Chapter 54:

The Showdown #5

What Clichés has this World Wrought? [ Volume One: Another World ]


The hard surface of the ground ran through the body, its motor functions completely void of any reaction or function. Any thought, any desire, or any dream slips past in between one’s fingers, like droplets of water, or the sands of time. Life looks incredibly short in the sight of the world because time will continue to move, and it may seem like a generous amount, but life is incredibly short.

“Is…this…how I die?” Ayama thought, his eyes losing focus despite being wide open. He could hear his heartbeat drum inside his ears, his warm blood flowing from the stab wounds on his chest and back.

He fell on his side, laying there frozen and unable to move, his senses shutting down, with only bad memories to keep him company. The cold was familiar, unsightly times emerging from deep inside his head.

Ayama looked within himself, disgusted by what he saw. He was an urchin, an orphan virtually abandoned in the streets of Tokyo, Japan. He was a crook from the time he could crawl, used as a prop in the background by his mother who worked as a ‘night escort.’

Many men have the fantasy of laying their hands on another’s faithful wife, a twisted lot all of them, but with an opportunity created before them, why wouldn’t they say no? That service made Mother quite popular, and at the time, there was plenty of food to eat.

But he didn’t enjoy much of it. Ayama was weaned, not on purpose, but as a by-product of being ignored and used as a sandbag for insults that fed on the bastards’ egos. Words hurt, anyone who says otherwise is delusional or broken, and Ayama was far from broken then.

At a young age, he learned when and how to approach his mother, always hoping, yearning to feel the warmth and motherly love. He was disappointed each time. The bite of reality was cruel, but his mother was even worse.

“You useless waste of money!” A blurred-out image of his mother screamed, a bottle in hand. “If only that foreigner had—”

The moment was cut there, a child no older than eight falling unconscious from a blow to the head. Since that time, he had stopped trying, opting to hide instead, and until he was knowledgeable enough to hide or survive he put up with that life— watching it spiral further and further down into its destruction.

A small, cramped apartment located in between two buildings, only accessible by an alleyway filled with dumpsters and trash used by drug peddlers was the last thing Ayama saw before running away.

He didn’t turn back, and since then, from when he was nine years old to eleven years old, all he could remember was barely scraping by through odd jobs that barely paid him enough money to get through his education.

Eventually, such a lifestyle was incapable of supporting a growing boy, and he turned to other means of supporting himself. In the eyes of survival, petty crime and running for the mob was nothing, until he realized that the ‘road’ he had accepted was just a tightrope that continued to narrow down to a thread.

“You damn rat!” A burly man roared, a right hook connecting with Ayama’s jaw.


Ayama could feel the blow plow through the soft mush inside his skull, and the bone-crushing kicks followed. He would have died that day, if it weren't for a drunk firefighter and his colleagues.

“Hey! Pick on someone your own size!” From the fading corners of his vision, the punch that etched itself into his mind landed. A fallen firefighter stepped forward with his left foot, pushing hard with his right to send an effective right straight.


The shock and sound of the punch woke him up from his drunken stupor, and the firefighter stepped forward, following it with a ruthless left hook and a right uppercut in quick succession.


“You okay, kid? Here, let me give you a ride to the nearest hospital–”

The year that followed was the best of his life. Ayama was taken in by the heroic firefighter who had willingly stepped forward and looked after him until he was officially taken by legal adoptees.

In the eight months he had spent with him, he was acquainted with his son, Akiro Hiroto, a spitting image of his father, and his beautiful wife. In that time, he tasted what love truly was and for the first time in a very long time, he felt comfort and companionship.

“I will be like you when I grow up,” Ayama remembered saying, blurting it out accidentally during dinner. The firefighter exchanged smiles with Akiro before grinning proudly.

“You’re going to be better than me, Ayama-kun!” He beamed, much to the giggles of his wife, who jumped from her seat to embrace them both.

The firefighter joined in, embracing the group with his wide wingspan. “Both my boys will be great men one day! I bet my life on it!”

Ayama was happy with them, but his days there were numbered, and when the clock ran out, his new guardians arrived. It was found that he was the oldest child of a great American Corporation, and although illegitimate by every standard, he was brought in. He was rich! Almost instantly, Every expensive item he ever dreamed about was accessible with the snap of his fingers, but all that wealth was nothing compared to his hero and his family.

Somewhere down the line, Ayama fell into depravity and debauchery, and endless greed seeped deeper into his mind as he won the company’s internal struggle for succession. But as he stared down from the highest floor of that building, he felt…


He clawed his way up like he had when he was an orphan, destroying his half-siblings one by one until he was the last one standing. He had everything he could ever ask for, but why did he feel so empty? Ayama stared at the murky dark sky, realizing that this lifestyle was not what he aspired to be.

He wanted to be like his hero, who could save lives by charging headfirst into a great fire and coming out on top. Ayama wanted to be a man who could proudly look at his friends, and his family, and smile unashamedly.

On his seventeenth birthday, Ayama officially stepped down from the company, against everything his adoptive family had to say or did— just to return to Japan to be like his hero, financially stable this time. However, unlike his hopes, he was not greeted by a happy family, but a broken one instead.

The smile on the mother was gone, her face still and emotionless, and their son– his first friend, his first true sibling— broken. His Hero had died.

On that day, on that doorstep, Ayama resolved himself to fix them, regardless of how long it took. He was going to live up to that man’s legacy, but before he did, Ayama was going to be the pillar that would hold up his family, a man who could walk through the flames and still stand– whatever it took.

“I—can’t—die— not now!--- Not yet!” Ayama roared inside his still body, warmth resonating from inside him. He felt the demon come closer, only to jump back as his hands touched him.


Serves you right, asshole!” He heard the demon scream, and Ayama laughed to himself, feeling Akiro’s presence come quickly at break-neck speed. “Kick his ass!”

In defiance, sheer desire, and stubbornness, the hero reached for the sword he had lost, fingers fumbling for the hilt. The sounds of a blade swinging reverberated in his ear, almost cheering him on to keep fighting. “Move!”

“Move, goddamn it!” Ayama roared in his head, his palms grasping the weapon, “Get up! Get up, you lazy fuck! You’re not going to kick the bucket!-- Not today! Not ever! It’s not over! Not until we win!”

[ The Mother of Life smiles proudly upon you. ] [ She feels her chest swelling with pride at your burning determination, however…]

“I don’t give a damn!” Ayama snapped at the appearing messages, and he could feel the sender recoil in surprise. “I’m not just going to lie down and do nothing!”

[ You must rest, Hero. ] [ You have no choice. ] [ Trust in your friend, he shan’t be defeated, not by the likes of a measly demon.]

The Hero felt a sudden void of energy inside his body, a forceful measure used by his conversation partner. “F-Fuck—” Ayama gagged, “Measly?! To you maybe! We’re human, not a God– Fuck!”

His eyes grew heavy, his eyelids falling slowly on their own. Ayama could feel his will his body succumbing to rest, but his spirit burned despite the divine force quelling it. “You better be right– or there will be hell to pay!”

[ Worry not, Hero. Fear not neither, my child. ] [ Now rest, you’ve earned it. ]

“Mmm…where…” Ayama stirred, his head turning side to side. His body felt like it was held down, caged in place but in just a moment– it all disappeared. Like a shell or outer covering, he felt himself break free from a threshold of some sort of mold, and with a jolt of rejuvenating burst of energy, Ayama awoke.

He internally thanked the Mother of Life, even smiling to himself as he recognized the grand ceiling. They were back in Earlshide, back in the Castle’s Medical Facility, being treated and safe. They were safe now.

“Oh…” He gasped breathlessly, feeling the weight of fears and the uncertainty of the dungeon fall away. “We’re safe now…”

Ayama pushed himself up from the bed, finding great strength in his limbs, the kind of strength not available to someone who had his injuries. He looked down at his upper body, its entirety covered in thick bandages wrapped around like a shirt.

The room was dimly lit, only with the soft lights of magical artifacts attached to each one of the people present in the room. Ayama smiled at the familiar beds, they were the exact places they’d spend whenever there was a training accident– being intentionally sent there by their instructors.

Everyone was asleep in their beds, with four of the beds covered by large cocoons of sheets, their respective magical devices inactive, quiet as the dead. Ayama looked at the floor, the oiled wood shining with the moonlight entering from the tall window to his left.

“Couldn’t sleep?” A voice asked.

“I’m well-rested enough, Akiro.” Ayama answered, turning towards him, “How about you, something on your mind?"

At the sound of the question, the hero could feel the uncertainty in Akiro’s breathing, puffs of clouds forming from the cold air seeping inside. Still, he waited until his friend was ready to speak. He wasn’t ready for what he heard next.

“Tsukiko-san, Ryu-san, Rei, and Toshi… They’re dead.” Akiro huffed, fists curling into a ball, “And it's all my fault– I couldn’t finish off Jester when I had the chance…”

Ayama’s eyes shot open, watching as the Assassin slowly pulled his knees in, turning into a ball atop the window sill. His feet moved “W-What—!?”

“I messed up in the most crucial moment— I– I killed them! They died because I killed them! Ayama–” The breaking adolescent croaked, but his words were stopped by his friend’s warm embrace. Akiro did not waste a second, his arms reciprocating the action with pained guilt.

“It’s okay…” Ayama lied, gritting his teeth. It was in fact, now alright. “If I hadn't gotten stabbed— If the mother of life hadn’t interfered…would they still be alive too?... This is all my fault…”

“No!” Akiro protested, pushing away “You don’t understand, Ayama! I killed them! I had to kill them! Their deaths were my fault! A-All because I wasn’t strong enough— T-Toshio w-woul’v-ve not—”

“Okay.” Ayama did not understand, instead, he misunderstood. He firmly stopped Akiro with a hand on his shoulder. “You’re not thinking clearly. Cry now, speak later. We’re not getting anywhere.”

Akiro opened his mouth to speak, only to promptly grit it shut, his gaze incapable of looking at Ayama face to face. The tears had stopped flowing eventually, streaks of frozen tears glistening down both his eyes. “Are you better now?”

“I have something to tell you, Ayama.” Akiro turned around, leaning down on the open window, looking down at the sleeping below, “I’m going away.”

Ayama forgot to react to his first question being ignored by the startling message, “G-Going away?! Where? Where in the world are you planning to go?”

The wind blew hard against his face, strands of hair flying in whichever direction it pleased. “I…I don’t know…” Akiro answered softly, lifting a small opened envelope and passing it to him. “I’m going somewhere safe, somewhere where my curse is going to be studied— King’s orders— and I need some time to think…for penance, I suppose.”

Penance?! For what?!” The hero was puzzled, “How long will you be gone for?”

“You still don’t understand…” Akiro sourly winced, shaking his head. He felt relieved but that relief only made him feel even more guilty. “I’m not sure, but I promise I won’t be gone for more than three months.”

“T-Three months!?” They had spent about a year in this world, leaving only nine more years in the proverbial hourglass. Ayama frowned, but he had no right to intervene. Akiro, he, they all needed time to think. “Where in the world would Akiro be thinking of going for a quarter of a year?”

They all dreamed about going on adventures, but after being faced with death, true death– how would the others feel, after all, four of twenty-four had just died. Their friends were now dead.

“Okay…Just be safe, will you promise me that?” Ayama bitterly swallowed, “When are you going?”

“Now. I’m sorry, Ayama.” The Hero sighed, lifting his eyes to match his own. Akiro stared back at him, his eyes shining with a soft, sky-blue hue. He tried to smile. “I promise to stay safe. Say hello to Otome and Some for me.”

Ayama grinned as positively as he could, ignoring the current doubts gnawing at his spirit, “Yes, I’ll pass the message for you, I promise.”

A whirl of black shadow grew from the base of the Assassin, originating from the center between his feet, growing taller as the assassin grew shorter— slowly entering the warp inside his shadow. As his head disappeared and the shadow began to close, Ayama genuinely smiled at the last words he heard. “Thank you.”

“No problems, buddy.” He whispered softly, unaware that his worries were not unfounded.