My evaluation of people can’t be said to be very flattering, but by being an individual capable of achieving a position as captain at a young age, that much should be fine, that is what it means to be one that walks the path of the elite.
However, in addition to having a bad attitude in general, my work attitude couldn’t be considered serious at all, resulting in some friction to form between my colleagues who couldn’t accept my personality.
The origin of that personality forming can be dated back to the friendship between myself and the boy that would one day be known as the Knight’s Deputy Captain, the one who’s admired by everyone.
Born and raised in the same rural village, we were so-called childhood friends.
We both lived in common households and spent our early childhoods surrounded by nature, it was very peaceful life.
…and that peace was shattered when we were seven years old.
Out of nowhere, the village was attacked by bandits, the people that we grew up knowing, killed or abducted. The food and money we had saved up, plundered.
But that wasn’t enough was it? Monsters swarmed in from everywhere, the barrier that once protected us destroyed during the pillaging. They probably caught the smell of the blood and food.
It was impossible for us to prevent the monster invasion when we couldn’t even exercise our defense measures properly.
The smell of blood and the screams of the people echoed throughout the town as we were attacked by wave after wave of bandits and monsters, flames burning everywhere. It was hell.
Although Vincent and I were somehow able to survive the onslaught, I lost my family and the town had been destroyed to the point of being irreparable.
There was nothing left for us other than an inevitable sense of despair. For us two orphans, there was nothing we could do other than be sad.
If that was the case then we might as well die, right? The me of that time seriously considered that option. How could I stay alive while the rest of my family was dead…
But then I remembered, Vincent was still by my side, how the hell could I leave him all alone? He was small, a crybaby, and my best friend. The same friend who hid behind me all the time because he was shy. I had to live on.
I at least wanted Vincent to live if I had to die.
But if I died, a boy as vulnerable as he was wouldn’t last very long.
Well, even if I said that, we were still just children. The chances of us both surviving were low from the start.
Still, there was no way I could abandon Vincent and choose death.
So that’s why I asked him, “I don’t care whether I live or die any more, but what about you? Do you want to die together with me or live on?”
“…I want to live. I don’t want to die… it’s scary…!”
That was Vincent’s answer, even in a situation like that he was too afraid to die.
To be honest, I couldn’t understand that feeling of his very well, I honestly thought that the easiest way to escape my despair at that moment was death.
But for his sake, I thought it was fine. I knew that to choose such a path even after seeing his determination would only make me a coward.
In truth, maybe it was the strength that Vincent showed at that moment to choose life over death that saved me at that time. Without it, I probably would’ve chosen death at that place.
At that moment, the two of us stood up, our hands clasped together. We had come to an agreement that didn’t need words to be understood.
The two kids who had no one to depend on did everything they could to survive.
In the place that was our hometown just a few days ago, we pillaged corpses and fields for food, we stole from people for money, and in the slums that were now our home, we even killed people in self-defence.
It almost felt like we were slaughtering the monsters that attacked us.
Running through such death and despair, at the age of ten we began to mimic mercenaries, marching off to battlefields to engage in the suppression of monsters.
Cowardly Vincent and I were steadily getting stronger, and it was around that time we started to see the changes.
Vincent had a surprising talent for the sword, and every time we went off to battle, I could feel us growing stronger and stronger.
We didn’t live life to the fullest, we lived every day to just live another day. It really was a terrible life.
Before I knew it, Vincent stopped laughing or crying, I didn’t want to see my friend like this.
I guess someone did die at that time, someone that was actually happy. I started to think so around this time.
After about three more years of working as a mercenary, I received a minor wound due to a lack of concentration in a middle of a battle. Although it wasn’t life-threatening, it was impossible for me to continue the battle with such a wound.
But when you’re in the middle of a war, nobody cares about such things. My opponent at the time saw that as an opportunity and raised his sword.
I didn’t have the power nor intention to avoid that blow at that moment.
The sword swung down towards my eyes as I waited for my life to end, but right before the blade reached me, the flash of two swords swept by.
The first sliced my opponent’s arms off while the second cleaved into his waist, ending his life without even giving him time to scream.
With blood dripping from his head from a wound he received earlier, Vincent turned back to look at me. The person dyed in blood in front of me and the person who I called my best friend looked completely different from one another.
Silently, he lent me his shoulder, and we withdrew to the safety zone. I was finally able to catch my breath.
“Cody, are you alright?”
“I am but… that’s the first time you’ve had to protect me.”
“…is that so? I see… well, it’s not a bad feeling.”
“Huh? What is?”
“The feeling of protecting my friend, I mean.”
“They’re so dirty… are we really supposed to protect people with hands as bloody as this?”
As he said so, Vincent clasped his fists. Was it in joy or regret I wonder? It was impossible for me to understand what he was feeling.
Even so, for Vincent to only be thinking of protecting another at such a time had to be a sign.
“Well, why can’t you protect them?”
Vincent’s showed a stupid expression for a moment.
It was unbearably funny, but I forced myself to say what I could.
“If you join the Order, can’t you protect hundreds, no, thousands of people, and not just me?”
“How could vagrants like us ever join the Order…”
“Its unreasonable, but it’s nothing compared to the hardships we had to go through to survive so far.”
“The hell Vincent, you’re clearly stronger than me, but I can’t be that weak.”
“W-what about our pasts?”
“That doesn’t matter! They won’t care about things that happened so early in our lives like where we were born and raised! …probably.”
“Choose Vincent, will you keep living as you do now, or will go ahead and join the Knight Order?”
“…it’s just like that time.”
At that time, I asked him whether he wanted to live or die in front of a devastated town.
If I recall correctly, it had already been six years since that time.
“Cody, I want to change this world where the weak are stepped on by the strong.”
“Change the world… Hey, you’re making a big deal again.”
“I can’t do it alone though, there’s no way I could achieve this dream without your power.”
“The knights aren’t exactly my thing though. I don’t really want to be above people, and I’m lazy.”
“Even so, I want to do this with you. A place where children like us will never appear again, I want to make that kind of world.”
“…you’re going to be the death of me.”
“Don’t worry about giving me your answer now, give me your answer after we finish this fight.”
While leaving me with the relief staff, Vincent immediately returned to the front lines.
Gazing at his back, for the first time in my life, my little friend who always hid behind me, had taken steps in front of me to chase his own dreams. I always thought I was the one protecting him, but even if I wasn’t next to him, I sure that Vincent had the ability to make it.
But surely that doesn’t mean…
He said with a serious face that he’d change the world, and as I thought of that, I couldn’t help but find myself laughing.
With each laugh, my stomach hurt but I still didn’t stop laughing.
“If I’m with this guy, will my life ever be okay?”
My misunderstanding that I understood as I looked at Vincent’s back that day as he ran towards the front lines has been engraved into my mind forever.
◇ ◇ ◇
(Even if his mouth says so, there’s no way Harold could really mean that judging by his appearance)
That’s why I’m standing in front of Harold now.
There’s no reason or basis as to why, there was only a feeling and intuition that I had to do this.
Harold looked exactly like Vincent did.
A boy who had succumbed to absurd dreams.
Oh, I’m the worst. Without even considering Harold’s feelings I’m trying to help him one-sidedly.
Worrying about him, when he doesn’t want to be worried about.
Such a selfishness as if I were entrusting my own daughter and best friend to Harold. I will take him back even if I have to beat him down to do it.
I pulled my sword out and took my stance as the sound of sharp metal rang out.
I always wondered what Harold would be like if he fought seriously. Speed, technique, magical prowess, Harold is far above anyone in the same year as himself.
Although I was able to channel my fighting techniques into avoiding attacks with somersaults, swift kicks would deftly follow, aiming for my hands that I used for balance to cripple my movement.
It was a way of fighting where you wouldn’t be able to predict where the attack would come from. An extremely difficult technique to pull off.
But I can’t allow myself to be defeated here.
I asked Harold as we exchanged blows at high speed.
“Harold, what are your dreams for the future?”
It was a question with truly no context at all.
But Harold returned my words without being particularly upset.
“I live for myself, that’s it.”
A brief answer that he lived for himself.
The exact opposite of Vincent who chose the path of protecting others.
But for some reason, I couldn’t help but feel they were similar.
“Well then, here’s another question: Have you ever thought of making friends?”
“Such things are unnecessary.”
To avoid getting hit with the kick that he threw out during the exchange, I backed off a bit.
Without making a fatal blow, I have to finish the fight. I have to win without hurting him too badly.
“Don’t you have anything you want to do?! You should make use of your life to leave a legacy behind for others to follow!”
“Those are just the words of the weak!”
I won’t deny it. In the first place, humans are weak creatures. So we flock together and seek connections.
It’s fine because we’re human, we can be weak.
We can support, be supported, connect with others and be strengthened.
But Harold cuts everything down. He tries to become strong himself without believing in anyone other than himself.
It’s too lonely. I can’t imagine how much we ordinary people would have to cut down to obtain his strength.
Harold has been walking a path that was different from Vincent and I. Perhaps he’s still only halfway down his road.
I don’t know what his goal is, but he won’t stop. Not until his life is exhausted.
Even so, even if the circumstances were different, even if the place you’re aiming for is the exact opposite of what we were.
That appearance of yours that’s trying to resist the world overlaps with the Vincent who intends to change the world in an impossible way.
So I have to help you.
“A world where children like us will never appear again.”
Because that is the oath I made with Vincent that day.
Translated by KuroInfinity. Written by Izumi (泉).