed me… Raphtalia, and Atlas. Our comrades that are still fighting at this very moment.
I’m not sure if I should say this myself, but my personality is quite twisted. It isn’t the best.
But still, this isn’t a bad feeling.
We’re not returning just to die.
We’re returning to give it a shot.
If my feelings are what invited me to that world, then I’ll just follow what I believe in.
“The Spirit of the Hammer is in agreement. Please be careful.” (Atlas)
“Yes, thank you very much.” (Raphtalia)
As Raphtalia answers, Atlas smiles… she changes into a mass of light, and vanishes.
We gather up all the things we thought would be useful in that world.
I’ll bet they won’t actually be of any use, but they’ll at least be of some relief.
“Then, I guess we’ll be off.” (Naofumi)
We muster up our courage, and plunged into the pillar of light.