Chapter 17:

The Other

The Hero Who Returned Remains Traumatized in the Modern World

“I heard you have a tournament today. Don’t, you know, lose or anything.”Bookmark here

Those were the most recent words exchanged to me by my older brother Ichiro, just a few hours before...Bookmark here

My first match was against another first year, whose win/loss ratio in prior practice matches had put him third from the top of our grade. Considering the size of the Kendo club as a whole, it was an impressive feat.Bookmark here

I had already fought him several times, of course. “He was forty-seven”; as in, he had lasted the second-longest against me; a little over forty-seven minutes. In a sense, it was good that he was my first opponent. My stamina and strength could be used for one of the most problematic matches, while the others would be more of a breeze.Bookmark here

If I really wanted to win, that’s how I had to play.Bookmark here

Well, assuming that I didn’t get disqualified from the start.Bookmark here

“Hajime!”Bookmark here

The match began. While I stood still, straight up and down with as solid of a pose as I could, he was the one who approached me, as was standard for my matches.Bookmark here

Swing after swing, my focus subsided more and more, as his methods were both quick, but tactless, and easy to read. It was entirely different from the many times he had fought me before; slow and cautiously.Bookmark here

To my surprise, he seemed to have already exhausted most of his different options and tactics by minute eight.Bookmark here

Did he have a plan? Was he desperate to get me out, so he was attempting to rush me down despite not knowing how to? Or had he simply already given up?Bookmark here

I wasn’t sure, but I was locked into my initial strategy. I would have to endure whatever he threw at me.Bookmark here

I had a hunch that the match wasn’t going to last much longer, though.Bookmark here

Suddenly, an even more awkward swing came in from my right; not a Kendo swing, but one more fit for baseball, or perhaps golf.Bookmark here

Before he could even finish, all three judges had raised a white flag to signal my point; it was an obvious foul.Bookmark here

An obvious foul, but my eyes had shifted away for a moment. The flags, which I had never seen raised for me before, stole my attention.Bookmark here

For just a moment.Bookmark here

A hard impact.Bookmark here

I looked down to empty hands; my sword had been smacked out from them. I saw it swivel on the ground as it slid away.Bookmark here

My sword, which was far out of my reach.Bookmark here

And his, still proudly in his hands, held directly towards me.Bookmark here

My sword.Bookmark here

My Excalibur.Bookmark here

Life or death.Bookmark here

Survive.Bookmark here

Those words that Ichiro had said to me; it was the first time he had addressed me on his own in weeks; perhaps the first time he had ever encouraged me to do anything. The first words of encouragement he ever said to me, just a few hours before…Bookmark here

Two broken bones, a twisted knee, and bruises from head to toe.Bookmark here

Just a few hours before I had lunged at one of my club mates, ripped off his armor, and beat him mercilessly with my fists during my first Kendo match of our school-wide tournament.
I was apprehended by three judges, carried out of the stadium, and of course, suspended from the Kendo club indefinitely.Bookmark here

After my two parents had driven me home, my dad exchanged one, singular sentence with me in the car and said nothing else for the rest of the weekend.Bookmark here

“No matter how much I try to understand you, I just can’t.”Bookmark here

The first thought that came to my head was about Kentaro. I wondered if he would want to be friends with me still; if he would begin to see me as a bad person again.Bookmark here

As he should have from the start.Bookmark here

Hope had been there as well. I saw her in the audience, with my journal in her hands. Had she made a decision? Was she prepared to give me her answer about everything that she had read; about her past self?Bookmark here

Surely, whatever chance that she wanted to stay friends with me was gone with the wind, now.Bookmark here

I would be alone again, in a world where nobody could understand me. In a world to which I didn’t belong, no matter how hard I tried.Bookmark here

Perhaps Destiny, who had liked me and stuck with me no matter how broken I was; perhaps she would still have been willing to stay with me. If only she, too, had some sort of Earth-equivalent.Bookmark here

But that was just fantasy; nothing more than a dream, to cope with my hopelessness.Bookmark here

As the clock struck past two in the morning, I decided to take a stroll outside on my own, which was something I had never done before.Bookmark here

Jacket on, phone and keys in pocket.Bookmark here

It was standard practice for me, by this point.Bookmark here

And shoes, of course.Bookmark here

Then out the door, into the cold of the night.Bookmark here

Actually, it was a little warm still, despite the quiet, chilly breeze that passed through the neighborhood. My arms came out of my coat, and I let it sit freely on my shoulders.Bookmark here

It was a little better.Bookmark here

At this time; at this age; on Alterra, I would have been sleeping comfortably under the sheets of my lavish bed, freshly sworn in as the King’s son. As Andrew Salvus Erit.Bookmark here

I still remembered his face; each fine detail of his expression; as I asked him to select Hope as a member of my party, no matter how she did during her trials. I hadn’t been used to talking so formally; even though the spoken languages were about the same, there were certain terms and cultural shows of respect that just weren’t commonly used in Japanese speech, if at all.Bookmark here

And yet, he took it as a show of personal connection; personal care. He was still quite young at the time, after all. Only twenty-three, and I often thought that he didn’t even desire kingship, or royalty. The man seemed to me as if he just wanted to raise his family in peace, and grow old with them.Bookmark here

Perhaps that was why he chose to make me king; perhaps it was entirely the fact that I wasn’t his real son; because that way, he could free his own, biological children from the burdens of the throne.Bookmark here

It would be quite ironic, considering those very burdens were what caused his son to burn with greed and jealousy; those very burdens were what killed him.Bookmark here

Wasn’t that what any sane human wanted? Alterra, Earth; Fortain, Japan; Bellum, America; the place didn’t matter. Humans in general must have just wanted somebody to love, and a family to care for in peace.Bookmark here

At least, that was what I wanted.Bookmark here

What good was saving the world if I couldn’t have that?Bookmark here

What good was the demon lord’s extermination if I became the only one who was alone?Bookmark here

Even if I could go back to Alterra, would it matter? I would still be alone. I would still have killed my friends, and I would still be forced to face the truth of the matter; maybe even more so than I’ve had to here.Bookmark here

I looked up into the night sky. It was a little smoggy, so I couldn’t see the clouds or the stars above. Even the light of the moon was just a big blurry spot in the sky.Bookmark here

I kept walking.Bookmark here

I didn’t know where I was going, or when I’d go back home; if I’d ever go back. But the cool air felt nice against my skin, flowing into the opening of my jacket and filtering out the heat inside. It was calming.Bookmark here

“Hey, Mellifluus.”Bookmark here

I began to talk to myself, to fill the quiet air.Bookmark here

“I know you can’t hear me. I know that you have no interest in me anymore; I already fulfilled my purpose after all, right? Well I’m going to talk to you for a little while anyway, since I have nobody else.”Bookmark here

The wind whistled at me.Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

“About my wish… Did you ever actually grant it? I held up my end of the bargain, but thinking back on it, there was absolutely no reason that you had to hold up yours. It was just blind trust on my part, I guess.”Bookmark here

The scarce trees in the neighborhood rustled a little.Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

“Would it be possible to change it, do you think? Now that I’ve lived my old, normal life for a little while, I understand what I want a little better now. After all, I was desperate back then. I had just watched all my friends die, after all.”
I heard a few crickets chirp.Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

“I think… if I could have any wish; any wish at all, then I would want to wish to do it all over. To reset my reincarnation over and over until I fix each and every individual situation that I messed up; every wrong choice that I made. Because I know that I can’t have it all, and that no world can only have good outcomes, so I’d go fix one thing, then restart again.”Bookmark here

Neon signs began to enter my vision as they buzzed lightly.Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

“But I’d want to save Hope first. I’d fight in front of her, and forbid her from shielding me from attacks, even if it killed me.Bookmark here

Then I’d reset it again and save Flynn. I’d hold the trap door open instead, so that he could get through first; I don’t care if there was a hole in his chest. I could have stood in front of him and taken it as well.Bookmark here

Then I’d go again and stay back to defend Mary while she dispersed the Enigma. If I did, maybe Destiny wouldn’t have been overwhelmed with doing it on her own. Even though Mary told her not to, she still charged in with an unrestrained force of magic, full well knowing she had limited mana reserves to make use of. Why didn’t I stay when they told me not to?Bookmark here

Then I’d go and save the King. I’d tell him up front that I didn’t want to take the throne, and then stay to defend him against his son and against Bellum.Bookmark here

And then I’d go back and reset again, and again, until every single person that I had ever killed was still alive in their own little world; their own little separate scenario where they were chosen to live out the rest of their life in a happy, peaceful way.Bookmark here

And then I could go on knowing that I made correct decisions; that even if none of it really happened, or none of those outcomes existed outside my own world, that I was able to make them exist for somebody else.Bookmark here

Because I want to be a hero to everybody else, even if it’s unreasonable or unrealistic.Bookmark here

Because I already know that I’m doomed to never belong. I’m doomed to never be happy. So a little heroism for a little while might be nice.Bookmark here

Maybe.”Bookmark here

No noise.Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

“Maybe I’d save the Demon Lord, too.”Bookmark here

“Excuse me?”Bookmark here

My self rant, which had spiraled far outside of the realm of any kind of logic or reasoning, was interrupted by a girl who seemed to be reaching her small hand out to me.Bookmark here

She wore little pink mitts, and a yellow sweater, with a scarf covering the lower half of her face.Bookmark here

There was no doubt that she must have been steaming under those clothes.Bookmark here

“Uhm, aren’t you hot in all that?”Bookmark here

“S-spring isn’t over yet…! I’m just fine!”Bookmark here

Actually, looking closer, she was sweating.Bookmark here

And she was walking a cat. On a leash.Bookmark here

“Uhm…”Bookmark here

I wanted to say something, but really, I didn’t know exactly what to say. I couldn’t tell her age considering her face was mostly covered, but she certainly dressed young.Bookmark here

“I- if it was like, mid-spring n’ all, would my outfit look good?”Bookmark here

It’d still be a season too late...Bookmark here

“I-”Bookmark here

“Say yes! Pretty please!”Bookmark here

“Uh, sure. It would.”Bookmark here

“Jee, that doesn’t mean anything to me! I told ya to say it!”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

What?Bookmark here

Were there people that acted like this outside of manga?Bookmark here

“D- did you want something from me?”Bookmark here

“Well, not really. But ya feel a bit better now, don’t ya?”Bookmark here

“Ah.”Bookmark here

She got me.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I guess I do, a little bit. Thank you.”Bookmark here

“You were like, talkin’ about some pretty strange stuff there though, huh?”
So she had been listening, apparently. How long had she been waiting before she actually intervened? Bookmark here

“Uhm, don’t worry about it. It’s not really… Well, I’m just a chuuni... or something.”Bookmark here

That was the term Hope’s basketball teammate, “Endou”, had used to describe me. It meant something similar to “delusional” I figured.Bookmark here

Close enough, anyway.Bookmark here

“Really? That’s like, pretty crazy that ya came up with all ‘ah that stuff on the fly, ya know?”Bookmark here

She giggled to herself. It was a little irritating.Bookmark here

But at the very least, She bought it.Bookmark here

“It’s kinda funny, actually. My hubby says all this stuff like that to himself too! Well like, I’ll usually tease ‘em for it though, so he doesn’t really do it around me anymore. I do feel a lil bad about it, hehe.”Bookmark here

So she had a husband. And he seemed strange as well... Bookmark here

I was somehow inclined to disinvolve myself with this girl’s antics for much longer. Perhaps it was time to head home after all.Bookmark here

“Speaking of, what’d ya say? ‘Melly-flous’? I think he’s like, mentioned that same thing before. Is it from somethin’?”Bookmark here

Mellifluus. Like I said, it’s-”Bookmark here

Mellifluus.Bookmark here

The goddess of Alterra.Bookmark here

Somebody else knew that name?Bookmark here

Somebody else had met the goddess Mellifluus?Bookmark here

“Who else knows that name!? You said it was your husband, right? What’s his name? Can you take me to him!?”Bookmark here

“Hey hey, calm down, kiddo! I’ll let ya meet him. Who knows, maybe you two can be like, chunni friends or somethin’. Some people think he’s kinda distant but like, he’s really pretty nice, ya know? So just have an open mind, ‘kay?”Bookmark here

“Okay. I will.”Bookmark here

The strange girl, wrapped in her off-season winter clothing, led me a little further into the suburban city environment, before entering a smaller, but still quite large high-rise apartment complex. The building we entered was labeled as “Building 6”.Bookmark here

I was nervous.Bookmark here

My hands were shaking; my chest was tight; all the signs I had come to recognize of my anxiety were there, and in full bloom.Bookmark here

In, and out.Bookmark here

We went up an elevator to floor 6, then stepped off into the hallway.Bookmark here

I was about to meet somebody else who had met the goddess of Alterra, Mellifluus. Somebody who had likely reincarnated into that world just like I did, or maybe even been sent to this one from here.Bookmark here

Either way, it was somebody I could talk to; somebody I could rely on.Bookmark here

Or perhaps they were my enemy?Bookmark here

There were so many that were against us during our battles; so many demons and people alike, both of which were dangerous. And all of them knew my face.Bookmark here

“What’re ya so nervous about? Like I said, he’s a pretty nice guy, when ya get to know ‘em.”Bookmark here

“Yeah. I’ll keep it in mind.”Bookmark here

Through the hall.Bookmark here

To the right.Bookmark here

Room 6.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

What if the demon lord had reincarnated into this world?Bookmark here

The door opened to a normal, albeit boring sounding voice.Bookmark here

“Suki, why do you continue to walk the cat despite me telling you that it doesn’t seem to-”Bookmark here

I recognized it immediately, and a fear-tipped dart shot straight through my heart, which exploded on impact.Bookmark here

Confident.Bookmark here

Monotone.Bookmark here

To the point.Bookmark here

“Oh, Todoya. What brings you here?”Bookmark here

“F- Furukawa Sensei?.”Bookmark here

“I see you’ve met my significant other, Suki Handa. But I prefer to keep my professional and personal lives separate, so unfortunately whatever matter you have to discuss must wait until Monday, at your lunch break.”Bookmark here

“No."Bookmark here

No.Bookmark here

No no no.Bookmark here

This was wrong.Bookmark here

I had it all wrong.Bookmark here

“Todoya-”Bookmark here

“You’ve been to Alterra! You’ve talked to Mellifluus! Why the hell would you hide that from me?!”Bookmark here

He sighed, with not a hint of surprise in his voice. It was the same sigh that he had given me many times before.Bookmark here

As if my concerns weren’t worth his brain power.Bookmark here

It was true.Bookmark here

“Suki, please get inside. I must talk to my student in private.”Bookmark here

“What? Did I do something wrong?”Bookmark here

“Suki, please get inside.”Bookmark here

“Ugh, kayyy.”Bookmark here

Suki Handa. What was Furukawa doing married to such a strange woman?Bookmark here

“Is she your cover for this world? What the hell is going on!?”Bookmark here

“Todoya, keep your voice down. These are sleeping hours.”Bookmark here

“Sleeping hours!? You think I give a shit? Tell me the truth, Furukawa Sensei! Who are you!?”Bookmark here

“Todoya...”Bookmark here

He sighed again.Bookmark here

“Take a few deep breaths, and listen to me closely.”Bookmark here

He was right.Bookmark here

I was getting too riled up.Bookmark here

In, and out.Bookmark here

In, and out.Bookmark here

In, and out.Bookmark here

“Okay. I’m calm.”
“Good.”Bookmark here

“Furukawa Sensei, who are you?”Bookmark here

“Todoya, I’m only going to tell you this once. So look me in the eyes, and listen carefully.”Bookmark here

“O- okay. I’m listening.”Bookmark here

“The Demon Lord, Todoya. That’s me.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.