The First Person
You want to become a Brave?
Willem still remembered his master’s expression when he first brought the subject up. It looked happy, sad, amused, and disgusted all at the same time. Looking back, Willem realized he could now understand about half of the emotions mixed into that complicated face. For example, whenever Falco declared ‘I’m going to become a Brave too’, the jumbled mess of feelings that welled up in his heart were surely the same ones that his master felt back then. The joy of seeing Falco aspiring to be like Willem, his father figure. The sorrow of knowing that the brilliant, glorious image of the Braves which Falco held in his heart would soon be dirtied and destroyed. The frustration of watching him choose such a dangerous path over so many other options. The heart warming sensation of seeing a young, innocent boy chase his dreams.
You want to protect home? You idiot, if you want to protect this place, there are millions of other options. Why do you have to choose the most troublesome one?
But still, Willem felt that something was different. His master had carried a far greater variety of emotions than Willem.
Alright, alright. I’ll teach you. I’ll become your master. But, I don’t think you’re cut out for it. I’m gonna take off running with the intention of making you quit, so do your best to keep up!
His master’s words turned out to be so right it hurt. Willem Kumesh had no talent, and he hardly mastered any of the techniques that former Regal Brave Nils D Foreigner taught him. The only Kaliyons he could activate were the lowest rank mass produced ones. On top of that, the disciple that barged in afterwards, that rude little girl named Leila, had literally everything which Willem lacked. She mastered the all powerful way of the sword characteristic of the Braves and even activated the notoriously stubborn Seniolis like it was nothing.
It’s okay to give up, you know? You can stop doing what you’re not mean to do and go back home to the orphanage.
At that moment, his master seemed to be neither happy nor sad, neither scolding Willem nor taking pity on him. Emotions completely unknown to Willem stirred in his master’s eyes as he talked to him with a gentle, yet bitter, smile.
A modest promenade stretched alongside the waterways flowing through the city of Gomag. During the day, it served as a popular place of respite for the citizens. Some went for leisurely walks, some jogged, some rode out on small boats to enjoy the view, some played cheerful songs on the violin in hopes of receiving donations, and some set up an easel and worked to capture the beautiful scenery on canvas. But when the sun sank below the horizon, they all left for home. Now, with the stars twinkling brightly above, only a lone man sat on a bench, gazing up at the moon as he sipped a bottle of beer.
“I’ve been looking for you, Navrutri,” Willem called out to the man, who slowly turned his way.
“Hey, Willem. What a strange place to meet.”
“That’s because you picked a strange place to be.” Willem took a seat next to Navrutri. “You don’t look like your usual drunk self.”
“I just can’t seem to get used to this empire alcohol. No matter how much I drink, it doesn’t cheer me up.”
“Is that really the alcohol’s fault?”
“Well, the fault might lie with me, but it doesn’t make a difference. There’s no connection between me and this alcohol. That’s all.” As Navrutri spoke, he gave the not yet empty bottle a light toss. A few seconds later, a small splash sounded from the shadow enshrouded waterway.
“There’s a fine for littering, you know.”
“When the town hall opens I’ll go pay it.”
Willem sighed. Of course, he didn’t seek Navrutri out to talk about beer. “I looked into various things regarding True World.” Staring blankly at the black surface of the water, he began. “Roughly speaking, a religion is a set of common knowledge and values for people to share. It’s only natural for one to not be able to trust someone else with different values. So those with different religions see each other as irregular and unending conflict arises. To prevent that, countries set an official religion and standardize their peoples’ beliefs.”
Navrutri simply nodded vaguely.
“The followers of True World share the common belief that the world is not the way it was meant to be. Because of their far out convictions, it’s almost impossible for them to converse with regular people, so they come into conflict with those around them. Only those with the same beliefs understand them. As a result, bonds among them strengthen, while friction with others increases. Somewhere along the way, they started to think that they need to purge the non believers who fail to see the truth and restore the world to its proper form.”
Willem took a small breath. “… or, that’s what everyone falsely believed.”
Navrutri’s eyes shuddered slightly. “Go on.”
“From the outside, everyone just saw a bunch of weird guys. But in reality, there were different types of people in True World. They all shared the same basic belief that the world is not the way it was meant to be. But after that, there were two branches. One group believed the world needed to be returned to its original state, and the other wanted to maintain the current, mistaken world. When True World began 97 years ago, the founder supported the latter belief. In other words, the original True World never wished to give the world a big makeover. Am I right?”
“At the very least, there aren’t any contradictions with the information that I have. Is that it?”
“No. That was just to confirm my assumption that there are two opposing factions within True World. My real question comes next.” Willem took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. With his gaze still fixed on the water, he asked, “Which faction do you belong to, Navrutri?”
A long silence descended between them.
“How did you know?”
“Oh, what? You really do belong to them? That was just a guess.”
“That was half a joke, don’t make that face. Anyways, the guys trying to kidnap that comatose man at the exact same time as us seemed suspicious, so I looked into all the paths by which information leaves the guild. Eventually I found a record of some guy extracting information through a fishy route, and following the clues let to your name.
Also, you said you were suspecting the other Quasi Braves, yet you didn’t seem to have any intention of leaving Gomag, where the only other Quasi Brave is me. Which means, you knew it wasn’t actually necessary to investigate the identity of the traitor.”
“That hardly seems like enough evidence to deem me guilty.”
“Like I said, I was half joking, which means half of it was really just a guess.”
A small splash, probably from a fish or something, resounded through the quiet night air.
“Well? Did you not consider that I might silence you after having my identity revealed? I’m pretty good at assassination, you know?”
“I think you already know, but I’m pretty good at retaliating against assassins,” Willem said with a laugh. “Besides, you told me, didn’t you? That it’s your job right now to doubt your comrades. That means it’s not my job to doubt you. I couldn’t imagine you resorting to assassination, True World or not.”
“Reckless as always.”
“Well, it made sense in my head.”
Navrutri shrugged. “I belong to the faction trying to maintain this world. We’re currently in conflict with the guys who want to give the world a big makeover, as you put it. There’s not much more I can tell you, but do you have any questions?”
Willem thought for a bit. Of course, there were numerous things he wanted to know. However, among them, only a few seemed to be worth asking Navrutri.
“The ‘way the world is meant to be’ that you guys speak of… is it a desolate gray plain where only strange beasts roam?”
“Correct. The original world scenery.”
“And what about such a bleak world is so desirable to the other faction?”
“Various things. Some want to utilize the beasts and destruction for war, and some are just convinced that things need to be the way they were meant to be. To borrow your words from earlier, those are their common beliefs.”
“Do you think you can stop them?”
“That…” Navrutri opened his mouth to say something, but, after a brief pause, closed it again.
“… there’s no need to stop them. Their main strength was crushed two years ago. All that’s left are people who used to be no more than underlings and very few resources. They won’t be able to do anything serious anymore.”
What is he talking about? Willem thought. Can’t do anything serious? What about the chain of comas they’re causing as we speak?
“No matter what sort of schemes they’re planning, destruction will come soon enough,” Navrutri said with a casual tone unfitting of his enigmatic words. “What the human race needs now are the soul fragments of the Visitors. Our preparations to replenish them are underway. All I can say is that we’ll try to make it in time.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“… well, basically we’re fighting as best as we can. I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything more detailed than that.” Navrutri showed Willem a vague smile.
“Can I trust you?”
“It’s not your job to doubt your comrades, is it?”
After being told that, Willem found it hard to pursue the question any further. “Is there anything I can do?”
“If you just trust me and wait, that’s good enough. I know you’re strong, but this is a problem that can’t be resolved with strength — ah.” Navrutri, seeming to have remembered something important, turned towards Willem. “There’s just one thing I wanted to ask you. Do you know where Nils went off to?”
“That good for nothing master?” A strange question to be asked all of a sudden, but Willem answered. “I heard he went to the capital a while back, but nothing after that. I suppose he’ll abruptly appear at home with the worst timing like he always does, but why do you ask?”
“If you don’t know then that’s fine. If he comes back, let me know as soon as possible,” Navrutri said, then stood up. “I’m sure he knows how to save this world from the end.”