The Hero Who Returned Remains Traumatized in the Modern World
"Now, Mr. Todoya, and Mrs. Hajime. I have brought you two here, along with the young Todoya, to discuss the recent events that took place between them. Namely, Jiro's alleged assault against Hideyoshi. Initially, the Hajimes were in talks to call the authorities with the intention of capital punishment, but after much discussion, we agreed that since Jiro has no past record of any such irrational and irresponsible behavior, he should be allowed the opportunity so get himself back on the right track."
"Kawasaki Sensei", which was what my homeroom instructor seemed to be named, let go of these words with a clean, professional attitude, however there was a hint of distress that slipped from his voice. I wasn't sure whether it was simply the dismay of one of his students committing such reckless behavior, or the stress of having to deal with it all together, but it was clear that he was unhappy with the situation as a whole.
"That said, Mr. Todoya; what Jiro did yesterday is considered a serious crime. And no matter his reasoning, there is little evidence to suggest it could have been self defense, considering how badly Mr. Hajime’s son was injured. He could not be here with us today only because he is currently in the hospital recovering from severe head trauma, and will likely be unable to participate in club activities for the rest of the year due to his impaired state."
"And he's the team’s star competitor! You might well have taken away this school’s pride!"
The Hajime mother just barely allowed Kawasaki to finish his sentence before adding her own extra detail with great emphasis. She was proud of her son, and didn't seem to mind boasting about him either. It was something I couldn't imagine the Todoyas doing for me, pre or post Isekai.
The instructor paused for a moment to make sure she had finished, before continuing.
"Erm, yes. And that considered, I think her offer of letting Jiro off with an expulsion, as well as an apology from himself and his family, is a fairly generous one.”
Before continuing, Kawasaki looked down at his hands with guilty eyes. They were full of disappointment.
“Honestly, it surprised me when I heard that this had happened. I don't like to think of Jiro as such a bad apple. While his grades have never been stellar, he has always been a fairly healthy student in the presence of his peers. But I also understand that his recent injury has had some poor effects on his mental health, which likely seems to be an attributing factor to this event. Mr. Todoya, I would like to hear your personal thoughts on the matter, if that’s acceptable."
The man I recognized as my old father in this world sat to my right in a stiffly padded chair; an unfazed look plastered across his face. It had been long since I ever thought of an adult as something to be feared, but something about the Todoya father would always put me on guard. His reaction to my earlier explanation was mute, so my expectations for the extent to which he was willing to defend me were similarly low.
Simply put, I had ruined my Japanese societal life. But I had already accepted this outcome, from the moment I came to realize the crime that I had committed.
I had slain what was likely tens of thousands of demon beasts in my time; even the amount of humans I took down must have been in the hundreds. On the battlefield, you can't help but lose count when you're fighting in the name of something greater than yourself. It wasn't often that I looked back on those whose lives I took. When holding an entire population’s hopes and dreams in the palm of your hand, there was no room for regret.
But when I awoke from the trance I had been in yesterday, having beaten down a high school student to the point of near death, it forced me into a realization. One that was suddenly so clear, now that I was free of such titles and ambitions.
I had been no more than a murderer, claiming lives because there had been a good excuse to do so.
Did that strip my actions of their justification? Did it make me a bad person?
I wasn't sure. But what I did know was that every human life I saved cost that of many "monsters", whether they were under the demon lord's rule, or just living their own lives. There were even humans I slayed at times, each with their own individual aspirations, beliefs, and morals as well. In just the Malis Cult alone, there were thousands that were mercilessly killed; at least a hundred cut down by my blade alone.
I was a murderer. And a murderer is no hero. I thought I had lost the title when I gave my friends' lives away, but it turns out that I never had it to begin with.
The Todoya parents were sitting at the dining room table upon my arrival home, after I called an ambulance for the boy I nearly killed, apparently named "Hideyoshi Hajime". His little brother, whom I had met previously at the hospital, was named "Kentaro Hajime." After the younger Hajime showed me how to dial for emergency situations, I grabbed my crutches and shuffled home, without giving him a proper goodbye. He wouldn't have likely wanted one from somebody who did such a thing to his sibling.
"We got a phone-"
"I committed Assault. I almost killed him too."
I could barely live with myself. My head was already overflowing with unsettling thoughts of my past; what I had done so blindly. I needed to tell them the truth, and leave them to properly figure out how to deal with it. Worst case scenario, I would be left to imprisonment. But considering my life in the other world, maybe that was what I rightly deserved.
"That's what you wanted to hear from me, right? A confession of guilt."
I wasn't going to run away anymore. I would put my problems to rest properly, and on my own terms. With my confession out of my mouth, I headed for the stairs. But a big hand stopped me by my shoulder.
"Jiro! Listen to what I have to say, damnit!"
"Daiki, what did we talk about!?"
After Mrs. Todoya gave him a reminder, her husband removed his grip on me. He stepped back and faced me.
"Jiro. Listen to me."
"Your mother and I got into a fight the other day with your brother concerning your well being."
Ichiro? Did he find out what I had done? Did he consider their treatment of me too tame?
"It was the day after you were released from the hospital. What he said was that we never once made an attempt to understand you. He said that we should be ashamed of ourselves as parents."
Ichiro defended me?
"I don't think he was completely right. Because I know with confidence that your mother and I always do what we think is best for the two of you. But that said, he made a very fair point regardless."
The man crossed his arms, and his face turned serious. But it wasn't as threatening, this time around.
"So when I received a call today from the school about you, I decided that I would try and do what I've failed to do in the past. So I'm giving you one chance to explain yourself in full. No lies, no deception, and no bullshit. You tell me the full story, and I will make a proper judgement only after I have heard you out completely."
It was a fair deal. I wasn't sure what Ichiro had been upset about, but he must have been harsh, considering their genuine remorse. Or maybe he carried a natural influence over them, being the star child? But what did he have to gain from helping me? For what reason did he do it?
"I heard my son's testimony. And I have been informed of the Hajimes' already as well. I have already made a decision on this matter, so I will keep it short."
Daiki Todoya sat with his arms crossed and his head pointed directly at the teacher, unblinking in his confident gaze.
This was it.
This would be the moment I would have to accept the consequences of my actions.
But it was for the best, right?
"I will not apologize on behalf of my family, nor will I allow my son to in any manner."
"Excuse me!? Do you understand your position here?"
"Mrs. Hajime. Please, allow him to finish."
"Finish? What else do we need to hear? Do you really intend to defend your son's own crime? Have you no responsibility as a parent?"
Suddenly the whole room erupted, with only the Todoya father remaining unfazed. But the disbelief on their faces were correct. What was he thinking?
"M- Mr. Todoya, if you would please explain yourself…"
"My son, who witnessed a younger child facing abuse from his older sibling, took action against it. As a father of three, it is simply not behavior I can condemn."
The room went silent, before erupting once again.
"I have not heard anything about such a development. Jiro, is this true?"
While I was still trying to properly wrap my head around the situation, Mrs. Hajime interjected once again.
"Abuse? I don't know what kind of filthy lies your son fed you, but mine wouldn't dare commit such heinous acts."
Daiki stayed silent, allowing the teacher to reiterate his question to me.
"Jiro. You did not mention anything about this to me before. Why not?"
I didn't know what to say. Why hadn't I mentioned it? Why was I being defended? Of course, I knew the reason.
I was in the wrong. To say it sounded like some kind of excuse; a justification. I had beaten a bright, young boy senseless with a blunt weapon. Words that might suggest I was innocent or justified in any manner simply didn’t taste right coming out of my mouth. But despite that, I chose to be honest with Mr. Todoya the night before, and now he chose to bring it up here. So was it okay then, to say it? Would it be more wrong to not tell the whole truth? Would Daiki's efforts be for naught if I didn’t?
As I began to panic, the same hand that grabbed onto me the night before to stop me, came down on my shoulder again. Except this time, it was softer; more careful.
"That's because he wholeheartedly believes that what he did was wrong. He doesn't regret it, but he is willing to accept any punishment which might have resulted. But as his father and his role model, I refuse to let him continue to think that way."
"I want proof."
"I want proof that my Hideyoshi has ever touched a hair on his little brother's head. If not, I might as well file a lawsuit against you for assault and slander at this point."
"Mr. Todoya, she has a point. If you cannot provide any form of proof for this claim, then it might as well be baseless, whether or not it really is true."
"Of course, I fully understand that."
The man turned his head slowly and confidently to his right, completely separated from the hectic mood he had caused, to face the woman beside him. He was going at his own pace.
"Mrs. Hajime. Your younger son, Kentaro Hajime, was getting treatment at the hospital this past Monday."
"Y-yes… but that's irrelevant! What are you trying to imply!?"
She had been caught off guard, and her tone changed entirely. It was made clear at that very moment who held credibility in their argument, and who didn't. But despite that, he continued on calmly.
"Jiro had also happened to be there for his sprained ankle, where he talked with your son for a short period of time. Jiro, can you elaborate on this?"
"I refuse to-"
"Mrs. Hajime. Please let Jiro talk."
Kawasaki was no longer willing to humor the woman's outbursts. She paused with a trip over her own words, taken aback by her sudden loss of the teacher's support.
I don't think that what I did was okay. Even with Daiki's defense, I still wouldn't accept it. But despite that, the decision I made to protect Kentaro was one I would make again, a million times over. And after the man had gone through such lengths to defend me, out of respect for his trust, I decided to at least tell the truth. To do that much couldn't have been wrong.
"When we talked, he was timid, and sounded afraid of me. And when I saw him as I left, his face was heavily bruised. They were wounds inflicted by fists. There's no doubt about that."
I had seen thousands upon thousands of bruises over almost two decades of training and fighting. To be able to tell which came from what cause; be it fists, blunt weaponry, blade hilts, sheaths, and even magic; was child's play for me.
"What would a child know about injuries like that? Is he suddenly a doctor now? Isn't that just another baseless accusation?"
"There’s more, as well. Jiro, what happened after Kentaro Hajime helped you call an ambulance for his brother?"
I continued as asked, with a little more confidence this time.
"He thanked me. He said that he was scared since he has never been helped by an onlooker before. It made him feel like that kind of treatment was normal."
Kawasaki cut in.
"So this abuse has been a recurring event taking place?"
It seemed that my words began to carry a greater weight in his mind once they were backed by the man beside me, who was brimming with confidence.
"According to him, yes."
"I see. If we brought him in to testify, do you think that he would say the same?"
I thought for a moment. Would the young victim have the confidence to admit to his abuse? Blackmailed citizens, single-survivor adventurers, kidnapped slaves; in my experience, they often blamed themselves for what happened to them or those around them. As I attempted to form an educated guess, dark thoughts filled the space in my mind that the silence left open. Thinking clearly became difficult.
Another voice broke the silence.
"Enough! These are still just words; lies, at that! I won’t sit here and be slandered like this! Are we forgetting the original matter at hand? This boy assaulted my poor son to near death!"
A big, scrawny finger shot right in the direction of my face, bringing the spotlight back to me. Kawasaki took a moment to push up his glasses, as if they had been knocked loose by Mrs. Hajime’s yelling, before making his verdict.
“Well, it certainly isn’t concrete proof. However, the two of them certainly make a convincing argument, to the point where in court, I’m sure the matter would be looked into further. And even if you were to leave the matter of Jiro’s crime with the school, we would still be obligated at this point to-”
"Ridiculous! I won’t sit here and take this!"
Kawasaki attempted to settle the matter, but before he could, the cornered mother had made her exit out of the private meeting room, storming down the school's hallway.
The instructor stood up to flag her down, but quickly gave up and returned to his seat, losing much of his overly-professional demeanor in the process.
"I will get her to retract her accusation. I really apologize for all of this. It never occurred to me that there was so much more going on under the hood."
He turned to me specifically.
"Jiro, I'm especially sorry that I suspected you."
He scratched his hair.
“You’re a good kid. And you’ve got a really good dad here, too. Remember that.”
Afterwards, I was asked to leave while the two other adults shifted gears to discuss the greater issue of the younger Hajime brother, and how to deal with it. Unable to take direct action without clear proof, they decided that the best option was to alert the middle school, and have their teachers keep a close eye on the younger brother's condition, while the high school would be sure to suspend the elder's club activities as punishment, and keep a close eye on him as well.
The whole thing wrapped up rather cleanly, and despite my feelings on the matter, I was let off with only a three day suspension.
Later that night, I had dinner with the family for the first time. It felt unusual, considering I had come home late and eaten alone since I first returned to this world.
It felt good to eat with others. I missed it.
I missed being around others.
As I continued shoveling food into my mouth at a rate that was unrivaled since my return, I could feel my eyes tear up.
“Jiro, what’s wrong?”
“The food… is really good.”
I let a few tears fall, paying no mind as I focused on my meal.
“Uhm... Thank you.”
She paused for a moment, before speaking again in a warmer tone.
“Food tastes better when it’s freshly cooked, you know?”
She turned to the infant to her right with a baby spoon full of grub.
“Isn’t that right, Ana?”
Mrs. Todoya gave the child’s cheek a light pinch, before feeding her a spoonful of fried rice. I looked up at the smile on her face, and at her husband, who stared intensely at his own plate, ignoring the whole conversation.
These two were apparently the ones who raised me from birth. It wasn’t as if I had ever forgotten about them, but they never struck me as notable influences either, especially after meeting so many new and influential faces in Alterra. It was only now that I properly stopped to think that they were really the ones who raised me.
I nodded, putting my own spoon down to wipe the tears from my face.
These two; they were good people.
They were my parents.