When That Battle Ends
“You guys are the ones creating the fairies, aren’t you?”
The two that Willem spoke to showed no signs of denying his guess.
“Correct, but we are not going around creating each and every one of them separately. We perform the necessary spells on large souls which serve as the ingredients required for the fairies to naturally appear,” Suwon explained with a stern face.
“We also meddled with the barrier surrounding Regul Aire so that those souls don’t fall to the ground. Well, are you going to act differently now that you’ve heard all this?” Ebon Candle added on. Unlike Suwon, Ebon Candle’s expression didn’t seem to change (that is, if skulls could make expressions). His voice also remained normal; he was simply waiting to observe Willem’s reaction.
Remaining silent, Willem suddenly grabbed Suwon by the collar and raised his clenched fist. He set his aim for Suwon’s cheek and held the pose for a few seconds.
“Punching you guys won’t help anything…”
There was no point in blaming the fairy system itself. The power of the Kaliyons was necessary to protect Regul Aire, and Emnetwyte Braves were necessary to use that power. Since there weren’t any of those around anymore, Suwon and Ebon Candle created Leprechauns as replacements. If they didn’t, Regul Aire would no longer be around.
The fairy system was the best system and the only possible system. There was no room for ethics or morality to enter the argument. The fairies were not forced to fight out of ill will, but out of necessity.
Willem himself couldn’t fight. He stood with all the others in Regul Aire, unable to do anything but see the fairies off to battle and wait. No matter how much that irritated him, or no matter how much he wanted to change that, he still couldn’t blame Suwon.
“But remember this. The Braves fight to protect the people and the towns they live in, not to conquer territory out of greed. Don’t throw them away in a war we don’t need to fight,” Willem said, then let go of Suwon.
“It’s not an unnecessary war. You must understand too, right? Regul Aire won’t last forever. We’ve somehow lasted for five hundred years, but the next hundred aren’t guaranteed. We must return to the land eventually.”
“That’s just me and you, isn’t it?”
“– What do you mean?”
“Very few have ever laid eyes upon the world that once existed on the land five hundred years ago. To everyone else, down there is just a faraway place. Maybe some idealize it as a treasure island of dreams and adventure, but we all know that’s not real. To everyone besides us, home sweet home is here, up in the sky. Not down there. Am I wrong?”
“But… are you not bothered by it? Don’t you want to go home!? I’ve lived here for five hundred years, longer than I lived down there! This is unmistakably my second home. But my first home is still that imperial capital! It’s the same for you too, isn’t it!? No, it should be even more so for you, since you just came here! I know you haven’t forgotten!”
“Even if we gather all of Regul Aire’s strength and manage to take back the land…” In contrast to Suwon’s exasperation, Willem responded quietly and calmly. “… who will be there? Will anyone be there to welcome us home?”
“…” Suwon was at a loss for words. He opened his mouth as if trying to say something, but soon closed it again.
“Will you not tell him?” Ebon Candle asked.
“No.” Suwon shook his head, then turned back to Willem. “So is that your final opinion, Willem Kumesh?”
Willem’s old friend Suwon Candel was no longer there. Before him was now the Great Sage, the man who had borne the future of Regul Aire on his back for five hundred years. His once fluffy blonde hair had grown lighter, his young skin was now covered with wrinkles, and his small body had grown up into a giant’s.
— And now, the man once praised as a genius child was attempting to risk the present and future to take back the past.
“Sorry, Great Sage.” Willem put on the best smile he could to hide the loneliness beneath. “I’m done fighting for the far off future of the world.”
“… I thought you were more like a Brave than that.”
“I did too.” Willem nodded.
The thing that Willem once aspired to be, even going so far as to obtain the title of Quasi Brave. However, he never made it any further. He blamed it on his lack of talent. He blamed it on his background. But maybe, just maybe, he was wrong. Perhaps he lacked something different entirely.
“I thought that too. I truly believed I could become a Brave. But I was wrong. And that’s why I’m living in this disgraceful state now.”
“Hm. Let me ask one more thing,” the skull said from the side.
The black skull rolled off his throne and back onto the luggage cart, which had a cushion on it to soften his fall. The maid lady who had stood nearby quietly the whole time wheeled him over to where Suwon and Willem stood.
“Earlier when I challenged you, you said you had no reason to fight. And even if you did have such a reason, how did the great, charming, majestic god Ebon Candle you once knew become reduced to such a modest form?” Willem had no recollection of wording it like that, but… “You skillfully avoided the matter, but you cannot fool me. Even if you had a reason to fight, there is something preventing you from doing so. Is that right?”
“Hm?” The Great Sage raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, that’s right.” Willem nodded. “While thankfully I’m not just some skull, my body has hardly recovered from my battle with this guy. The petrification and curses have been lifted, but I’m still a mess thanks to the wounds that remained all over my body. A troll I know even told me she could bite through my flesh without cutting it up first.”
“I see. Trolls really do have an eye for meat. In other words, you have lost the strength you once held. Even if you want to fight, you cannot. Which means, if we tried to make you obey by force, you would have no means to resist, am I wrong?” Ebon Candle said.
“Hm. I guess you are correct.” Willem scratched his head. “Well all I can say is I hope you don’t decide to do that. It may sound cliche, but someone is waiting for my return home.”
“You fear for your life?”
“No, it’s just that after I beat you guys up I’d have no way to get out of here.” Willem shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know how to fly an airship.”
“Hah! I like it. You haven’t changed one bit.” For some reason, the black skull seemed happy upon hearing Willem’s response. He then turned toward Suwon and said, “Great Sage, let us give up for the time being. This one’s will is strong. It seems that unmoving will is the essence of this man. He can only have one goal at a time, and he sees no value in anything not directly related to his current goal. That’s why he will not bend. He will not stop. He will keep pushing himself to his limits. Now that he has decided he needs to protect the fairies, that is everything to him. He will protect them no matter what sacrifice is necessary, and I do not wish to be on the receiving end of those forbidden spells once more.”
Well, that won’t happen anyways, Willem thought. Forbidden spells are not to be taken lightly. In the first place, he no longer fulfilled the conditions to cast most of the spells he used back in that battle. He might be able to pull off a couple, but as a result he would either die or, if he was lucky, turn back into stone. Either way, he wouldn’t be able to return home. Well, he didn’t need to explain all that. Ebon Candle seemed to be overestimating Willem, so maybe it would be best to roll with it.
“But…” Suwon started to protest.
“If you cannot accept it, then maybe you should tell him everything. If you reveal one or two of the truths about the land you’ve been hiding, I suspect his attitude will change.”
“No!” Suwon raised his voice, a hint of panic on his face.
“… truths about the land?” Willem eyed Suwon suspiciously. “What have you been hiding from me?”
“… it has no relation to you.”
“Don’t tell such an obvious lie. From what this skull over here is saying, it’ll make me change my mind.”
“I will say nothing,” Ebon Candle replied.
“Well, looks like it’s up to you, Great Sage.”
“I too will remain silent. It is related to the future of this world, and I see that you have no interest in that.”
You bastard. As Willem was about to say something not so nice in return, he heard footsteps coming up the spiral staircase.
“I seem to have many guests today,” muttered Ebon Candle.
All four pairs of eyes gathered on the door to the throne room. Before long, their visitor appeared: the Haresantrobos First Officer.
“Excuse me for intruding.”
“This is sacred ground. I believe I told you not to enter!” The Great Sage scolded him in a thunderous voice.
The Haresantrobos nodded and bowed slightly. “I am aware. However, I bring urgent news.”
“– What is it?” the Great Sage pressed for further details, in a calm voice this time.
The Haresantrobos looked at Willem for a moment, then whispered something in the Great Sage’s ear.
“… and you judged that as so urgent you needed to rush into sacred territory to report it?”
“Yes.” The Haresantrobos nodded at the Great Sage’s curious question.
“Understood. I will tell this man myself.” The Great Sage stepped closer to Willem.
“… what? Is it something related to me?”
“That’s right, Willem Kumesh, Second Enchanted Weapons Technician.” The Great Sage spoke in a grim voice. “There has been contact from someone in the Orlandri Trading Company. The user of Dug Weapon Seniolis has suffered from personality destruction due to encroachment from the previous life. Vanishing of the physical body has not yet begun, but it is only a matter of time.”
The pale faced Willem stepped onto the First Officer’s airship and departed the sacred grounds. The two left behind stood in heavy silence, gazing beyond the sea of clouds where the young man now sailed.
“Why did you not tell him everything?” Ebon Candle finally spoke. “What is on the land. What continues to lurk there. If he knew, his answer would have been different.”
“Probably,” the Great Sage answered with a bitter face. “But his spirit would have been crushed. Those kind of people who can fight endlessly just on one belief cannot do anything when their spirit breaks. If a spear is rusted, it may still be used. But if the tip is broken, it is done.”
“That depends on how you tell him. You are skilled at manipulating people with information, are you not?”
“I suppose. He’s a simple man. I would be able to manipulate him easily, but…” The old man shrugged his shoulders. “Laugh if you want, but I cannot do it. He is someone I used to admire as an older brother. I cannot bring myself to lie to him.”
“Well, let us hope it turns out for the best.” Ebon Candle sighed somehow, despite not having lungs. “A broken fairy will never return. That man’s spirit may be crushed anyways.”