The Suspicious Emnetwyte
During treatment, Willem discovered that Noft was in fact very ticklish. The whole time, her body squirmed and her legs and arms flailed about violently, making it very hard to perform his task. He eventually got Kutori to help out; if he didn’t, who knows how long it would have taken. He also probably would’ve ended up with more than one bruise next to his eyes.
Lantolq, on the other hand, proved to be troublesome for an entirely different reason. Everytime Willem pressed his fingers into her back, she let out a weirdly suggestive moan. Well, Lantolq did seem very mature for her age, but whenever he heard that voice Willem got the feeling that they were doing something inappropriate and had to pause his work.
As a result, the treatments took much longer than he originally expected. Kutori’s sharp glare piercing into the back of Willem’s neck the entire time didn’t exactly help either.
Earlier, Noft and Lantolq told them that Beast attacks had continued to occur sporadically after the fall of the Saxifraga. None of them turned out to be major threats, and the pair easily handled the intruders. However, upon inspection, Willem found that they both suffered from light Venom poisoning, which then led to the laborious treatments.
Venom acts as a sort of opposite to one’s life force. Igniting Venom inevitably leads to disorder in that vital energy, and if one ignites too strong a flame, continues to use it for too long, or uses it repeatedly in rapid succession, the disordered state can persist even long after battle, gradually becoming harder and harder to heal.
The treatment Willem just performed on the two girls is one of the countermeasures to this condition. It involves stimulating the appropriate acupuncture points in order to adjust the blood flow and forcibly relax the stiffened muscles. It was once well known as a practical technique for battlefield medics, way back in the previous world.
“Well, how do you feel? Better?” the exhausted Willem asked.
The two girls exchanged glances.
“My body feels so light… it’s kind of creepy.”
“If I’m not fatigued after an intense battle it just doesn’t feel right.”
It seemed like his treatment worked properly, but the answers he received didn’t seem too enthusiastic or grateful. Ever since Willem introduced himself yesterday, their attitude towards him have been less than stellar. Well, Willem could understand. To them, Second Technician Willem Kumesh was no more than a suspicious man who suddenly appeared in front of them and started acting like they were under his control. While he did have identification, and Kutori and Nephren backed him up, Willem hadn’t yet spent any time trying to build their trust on a personal level. So he understood why they remained cautious of him… or so he thought. Apparently, there was more to it.
“But… you’re an Emnetwyte, aren’t you?” Upon his asking, Lantolq readily revealed the reason for their attitude. “If you were just a fraud that would be another story, but Kutori and Nephren have verified the truth. That means you belong to the accursed race which destroyed the earth. Accepting you so easily is the unnatural option here.”
Willem could see where she was coming from. Up until now, he had never received that kind of response from people he revealed his identity to, but perhaps that was only due to good luck. When he thought about it, Lantolq’s view made sense as a default reaction.
“It’s not like I personally did anything…”
“Also, that nonchalant and casual attitude that you try to keep up is suspicious. It’s like you’re trying to hide your true intentions, or you’re used to deceiving women… well, I get that if I keep nitpicking I could go on forever, but…”
“Then don’t do it… used to deceiving women? A gross misunderstanding. I demand you take that back.”
“I’m thankful that you saved Kutori from her planned death. And from your treatment earlier, it looks like your skills are reliable. You used to be… a Quasi Brave, was it? I do not doubt that you were once a warrior with such a title. You’re probably far more specialized for battle than even us, who live and die for that single purpose. But still, that’s not enough evidence for me to judge you as a harmless character.”
“What the heck else do you need…”
“Do you know how the Emnetwyte released the 17 Beasts upon the world?”
“I heard a little from the Great Sage, about how the Beasts were biological weapons developed by the anti-Empire organization True World and so on.”
“Yep, that’s what he told me.”
“Then that means there must have been an original being the weapon was built out of, right? Do you have any idea what that could have been?”
“No idea. I don’t think that’s very important. Probably captured a new species of Monstrous or something.”
“Is that all?”
And that’s how Willem’s conversation with Lantolq went.
“I don’t particularly hate you or anything,” Noft answered upon his asking. “You don’t look too high and mighty or anything, in fact you look kinda plain. Also, if Aiseia and Nephren trust you then I guess you’re not thinking any bad thoughts. Actually it looks like you’re not thinking any thoughts, but…”
“Can’t tell if I just got complimented or insulted…”
“Still, I can’t fully trust you. I trust Lan’s judgement the most. Sorry, but as long as she doesn’t trust you, neither can I.”
And thus went Willem’s conversation with Noft.
“I don’t think you need to worry too much about it.” Perhaps because Willem’s discouraged mood showed, Nephren walked up to him. “Those two are pretty much always like that. They’re not the type to seriously hate someone, so I’m sure their attitude will relax soon enough.”
“Yeah… I guess.”
They didn’t seem like bad kids. Lantolq was just trying to think through things by her own logic, and Noft simply trusted her. Willem had no reason to hold any hostile feelings towards them.
“Thanks, Nephren.” His words were met with a puzzled look. “You always back me up. I appreciate it.”
“Nn… it’s not really that,” Nephren answered with her usual hard to read expression. “You looked like you would break if I left you alone.”
“… do I look that weak right now?” he asked, slightly hurt. Nephren, however, never responded.
The packing of the excavated goods seemed to be going along smoothly. One by one, wooden boxes filled the airship’s hold, which reeked of iron and oil. After receiving permission from the person in charge of the work, Willem opened one of those boxes and pulled out the bundle tightly wrapped in dirty cloth which sat inside.
“Watch out, if you touch it you might catch of them Emnetwyte curses,” a kind looking Orc worker warned him.
“Thanks for the concern, but you don’t need to worry. I’m an Emnetwyte.”
“Hahah, aren’t you a little old to still be playing make believe?” With a hearty laugh, the worker walked off.
“… did he think I was some delusional teenager?”
Well, even if he was telling the truth, to most people the Emnetwyte were the legendary incarnations of evil. If someone suddenly declared that they belonged to such a race, it would only be natural for others to assume he was delusional. Willem needed to be more careful in the future.
Shifting his focus back to the task at hand, Willem held the contents of that bundle — a large sword composed of dozens of metal fragments — up to his eyes. There was no doubt: it was the Kaliyon Lapidem Sybilus.
He didn’t have the slightest idea why it had been excavated here in Gomag. Navrutri was from West Garmond, and didn’t think too highly of the empire. Willem couldn’t think of a reason why he would come all the way here, to the borderlands of the empire, after the battle with the Visitors and the Poteau.
“Ah, who cares.”
He probably had something going on, nothing of concern to Willem. Right now, the sword itself was more important. He performed a rough check on the condition of the spell lines. As expected, they had fallen into utter disorder. In this condition, it wouldn’t be of any use, and Willem wasn’t confident that he could restore it with his skills. He needed to disassemble it and take a more detailed look.
“– What are you doing here?” Noft appeared out from behind a wooden box. “Even if you steal something you’ll end up dealing with the Trading Company anyway, so there’s no point, you know?”
“I’m upset you assumed I was up to such petty mischief.” Willem wagged his finger. “I’m an evil Emnetwyte, after all. If I’m going to plot something, it’s going to be a larger scale crime.”
“For real.” He chuckled.
“Well, what kind of crime is it then? Are you going to sink this whole ship?”
“No, then I’d die too.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if you faithfully carried out evil deeds without a second thought to your own well being?”
“How foolish. Real villains don’t need such cliche pride. We respect ourselves and the nature of things. Basics of being evil, really.”
“For real.” Another laugh. “Oh, that reminds me. I’m going to do maintenance on this guy, so while I’m at it I might as well do you guys’ swords too.”
After borrowing Noft and Lantolq’s swords, Willem found a nice empty storage room. The walls, which looked like haphazard mosaics of steel, copper, and tin plates, were covered with not so elegant graffiti. The pipes running across the ceiling all had small cracks here and there. The iron grill covering the ventilation duct only had one screw left to fasten it on; just a little shake would probably bring it down. Various tools, probably brought on board when the work necessary to allow the ship to cross the barrier surrounding Regul Aire was performed, had been left scattered to the sides of the room. As soon as Willem set foot inside it, a terrible stench of unknown origin assaulted his nose. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very pleasant place to be. But, it provided protection from the winds and sands, and, most importantly, it was quiet.
“Well, I guess I’m in no position to complain.” Willem set down the two swords he had been carrying on his back against the wall. He then picked up one of them and sat down. “Start maintenance.”
The blade gradually broke apart as Venom poured into it. Roughly half of the 38 metal fragments floated apart on their own and settled down once finding their spot. Unlike the time upon that hill when he fixed Seniolis, it would be hard to completely disassemble it at once due to the space restrictions of the room. He could perform a more thorough examination once he got back to the warehouse; right now a simple check and touch up would suffice. Fortunately, no one seemed to be around, so he could probably get it done pretty fast if he got into his groove–
“Ah, here you are.” Kutori suddenly appeared in the doorway. She wore unfashionable work clothes and had her hair tied up behind her so it wouldn’t get in the way.
Ever since they got on the airship, Kutori had been going all around and helping out with various tasks. After all, she was brought aboard only as the assistant of the 2nd Enchanted Weapons Technician. Without any actual duties, the only way she could find some way to make herself useful was to actively ask around for work.
“Stop disappearing. I’m your secretary, so I at least need to know where you are, right?”
“Ah… um…” Willem, surprised at the unexpected visit, paused his work. “I mean, secretary is just the title we used to get you here, so it’s not like you actually have to work or anything.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you.”
Willem had absolutely no comeback. But why did she want to work so badly?
“Besides, if I don’t do anything, you really will be ‘that guy who abused his authority and brought his useless lover with him to the battlefield’. I don’t want that to happen.”
“That’s not something for you to worry about.”
“Well I do worry about it.” Kutori puffed her cheeks out, like a child throwing a fit. “Hey, can I watch?”
“I don’t mind, but it really stinks here, you know?”
“That’s okay. There are rooms way worse than this one elsewhere on the ship.”
If Willem were in Kutori’s position, he definitely wouldn’t call this stench ‘okay’, but if she was fine with it there was no need to argue. He gestured for her to come in.
“Is that Noft’s sword?”
Willem lightly tapped one of the metal fragments, the Talismans, with his fingertip. It glided smoothly through the air until it reached its proper place, where it stopped and emitted a clear ringing noise, like that of a metallophone. Meanwhile, Kutori took a seat on a nearby toolbox.
“It sure is pretty, but in this room it doesn’t feel as romantic.”
“Better than doing it in the middle of a sandstorm.”
A question suddenly popped into Willem’s head. “Do you still remember that night I did maintenance on Seniolis?”
“Yeah, I remember.” Kutori nodded. “Maybe it’s because I’m being careful to not ignite any Venom, but recently I don’t really feel like any more memories are fading away. It could just be that I’m not noticing, but I feel pretty good right now. Nephren, Noft, Lantolq, Aiseia… I still remember all of them. Maybe my memories have lost some of the detail, but…”
“I see.” Willem noticed that his own name didn’t appear in that list, but there was no need to ask about that. He hadn’t been forgotten. If that were the case, Kutori wouldn’t be on this ship with him.
As the Talismans played their sloppy song, the two sat in silence for a brief moment.
“… hm?” Willem noticed something strange.
“What’s wrong?” Kutori asked.
“It’s not broken.”
“Of course it’s not. If it were broken, Noft would have been in big trouble.”
“That’s not what I meant… how do I put this…” He needed a couple seconds to think through how to explain it. “Kaliyons have a thing called a ‘slayer level’ which indicates their ability. It determines what kind of enemy the sword is especially effective against.”
“O-Okay.” Kutori looked a bit startled at the sudden rush of technical terms, but she seemed to be following along well enough.
“As the sword kills more of the same type of enemy, it starts to adapt, or acquire a specialty. You might have heard of a ‘Dragon Slayer’. That’s what people called a sword whose slayer level had an extremely high affinity for Dragons.”
To Kutori, who had never fought anyone except the Beasts, it might’ve been a bit hard to understand. On top of that, she had never even seen an actual Dragon. For the time being, Willem moved along.
“This sword is a ‘Kinslayer’.”
“It’s specialized to kill the user’s own kind, its kin. It exists for the sole purpose of one human killing another. It doesn’t seem very useful for anything else.”
“Uh, isn’t that a bit weird? Noft fights the Beasts with that sword.”
“Exactly, it’s weird. That’s why I thought something related to the specialization mechanism must be broken, but…”
As far as Willem could tell, the sword, Desperatio, suffered from overall wear and tear, causing its functional efficiency to drop, but the functions themselves were still intact. Willem found it hard to believe that over five hundred years had passed since its last maintenance. The backbone circuit was in good shape, and the spell lines hadn’t deteriorated that much.
“Anyways, today was just emergency repair. We can leave the mystery solving for another day.”
Then that means there must have been an original being the weapon was built out of, right? Do you have any idea what that could have been? Willem remembered the conversation he had with Lantolq earlier.
“… what is it this time?” Kutori asked suspiciously.
“Nothing.” Willem shook his head.
Now, he had an idea. A very unpleasant one. It sat right in the middle of his brain and refused to move. He was just overthinking things. Or at least, he tried to convince himself that he was just overthinking things.
It was true that if he accepted that idea, it would solve many mysteries at once. Why the 17 Beasts were able to destroy the world at such a terrifying speed. According to the history books, in just a few days, two countries disappeared from the map. By the next week, five countries, four islands, and two oceans ceased to exist. After another week, a map no longer held any meaning.
No. It couldn’t be true. If it were, there’s no way that the Great Sage Suwon wouldn’t have realized by now. And if he had known, there’s no way that he wouldn’t have told Willem–
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.
He remembered those words Ebon Candle spoke to Suwon. That’s right. The one who silenced Suwon, the one who didn’t let him speak any further, was none other than Willem himself. By insisting that they needed to focus on what they had right now and that they couldn’t afford to care about things already lost, he rejected Suwon. Looking back, maybe his attitude back in that conversation wasn’t correct. But he didn’t regret it.
What I have right now…
“Come on, what is it?” Kutori asked for the third time.
Without a single word, Willem stood up, walked over to Kutori, and embraced her tightly.
“… what’s wrong?” Kutori wrapped her arms around him and gently patted his back.
“You’re not surprised?”
“I’m very surprised.”
“You’re not going to panic?”
“I am panicking. My heart is going wild right now. I don’t know what happened, but you’re finally showing me your weak side, even though you always try to act strong. My feelings of happiness and wanting to cheer you up win out over panic.”
“Right now, you look like you would disappear if I left you alone, you know? This is really embarrassing, but of course I can’t push you away.”
Willem put more strength into his arms.
“Ah! Hey, that hurts…”
“You’re a good girl.”
“… sorry I couldn’t hear that very well. Can you say it again? Preferably in a louder voice.”
“Hey! Say it again! Just one more time!”
“One mo — wait, what?”
Now Kutori was really starting to panic. Willem hugged her even harder.
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.
He finally found it. By meeting Kutori and being in the fairy warehouse, he, the one who couldn’t protect anything he fought to protect, the one who couldn’t return home to the place he so desperately longed for, the shell of a former hero, finally found a new way of life.
He found new things he wanted to protect.
He found a new place he longed to return home to.
He finally felt that it was okay for him to keep on living. And that’s why…
I wanted to make Kutori happy.
Willem remembered uttering those words to Naigrat one dreary night in the warehouse. No, he thought. Not wanted. I want to make Kutori happy. I want to cling onto that wish. I want to forget the past. I only want to think about here and now and what’s to come.
Noticing that Kutori didn’t seem to be struggling to squirm out of his arms anymore, Willem checked to see how she was doing. Whether she had become unable to breath, or whether the crushing force provided by his arms had surpassed her limit, or perhaps due to a combination of both, he couldn’t tell, but for some reason or another Kutori seemed to have fainted.