Going back a little in time.
In one of the rooms provided to the summoned people within the Royal Palace of the Hairihi Kingdom, Yaegashi Shizuku watched over her best friend who was still asleep, with a gloomy mood. It has already been five days since that day where they experienced loss as well as a life or death struggle in the dungeon.
After that incident, the party stayed overnight at inn town Holward, before returning to the Kingdom in high speed horse carriages early next morning. It was simply impossible to continue live combat training in the dungeon with this kind of atmosphere. Though he was said to be incompetent, it was still the death of a hero’s compatriot after all, hence, it was necessary to report to the King and the Church. Besides, although it is harsh, it will be troublesome if they broke down in a place like this. It has been decided that the hero party needed to be cared for before any fatal impairment occurs.
Recalling the incident after returning to the kingdom, although Shizuku wished for Kaori to wake up soon, at the same time, she also felt that it was good for her to remain sleeping. When the news of Hajime’s death was reported, although each and every one of the kingdom’s people was appalled, they also breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Hajime was that “incompetent”. Even the King and Ishtar were the same. Such an incident of a death in the Dungeon within the hero party who possess powerful strength. It will be troublesome if unrest starts spreading of how they, who couldn’t even survive the Dungeon, would be able to defeat Demons. The hero party, to be worthy of the name God’s Apostles, must be invincible.
However, the King and Ishtar would have been considered sensible, whereas those who viewed Hajime unfavourably spoke ill of him. Naturally, they didn’t state it publicly, but that was the feeling given off as the aristocrats gossiped sneakily in the shadows. ‘Thank god the incompetent was the one to die, such a useless dead weight despite being a God’s Apostle, of course he died’, speaking ill of him completely as they please. Towards such acts of insulting the dead, there were many times when Shizuku was on the verge succumbing to her anger and taking action.
In fact, it wasn’t strange for Kouki, who had a strong sense of justice, to be the first to fly into rage and vehemently protested. The King and the Church judged that it would be unwise to leave a bad impression and hence punished those who had verbally abused Hajime…… On the contrary, the rumors of Kouki being a kind hero who was heartbroken over the death of an incompetent spread like wild fire. In the end, Kouki’s reputation rose while the assessment that Hajime was an incompetent who simply brought trouble to the heroes failed to overturn.
At that time, the one who saved them was unquestionably Hajime, single-handedly holding back the monster even the heroes couldn’t stand against. To think that it was a stray bullet fired by someone among his classmates that drove him to his death.
It was almost as if the class has planned beforehand, but no one talked about the misfire that had happened. They should have been confident of their own magic, but at that time, with that countless magic raging like a tempest, thinking that “if by any chance, it was my magic”, they just couldn’t bring up the topic. That is, it would mean that they themself was the murderer.
In the end, as if escaping from reality, began to think that the cause was due to Hajime’s own clumsiness. The dead can’t speak. Rather than blindly searching for the culprit, everyone would not be so troubled if it was simply Hajime suffering the consequences of his own actions. The classmates’ opinions were so consistent that they achieved a mutual understanding without even having any form of communication.
Commander Meld considered the need to question the students in order to clarify the details of that incident. However, with the students trying to escape from reality, it would be difficult for them to think of it as a simple misfire. Even if it was due to negligence, he was convinced that the psychological care for the students will clearly prove guilt and innocence. If this is left unanswered, it would become a problem to address later. More importantly, Meld himself wanted to clear it up. Unable to save Hajime who was uttering ‘help’, Commander Meld was similarly heartbroken.
However, Commander Meld’s actions did not come to be. Ishtar has banned all investigations regarding the students. Commander Meld insisted, but couldn’t resist as even the King forbidden it.
“If you knew this…… will you be angry?”
Shizuku muttered while holding the hand of Kaori who hasn’t awaken even once since that day. According to the doctor’s diagnosis, her body was completely fine, but her deep sleep was probably defensive measures to protect her mind from the psychological shock. Thus, as time passes, she would naturally awaken.
Grasping Kaori’s hand, Shizuku prayed to no one in particular, “Please don’t hurt my kind-hearted best friend any more than this”
At this time, Kaori’s tightly clutched hand twitched.
“…!? Kaori! Can you hear me?! Kaori!”
Shizuku desperately called out. Kaori’s shut eyelids began to quiver. Shizuku appealed again. In response to that voice, Kaori’s hand returned Shizuku’s grip. Kaori then slowly opened her eyes.
Leaning her body forward over the bed, tears dwelled in the corners of Shizuku’s eyes as she looked down at Kaori. Looking at her surroundings with eyes which has yet to clear, finally, her brain started up again and Kaori focused on Shizuku who was overlooking her and calling out her name.
“Yeah, right. It’s me. Kaori, how’s your body? Do you feel uncomfortable anywhere?”
“Uh, yeah. I’m fine. Though I’m a little sluggish…… it’s probably due to sleep……”
“Well, sleeping for five days…… is tiring, I guess”
Shizuku gave a strained laugh as she helped Kaori up, telling her how much she had slept. Kaori’s reaction was
“Five days? So long…… why…… I, am sure I was in the Dungeon…… and……”
Seeing those eyes that were gradually losing focus, Shizuku thought that it was inopportune and tried to change topics. However, Kaori was faster, and recovered her memories.
“So then…… Ah…………………………. Nagumo-kun?”
“Tsu~…… that is”
Shizuku revealed a bitter expression, troubled over how she should break the news. Shizuku’s appearance, coupled with her own memories, made her realize the reality of the tragedy. Yet, Kaori wasn’t able to easily accept the truth.
“…… It’s a lie, right? Shizuku-chan. After I fainted, Nagumo-kun was saved too, yeah? Isn’t that right? Here, is a room in the castle? Everyone’s back right? Is Nagumo-kun…… training? He should be at the training grounds? Nn…… I’m going out for a little while to go thank Nagumo-kun…… so, let go of your hands? Shizuku-chan.”
Escaping from reality, Kaori spun word after word, wanting to go look for Hajime. Shizuku kept her grip on Kaori’s arm. Shizuku had a sorrowful expression, but still stared resolutely at Kaori.
“…… Kaori. You understand right?…… He’s not here anymore”
“It’s just as Kaori remembers.”
“He is, Nagumo-kun is……”
“No, stop it…… don’t say anymore!”
“Kaori! He’s dead!”
“That’s wrong! He didn’t die! There is absolutely no such thing! Why are you saying such outrageous things! Even Shizuku-chan is not allowed to!”
Denying and shaking her head, Kaori struggled to escape from Shizuku’s restraint. Shizuku absolutely refused to separate and tightly hugged her, trying to warm Kaori’s frozen heart.
“Let go! Let me go~! I have to go find Nagumo-kun! Please…… he must still be alive…… let me go~”
Before they knew it, Kaori was sobbing with her head buried in Shizuku’s chest while crying “Let go”. Clinging in an embrace, she wailed her throat hoarse. Shizuku could do nothing but hug her best friend close, hoping that doing so would somewhat lessen the pain in her wounded heart.
How long were they in that position, the bright sky illuminated by the setting sun could be seen, dyeing it crimson. Kaori stirred from Shizuku’s arms while sniffing. Shizuku anxiously asked Kaori.
“…… Shizuku-chan…… Nagumo-kun…… fell…… and is no longer here……”
Like a whisper, Kaori’s murmuring voice seemed like it might just disappear any time. Shizuku didn’t beat around the bush. Glossing it over with sugary words and whispers might provide temporary relief. However, in the end, it will simply return an irreparable wound later. Above all, she didn’t want to see her best friend hurt any further.
“At that time, Nagumo-kun was likely hit by one of our magic…… who was it?”
“I don’t know. Nobody wants to touch on the things of that time. It’s scary to think about it. Supposedly, what if it was me who……”
“Would you hate me?”
“……. I don’t know. If I knew who…… I would definitely resent. But…… since I have no idea…… it’s probably better. Surely, I wouldn’t be able to control my feelings……”
Kaori hung her head and intermittently conversed. Eventually, Kaori rubbed her eyes which had turned red and raised her face to look at Shizuku. Then, she resolutely declared.
“Shizuku-chan, I, don’t believe. Nagumo-kun is still alive. I don’t believe he’s dead.”
“Kaori, that is……”
Shizuku once again, had a pained expression at Kaori’s words and wanted to persuade her. However, Kaori wrapped her hands around Shizuku’s cheeks and said with a smile.
“I know. It’s strange to think that someone can be alive after that kind of fall……. Even so, it’s not confirmed. The chances might be less than one percent, but as long as it’s still not confirmed, it’s not zero……. I, want to believe.”
“I, will become even stronger. Strong enough to protect even if faced with this situation again, until I confirm with my own eyes. The thing about Nagumo-kun……. Shizuku-chan.”
“What is it?”
“Please lend me your strength.”
Shizuku fixedly stared into Kaori’s eyes which were gazing back. There was neither a shred of insanity nor escapism in those eyes, dwelling in it was simply the pure will of refusing to give up till she’s convinced. Kaori is unyielding when she becomes like that. Even Kaori’s family have troubles dealing with this stubborn person, let alone Shizuku.
Usually, the possibility that Kaori brought up could just be reduced to zero percent and discarded. It’s perfectly normal to think of someone who believes that anyone could survive a fall into the abyss as escaping from reality. Perhaps most of the people including Ryutaro and childhood friend Kouki would try to rectify Kaori’s thinking. That’s why……
“Of course I will. I’ll accompany you till you’re satisfied.”
Kaori hugged Shizuku, “Thank you!” and repeated her thanks. “There’s no need for thanks, we are best friends right?” No matter how you looked, Shizuku was like a gentleman. Her title of modern-day Female Samurai wasn’t just for show.
At that time, the room door suddenly opened.
“Shizuku! Has Kaori…… awaken……”
“Oh, how is…… Kaori……”
It was Kouki and Ryutaro who probably came to check on Kaori. Coming over in training clothes, they were dirty all over. Since that day, the two of them has been devoting their bodies into training, with Hajime’s death weighing on their minds. After all, they hesitated to retreat and got the tables turned on them. The one who saved them from the verge of being instantly wiped out was Hajime. Not wanting to expose such a unsightly display ever again, they appeared to have gained considerable fighting spirit.
These two people, was now, stiffened at the room’s entrance. A surprised Shizuku asked.
“You guys, what……”
“Did, Didn’t mean to bother!”
Shizuku’s question was swallowed by the words before she could even finish. Giving off the feeling of seeing something they shouldn’t have, they left the room in a panic. Seeing the two, Kaori also had a blank look. However, the sharp Shizuku realized the reason.
Kaori was currently sitting on Shizuku’s lap, and holding Shizuku’s cheeks in her hands, their faces close enough to be kissing any time soon. As for Shizuku, in order to support Kaori, had her arms around Kaori’s slender waist and shoulder, appearing like in an embrace.
In other words, an intense Yuri scene was completed. If this was in a manga, the background will be filled with lilies in full bloom.
Shizuku let out a deep sigh. Sending a sidelong glance towards Kaori who still had a blank look and have yet to take in the situation, she shouted.
“Come back quickly! You idiots!”