I raced down the long hallway from Class E to Class A.
The looks from the students in the halls pierced in painfully. That charm-watcher girl from before was staring in mute amazement. Sorry for tricking you. This is who I am.
Everyone backed off to form a path. Rather, on my approach, everyone shrieked and avoided me.
Naturally, there was no one who wouldn’t pull back after seeing my form.
“The heck is that!?” “Giga creep!” “We’ve got a loon!” “Hey, hey!”
The numerous inappropriate laughed I never wanted to hear, even as I listened to that negative encouragement, I was invincible. In middle school, no matter what anyone said, I believed I was a cool swordsman. There was never a doubt in my mind. Nothing in the world could harm me. It was the sort of absurdity that could only come from denseness, it was being oblivious, and being painful, but it was undoubtedly invincible.
I’m wrong. Yeah, of course I’m wrong. Of course I’m stupid.
But I can say this with certainty. The power of heart had once bestowed limitless toughness and self-confidence unto a mid-built scraggly-haired middle school boy. Just you watch. Do you think anyone could do the same as me after learning the shame?
Those challengers that press forward no matter what shame awaits them are what the internet calls Heroes. Doesn’t that refer to me? I, Satou Ichirou, am a miracle embodied.
Inexperienced as I was, that was all I could use at the moment. But this power that, if used well, could convert at least one impossible into possible, was what I recognized as magic.
Protect me, my magic barrier! It can just be for a moment, support up someone as feeble as me! Give a coward some courage! Enchant me with the strength to be honest!
In my left hand, the Dragonslaying blade— One-Eyed Dragon Masamune. In my right hand, the Magic Stone of Thanatos.
My body was clad in a tight jet-black long coat, opened in a V shape at the chest with armored shoulders.
The wig for cosplay purposes was inevitably silver long hair. The strongest swordsman of the Mirror World—that was me, Maryuin Koga.
I wasn’t in my early twenties, I didn’t have glistening hair growing to my hips, and if I walked down the streets, my looks weren’t dashing enough for everyone to turn an eye, I was just an unpopular high school buy. But I was Maryuin Koga and no one else. I took up the blade I had once discarded, stepping onto the battlefield once more.
This was Maryuin Koga’s last battle—!
“Whoah, look who’s here!” “Take a pic!” “For real!” “Kyaah!” “Bweh!” “What the heck is is going on!?”
Go ahead, take them. Take however many you want! For I am he unmatched in the mirror world, the peerless black-winged swordsman! For Satou Ichirou was but the guise for the young patriot called Maryuin Koga! Come closer and revere my transcendent foooooorrrm!
I ran past them without slowing, passing by Kobato-san’s side again. For some reason, in an expression of tears and smiles, she stuck up her thumb.
“You’re looking cool! Go get her!”
Cool? Not in a million years. There’s something wrong with Kobato-san. But… for some reason, a heated juvenile power was poured into me by the gallon. I returned the thumb to return the favor.
“Is that Mens!?”
“Whoah, It is Koga-dono, the lost!”
“Maryuin, take care of it!”
“What a powerful wave of energy! So this is his true power!”
“May the lord guide his plight!”
“Impossible! Is he equipped for a final battle!?”
“Your blood flows through my veins, I won’t allow you to die off so easily!”
For today alone, I’ll happily accept the soldier’s encreepagement.
“Sensei! I’m ready to go!”
“Oh, you’re back! My best choice!”
“Mens-chan, break a leg~.”
In the time I was changing, Dorisen and— for some reason— the nurse were pushing against the barricade. You have my gratitude. The gap was now around fifty centimeters. Easy picking!
“I’ll take all responsibility. Satou, give it all you’ve got!”
Borrowing momentum from my full-force sprint, feeling the very speed of a Miyazaki Anime (subject to personal interpretation), I clambered up the barricade. And… I confirmed Ryouko’s survival on the sky alter ten meters away. Rudely enough, she wouldn’t look at me anymore. Her heart was already growing distant. I unsheathed One-Eyed Dragon Masamune.
Long, long ago, an otaku college student made a replica katana to commemorate their graduation and bequeathed it to me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t taller than I was, as the setting went, but it should be enough to break away those hindering protrusions.
“ORYAAAAAAH! Hidden mooooove! Demon Blade Nanashiki!”
Or was it Hidden Sword Nanashiki? … Well, whatever. Anyway, I jumped down from the pass to the pit of spikes. Pipe legs smacked against my lower body. It hurt. I endured the pain. I’d be fine even if I bled. I was protected by the defensive effect of the Maryu seal.
Bending beyond repair, the false katana snapped the rusted leg off of a desk.
And— I launched an attack on the temple from the shortest possible distance.
I put all my thoughts into my lungs.
“You’re lonely, aren’t you!”
The fake katana was almost bent a full ninety degrees. But I pushed straight on. I stumbled again and again, smacking my chest, my stomach, my shoulders, my forehead into the pipe legs. Kuh. Had I been in my golden age, my Maryu sense would have perfectly fended of all these petty attacks!
“Open your ears, Ryouko!”
Tattered as I became, I clumsily clung to the temple. How about that, aren’t I cool? (Yes, that was sarcasm).
“I am… the strongest swordsman who hails from the mirror world, Maryuin Koga! Despite carrying with me the trait of evil, I placed my allegiance with the absolute good that was the Divine Dragon, the greatest, most badass, dark hero of all!”
Having come so far, my fatigue started coming out, but no time to rest. I redirected every ounce of power in my body to driving my limbs. While my consciousness grew faint, my body and soul kept their sights on the top.
“The strongest blade of the Twenty Four Generals who worshiped and served the Divine Dragon Astaloy! But… betrayed by none other than Astaloy, the lord who I served, I lost my comrades and my family!
“For a time, I found myself on the brink of death, the core of my power, my dragon soul crushed, my magic immediately brought all the way down to Rank D; yet even still, as a single avenger, I set out on a journey to slay Astaloy!
“Over my long and lonely journey, all manner of misfortune befell me. Old friends became foes, the little sister I thought was dead was being abused as a source of magical power, and even my birthplace was razed by the accursed Astaloy, but…”
Even I couldn’t tell the state of things at this point.
I just spewed out what I had to say one after the next. I didn’t think anything would come of speaking out delusions, but the early danger detection system within me stayed silent, as if to tell me this was how it should be.
“I encountered princess Erina, who had become queen of this ruined land, we were gradually drawn to one another… the long journey for revenge had worn my heart far too thin.”
Huh? Did I have a setting like that? I didn’t remember it? Did I just come up with it now?
“Before I knew it… I began dreaming of a peace without conflict, a life I could live with my heart at ease. A world Princess Erina and the remaining wanderers could live without senseless killing… there, there would be a world with no war, where humans would have the right to live as humans, where all children would be able to go to school, and where lovers would be able to speak of their love with no reserve. Princess Erina’s divination was able to find such a world.
“That was this realm… it was this world!”
One hand touched the top stratum of the temple. But it wouldn’t move any longer. It would no longer lift my body another centimeter. Had I run out of mana? I became an ornament of the temple. I would eventually run out of power completely and fall. So I threw out my final words.
“Astaloy’s next attack robbed me of my life. It wasn’t only me that died. The mirror world itself was shattered, it fell to ruin. But in exchange for her own life, Princess Erina made it so my soul was reincarnated into the transient realm. There was but one miscalculation, Astaloy’s army that happened to be present were transferred to the same realm along with me. In order to protect this world, I fought them. They followed me to middle school. They were reincarnated as bullies. I fought them for three years, and I came out the victor. I survived. The battle was over… and now, I live as but a mere high school student.”
What is with these sudden developments… quite pathetic, if I do say so myself. Are these really the best delusions my mind can come up with?
“That’s right. Ryouko… those Dragon Terminals your collecting… those are fragments of the dragon Astaloy. They should never be carried out to another world by any means. That’s why, if you plan to take them back with you… Ryouko, are you listening? If you plan on taking them away…”
My body wouldn’t move. Only my voice came out.
“I’ll stop you, even if it costs me my life!!”
And as if God had grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, my body was hoisted up to the temple.
It wasn’t by my own strength. Naturally, it wasn’t a miracle. When I raised my face, I caught a glimpse of the culprit, clinging to me as she pulled me up.
“The heck is that?”
She was crying.
From her large eyes, large drops of tears spilled out. Crying her heart out, Ryouko rested my head on her lap. How water droplets fell on my face.
“Ryouko, the place you want to go… I also… there was a time I tried going there too.”
“Yeah. I fought as a dream soldier for three years. I was bulled the whole time, and whenever it got painful, I would delude myself more… in the end, I got into a feud with my family, and tried to run off to my own world. So I know.”
Ryouko caringly stroked my face.
“It’s a dead end. The road you’re aiming for. It doesn’t go anywhere.”
“But I hate staying in this world.”
“I get you. It’s stupid, ain’t it? School and stuff, it’s all really stupid. There are good things… but the bad outweighs it several times. But try thinking about it. This world might not have magic or monsters, but at least it’s got enemies. You can fight to your heart’s content… granted, they’re all invisible enemies.”
“… It’s impossible, I can’t fight something like that…”
“Sure you can” At that moment, I saw a path for Ryouko to escape. “I mean, you’ve fought those invisible enemies all the way here.”
Twice the tears as before fell on me all at once.
“… Even in this world… heroes, and warriors, and witches can exist… so you can’t take the dead end. You’ve got to go beyond the third-floor landing. If you think there’s a way out there, it’s just an illusion.”
“then… what am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know. All I could do was restart from scratch… but, if it’s you… you might be able to do it.”
You might not have noticed it, but Ryouko, you’re amazing.
You can tell just by looking at this labyrinth of art. I’m sure you have a special path ahead of you.
“I can’t do it. I can’t do it alone.”
“You can. Just level up, and you can do anything.”
“I can’t. I’ll be crushed before that.”
“You won’t be crushed if I’m with you.”
My eyes grew hazy. The fatigue on my heart and body was heavy. This was the price one paid for using berserk. I reached out my hand. Ryouko grasped it without a moment’s delay. With her hand small and fragile like a child’s, she gripped it with a surprising amount of force. I gripped back. With my right hand, the magic stone inlayed.
“There, I’ve caught you. I’ve finally undone your Gildiem. Now that you’ve woken from your dream, you can’t return again. You’ve got no choice left but to live in pain in this world… just like me.”
“… That’s terrible. You’re bullying me.”
“I’m a dark hero, after all. But I’ll at least provide aftercare. I’ll take you on adventures in this world as well.”
“You can’t, there aren’t any adventures in…”
I couldn’t see her face anymore. Only the teardrops warmed by her body heat came down my face like rain. How very comfortable. The pipe of emotion was connected, finally, between me and her.
I must be a terrible person to enjoy her tears. I really do possess the evil attribute.
“Like at the DIY. Maybe Daiso.”
“That’s not an adventure.”
“You’re making light of DIY. You’re insulting the do it yourself spirit. You know, Vis even sells carnivorous plants, and the DIY-store and Daiso are labyrinths revived in the modern day. Just step in, and you might even run into the DIY Demon Lord. Hey, appearance-wise, he’s just a normal old man, but his arms are amazing. What I’m trying to say is, make light of DIY, and you DIE. I’ll teach you all the tricks.”
I’m sure you’ll need some new techniques from here on, anyway.
“The heck is that… how stupid, stupid.”
Perhaps overcome with emotion, Ryouko let out one last sob. And… when she raised her voice next, it was a laugh. Her teary voice mingled in, and the finish was like an emotional dud, but… that was the first laugh I’d ever heard from her.
an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
I laughed too. Mine was powerless, I could only emit a chipped voice.
Eventually, Ryouko whispered in a gentle tone.
“… The ritual failed. It’s all your fault.”
Turning my last strength into a grin, my switch was flipped off.