Chapter 7:

The Request

The Hero Who Returned Remains Traumatized in the Modern World

The sounds of children down below, who passed by my residence whilst on journeys of their own; the swishing of the scarce foliage that dotted the neighborhood; the shrill cries of cicadas, like exotic instruments; all of these could be heard through the singular window which resided at the far end of my personal bedroom.Bookmark here

The window which, during my three days in school-ordered suspension, had become my lifeline. The white noise it communicated would drown out the deafening silence which reminded me of the mountain of bodies I stood atop; it reminded me of the emptiness of that throne room. Sometimes I would even stop and admire the gentle liveliness of suburban Japan to calm myself down. Bookmark here

The blinds, nor the dormer hadn’t closed once since I initially opened them during my first night back from the hospital. It was an off putting experience, every time I left and returned to a room that was virtually unchanged. Every book I left out; every dirty dish I forgot to take back; there was no maid to pick them up, nor was there an innkeeper that reset everything to its customer-ready position.Bookmark here

The room was my personal responsibility, and mine alone.Bookmark here

When I came to that realization at the start of my suspension, I suddenly felt an urge to tidy the space up myself. I had never done a thorough room-cleaning in my eighteen years of adventuring, nor likely even before that. There wasn’t ever a point when either Jiro nor Andrew were “clean” people, for that matter. But every single one of my adventures shared the same common denominator: they began with waking up to a clean, tidy room, which I would leave behind with the wave of my hand as if to recognize the little extra “push” it gave me to do my best.Bookmark here

So if there was nobody else to clean it for me this time, then I would simply have to do it myself.Bookmark here

I needed to start my new adventures properly, after all.Bookmark here

I spent the three days of my suspension following that weekend studying up on the subjects in school that my otherworld-mind had long forgotten when I became a “hero”. I was able to scrounge up a copy of my class schedule from the drawer of my desk, as well as school supplies that I found while cleaning.Bookmark here

Bleached paper, inkless scribing tools, erasers; it was all astonishing technology to me. None such luxuries existed in Alterra, even for the highest of royalty. Paper was expensive, and of a much more brown and blemished nature, unless it was crafted for use in official or notable texts. Even ink was reserved for documentation, and would never be wasted on anything as trivial as mere practice.Bookmark here

I read through the Japanese literature textbook to start, which contained passages from well-known stories, as well as short bouts of poetry. All of them were accompanied by excerpts about the author’s life and inspiration, which I only skimmed. Kanji I couldn’t recognize, which was what made up most of the text, I would write down in a notebook after searching for the meaning in a dictionary. It was tedious work, but the quickest way to improve my reading ability, which was currently my greatest fault, would be to, well… read.Bookmark here

At least, that’s what my language instructor back at the palace swore when teaching me Inqual.Bookmark here

While trudging through waves and waves of flat, boring text, I thought back to my time learning magic from Flynn and Mary. The latter of the two, being our resident medical class mage, was the expert, but she couldn’t explain how the craft worked to save her own life. She was normally an introverted girl of few words, though when it came to the inner workings of mana and energy, her mouth never seemed to close.Bookmark here

Her explanations always went over my head, yet Flynn was somehow able to understand the rapid, jumbled sentences and word-tripping as if it was his second language. Me, having a great interest in the subject despite my incompatibility, asked him to aid her in teaching me about it. He always agreed, with the help of some bribery. Naturally we were quite the incompatible trio, so lots of trouble would ensue. But that in itself was part of what made the whole experience so enjoyable.Bookmark here

Studying in a group was fun.Bookmark here

It wasn’t much like this, but remembering those more minute, yet fond memories still helped me get through it; hour by hour, page by page.Bookmark here

At the end of those three days, I felt a lot better about my Japanese written language and cultural honorifics; both aspects that were entirely absent from Fortain's native language. It was still slow, but as long as I continued to study, I became confident that my ability to use it would come back to me little by little.Bookmark here

But despite that, I still felt too unsure of myself. I still needed help.Bookmark here

“Mellifluus...”Bookmark here

No, there was no point in talking to her. That goddess wasn’t going to answer me.Bookmark here

In fact, nobody would, so maybe it was fine if I used my imagination a bit?Bookmark here

“Destiny…?”Bookmark here

My emotional support. She was the oldest of the group, and always had some kind of advice to give. Flynn called just about everything that came out of her mouth bullshit, but the two were both proud like that; they were always at odds. Even if she was wrong sometimes, I still liked to listen to her own take on things. She was like an older sister to me.Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

I could hear it clearly. That smooth, yet snappy tone in her voice. I played along with the voice in my own head.Bookmark here

“Do you think I’ll ever see you guys again? E- even if I try to go back, will you be waiting for me? Or am I just clinging to memories and fantasies?”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m just in your imagination, aren’t I? So whatever answer I give you isn’t really going to mean much.”Bookmark here

Harsh.Bookmark here

She gave me a carefree giggle. It leaked a tinge of seduction, as did most of her words when she used to speak to me.Bookmark here

“S- sorry.”Bookmark here

I apologized inadvertently.Bookmark here

“Well, I get what you’re trying to say.”Bookmark here

What I was trying to say? Was there something else?Bookmark here

“You want to try staying, right? In this world.”Bookmark here

“I--”Bookmark here

Was that true? It couldn’t have been.Bookmark here

“I could never-”Bookmark here

“Andrew, it's no good to lie to yourself. And you shouldn’t lie to me either, because I can always tell, you know?”Bookmark here

I felt a soft hand on my head, as my words were halted to make way for her own. Her pointed, decorated nails entangled themselves within my thick strands of hair, her fingers combing them out as they slipped down towards the back of my neck. The sorceress, dressed in her festooned lingerie that she always wore during our late night talks, repeated this motion over and over in a slow rhythm. I began to fall into a trance, eager for more of her comforting touch.Bookmark here

“Well, of course I don’t want you to forget about me. And I don’t want you to end up in the hands of somebody else, either. I’m a jealous person after all.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…” Bookmark here

“Is that why you’re making this whole thing up? Because you figured I’d convince you to keep moping around in denial?”Bookmark here

I had no response. It was all in my mind, and yet the girl was still digging into me like she did when she was alive. Destiny let another giggle escape her lips, as if my entire plight was no more than a simple puzzle she had pieced together. She always acted that way when it came to me. It was both a frightening, and comforting ability of hers.Bookmark here

“I should really scold you for thinking such devious things about me...”Bookmark here

Her arms came around me into a calming embrace. A generous chest pressed up against my own; thin arms wrapping me up like a blanket; long, smooth hair of gleaming purple which poured down over my shoulder; I could feel every sensation; every tingle. Bookmark here

“Well, fortunately for you, I’m not really around to give you such rotten advice, so you’re going to have to think it over yourself like an adult this time.”Bookmark here

I nodded, as my vision became misty. I felt weak in her arms, like always. Being torn into so plainly was heartbreaking, as much as it was therapeutic.Bookmark here

“Make sure you don’t forget about me, okay? But do forget about Flynn. Mary is fine, as long as you don’t think dirty thoughts about her.”Bookmark here

I chuckled under my breath, recalling Destiny’s snarky behavior towards the rest of our party during our adventuring days.Bookmark here

“And Hope?”Bookmark here

“I have no words to give about that girl.”Bookmark here

Another more carefree cackle escaped me, as I wiped the tears from my eyes and laid myself to bed, satisfied with our session.Bookmark here

It was just like her to play with me like clay in her hands, despite being a character in my own daydream.Bookmark here

"I see. Thank you, Destiny."Bookmark here

I was grateful to her; but really, it was all in my own head.Bookmark here

Still, I was grateful.Bookmark here

I calmed my trembling hands and returned to the reality of my room, which was dimly lit with the yellow tones of my desk lamp and the disappearing sun.Bookmark here

I had a lot to think about.Bookmark here

♙♙♙♙♙Bookmark here

“Mr. Todoya- No, Dad. I have something important I need to say to you.”Bookmark here

I looked right at my own father, who had paused in his neat consumption of a freshly made breakfast to return my gaze from across the dining table.Bookmark here

“Alright then, out with it.”Bookmark here

In, and out.Bookmark here

“I hate you. Your stubborn confidence, your unwillingness to listen, your proud attitude; I can’t stand any of it.”Bookmark here

His glare turned cold, and a large frown widened over his face. My mother, who sat beside him, also grew a look of shocked concern. My hands were quivering, but he said nothing, only waiting for me to continue. So I did.Bookmark here

“I think that deep down, I could even say that I’m afraid of you.”Bookmark here

“Jiro, what are you-”Bookmark here

As the latter parent shot out of her chair onto her feet, her voice ringing out fiercely, a hand swiftly came in front of her from her right side to halt her words.Bookmark here

“Let him finish.”Bookmark here

She sat back down.Bookmark here

I took a gulp in, forcing words out against the lump of coal in my throat.Bookmark here

“I’ve been thinking a lot on my own accord lately. And what I did the other day… I still just can't accept that it was okay. But in spite of all that, I'm going to try and get better."Bookmark here

I steeled my resolve, and stood up.Bookmark here

"I've made the decision that I want to change. But it has nothing to do with you, or anybody else other than me. I'm simply doing it because I've decided that's what I'm going to do."Bookmark here

My father crossed his arms, and my mother only sat vexed in her chair.Bookmark here

"I see. And these are your honest feelings?"Bookmark here

"I thought it was important that I inform you, specifically because they're my honest feelings."Bookmark here

"Very well. I understand."Bookmark here

My father looked down as he spoke, in deep thought.Bookmark here

"Ichiro. What do you think?"Bookmark here

The first son, who had been caught on his way out the door, turned back with minimal effort to face in our direction.Bookmark here

"How should I know?"Bookmark here

Without another word, he made his way out the door with a soft click of the deadlock. Despite his alleged actions in support of me, he still acted like this whenever I was in the picture. What was going through his head?Bookmark here

No matter.Bookmark here

I turned my head back to the table, and continued.Bookmark here

"I don't need you to support me, or even be proud of me; but I am requesting that you trust me. Just like you did the other day."Bookmark here

"No, that's not quite right."Bookmark here

He kept his gaze down to his legs, looking unamused by my words. Suddenly, the heavy realization sank in that my words weren't getting through to him after all.Bookmark here

"It's as you say. I'm stubborn, and I'm proud. When I defended you, it was only because I had thought about it myself, and came up with an answer that I believed in too. Frankly, I don't trust you one bit. I can't grant your request."Bookmark here

So that's how it was.Bookmark here

The two of us would never come to an understanding after all.Bookmark here

"You swear that you're going to work hard and 'improve yourself', but such vague goals mean nothing to me. I can't believe in such a thing."Bookmark here

He looked back towards me with a deep out, his eyes poised as he looked right at me again.Bookmark here

"So if you're going to work hard, I've got no choice but to support you myself, to make sure you're working towards the right goals."Bookmark here

He wasn't smiling, but somehow I felt as if he were.Bookmark here

My mother was relieved as well, releasing her tense posture in the form of a loud sigh. She looked almost as if a prank had been played on her as her back slumped into her chair.Bookmark here

We only exchanged a few more words, following breakfast when I stopped at the door to slip on my shoes.Bookmark here

"Jiro."Bookmark here

I turned.Bookmark here

"You've gotten more mature."Bookmark here

"Ah… Thank you, Dad."Bookmark here

"Mm."Bookmark here

With a newfound vigor and a spring in my step, I headed to school, ready to start facing forwards again.Bookmark here

I was able to prove it to myself.Bookmark here

I wasn't alone in this world. There were people who I could reach out to; people who were willing to help.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.