Final Chapter – The Hero’s Children
The blizzard that was raging outside was not typical weather for this time of the year, even taking into account the fact that there was still a fair amount of time until spring. Visibility was next to zero with all the snow and the gusts of wind, making the relatively warm weather they had had until yesterday seem like a lie.
“Give me a break already. I can’t get into the mood.”
The city streets had been blindsided by the unseasonal snow, causing traffic to come to a grinding halt. The only reason he had managed to make it to his destination was because he wanted to be there for what was going to happen, no matter what.
There was actually no need to show up at that place these days. There were plenty of days to get confirmation even without doing so. Even so, he still wanted to go there for no other reason than to feel the sense of accomplishment in person.
He walked forward slowly and carefully to avoid slipping in the accumulated snow and finally reached his destination.
He had assumed that there wouldn’t be many people eccentric enough to visit the place in person on a day like this, but to his surprise, he found that quite a few people besides him had chosen to gather in that place. He felt a sense of relief after seeing that.
With so many people here, it was very unlikely that the event that was to come would be canceled due to bad weather.
The storm grew even worse, to the point where it became impossible to gauge the time based on how bright it was. However, all the people gathered there were waiting with bated breath for that very moment, which was nine o’clock in the morning.
The curtain dropped away, quite literally. Exactly as planned. He gulped and tightened his grip on the scrap of paper that he held in his hands.
It had only taken him around ten seconds or so. The white curtain had dropped away to reveal a notice board filled with numbers. Kenzaki Yasuo confirmed that his exam seat number was displayed on that board in just ten-odd seconds.
He had expected to feel much happier than this.
He had expected that this result would cause him to shout with joy.
However, the feelings currently dominating Yasuo’s heart were a queer sense of achievement, along with a certain kind of resignation.
“I guess there’s no going back now.”
After checking another three times to make sure that his number was really displayed on the board, Yasuo pulled his Slimphone out of his pocket and held it to his ear.
“H-Hello, this is the Kenzaki residen—Ah!!”
Unlike him, the person who picked up the call on the first ring appeared to be very tense. Not only did they mess up the greeting, but they had also apparently dropped the telephone receiver. The loud sound that came through the speaker caused Yasuo to reflexively move his Slimphone away from his ear.
“…Hello~. Calm down a bit. Why are you more nervous than me when I am the one who actually came to the location?”
After listening to the apology that came over the speaker of his phone, Yasuo spoke with a hint of pride in his voice.
“I passed the exam. For Politics and Economics at Waseta University.”
A huge commotion broke out on the other side of the call the instant he said that, forcing him to once again move his Slimphone away from his ear.
“Hey, calm down. When you get all excited like that, it just makes me cool down even more. I’m standing in the middle of a blizzard here, you know?”
After saying that, Yasuo once again looked up at the notice board that displayed the list of people who had passed the general examination.
“Okay. Yeah. The blizzard is really bad, so I’ll be taking the train straight back home. Yeah, the trains are delayed a lot but they’re still running slowly. Yeah. With this, I have achieved the bare minimum.”
Peeling his eyes off the notice board, Yasuo looked up at the large auditorium of Waseta University, one of the hardest private colleges to get into in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Had he not been stuck in the middle of a blizzard, would the snow that accumulated in the eaves have given the sight a slightly magical feeling?
No, surely not.
After all, Yasuo would not be attending Waseta University despite it being his first choice of college and passing the examination.
“Alright then, I’ll call again if anything happens. I’m heading back home for now, so would you mind turning on the bath heater? I already feel like I’m frozen solid. Yeah… Eh? Geez…”
Yasuo smiled wryly at the voice that came over the speaker of his phone.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. Isn’t that what we decided on to begin with? I held up my end of the promise. Now it’s your turn.”
The voice on the other end of the call was crying.
It wasn’t due to happiness, but due to sadness and regret. To some extent, that response was also as he had expected. That was because…
“I decided to fight. With this, I have satisfied your condition, Diana. Now it’s your turn.”
“William. There is one thing I want to confirm.”
“What is it?”
On that day, Yasuo asked William a question after going from the Ruins of Oodem to the Land of the Dead.
“Do I have to die, no matter what?”
“I don’t understand what you are getting at.”
“……I already heard the explanation from Raia. She told me that both Kaul and Beatrice set out with the intention of keeping the World of the Dead from filling up to the brim. I didn’t understand everything she said, but most likely, there are far too many of the dead right now, to the point where the Country of the Dead can’t receive any more. I don’t really understand what Kaul was trying to do with his methods, but I assume that Beatrice Heller was trying to keep the cycle of life going while keeping the dead in the world of the living.”
“Yes, well, that assumption is more or less true.”
“Then what is your goal? If I go by what you said when we first met, it makes me think that you wanted to drag Nodoka and me to this place all along. It sounded like we wouldn’t serve your purpose unless we died. But I used a ‘Latch’ and came here anyway. Is this good enough?”
“Beatrice tried to use the Latch to send the Shii en masse to the world of the living. In fact, she was able to choose from among the dead with a fairly high degree of precision and release them into the world of the living. In that case, wouldn’t the opposite also be true?”
William made an expression like he had fallen into thought for a short while, but eventually, he held out his right hand that was not holding the lantern and raised three fingers.
“There are three problems. Firstly, we do not have much time until the Land of the Dead bursts from the pressure and breaks the cycle of life. Even though you used the Latch to come here, you cannot move around properly, correct? You haven’t moved a single step since you came here. You are of no use to me this way. Another problem is that if we keep waiting for you to mature, Beatrice’s plan will succeed. Not to mention the bursting that I mentioned before.”
“……I see. So what’s the last problem?”
“Living beings cannot reach the Capital.”
“The core of the life cycle system that makes the Land of the Dead what it is. There is no way to get around this particular problem. You cannot pass through the Gates of the Dead while you still possess a physical body. With the current state of the cycle of life, the only ones to pass through the Capital are those that you people have been sending off. However, both Earth and Ante Lande have generated far too many of the dead. The system is unable to deal with the sheer number of dead and they are backing up, starting to encroach upon life itself. Both Kaul and Beatrice were trying to keep this system intact while trying to make it work more efficiently.”
“I want to break the system that maintains the cycle of life. My choice is the complete opposite of what Kaul and Beatrice were trying to do by maintaining and optimizing the current system.”
“What happens if you destroy it? Does that mean people will no longer die?”
“I have no idea about that.”
Yasuo was shocked by William who just gave an irresponsible answer all of a sudden.
“The current state of the system is hindering the smooth reincarnation of life, right? If you destroy the reincarnation system itself, won’t that just mess everything up?”
“Just when did I say that the cycle of life was ‘reincarnation’?”
“Nobody knows what happens to the dead after they are sent off. It is said that the Capital’s system purifies the souls and sends them on to their next life. However, there is no guarantee that a person who has died will be reborn once again as a human.”
William’s red eye glowed even brighter as a smile tinged with madness spread across his face.
“Doesn’t that sound horrible? No matter how many good deeds you stack up, it all ends when you die. No matter how many evil acts you perform, death sets you free. Don’t you think that’s unforgivable? If there is a cycle of life, then I would like for the karma accumulated by a soul to be carried over to the next life, as it should have been from the start…… That’s why…… That’s why I separated myself from the system. I used the Torch to obtain this lantern. The power to cheat death, and obtain the Mask of life.”
Mask. Yasuo remembered hearing that word before. He had heard it from Raia.
Kaul is the Torch. Beatrice is the Queen. And…
“So you are the one called Jörg?”
“That is just what the dead people in the Capital started calling me. It is merely one of the many names I am known by. The same goes for Kaul and Beatrice as well, they just chose those names on their own. I… I have only one true name. My father was a shithead and he was completely beyond help, but he still gave me a name, William, and I loved him. Say, Kenzaki Yasuo. I cannot believe them. I cannot believe the bastards who say that they never want to be reborn as humans. If you face hardship, or if you face a helpless situation, then isn’t it natural to seek revenge against the ones who put you in that position? If the people who don’t feel that way are reborn as shellfish or something, what’s the point? They don’t want to live, but they still want to become a different type of ‘living thing’ in spite of that. Don’t you think that’s ridiculous?”
“Sorry, but I’ve never felt that much despair towards my life. I’m just a kid from Japan from an ordinary family, after all. Compared to the world’s standards, I’ve actually lived a relatively blessed life.”
“That’s true. You are far more blessed than I was when I was born into the world as a human. Anyways, that is not important. Reasons aside, I want to destroy the system that is built to maintain this cycle of life. I want to see if what comes after that is eternity or an end. Say, Kenzaki Yasuo.”
William suddenly closed the distance between himself and Yasuo. He came close enough for Yasuo to feel his breath, and Yasuo felt like taking a step back out of fear.
“You can’t move, can you? That is because you are bound by your life. You cannot become one of my comrades in that state. You cannot fight by my side as long as you are alive. Or fight against me, for that matter.”
William thrust the lantern in his hand towards Raia who was standing next to Yasuo, still unchangingly facing the direction of the Capital without even being able to turn to look at him.
“W-What are you—!”
“Beatrice’s Latch is a hindrance. While I am looking to acquire souls that grew to be superior while still alive, her Latch is an obstacle that does naught but nip such talent in the bud. It is enough for only my own ‘Latch’ to exist. Your existence is what makes Yasuo harbor such strange misconceptions.”
“J-Jörg! What are you…”
“What are you afraid of? You’re already dead. In the first place, you are just an ordinary Shii. You are merely one of the pitiful keys in Beatrice’s keychain that happened to manifest the personality from back when you were still alive. You cause nothing but harm to Yasuo and his friends. Separate yourself from Shouko Tatewaki.”
Raia’s scream was erased by the light of the lantern. The red light from the lantern flooded her left eye.
Yasuo, who was unable to take his eyes off William, heard something snap in the fringes of his vision, followed by the sound of a small footstep, as if someone was walking upon wet sand.
Raia faced forwards and started to walk away.
Yasuo called out to her back in a tone of voice different from sorrow, regret, or even resentment. However, Raia—the girl who was one of the dead—did not look back at him.
“There is nothing more pitiful than a Shii that has fled the Capital. Because she left the circle of life that is still barely functioning, she has to start all over again from the last place in the queue. I wonder how long it will take until she once again reaches the Capital…”
William spared Raia a momentary glance as she walked away, but he immediately returned his gaze to Yasuo.
“What do you say? The failure of the system is inevitable. Before long, the dead will overflow into the land of the living. Before that happens, there might be a chance to save other pitiful souls like her. Would you like to bet on that chance? Would you like to witness the creation of a new form of life and death?”
Life was inevitably followed by death.
The Capital had a system that would return a soul after death to the cycle of life, which worked in much the same way as the sending off performed by Yasuo and the other Magitech Knights. However, what would happen if that system was close to reaching its limits?
There was far too little information to work with. Yasuo’s strength was far too insufficient. The way he was right now, he did not not have the capacity to answer William’s question.
“……For now, I think that Beatrice’s plan is more realistic. I can also understand why she spread the roots of the Carnelian of the Coal Mine throughout each nation. The goal is to basically create a world-wide, state-sponsored program to send off the dead. That should reduce the burden on the Capital a little.”
“That only postpones the problem.”
“I don’t think it’s good to act like you’ve achieved something after rejecting everything that has been in place since ages ago, either.”
Although it sounded oddly familiar and cliched, Yasuo and William were running on parallel paths that would never intersect.
“I have lost interest. I can’t move you from that location, nor can I kill someone who has come to the World of the Dead. Sheesh, the youth of Japan are far too conservative. I wonder if it is because of your rigid society.”
“We’re both humans, aren’t we? You should understand how it feels to want things to stay the same.”
Yasuo said that offhandedly, but that comment seemed to take William by surprise. He looked a little daunted as he stared intently at Yasuo’s face. Was it just his imagination, or had the bloodthirst emanating from William’s soulless left eye reduced a little?
“Did I say something strange?”
“……Fairly strange, I would say. Even back when I was a human, I was repeatedly despised as a demon and whatnot. I never imagined that I would be treated as a human after ending up in such a state.”
“Despite how I look, I’m still preparing for exams. I believe that I am capable of taking things in context. If you were once a human, then I see no problem with saying that you’re still a human now.”
“That’s true. It’s not like there are any rules on the subject. So even after death, one remains human. Hahaha.”
Yasuo wondered what was so strange about that. William raised the corners of his mouth in a happy smile and then did something completely unexpected.
“Yasuo. I will entrust this to you.”
William pulled a flaming coal that glowed with a bright light from the lantern he held and pressed it into Yasuo’s hand. It was the same hand that Yasuo had used to hold Shouko’s hand before he came here. Yasuo panicked, but he could not resist William’s strength.
Despite glowing ominously, the piece of coal that was pressed into his hand did not give off the slightest amount of heat.
William raised Yasuo’s hand that was holding the coal to eye level, allowing him to see what was happening.
The piece of coal held in his hand crumbled away like the soot from a Shii that was being sent off, leaving behind a small cylinder that sparkled with a golden color in the palm of his hand. At first glance, it looked like the sort of whistle that a sports referee would wear around their neck during a match, but Yasuo saw upon looking closer that it had the shape of an olifant, despite its small size.
“The Holy Sword Liutberga. The Holy Staff Marlowe. The Holy Bow Pomona. All of them are sacred vessels that were named from the belief that souls would be reincarnated from the underworld. And this here is the last one. The Holy Flute Solanum.”
That was also a word that he had heard from Raia. However, not just Diana, even Feigreid and Gaius had never heard that name. Yasuo’s doubt must have shown on his face, as William put on a teasing expression and once again said something that was hard to understand.
“Even Japan has the Obon festival, right? I’ve heard that Solanum is meant to be used at that time.”
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”
Seeing as all four of his grandparents were still alive and well, Yasuo’s impression of the Obon festival was merely that it was a time during his summer vacations when things got especially crowded and disorganized.
However, since William had said that, there had to be some meaning behind it.
“After you return to Oodem, try blowing it before the ‘Latch’ closes. Hideo will undoubtedly be returned to the world that he belongs to.”
The moment William said that, Yasuo was surrounded by a sudden whirlwind of black soot that welled up from the lantern that was supposed to be empty. The whirlwind gave off a grating sound, like the wings of countless insects. Even William, who was standing right in front of Yasuo, disappeared from his view.
“The next time we meet, I expect a more favorable response…….”
The next instant, Yasuo opened his eyes and found himself in front of the snowglobe in Oodem. Unlike the time in the museum, his mind was completely clear, and he was still holding Shouko’s hand.
Held in between their palms was the small golden flute. Yasuo let go of Shouko’s hand and held the whistle up to his lips, causing a clear, peaceful, and beautiful note to echo throughout the surroundings.
The Holy Flute Solanum.
Before Yasuo could even recall that name that he had heard in the chaotic, dreamlike vision of the Country of the Dead, the vortex of stars surrounding the snowglobe that looked like a Gate Tower suddenly shattered. The white world started to distort, including Hideo who had been frozen inside that space. And then…
As the two of them watched, Hideo was thrown into a sky, right in front of them. It was a sky that Yasuo and Shouko were very familiar with.
It was the sky above the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park, in broad daylight.
“So that’s what he meant when he said, ‘the place where he belongs?’”
For an instant, they saw Hideo struggle frantically when he was thrown into the sky above Tokorozawa, but the image that they had been seeing dispersed along with the last fragments of the shattered vortex of stars and they could not tell what happened to Hideo after that.
“Yasuo, Shouko, are the two of you okay?”
The two of them turned towards the voice that called out to them timidly from behind. The next instant, Diana, Nodoka, Feigreid, and Gaius were suddenly taken aback.
“Shouko-san, your eye! Your left eye!”
Diana and Nodoka ran up to Shouko, irrepressible smiles breaking out over their faces at the sight of her left eye . Yasuo looked at her face while continuing to hold her hand.
“…It’s still a little red.”
Shouko’s eyes were a little red, maybe because she was tired.
However, that was all.
There was no trace of the black flame that could not be hidden no matter how hard they tried.
What followed next was a great uproar, in more ways than one.
The Shii had disappeared completely from Shouko, and her left eye went back to its original color. That meant she also lost the Orion and the superhuman strength that had come from Raia, but Hana-chan continued to interact with Shouko in the same way as before, proving that Shouko’s skill at handling scelephants came entirely from her own talent.
After that, there was a huge uproar in Baskelgarde regarding the treatment of the twelve people from Japan who had appeared in Oodem.
The matter of the magic anomaly detected at Oodem was settled with the explanation that it had been caused by the arrival of the twelve people near Oodem, but sending back so many people to Japan using the Gate Tower would cost an incredible amount of money. Nodoka aside, the other people from Japan couldn’t even believe that they had really been transported to another world, so it took some time to get them to understand.
In any case, the conclusion was that Yasuo was not able to return to Japan for almost a month.
Since they had at least completed their highest priority mission, namely getting rid of the Shii that had possessed Shouko, Diana took her back to Japan right away. She was able to return Shouko to Japan in exactly seven days, just as she had promised.
That was all well and good, but in order to secure the funds to send the other twelve people back, they had no choice but to make Yasuo’s existence public. Since the “Saint of Galedeite” who had already been making the rounds in rumors brought back a new sacred vessel from the same place where the holy sword had awakened, the mood in Holstro turned so festive that it made it seem like all problems related to the Shii had been resolved.
Only the fact that Yasuo was the child of the Hero had been kept under wraps, but since both of them were existences who had the potential to save the world, the number of people who wanted to connect the two of them together was by no means small.
After that, Leonid, of all people, set up a fund for donations to the “Saint”, and then used the entire amount to finance the transportation of twelve people using the Gate Tower.
The Gate Tower required three percent of Resteria’s yearly budget to pay for a round trip for a single adult. Of course, the donations alone would not cover the entire cost of the trip for twelve people, so Leonid used the donations as leverage to establish a “Support Fund for the Saint” as a government venture to gather even more money through investors. Even Diana could not help but be surprised by this plan which could only be called a state-sponsored scam.
Truthfully speaking, Yasuo considered it a miracle that he was able to return to Japan in just one month. There was a very real possibility that he could have been raised up as a national hero and swept away by the flow, but the ones who stopped that from happening were Leonid and the Krone family.
Just when Yasuo was on the verge of being declared as a national hero, Leonid released fake information that he had left the country on a journey to suppress the Shii.
Despite collecting donations and even establishing a fund for his use, the fact remained that Yasuo did not have the sort of power that the rumors said that he did, and nor did he have any means to resolve the root cause of the problem with the Shii. That said, it was apparently good for Basklegarde’s image to provide official support to him while allowing him to tour the various countries, at least for the time being.
Feigreid, as a Magitech Knight from the fortress town of Galedeite which was considered to be the “Land where the Saint first appeared”, was deeply connected with Leonid’s manipulations. Even Hana-chan, the scelephant that was supposedly used by the Saint on his travels, was being treated as a sacred beast.
Of course, Yasuo had not actually gone on a journey. After seeing off Nodoka and the others who traveled back to Japan using Baskelgarde’s Gate Tower, he was transported to Resteria by the Krone Family from where he used the return trip that had already been paid for to return to Japan.
The reunion with his parents that came after a month of separation turned into an awkward situation. After all, Hideo, who was supposed to guard them during their trip, had not even made it to Ante Lande, and had instead ended up being unceremoniously kicked back to Earth.
On top of that, Madoka had ended up hospitalized due to mental stress after remembering what had caused her to be transported to Ante Lande thirty years ago and connecting the dots that explained Nodoka’s disappearance. In conclusion, the whole family was in an extremely complicated situation.
Apparently, the fact that Nodoka had been secretly practicing magic had also caused a bit of a conflict between her parents.
Of course, it went without saying that there was a fairly big panic when the people who had gone missing after the bus accident suddenly appeared one night at the Aviation Park.
Since Nodoka had also been declared as one of the missing people, the Kenzaki family was forced to deal with reporters on several occasions who tried to forcibly interview the missing people who had returned.
Returning to school had also been a major challenge.
Not only had they taken an unplanned leave of one whole month, there was also the aforementioned bus accident that had left a major impact. In the end, it took a whole three months for Yasuo’s and Nodoka’s surroundings to calm down, counting from June, when their trip to Ante Lande had ended, all the way to the end of September.
And then, when the uproar in their surroundings had finally started to die down, Yasuo and Diana got into a big fight.
“Nodoka! You froze the bathwater again! What’s the matter with you!?”
“I-I’m sorry! I was just trying to use Fog Magic, I swear!”
The family discussion on that day started with the issue that Nodoka had caused, namely turning the hot bathwater into a solid chunk of ice.
Nodoka, who had learned the Flame Wheel magic on her own, had not reflected on her actions one bit. Instead, she went on to apply the various bits and pieces of knowledge that she had gained about sorcery from Feigreid and Gaius during her stay in Baskelgarde to earnestly practice her magic without permission.
No matter how many times Madoka, Diana, and Khalija tried to warn her, she did not listen to them. In the end, she even ended up acquiring freezing and thunderbolt magic all on her own.
“Just when I was feeling happy that no Shii have appeared for the last three months, do you have any idea how many things you have broken instead!? You destroyed the lights in the living room, the bath heater, and even froze the plants in the garden and killed them! I’ve had it up to here with you!”
“I said I was sorry, didn’t I!?”
While listening to the ongoing argument between the mother and daughter, Yasuo had been made to sit opposite Diana, who had her arms crossed and was frowning at him from across the table in the living room.
“No matter how many times you ask, the answer is ‘No’. I cannot accept it. I will not let Resteria or Baskelgarde interfere with the Kenzaki family ever again, no matter what! You are going to live out your life safely right here in Japan, Yasuo!”
“Like I said, that’s impossible now. I already told you everything that happened between William and me in Oodem, didn’t I!?”
“That’s all the more reason why! Everything that you know came from William, how do we know that it’s true!? In any case, the problems that Ante Lande faces from here on need to be handled by the people of Ante Lande themselves. We can just say that Saint Yasuo is still somewhere in Ante Lande, saving the people who fight against the Shii. That should be good enough!”
“Like hell it is! In the one month that I was there, I went about using my image quite a bit in Baskelgarde! If I just take advantage of the fact that I’m in Japan to fade out of the scene, that would be a betrayal against all the people who are depending on me! Besides, Baskelgarde would get sued for fraud!”
“It’s their fault for holding unreasonable expectations! Those people are just like how I was in the past. They won’t spare a single thought for your circumstances. They’ll just take advantage of your good intentions to keep inflating their demands! Resteria and Baskelgarde are no exception! We can’t have the people of Ante Lande being coddled by Heroes who come from somewhere else anymore!”
“Just listen to me for once! I’m not planning on extending a helping hand to every single person—”
“Don’t you have someone else that you need to extend a hand to, Yasuo!? Did you reply to Shouko’s confession yet!?”
“W-What does Tatewaki-san have to do with this!?”
“She has everything to do with it! Instead of worrying about Ante Lande, you should be properly resolving the problem at hand instead!”
“Nodoka, it looks like Ogawa-san sent you an assorted ice cream box or something.”
“Hideo, please stop talking about pointless things and say something to him as well!!”
“Eh!? Uhh… Umm… Yasuo. It might sound strange coming from me, but being a Hero is quite a pain.”
“I already know that!”
“…B-By the way, Yasuo.”
“What is it now!?”
“You really… You really didn’t see it, did you? The film that I left behind in Resteria.”
“……I didn’t see it. I forgot all about it. Believe me, already.”
“T-Then it’s fine, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Hideo! Stop saying things that will make Yasuo want to go back to Ante Lande!”
“No, I mean, I was just a little concerned…”
After returning to Earth, Hideo also remembered the reason for his transportation to Ante Lande in his youth, perhaps due Madoka’s suggestion. However, it appeared that the circumstances surrounding that incident were a part of Hideo’s dark history that he wanted to stay hidden.
Back when he was in high school, Hideo had wanted to become a film director.
He had borrowed the movie camera that was handed down in the movie research society at his school, dubbed the ‘EIKEN’, and had gone around on his own filming whatever caught his fancy. One time, he had gone to get some footage of mountain scenery, and ended up straying from the path and entering an area that was off-limits, after which he had fallen off a cliff and ended up in Ante Lande.
According to Hideo, he had planned for a long filming session, so in addition to filming equipment, he was carrying portable rations, a tent, and props used for filming. He had also been carrying a Japanese dictionary for script-writing purposes and an accent guide for giving directions to actors.
In short, the young Hideo’s dreams about his future were the reason for the popularity of the 8mm film format in Ante Lande, as well as the reason why there were so many people in that world who were excessively fluent in Japanese.
Incidentally, the reason why so many Techno Weapons had trigger systems similar to those of firearms was because Hideo had been greatly interested in western films at the time and the movie props that he had been carrying with him had included a replica gun.
“Anyways, the film Dad left behind has nothing to do with it. I’m still going back to Ante Lande!”
“No, you can’t! Please, just give up on that already!”
“No-do-ka! Why is the t-shirt that I washed burnt to a crisp…!?”
“T-That’s… We don’t have a dryer, right? So I thought…”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!!”
“Diana! Didn’t you say that you were going to fight by my side!? What do you plan to do about that promise!?”
“That’s… Well, I mean, I said that because Shouko was with us at the time… and back then, I didn’t expect that the problem would be resolved in that way, so I just said that while getting carried away by the mood…!”
“But it wasn’t a lie, right!?”
“Y-Yasuo, you’re too close! M-Move back a little!”
“Sheesh, Onii-chan…. I’m telling Shouko-san.”
“Nodoka! I’m not done talking to you yet!!”
There wasn’t even the slightest trace of tension. The mood was so devoid of tension that it would be hard to believe that the entire family was involved in a life-threatening crisis related to another world.
That was mainly because, in the three months since Yasuo had returned, there hadn’t been any moves from Ante Lande or any trace of the Shii appearing on Earth. Another major factor was that Diana had been doing everything in her power to keep the Kenzaki family as far away from Ante Lande’s various problems as she possibly could. Even though she had initially come over to summon Hideo, she had completely changed her stance to that of protecting the Kenzaki family from Ante Lande.
“But if what William said was true, then the situation will eventually turn bleak anyways, right? None of the people who got transported to Ante Lande along with Nodoka have the ability to influence public sentiment or the mass media of Japan. If the Shii start appearing on Earth as well, there is no way we can mount an immediate response. In that case, doesn’t it make more sense to go to Ante Lande since they already have a good understanding of the Shii and see how the situation unfolds over there? That would make it easier to protect Japan as well, in case something happens.”
“That’s… true, but…”
“Diana, you brought up the matter with Tatewaki-san earlier, but I think that going to Ante Lande and developing countermeasures against the Shii is what’s best for her sake as well. Let me say this up front, I’m not just saying this because I want to run away from my exams, okay? I realized what I really want to do with my life in the one month that I spent in Ante Lande. I’m going to Ante Lande, to protect the world. Not to compare myself to Nodoka, but I haven’t just been sitting around doing nothing for the past three months. The other day, I just happened to see a kid get hit by a scooter. Not only did I finish healing the kid in under five seconds, I even used an electric shock magic to capture the culprit!”
“Why are you just casually saying something important enough to be featured on the news!?”
Diana was taken aback, and Hideo put on a slightly stern expression.
“Yasuo. Just like in that one American movie, even if you gain some special powers and try to use them for the sake of the world, you will definitely hit your limit at some point. You will definitely experience the sadness that comes from not being able to save someone!”
“Hideo, please go put that ice cream in the fridge first! It was a gift from someone else, right!?”
Hearing that, the Hero of old who had been listening to the conversation between Diana and Yasuo all this time while holding the gift that had been sent by Ogawa dejectedly did as he was told and proceeded to put away the assorted ice cream box.
“Anyways, Diana! Please understand!”
Diana turned back to resume her conversation with Yasuo after seeing Hideo leave, but instead let out a wild scream after he directly grabbed her hand.
“It’s something that I want to do. After everything that has happened, it is something that I decided to do. Haven’t I been saying from the start that even if I pass the college entrance exams, I’ll still take a break from studies and go to Ante Lande? It’s the same thing, only the schedule has been moved up a bit!”
“B-But Yasuo! The circumstances were different at that time…”
“Yeah, I know that the circumstances were different! But you said it yourself, Diana! You said that you recognized me as a warrior who can stand on his own!”
“S-Sure, I said that, but that was just because I was caught up in the moment… It wasn’t a lie, but that’s still unrelated to the matter at hand…!”
“My skills at magic are still inferior to even Nodoka, but I’ve been working out every day! I’ve also been going to morning practice at school everyday, so I can sing the requiem for a whole three hours without a break if I have to! Please, Diana!”
“Umm, Yasuo, I get it. I get it, so please, let go of my hand……”
“And besides, there’s the matter of Solanum as well. For some reason, I feel like as long as I’m holding on to that, I can’t rid myself of William even if I wanted to.”
“You should just throw that thing away with the inflammable trash!”
“If I do something like that, he’ll just get pissed and come at us directly! For now, I still can’t see myself winning against him.”
“A-Anyways, I’m not going to allow it. No means no! A-Also, you’re holding my hand for too long. I mean, I understand how you feel, Yasuo, so please let go…”
“……Why is Diana-san refusing so strongly? Holding her hand like that and pressuring her… Just what are you doing, Yasu-kun……?”
“Ah… I just happened to run into Shouko earlier so I brought her along with me… Is this a bad time?”
In the middle of that chaotic situation, Shouko entered the room after being brought over by Khalija and made the obvious misunderstanding. Only, instead of flames gushing out of her left eye, it looked like she was angry enough to grow demonic horns from her head.
The peaceful days had continued, until that time.
It was the middle of October, a time when all troubles related to the Shii and Ante Lande had started to become nothing more than vague memories. At this time, when the days were noticeably shorter, rumors of a suspicious person started to circulate among the students of Kitahira Middle School, the school that Nodoka was a student of. According to the information, the person was apparently a vicious slasher who made a habit of attacking people on the streets at night when there were few people around.
The police stepped up their vigilance, and Yasuo’s family also went about their lives while keeping an eye out for trouble. However, one day, the aforementioned slasher’s attack left one of the victims severely injured.
The unfortunate victim was a police officer who had been attacked while they were on the job. The attack had been carried out in an area that was relatively well-lit by streetlights and was in plain view of a surveillance camera belonging to a nearby shop. The fact that the criminal had blatantly chosen such a location for the attack made the residents of the area shudder with fear, but the ones who received the biggest shock of all were the people related to the Kenzaki family, who were watching the news.
The video that accompanied the news report about the slasher showed the police officer who had fallen victim to the attack on patrol, when a man with a grotesque silhouette stepped out from the shadows.
The report went on to explain that the dark and fuzzy silhouette of the attacker was caused by the positions of the light sources near the scene, but the members of the Kenzaki family, the Magitech Knights, and Shouko only needed a single glance to understand what it really was.
It was a Shii.
A single Shii had appeared all of a sudden, out of nowhere. There wasn’t so much as a hint of anything suspicious happening on Ante Lande’s side, and there were no traces of Beatrice or William being involved either.
A stray Shii had appeared in Japan.
That single truth shook the Kenzaki family to its core. Maybe William Bareig might have been telling the truth all along. That suspicion suddenly started to grow in their hearts.
Of course, there was a chance that this Shii was released into the world by William, precisely to stir up the Kenzaki family’s agitation. While that possibility was not zero, the fact remained that Shii were once again able to manifest in Japan, which forced the Kenzaki and Tatewaki families to once again stay on their toes.
After a week of living on high-alert, the Shii in question was defeated by Hideo who just happened to come across it on his way back from work. He didn’t even have to use Liutberga. A simple and straightforward punch imbued with magic was all it took to defeat the Shii, after which he sent it off using the requiem that he had learned. Sending off a single Shii was no trouble at all for him.
As the Shii had been defeated by Hideo, the wielder of the sacred vessel Liutberga that had been born from the Country of the Dead, there was no way to tell what world the Shii had originally belonged to. However, on the same day that Hideo reported his defeat of the Shii, a family meeting was called at the Kenzaki residence that included Khalija and Shouko. Everyone present at the meeting had the same, severe expression.
“As I said earlier, I’m going.”
Nobody raised any objection to that statement.
“I don’t know if I can help, but there’s definitely something going on. I want to exchange information with the people of Ante Lande and prepare for the possibility of something happening in Japan. If nothing happens, that’s fine. But just in case something happens, I……”
It looked like Shouko, who looked anxious, had something to say. However, she restrained herself. She was a person who put store by reason and intellect, and so the memories of the week she had spent in Ante Lande with Yasuo kept her from saying anything.
“There is one condition.”
Diana spoke up instead of Shouko.
“You mentioned that it would be fine if nothing happens, but I disagree. It would mean that you threw away the life you have in Japan for absolutely nothing. Yasuo, your home is here, in Japan. Don’t forget that. That’s why……”
It was possible that the detour would just cause them to end up at an impasse after going around in circles.
In spite of that, the path taken to reach that place was a detour that was absolutely necessary for the Kenzaki family, Kenzaki Yasuo himself, and for Dianaze Krone, who had caused him to shoulder the circumstances of another world.
“Pass the college entrance examinations. Establish a foundation for your life here in Japan. Once you do that……”
Diana looked Yasuo straight in the eye.
“Saint Yasuo. I will take you to Ante Lande.”
Considering Yasuo’s academic performance upto that point, getting accepted into Waseta University was undisputedly a spectacular feat. At the time when he had entered his third year of high school, his evaluation was a solid ‘C’ even for colleges that were a whole two ranks below Waseta in terms of deviation score. Both Diana and Shouko honestly praised Yasuo for boosting his ability up by two ranks despite everything that had happened with Ante Lande and the bus accident.
He had not neglected his magic and sorcery training during that time either. As before, he was only able to use healing and lightning bolt magic, but his evaluation had grown to the point where Khalija rated him as ‘Somewhat better than a Knights Division newbie.’
With this, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Yasuo had completed the bare minimum preparation in order to go to Ante Lande.
Yasuo boarded a train from the Takadanobaba Station, which was the closest station to the university. The train was emptier than he had expected, and although it moved forward at a snail’s pace, it did not make many stops in between either, and so the trip to Tokorozawa Station only took thirty minutes longer than usual. By that time, the heavy snowfall had stopped, and even the wind had died down.
Yasuo headed to the ticket gate while praying that the road to his house was not filled with too much snow. At that moment…
“……Welcome back. Congratulations.”
Yasuo ran into Shouko, who had been waiting there for him.
“Sorry. I was planning on telling you once I reached home.”
“Yeah. Nodoka-chan told me that you were probably planning on doing that.”
The two of them had their umbrellas out as they walked through the peaceful residential district.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to stop you.”
“You decided from the start, right? That you would go to Ante Lande if you got accepted into college……”
“Are you going to Baskelgarde? Didn’t they make you do all sorts of outrageous stuff before?”
“Definitely Resteria, for starters. I plan to eventually go to Galedeite to exchange information with both Resteria and Baskelgarde, and also enlist Feig-san’s and Catalina-san’s help.”
“I see. I suppose leaning too much towards a particular faction will cause problems. Seeing as you’re one of the new Braves and all.”
“Who knows? Those are just my thoughts on the matter, I have no idea what Diana’s mother and Leonid-san have on their minds. I’ll adjust my plans accordingly after actually getting there.”
“Makes sense. There’s still some time left until you actually go to Ante Lande, after all…… So you’re taking a temporary break from your studies? Going on leave right after enrollment into university, as expected of a Hero. You’re going to attend the entrance ceremony at least, right?”
“My father told me to do that, so yeah.”
“So… You’ll be leaving after two months, at the most.”
“Yeah…… Tatewaki-san, I…”
“Here you go.”
Yasuo called out to Shouko on reflex after seeing her put on a lonely expression, but he was interrupted by a long and narrow package, neatly wrapped in wrapping paper.
“Congratulations. Here’s your gift for passing the exam.”
“Why would I lie about something like this? Go on, open it.”
“Uh, yeah… This is… a fountain pen?”
“Nope. It’s cheap, but it’s an authentic dip pen. You need to dip it in an inkwell to write…… I heard that these are commonly used in Ante Lande.”
“Yasu-kun. Did you look at my face just now and try to rush your answer?”
“You were making an expression like you wanted to get the current unresolved question out of the way just because you won’t be able to see me for a long time after you go to Ante Lande.”
“N-No, it wasn’t for such a perfunctory reason…”
Yasuo grew flustered because her statement had not been completely off the mark, but Shouko just grinned back at him.
“I’m fine with never getting an answer. After all, you don’t love me or anything. Right, Yasu-kun?”
“I won’t press you for an answer in spite of that. I mean, the result is right there for me to see. That’s why, I don’t need an answer.”
“So… Next time, I want you to be the one to confess, Yasu-kun.”
“……Eh!? Uwaah! ”
As Yasuo looked around, shocked by her unexpected statement, a snowball hit him right in the face. By the time he hurriedly shook the snow off, Shouko had already moved quite some distance away from him.
“I’m going this way! See you later!”
After looking around, Yasuo realized that he was standing at the crossroads that lay in between his house and Shouko’s. However, he felt for some reason that the crossroads represented his separation from Shouko, and he wasn’t able to even chase after her as she moved farther away.
Yasuo began to carefully put the wrapping paper—slightly wet from the snow—into his pocket, when he realized that there was a stiff piece of paper inside. He looked inside, expecting it to be usage instructions for the pen, but saw that it was a handwritten message from Shouko.
Maybe this pen will become mightier than the sword?
Do your best, Novice Saint-sama.
For the following two months, Yasuo wasn’t able to meet Shouko even once. She did not reply to his phone calls, emails, or ROPE messages, and even when he went to her house, he was gently rebuffed by her parents.
“Looks like we’ve ended up in a serious situation. I have to admit, I did not foresee that it would end up like this. Maybe Nodoka instead, but not this.”
“Really? I had an inkling that this would happen.”
Diana and Khalija were talking while cleaning up Apartment 101 of the Marigold Hills Tokorozawa building, the flat that they had moved into. Khalija would continue to stay in Tokorozawa, but since Diana was planning on moving her base of operations to Ante Lande, she had to pack up and move with all her necessities.
“Nodoka is still in middle school. She is still maturing, both in mind and body, and while she does have talent, she doesn’t have the nerve to see things through. At the very least, until she finishes high school……”
Diana had finally yielded to Yasuo’s request and allowed him to go to Ante Lande, but she still stubbornly refused to do the same for Nodoka who also hoped to go there. That was because Nodoka herself was still immature, and Diana could not prepare a place or organization that could accept Nodoka in such a state.
“Well, I agree with you on that, but… Are you sure you’re okay with leaving things with Shouko like that?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I always thought Shouko was the type of girl to chase after a more clear-cut conclusion. I guess I just didn’t expect her to shut Yasuo out like that.”
“That can’t be helped. It was a conclusion that Shouko came to after worrying about it just as much, if not more, than Yasuo himself. Besides, I do not have the right to object in this matter.”
“Oh? In that case, do you mind we talk about some high-level politics instead? If Yasuo is accepted as a Saint by the people of Ante Lande and his relationship with Hideo becomes public, the people around him will start having all sorts of unreasonable anticipations, right?”
“Such as wanting to pair the children of the heroes up together, you mean?”
“……I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. You know what they say, talking about what will happen next year will bring bad luck. At the very least, I will be the one to stand beside Yasuo and fight for the time being.”
“Oh? Very well, let’s leave it at that for now. Although if you ask me, there will be less problems down the road if you take this opportunity to completely shut out the other party.”
“I can’t do that. That would go against my morals and also sour my relations with people. I stole a march on Shouko once. All the more reason why I have to make sure everything is fair and square from here on out.”
“Yeah, yeah. Morals and relations, sure. I get it. It feels like I’m seeing that meek side of you after a long time, Major.”
“Surely it’s just your imagination.”
Diana shrugged, and then folded her arms while looking at the memo on the calendar that was hanging on the wall.
“Things are going to get busy from here on. We don’t have the time to be thinking about anything else.”
“My bad. I teased you too much.”
“Like I said, what are you talking about?”
“Ugh, it’s seriously a pain when it gets to this level. Ah, that’s right. Can you give this to Yasuo later?”
“……What is it? That’s the little box that has been lying on the shelf near the front door all this time, isn’t it?”
Diana looked at the small and unadorned wooden box that she had received from Khalija.
“May I open it?”
“Sure. It’s not really a big deal.”
Diana opened the lid and saw something that looked like a bracelet inside.
“……Colonel. This is Marfik’s…”
“Back when we fought in the Gate Tower, Yasuo picked it up after it was broken. He said he did that because it was important to me. The actual units that could turn into blades were damaged beyond repair, but that bracelet is something I made out of spare parts specifically for him. In the future, when Yasuo becomes capable of handling a Techno Weapon, it will be useful as a means of transmitting magic power.”
“In that case, why not give it to him yourself?”
“I think it would be more amusing to leave it to you, Major.”
“……Very well. I will make sure to hand it over to him.”
“Still… Even though we are faced with a problem that might engulf the whole of Ante Lande and even Earth, everyone seems to be very relaxed.”
“It’s fine, isn’t it? I won’t begrudge them something of this level.”
Diana put the bracelet of Marfik back in the wooden box and closed the lid, then set the box on her lap and sighed.
“The more terrible the situation, the more important it becomes to find happiness. It’s times like this, when people make terrible memories, that it becomes important to work towards having a perfect life.”
“Despite saying things like that, you are the type of person who will get used to being single. You should be careful.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you, Colonel!!”
Diana got flustered and almost threw the box containing Marfik’s bracelet at Khalija.
“Alright then, It’s time for us to leave.”
“I’ll do my best to come back and visit as much as possible. Also, I’ll learn the communications sorcery as quickly as I can.”
It was during April of the new year. The time was midnight, at the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park. It was the same time that they had begun their journey during June of the previous year.
Hideo, Madoka, Nodoka, Khalija, and the Tatewaki family were there to see Diana and Yasuo off on their journey, or so he had thought. However…
“By the way… Why is Tatewaki-san prepared to go on a journey as well?”
Tatewaki Shouko, the girl he had not been able to get in touch with for the past two months, was standing next to Diana with a big smile on her face while carrying a massive rucksack. Shouko made an expression like she had been waiting for him to ask, and proudly held up something that looked like a certificate.
“Feel free to praise me. This is a certificate for getting accepted into the Sorcery Engineering Department in the Royal University of Resteria.”
“What the hell!? Why didn’t anyone say anything about this to me!?”
Indeed, Yasuo was the only one who looked surprised by this development. What the hell were the Tatewaki couple thinking?
“I told everyone to keep it a secret. I had no confidence about getting accepted into a college in another world, after all. Ah, don’t worry. I got accepted into Futatsubashi University as well to settle things with my high school and the prep school.”
“……No, I mean, that’s not the sort of university you can just get into as an afterthought…”
“So what? Didn’t you also get accepted into Waseta as if it was just a backup?”
There was nothing he could say when she brought that up.
“W-What about the Gate Tower usage fee?”
“Uncle Leonid provided the funds. He said it was an apology for getting Shouko mixed up in Baskelgarde’s old troubles during the incident with Raia.”
“Fufufu! Just seeing your dumbstruck expression makes me feel that it was worth working so hard to get accepted! …..And besides, Yasu-kun.”
Shouko suddenly lowered her voice and whispered into Yasuo’s ear.
“You know what? I’m not such an accepting woman that I can let you go off on a trip with my rival in love after you put the two of us on a scale and compared us to each other.”
“…I-I most certainly did not put you on a scale…..!”
“Well, being compared to Diana-san isn’t really a bad feeling, but it’s still complicated. For starters, I’ve decided to chase after you.”
Yasuo looked at Shouko’s father, Kousuke, as if seeking his help, but Kousuke just shrugged with a resigned expression on his face.
“It’s not unusual for children to leave their parents after graduating from high school. I cannot stop my daughter who says she wants to do something to help a world that is in dire straits. Shouko, make sure you take responsibility for the choice that you have made and work hard. Yasuo-kun, Diana-san, please take care of Shouko.”
With that single sentence, Shouko’s travel to Ante Lande was set in stone.
“Yes, we are completely serious. Come now, Yasuo, Shouko. It’s time for the Gate Tower to open.”
They looked up at Diana’s signal and saw the familiar sight of a tower of stars extending into the night sky.
After accepting the farewells from their respective parents and Nodoka, who had safely been accepted into her first choice of high school, three bodies floated up into the sky.
Diana rose up on her own, while Yasuo carried Shouko on his back.
“I can’t believe that my son turned into a flyboy in just one year.”
Hideo let those words slip, causing Madoka to give him an angry glare.
“……I just wanted to try saying that, okay?”
“…Yasuo. Make sure you properly listen to what everyone says and take care of your health, okay? Shouko-chan. Please take care of Yasuo.”
“Leave it to me!”
“Shouko, make sure you study a lot, and umm… When you come back, teach me how to use magic!”
It looked like Shouko’s mother, Youko, was still as starry-eyed as ever.
“Shouko-san! Diana-san! Take care of Onii-chan, okay? Also, you can come back any time if you grow disillusioned with him!”
“Sure, it’ll be fine. Stay safe, Nodoka!”
“Thank you, Nodoka-chan! If it comes to it, I’ll return to my parents’ house!”
“Ah—I don’t see that happening anytime soon, but take care!”
As they exchanged words with each other, the sound of the vortex of stars above their heads started to grow louder.
“The Gate Tower is about to open.”
As if Diana’s words were a signal, a hole opened up in the vortex of stars that hung in the sky.
“We’re going now! See you again!”
“I’ll contact you soon!”
“Hideo, Madoka, Nodoka! Thank you for taking care of me!!”
The Hero of the previous generation calmly looked on as Yasuo, Shouko, and Diana slowly ascended into the Gate Tower.
His voice spurred the young man to even greater heights.
“Don’t worry about things here! Since you’ve decided to do something, take care of it until the end! That’s what it means to be a man!”
Even though he replied, they were already so far away that his voice could not reach the people on the ground anymore.
Yasuo raised his hand once in farewell and nodded, and then flew straight up into the sky. As soon as they entered the Gate Tower, the scenery behind them blended into the backdrop of stars and rapidly receded into the distance.
The young man, who had outgrown his parents’ protection and chosen his path of his own free will, flew through the sky in pursuit of a brand new world.
Unlike their previous trip, they did not run into any abnormalities. They simply traveled through the starry tunnel for about two hours. In front of them, a new light started to come into a view.
“That’s Resteria’s capital. The place where the Gate Tower was originally supposed to exit.”
Yasuo and Shouko nodded strongly after hearing Diana’s words.
“It’s been a long road to get this far.”
“Yeah. But we’re finally at the starting line.”
It was time for the child who had been the Son of the Hero to exit the tunnel of stars and seize his own future as a warrior.
It was time for the young man’s true adventure to begin.
“Welcome to Ante Lande!”