Looking at the number, both sides were about equal. The battle strength between the kingdom army and the <Dark Being> army should be in balance against each other.
But, in reality it wasn't like that at all.
It was just like a clump of weed getting swallowed by muddy stream.
That could only be said to be natural. After all in this place, everything in every senses were working in the kingdom army's favor.
First, thanks to almost all the <Dark Beings> congregated at the surrounding of Arquette's underground vault, it was possible to surround them despite the location being in the middle of city.
Second, the kingdom army had the geographical advantage that was urban warfare.
Third, there was already no more blessing power that could be eaten at the surrounding, although only for a bit but the <Dark Beings> looked exhausted.
Fourth, it was only within a part of the <Dark Beings>, but because they had been continuously losing fighting against only one person, fear against human was starting to grow in them.
And then, above all else, the bloodcurdling fighting spirit of the kingdom army soldiers were increasing without any end in sight, the pressure from that beaten down the moral of the enemies. Without doubt that was the greatest cause of the curbstomp.
The righteous indignation of Arquette getting attacked. The vindication of honor for five years ago. Hatred toward the very race of <Dark Being> itself.
Just one person──
Even though he bore no duty or responsibility whatsoever, he continued to fight for three whole days while getting worn out. The soldiers' feeling toward that person couldn't be expressed with words.
For a soldier, after witnessing such an exalted gallant figure, there was no way they couldn't be shaken. There was no way they could stop their soul from roaring.
A fighting spirit where there was no need for hesitation to use that word to represent it was exterminating the <Dark Beings> one after another.
『Re, Retreat-! Retreat-』
Someone unknown among the <Dark Being> yelled that.
If their opponent was only one person, their obstinacy could hold on. If they were against one man who looked like he would collapse anytime now, they could passionately rage and fought, thinking that the next attack for sure would finish the fight, that they would be the one who would bring down the enemy who caused this much damage toward them.
They were like gambler who felt that the jackpot would come out at the next one for sure and lost sight of when to quit.
「Rout them! Chase any that run away and kill them! Prioritize pulling them away from Kouki's nearby!」
Moana's command thundered. The soldiers chased and routed the enemies one after another.
Seeing that, perhaps deciding that the battle had been decided, the <Dark Beings> were running away from Kouki's surrounding altogether.
Among them, there were also <Dark Beings> who realized that they were already unable to escape and launched suicide attack at Kouki, but before Moana and others could even say 「Ah」, Kouki who were swaying in place cut them down with a single stroke of katana.
It was sword skill that would make anyone shudder seeing it. Heads were flying like a joke.
The veteran Spenser who was watching felt as though he couldn't recognize the moment when the katana was swung, and the process of cutting the head. When he noticed it was already over.
Kouki kept standing imposingly, his head looking down with both his hands dangling down. His expression couldn't be seen, but even though Moana had been calling at him many times since a while ago, he showed no reaction in response.
His state was uncommon.
And yet despite so, with that state where he wasn't even taking stance, he was swaying back and fro while slaughtering <Dark Beings> that leaped at him with sword attack that couldn't be perceived.
「The sword's……summit──sword saint」
Spenser whispered with a hoarse voice. It was a legend that his father told him when he was but a child.
An unseen and unavoidable sword strike. One of the summits that a swordsman ought to aim for.
In the far past, that technique was considered as the king's sword, the character of the legend was extolled and people were calling him <Sword Saint>.
The current Kouki, he looked just like the second coming of the legend.
When Spenser went 'hah' and came back to his senses, there weren't any more figure of <Dark Being> at the surrounding. The tumultuous sound of the soldiers fighting could be heard from the direction of the west gate.
And then, Moana took the healing art users with her and rushed toward Kouki.
She was rushing toward Kouki with great momentum, just like what the <Dark Beings> doing before this.
「Don't-, your majesty! Back away-」
Kouki who was still standing silently with both his hands dangling down and his face looking down was swaying.
Moana who heard Spenser's voice and looked back──was already in Kouki's range.
A hair's breadth. Lilin pulled Moana back. The two fell behind and rolled around. 「What are you doing」 Moana said while her voice was stifled from the impact of falling. In the field of vision of Moana who lifted her face, white strings were fluttering down in the air……
「Are you safe, Moana-sama!?」
「Your majesty-, are you injured!?」
Lilin asked with a pale expression while Spenser called with an impatient expression, but the astonished Moana didn't pay them any attention.
The fluttering down white strings.
Those were──her hair.
The tips of Moana's white hair were slightly cut and fluttered in the air.
Who cut those hairs?
That was obvious.
There was no answer to her call.
Kouki were standing still on his original position──above the door of the underground vault.
Thanks to rolling down on the ground, Moana finally could see the face of Kouki that was looking down. At the same time, she noticed the abnormality.
There was no light in those half closed eyes. Those eyes were empty, they weren't looking at anywhere.
「It looks like……he is alive. But, he is unconscious. What the……」
Both Spenser and Lilin lost their words. Moana too also the same.
That was understandable.
Just who in the world could possibly imagine someone fighting while being unconscious.
Looking at him once more, Kouki's state was really atrocious.
There was all kind of sizes of wounds throughout his body. Few places were unharmed. He was blood drenched all over his body, his brown hair was dyed dark red by his own blood and enemy's blood. His breathing was shallow and faint, it sounded like it would stop anytime now. His side that could be seen from the gap of his torn clothes was warped, perhaps it was because his ribcage was broken and changed shape……
The sword that changed shape was gripped in only one hand, because his other arm was broken all over from the shoulder until the fist.
Looking closer, the hand that was grasping the sword was wrapped in several layer of cloth scraps, so that even if the hand lost gripping strength, the sword wouldn't slip down.
*jijiji-, jijiji-* The holy sword was flickering with light like a lamp that was almost cut off from electricity, as though expressing the light of Kouki's life as it was.
Just how long he had been fighting continuously in this state?
His figure that was continuing to fight even when he was unconscious.
Moana sent his gaze toward the spot where Kouki was standing. The entrance of the underground vault.
She understood just from seeing that.
──I won't let anyone touch even a single hair of them
An emotion that couldn't possibly be expressed with words became tear and overflowed.
「You are, you are protecting them until you become like that……you are protecting them until the end aren't you, Kouki……」
Moana stood up. Spenser and Lilin tried to stop her, but Moana told them no need with a smile.
Spenser and Lilin tried to say that it was dangerous to get near the current Kouki who would remove anyone who approached. However, they became unable to say anything seeing that smile. Both of them were also unable to stop the trembling inside their chest from seeing Kouki's figure.
The two of them were watching attentively in silent. No, it wasn't just the two of them, before they realized they were surrounded by soldiers who were watching attentively with the same expression on their faces. Moana advanced under their gaze.
Two meter left until Kouki's sword boundary.
「Kouki. Kouki, it's me. It's Moana you see. I'm coming toward you now. I'm sorry that I'm late okay?」
One meter remaining.
「Everything is all right already. Because you have protected to the very end. There is no more enemy here.」
Thirty centimeter remaining.
Kouki reacted with swaying.
Spenser was about to move, but Lilin caught his arm and she shook her head. Her gaze was directed straight at Kouki. Trust at the utmost filled that gaze. Spenser also relaxed his body.
「That's why, you can rest already. It's okay to not fight……that's why-」
The holy sword vanished. That was how the unseen sword strike looked like when it approached Moana's neck──when it stopped still right above the skin.
Even if he was unconscious, but if someone called at him wholeheartedly, the kind him would surely respond without fail.
If "I'm right here" was conveyed to him, he absolutely wouldn't harm someone who wished to protect.
Moana who was convinced of that gently embraced Kouki without even a shred of discomposure.
A faint groan. When Moana peered into Kouki's face while supporting him, there was his eyes there that were reflecting Moana's face. Those eyes were faintly like lamp with light returning in it.
「Yes, it's me right here, Kouki.」
It was a hoarse voice that almost couldn't be heard. Moana gently whispered with her tears overflowing once more.
「It's all right. It's over already. Everyone is safe. You protected them. That's why, it's all right already.」
Kouki's eyes were slightly opened wide, it was like he wanted to say 「Unbelievable」 even though it was something that he did himself.
That was why, Moana stared straight into Kouki's eyes with a strong gaze while telling him.
「Yes, you protected them. Thank yo「u, Kouki. Everyone, is saved by you.」
Kouki who received those words was……
Saying that, he smiled slightly and closed his eyes.
The body slumped and lost strength. The holy sword lose even its faint light as though to say that its role was over. Moana who was glued closely to Kouki understood, that something unseen but important was dispersing from Kouki's body.
That figure that was quietly losing strength, was as though……
「Quick-, heal him! Hurry! This person absolutely must not be let to die!」
A command that sounded like scream was yelled. The art users who stiffened from Kouki's heroic state assembled altogether and began applying their art.
The expression of the art users of the capital who excelled in healing grew worse with impatience. That told the reality of the precariousness of the current Kouki.
「Please, I beg you don't die……Kouki……」
Moana's prayer resounded among the sound of fighting that still reverberated from afar, and between the soldiers who were moving around in order to get the people of Arquette out from the underground vault.
He felt a sensation as though he was floating from the bottom of dark water.
It was as though something terribly heavy was coiling around him. His vision was pitch dark and couldn't see anything. His voice too, his throat stung and couldn't really make voice.
(What……the world after death is really simple huh……)
If place like hell or heaven really existed, he must be heading toward hell without doubt. If he waited here, before long even king Yama might come to judge him.
This time for sure, there would be no one that could chase after him like that time in the 【Holy Precincts】.
(Even though Shizuku and others had saved me after much trouble……even though I finally found my answer……even though it finally felt like I can live by facing forward……how unfortunate)
Loneliness, sadness, frustration.
When he thought that he wouldn't be able to meet his family and friends anymore, those feelings welled up like flood.
At the same time, he thought of that girl who he felt like he was seeing at the very end like a miracle.
(Moana, sama. ……Was that an illusion? I don't remember how long I was fighting but……I wonder if I was able to protect everyone?)
He protected them. That was how he felt. He had no basis for thinking so, but deep inside Kouki he was convinced of that. That he surely achieved that.
(Though, I killed as many as I protected)
It was impossible to save "both sides". However, if he pursued for "one side" and didn't fail in doing that……then as he thought, it must be one answer.
Thinking that he had scattered a great number of lives, then without doubt he would be going to hell. Was king Yama not here yet? Getting kept in suspense like this was……honestly felt scary, so he wished that he would quickly come.
While thinking of such uncontrollable imagination, what surfaced at the back of Kouki's mind was about "that guy".
(If it's "that guy", surely he will point his gun even to king Yama and asked 「Are you enemy, or ally」 instead. If the answer to that is enemy, he will surely pull the trigger.)
What a really simple evaluation standard.
As expected it was a way of living that he couldn't possibly do.
Thinking that, for some reason Kouki found it extremely funny that he spontaneously almost laughed.
He almost laughed but,
(Nnn!? It hurts!? For some reason my whole body feel so painful it feels like I'm gonna dieeeeee!?)
'Why is there still flesh pain even after death huh!' When he directed such unreasonable outburst of anger to the king Yama in his heart, for some reason he felt a sensation as though his consciousness was surfacing.
Furthermore, inside the pitch black darkness was even starting to be shined with faint light.
(Eh? Don't tell me, I'm……)
Thinking that it was impossible, Kouki opened his eyes──
The field of vision of Kouki who opened his eyes in reality was completely filled with the close-up face of a middle aged man. It was at a very close range where their nose almost touched each other.
「Hih, -a!? Ngih, it hurt-, scary-!? Scary hurt!?」
「Oo!? Kouki-dono! You woke up!」
A stern middle-aged man. The look of his eyes was that of a veteran warrior. The criminal of the close-up face at the waking up was Spenser.
In addition, when his body jerked from surprise, intense pain instantly assaulted his whole body.
This was the worst waking up.
Spenser said 「I will call her majesty here immediately! Please wait for a second!」 and dashed out of the room.
For the time being the "scary" thing left, so Kouki calmed down and looked at his surrounding with teary eyes from pain.
He had recollection of the room's make up. It was really similar with the guest room in the feudal lord's mansion that he was guided into when he first arrived at Arquette. Or rather, it was exactly that guest room. When he focused his hearing, he could hear the hustle and bustle of people outside the window.
「I'm, alive? I'm, still alive……」
Bit by bit, that fact seeped into him. Unconsciously his tear duct loosened and tears spilled out emotionally. He really thought that his life was lost as the compensation of his wish and the atonement of his crime.
He thought, that he wouldn't be able to meet anyone else anymore.
It was scary. It was painful.
However, he was alive.
What he did, what he accomplished, and then how he was alive right now.
All of that pressed on his heart. Kouki simply cried.
*zudadadadada-* The terrific sound of footsteps resounded in the ears of such Kouki.
Recalling that just now Spenser said 「I will call her majesty」, Kouki guessed that it was Moana coming his way. He wiped his tears in hurry. Somehow, he didn't want to show her his pathetic side even more than this.
Right after he finished wiping up his eyes, *BAA──────NN!!* the door was blown off and Moana arrived.
Why was it he wondered. Kouki felt an immense feeling of déjà vu. He wondered if these two sisters similarly held some kind of grudge toward door.
「Moana, sama……as I thought it wasn't some kind of illusion then.」
Moana who was amazed seeing the awakened Kouki let out tears seeping out from hearing those words of Kouki, she then ran toward him with small steps and without pause she sat down snugly on the bed.
She sat down with her back facing Kouki, and with her long hair acting as veil he also couldn't see her face from the side.
「Excuse me, Moana-sama? What about the people of Arquette? How long it has been since then?」
Kouki felt a bit anxious seeing the silent Moana. He wondered if something happened, something that wasn't good.
But, before he could speak out his anxiety, Moana slowly tilted her body toward Kouki. Without pause she embraced Kouki's body as though she was covering him, gently so that it wouldn't affect Kouki's wounds.
「Mo, Mo Mo Mo, Moana-sama!?」
Sweet fragrance like kukuri fruit tickled Kouki's nose. A sensation that was clearly soft even through the sheet covering his body caused him to feel agitated against his wish.
「……The people of Arquette are all safe. I told you right? You protected everyone.」
There was Moana's face right beside his own face as though she was burying her face on his body. Her voice was slightly shaking from the various emotions filling it, reaching his ear along with her breath.
「It has only been a day since then. Really, just what kind of body you have to be able to wake up even though you almost died.」
「Ahaha……that's because of the hero's specs.」
Influenced by Moana who was talking in a casual way, Kouki also responded to her with a casual way of talking.
Moana lifted her face, and then she stared at Kouki with her nose tip kept close to him.
「But, you will die when it's time to die.」
「Even your healing, several times it looked hopeless in the middle of it.」
「……I too, thought that this is it many times.」
If it wasn't Kouki then surely it would be beyond any help. The life force that was vitalized by blessing art, magic power that would recover when resting, and skill that elevated healing power as long as there was magic power. And then, the art users who continuously used healing art until they collapsed.
All those barely saved Kouki's life.
「Just, why are you making that kind of eyes?」
There were a lot, really a lot of things she wanted to say. She wanted to say that she didn't ask him for dedication to the degree he would throw away his life. She wanted to ask why he didn't come back together with Koone. She wanted to ask him just what was he thought about his own life. There were a lot that she wanted to say as worried as she was.
However, seeing Kouki's clear gaze, Moana became unable to say anything.
Kouki made a small smile and spoke.
「I found, my answer.」
Kouki who wavered about his way of living. He held distrust toward himself and was unable to choose anything. He was wandering, looking for what was right, which was right, "the right choice".
He said that he found the answer, within the verge of death.
It was something that one ought to be happy about but……Moana's expression turned complicated.
「Then with that, you won't hesitate anymore? You can live without feeling suffering?」
Kouki shook his head quietly.
「I will still waver from now on too, I think that it surely will be painful. Because the answer that I found, is something like that.」
He was unable to come to a clear decision like "that guy".
Enemy and ally. Dividing the world into two such colors, that was something he couldn't do. He couldn't swing his sword while still not knowing anything.
Surely he would struggling and floundering dreaming for the ideal. If there wasn't such path, he would surely be anguished when reality was thrust toward him.
But, so what.
He would struggle. He would worry in anguish. Bring it on.
At those times, he would just make his choice, believing that it would surely lead to the best result.
Surely, nine out of ten he would regret the result, but he absolutely wouldn't give up the future that resulted after he made his choice no matter what.
If the ideal was impossible, the second best then. Even if that was also beyond him, he would continue to fight in order to haul in a future that was better even if for just a bit.
Yes, the world couldn't be divided into two colors.
Right, or wrong.
From whose point of view it was decided?
There was no such thing as the right solution.
「I idolized my grandfather. Because Jii-chan is my hero, because hero has to be right……I, was imprisoned by the "right thing" unnoticed by myself.」
「Right now it's different?」
「Yeah. I want to do the right thing, but I'm not imprisoned by that anymore. Because, whether it's right or wrong, but in the end, I'm unable to slap away that hand.」
For the <Dark Being>, Kouki was unmistakably "evil", he was in the wrong for killing them.
But, even so Kouki was unable to slap away that boy's hand. He absolutely didn't want to do that. No matter how much he wished for the path where both sides could live. No matter even if it became he cut down one side.
「I'll keep worrying until the time limit. But, I will surely make my choice. Even if it won't go as I want it at the end of my choice, I'll continue to struggle. I cannot stop dreaming. Even if it won't come true.」
'In the end, I don't really change huh', Kouki made a wry smile.
Moana stared fixedly at Kouki's eyes, and then she smiled gently.
「I see……if that's Kouki's answer, then I'll root for you. If it's needed, I'll lend you my strength as much as you need. It's not because you have saved Arquette. It's because I want to be your strength.」
With her own nose tip, Moana poked at Kouki's nose tip chidingly so that he corrected the way he was calling her.
That adding "-sama", was unnecessary.
Kouki also smiled quietly while feeling as though he was pulled in by Moana's eyes.
「Moana. Right now there are a lot of problem and there is also not really time but……someday, will you hear a story about my massive failure?」
「I want to hear no matter what kind of story. Let me listen, absolutely.」
Moana nodded happily hearing Kouki's words telling her that he wanted her to know about him.
A silence that wasn't awkward in the least filled the room.
With their gazes still intertwined with each other, they became closer bit by bit──
Kouki's excellent hero ears finally caught the small, yet a lot of breathing sound that was countless.
He stiffened like rock, and then Kouki looked to the side *gigigi* like a machine that ran out of oil. Following that motion, Moana also moved her gaze──
At the entrance of the room that had its door blown away, she saw countless silhouette of people watching attentively while holding their breath.
With Spenser and Lilin at the forefront, a lot of soldiers, and furthermore the feudal lord Rothko and his wife Syla, the vigilance corps captain Ivana and her subordinates, and then the civil officials……
They were pouring their gaze with all the space packed full with people.
「—!? Eeh-eeh-ehem-! Ko, Ko Ko, Kouki seems to be fine already! I'm relieved!」
Moana stood up in a flash with her stance like a soldier's "at ease" position to cover up the situation. Seeing that, Kouki made tsukkomi inside his heart 「There is no keeping up appearance anymore you know」 seeing such Moana. Moana's cheeks were bright red.
After that, Rothko and others came in with awkward expression that said 「We are being nuisance in her majesty's tryst」. They spoke their joy at Kouki's safety, and then they expressed their gratitude for saving the city.
Midway, the recovered healers arrived in order to continue their treatment toward Kouki, but because the room was cramped with everyone who came wanting to say their thanks even for just a bit and caused the room to be noisy, the healers finally ran out of patience and they raged 「We cannot concentrate here-」, and they kicked out everyone including Rothko. Such strange occurrence happened.
Rothko was literally kicked out despite being the feudal lord. The soldiers, including Rothko who received such treatment were all acting despondent. That sight could be said to be really surreal.
There was one more unusual occurrence, or rather an incident that caused all the soldiers who knew the girl to feel so shocked their eyeballs might leaped out from their eye sockets.
「Kouki-sama. Your figure that continued to fight even while unconscious──was mesmerizing. You are exactly a man among man, a warrior among warrior.」
Saying such thing, she──Lilin kissed Kouki's cheek.
As far as Moana, Spenser, and everyone else knew, that should be her "first" kiss.
The true feeling of the girl who then returned to her work as though nothing had happened was unknown. Or rather, everyone present wanted to leave it as something unknown for the time being.
The reason was, because her majesty's eyes were turning round and round after that.
In addition, it was only for a moment but a beastly gaze where in her heart "Right now while Kouki cannot move……" showed through transparently was directed toward Kouki.
Kouki who was dumbfounded from Lilin's kiss twitched went 「Hah, killing intent!?」 while springing up on the spot. Seeing such Kouki, Spenser and others reached a tacit agreement between each other to do watchful waiting in regard to this case.
It seemed that even the brawny soldiers were bad against the "war of woman" that might resulted by any chance. To the degree that they averted their gaze from the savior that saved the city while offering their prayer.
Throughout all those, with Kouki's astounding recovery power and the healing of multiple excellent healers, Kouki was forced to a complete bed rest for a week at least but……
The situation was already moving.
──Reinforcement request from the neighboring territory of Arquette
──A news from the capital with gist that a large army led by <Dark King> was confirmed marching forward
The bad news brought by messengers rushing to Arquette.
However, those news didn't enter the ear of Kouki who was sleeping once more.
No one tried to tell him.
Because if Kouki knew about it, he absolutely would move right now.
That was why, Kouki didn't notice.
That Moana and others had departed toward the battlefield.
AN: Thank you very much for reading every time.
Thank you very much too for the thoughts, opinions, and reports about misspelling and omitted words.
Next chapter, the demon king finally arrives…I think
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