210 – I am Not Hesitating, I Wasn’t
Back in our hometown, Arthur and I were called…
…the miracle duo.
Before our Jobs were identified. It was when we were nine years old.
It’s a story about a bunch of village kids going to the temple to take a look before they do it for real next year.
Having persuaded Arthur, who was quite against it, forcing him to come along, there were a total of five kids heading for the temple.
But when the friend who supposedly knew the way to the temple got lost, we were led to a completely unknown place.
Rather than the temple, we ended up at a cliff edge.
In that wide-open scenery, all the kids, except Arthur, forgot about being lost for a moment and just ran around.
And that’s when it happened.
Suddenly, the ground beneath our feet crumbled.
『We’re going to fall!』I thought.
I immediately pushed the closest two kids. The two kids I pushed ran into one more kid, causing him to fall over to safety.
In the end, those three were saved.
I couldn’t make it in time.
Without hesitation, Arthur sticks his hand out to save me, and I grab a hold of it immediately. I shouldn’t have done that.
Because of that, both of us ended up falling.
I hold Arthur’s head close to my chest. Maybe…I unconsciously thought that it’d be bad if he hit his head, so I did that.
With all sense of direction lost as we fell, all we could hear was a sickening series of sounds as we tumbled.
I suppose it’s a miracle that we reached the bottom without dying.
It was fortunate that we tumbled down a slope rather than fall straight down…I guess. I’m not sure.
At the pitch-black bottom, the two of us were still breathing.
It’s just that…how should I put this?
We were going to die anyway.
Perhaps thanks to how I protected him, Arthur was in a condition just barely able to move, a far cry from me. He still suffered terrible injuries, but that guy still went to call for help.
Thinking about it now, even before our Jobs were identified, we were two people who already had the makings of a Hero and Paladin. We probably didn’t die immediately because our bodies were tougher than the average kid.
『Hey, there was a kid who was with you just now, right? What would you say if I told you that I could only save one of you?』
I didn’t know at first that the voice I heard was that of a Spirit and not just me hearing things.
But I understood what it was asking, and I answered without a shred of hesitation.
「Please, save Arthur.」
『…You sure? You’ll die here, at the bottom of a gorge, cold and alone. You’ll rot and turn to bones before even finding out what your Job is.』
「Please, save Arthur.」
「…Because he’s my friend.」
『So? Does that make his life more important than yours? Aren’t you afraid of death?』
「…O-of course I am.」
「How would I know, dumbass.」
That wasn’t something I could answer while my mind was all messed up.
I just knew that I had no regrets.
『…Heh. I see, how interesting. Pretty sure the other kid gave the same answer. Although, it’s someone else who’s watching over him right now. I suppose this is congratulations? Maybe. Both of you will be saved.』
And just like that, I received the divine blessing of the Shadow Spirit, and Arthur, the Light Spirit, and we survived.
That time, if either of us had placed more importance on our own lives and abandoned each other, we most likely would have died together.
But that didn’t happen.
When I think about it, that was the beginning of my hell.
…Wait, what am I thinking?
That was a miracle. We were lucky.
I mean, we are the world’s 1st ranked after all.
Surpassing the Aerial party, we made it to 1st rank.
We were rewarded. No one will ever call us Forever 2nd Rankers ever again.
My allies are incredible. I’m so glad. I am truly glad that these guys can be rewarded.
They are the greatest allies I could ever have.
The Samurai Masamune is strong, but our Arthur is strong too. He won’t lose.
The Crimson Wizard Michelle is an excellent wizard, but our Merlin has complete control of all four elements. In terms of their skill as a Wizard, Merlin is better.
The Blade Alchemist Louie and the Gale Hero Ewan are also excellent. The former member Panacea too.
But our Mordred and Galahad are amazing Adventurers as well.
I’m glad. Truly.
I’m glad I didn’t let their Adventuring lives end in second place just because they followed me or because I was their leader.
I’m so happy.
All that’s left is to Clear the Demon King Castle, then we truly will be the greatest party of all time.
I’m sure we can do it.
I am unworthy of such incredible allies.
We broke through stratum after stratum, all the way to the ninth stratum.
Before we knew it, we were in the final area of the tenth stratum.
All the Monsters summoned by Lemegeton were annihilated, and only he remained.
As to be expected of the Majin who ensured that the Raid battle ended in failure.
Sadly, all my allies were defeated as well.
But it’s fine. I won’t let everyone’s efforts go to waste.
I will defeat this guy, and then we can all challenge the eleventh stratum together.
Lemegeton grew his right horn.
He unleashed the Magical Energy stored within a Majin’s horn.
But the Black Magic he’s so good at can’t reach me.
I covered my whole body with my shadow.
I am covered from head to toe with nary a gap, so the Black Magic had no way in to affect me.
My vision is closed off, but I can obtain information through my shadow.
My shadow armor is Spirit Magic, highly dense in Magical Energy. That itself serves as a Resist effect.
I’m not an idiot. I’ve understood from watching videos that his physical ability is lower than that of the average Majin.
Lemegeton can do battle without making that weakness feel like a weakness.
However, without his Black Magic and my armor that can withstand his compressed Magical Energy-powered attacks, it is now a pure one-on-one fight. He’s out of options in this situation.
In fact, he had no choice but to take my fist to the face and get blown away.
He crashed into the throne, causing it to crack, and he fell down.
He fell in the perfect way, landing in a sitting position on the throne.
If I look at him properly, I can see a crack on his mask.
「The ones who will Clear the Demon King Castle is us, the Ex party.」
For a moment, my vision shook.
Like a wave had blown past me.
「Looks like…I’m just in time, I guess.」
I quickly assess the situation. I can tell that my body has received a considerable amount of damage. I’m not holding my staff. But I can still move my arms and legs. There is no fatal damage or Magical Energy leakage.
But the ring can’t seem to work. Rather than not working, I guess I should say that it has already summoned everyone and they were annihilated. I’ll withhold judgment for now.
Ex is the only Adventurer left. The other four were defeated…? In his own world…? Does that mean that his ideal sequence of events is that he alone defeats the Floor Boss and they proceed to the eleventh stratum?
Or does the fact that the four of them are not here say something about his heart?
In any case, I am still in a condition to fight.
But the problem is Lemegeton’s ability.
There is a difference in information regarding Lemegeton between the contestant and the viewers, including Ex.
For example, Ex doesn’t know about the fact that I can use Black Sorcery.
This world is created by the Spirit after taking a peek at Ex’s memories.
Putting my consciousness in this body was the work of the Spirit, but how about Lemegeton’s strength?
If it’s based on Ex’s memory, it’s going to be…tough to beat the world’s 2nd ranked Hero.
But as someone who also entered the dream, it should be possible to intervene with my mind…
Ex kicks off the floor and the distance between us shortens in an instant.
His fist, covered in shadow, looms closer.
I can’t dodge it. Then, all I can do is stop it.
I reach out my right fist to meet his fist.
I wasn’t defeated. Not even hurt.
Right now, my right arm is covered by a black substance, and wings of bone grow from my back.
This is a dream world. I don’t have to be worried about anyone seeing this.
No restraints. No considerations.
While letting out an overwhelming amount of Magical Energy, I pierce his torso with my bare left arm.
In an instant, his body blew all the way backward.
He flew and crashed into the wall near the entrance of this area.
「…To think you would have such power. I suppose this is how you could do battle with Fenix.」
Ex landed on the floor neatly while muttering that.
I, too, walked down the stairs that led up to the throne.
In that time, the cracks in the mask had reached their limit and it broke.
The mask falls to the floor in pieces.
「You don’t seem surprised」
I had already prepared myself mentally for this. Ever since I decided to enter his dream, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to bring him back as Lemegeton.
I had to do it as Lem.
「Somehow, I had a feeling… At any rate… At…any rate…?」
Ex’s face looked confused at the words coming out of his mouth.
It’s possible that, in this world, he never experienced the event that led him to guess my true identity.
He probably never went together with me to Clear the Original Dungeon.
He would be tormented by headaches due to the contradictions between reality and dream.
I’ve experienced it too, so I get it.
「More importantly, are you sure this is OK?」
Even at a time like this, Ex is worried about others.
「…Is this a live broadcast?」
「Ah…no. So, I guess this wouldn’t be an issue. You can put your mask back on, I’ll wait.」
「No, it doesn’t matter.」
「There’s no way that can be true. I’m sure you have a reason for hiding in the first place.」
「I’m sure that won’t be a problem.」
「After all, this is just a dream.」
He applies pressure on his forehead.
「…Put on the mask, Lem. We’re going to continue fighting, with you as Lemegeton.」
First, I have to make him aware.
「At what point in time is this Clear? If I’m here, it must be after the Fenix party. Is it after the Raid Battle? If it is, I have something I want to ask you-」
If I don’t force him to be aware of reality, we can’t even start a conversation.
「Why didn’t you participate in the raid battle?」
「Hear me, O Spirit…!」
A large amount of Magical Energy flows into Ex.
He usually manipulates his own shadows or the shadows of those he touched.
Originally, the Shadow Swarm skill is used after gathering shadows.
But with the power borrowed from the Spirit, he can make use of the shadows collected by the Spirit instead.
And right now, a large shadow is wrapping around his body, enveloping him in a large suit of armor.
It’s Giant Armor.
「This is the last time, Lem. I don’t want you to expose yourself to the world. But my party and I have already decided to Clear the Demon King Castle. Hide your face! I’m sure you don’t want anyone to know your true identity as Lemegeton.」
「I’ve been thinking about Ex’s worries.」
「…! Lem, you’re not speaking sense. I don’t have any worries.」
「You’re strong, Ex. So is everyone in your party. Even so…you couldn’t get to 1st rank.」
While clad in a sturdy suit of armor, he still screamed out in agony, as if he had received damage.
「We’re…1st ranked…! We surpassed Aerial and crew and now, we are going to Clear the Demon King Castle!」
So it really was that.
Ex’s dream…is a world where he reached the 1st rank along with his allies.
「…That’s a wish that came true here, I see. But why? You’re not one to give up.」
「I don’t know what you’re saying! In the first place, you and I are enemies right now.」
「You’re not one to give up. I am sure of that. If you haven’t given up, then why are hesitating?」
「I am not! I will defeat you! I will defeat the Demon King! That is all!」
「Is it party trends? No. Lack of ability? No. Age? No. …In that case…」
「Why are you here?! Aren’t you here to defend the Demon King Castle?」
「…Is it about whether or not you can ever become 1st rank?」
That made him stagger greatly.
「…! We’re… Lem! We’re already in 1st rank!」
「…In fact, I think you already realized it. The moment my movements changed, I’m sure you figured it out.」
「I haven’t understood a word you’ve said so far! I am-」
「-clearly moving slower than normal. The Jet-Black Hero I know is much stronger.」
He suddenly became quiet.
How long did this silence last, I wonder?
From within the armor of shadow, came his voice.
「…Why have you come? This is my wish.」
I could hear the anguish in his voice.
Ex’s heart, which sank into the dream world, accepting it wholly, has stopped with the deception.
「That is why I came. To take back the hero I look up to.」
「I’m not worth it.」
「That’s for me to decide.」
He let out a dry chuckle.
「…Say, Lem, is there anything that you fear more than death itself?」
He asked me that.