A hundred years after being born. It is a very long time when one thinks about it.
Every time the undershirt was taken off, a body full of wrinkles was revealed, like crocodile skin.
…This body has become decrepit and ugly over the years, it is impossible to push it any further.
I thought, as I looked at my body full of wrinkles, reflected on the large mirror in the dojo.
Looking at it closely, this body seems as weak and thin as a dead tree branch, as many wrinkles mark the skin.
Born over a hundred years ago.
The time I’ve spent devoted to martial arts is almost equivalent to that.
This body has reached its limit after continuously pushing it to the extreme these past one hundred years, so there is nothing to complain about.
… Strongest, ha. It is a short lived and good-for-nothing dream shared by two people.
The days when this body can be pushed further no longer exist. Every day, this body was put to the test, receiving injuries far worse than regular wounds.
Layers of muscles obtained were all shriveled up, and the only thing that remains is this tattered body.
However, by wearing armor, my muscle strength increases. If technology was easier to understand and faster to attain with power than 「Martial Arts」, I would have aimed for it from the beginning.
I cough violently, from inside my parched body, I spit out blood.
A body over a hundred years old, lung hemorrhage is only fitting. I have already lost all strength to resist, as I was sitting straight ⌈1⌋, my body fell forward.
…I was diagnosed with a disease. It affects the lungs, and causes internal bleeding, it’s a rare disease that can cause death. There is a way to cure it, but it seems that this old body can no longer tolerate medical treatments. It is a disease not even a master can overcome. In a sense, I am a foolish and immature person.
In my final moments of life, I recalled what the doctor mentioned. In a place far far away, at the edge on this world, exists a place called 「Nihon」,which is the doctor’s birthplace, where treatment can be done, it is regrettable.
At that time, perfecting martial arts was more important than following the doctor’s advice regrettably, therefore accepting the result is normal. That’s right. I had fully understood that feeling.
On the contrary, this old man coughed out blood while letting out a laugh.
──While thinking about the past, I realized my life was only filled with regrets. I can’t help but to laugh at my own foolishness.
I devoted myself to「Martial Arts」, and thus, I did not take a wife nor have a child.
Without even taking care of my possessions, I continued to pursue my art.
To watch my disciple, who I view as my own daughter, attain greatness won’t be possible, for I am near death and about to die.
…But, such a thing does not matter.
Though I had been dedicating over a hundred years into martial arts, my greatness had yet to be seen. It is such a disappointment.
That master claimed to have set foot into the third stage. If so, how far have I came, second stage or perhaps first stage ──
Had I instead tried to understand the fundamentals of martial arts, rather than rely on strength, I could have had a little more time to train.
It is often said that regrets build up as one lives their life. Even if humans possessed longevity, my life would still be filled with regrets regardless.
Taking a wife is unnecessary, and so is having a child. Money is not needed, nothing is needed.
Therefore, heaven, I… I and martial arts. Give me more time to perfect my martial art.
I think I acted like a whining infant. But still, I wished for more time.
The dojo’s doors was violently forced open, and my beloved disciple rushed in.
Currently, I’ve fallen onto the floor and my tunic is smeared in blood.
She rushed over to me, and gently lifts my body, which is equivalent to a dead log.
Tears well up in her shaking eyes.
「Please don’t give up! Please don’t leave me, please, ah…!」
As if a dam had broken, large drops of tears overflow the little disciple’s eyes and drip down her face.
Each drop, as clear as water, falls onto my face and mixes with my blood.
Then, I was lightly poked by her tender index finger. I open my eyes as if awoken from a slumber.
「Shishou! It is me, it’s Alma-desu! Can you hear me clearly-desu!?」
My disciple─ Alma, her eyes focused on me, smiles as she continued to sobs.
Even if it is suppressed, the sound of weeping can still be made out─ I see, my head is being caressed, and I cannot move my body.
…When I was at the age of forty, I picked up a young girl without any relatives. By no means had I intended to spend so much time with her and develop a close relationship.
She was twelve years old at the time, and I should note that she is over seventy years old, yet she still has the face of a girl roughly around the age of seventeen or eighteen.
If humans were had metaplasia like this, then this shishou was surprised─ the reason was her outer appearance, the attire she was wearing is that of a little girl.
Compared to humans, Alma’s ears were long and pointy─ a distinctive feature of the Elven race which were blessed with long life.
Her appearance was that of a human child at the age of twelve, but despite looking like a twelve year old, her race’s growth is around ten times as slow as a human’s.
To consider the young child as my own daughter ── yareyare ⌈2⌋. An old man over a hundred and a little girl at eighteen, it would be better to consider both as grandfather and granddaughter.
「D-don’t… cry… Alma….
A-as someone who practices the Shijima style… you shed tears so easily.」
I was unable to move my hand, but somehow managed to utter a few words.
Then, a smile floats across her face and she suppresses her tears.
「You’re back-desu… Ah!」
Letting out a sound with happiness tinged in her trembling voice, she then noticed that I didn’t have much strength left.
….It may be better to die with no one weeping.
Some time ago, Alma desperately used magic to help me recover from the brink of death, and my life was prolonged as the result, allowing me to be able to speak normally.
However, my condition right now is like that of a flask full of holes. When her magic was poured into me, I felt as if it were being poured into a bottomless pit. Magic was originally meant to treat the wounded, thus the magic at which one can use to cheat death is non-existent in this world.
…This is something to be expected, my beloved pupil.
But, you will not be able to admit it. Alma, when I heard you calling me father, I was a little troubled. The truth was I felt a little happy, even if it was a little, I was glad you felt that way.
「It’s fine already…stop your magic.
Time has caught up with me.」
I finally mustered enough strength, thus moved my hand and placed it on top of Alma’s hand.
Although she felt relieved, Alma’s face was filled with cold despair.
“No….No-desu! Please, this is not the time, it is not yet time for you to give up! My training has yet to finish, please do not say such a selfish thing!”
Crying like a child, Alma refused to listen to my words.
…Her feelings, I understood it completely. I too broke out in a tantrum, and spoke the same things when my shishou died.
However, my feelings at that time, if I remembered correctly, I did not express them in words.
When my shishou died, I was able to accept the fact and follow his path to accumulate knowledge about 「Martial Arts」─ such feelings drove me to continue to live in this world at that time.
I continued to train, but all of it was useless. Come to think of it, when master was still alive, he/she devoted their entire life into practicing martial art─
…The outcome, it can easily be guessed.
I followed the same path and would die the same way. And if that is the case, then master and I may have experienced similar things.
…Aaa, the previous thought then surfaced, I won’t be able to witness my pupil’s future growth, as I thought, such a shame.
「Listen, Alma…These will be my last words to you. As a father, and as a teacher…will you listen?」
「─No, no, no, no…please don’t go, shishou…」
In the end, she finally broke down and cried.
Be at ease, Alma.
At least, I wanted to teach her my masteries… but it seems that I no longer have the chance to do so.
Coughing lightly, blood continued to spill out, but not as much as before.
My internal organs, they have already reached their limits. It would be unreasonable to push it any longer, this decrepit and ugly body. That much is true.
So little time remains. At the very least, I want to pass on that thing.
I waited for Alma to settle down. Even though I mentioned I wanted to leave something for her, it is not as important as it sounds.
The master passes on his technique to his pupil, to succeed the Shijima style, it is time to let the future generation to inherit the old legacy.
After a while, tears still flowing─ but it seems that Alma had calmed down a little bit.
…This child is strong. As this child’s master and father, I’m very proud.
Taking a small breath, I took out what I had arranged before hand.
The fire of life can perish unexpectedly, the Shijima is all I can give to you so forgive me, Alma.
「First, as your master, Slava Shijima
…Hold out your hand, Alma.」
While sniffing her nose, Alma did exactly as I said, and held out her hand.
While I felt my life continue to slip away from my body, I reach for a pocket in my pant.
One way or another, this day will mark my death. It seems that I was completely oblivious to this fact due to thinking of other, more important things.
「This is a key-desu?」
「Umu…Will you take over the dojo, and become a master, in my absence?」
「Do you mean…? Yes, I understand-desu.」
「This is…it is the key to unlock what is sealed in the back. What’s kept there…is the scroll containing all of Shijima style’s masteries. The things my master spoke of, written down and kept secret. There are only two who knew of its existence, were my master and I…」
I coughed out blood and inhaled air roughly.
There was little time remaining. I must make haste and pass down my words to this child as a father.
I desperately tried to breathe, and continued to speak.
「But, now, you are the third person.
…Alma, you must not carelessly tell anyone about the existence of this scroll.
When you have completely mastered everything in it, you shall be a full fledged master of the Shijima style.
…I entrust the Shijima style to you, Alma.」
「…Hai, I will accept it, shishou.」
「On that day, you shall be Alma Shijima….kuku…kuku…ka fu, ge fu!」
Damn it. I can only hold on for so long, feeling like a tattered rag.
Coughing regularly, red drops of life continued to spill out.
Acute pain occurs every time I cough, I felt as if my lungs have been punctured.
Still, this old man wants to convey his thoughts.
「Then…From now, these will be the words of─ Slava Weser as a father…ahh…」
「Please, that’s enough already! You will really die-desu!」
Her usual cute voice was trembling, and she understood my condition well.
My one and only daughter, so I say. These past sixty years spent living together, the majority of the time I was not acting like a parent.
It was bad of me, only at the end did I act more like a fatherly figure.
I put my hand on top of Alma’s head shaking desperately.
I thought that I had long lost my arm strength─ but unexpectedly, humans sometime make miracles.
Without refusing my hand covered in blood, Alma realized this will be my last moment, she stayed silent and bit her lip.
「I had love. A wife and child I had none, but you were always the one showing me a bright smile, and to me that made you undeniably my daughter.
…You are blessed with long life. So, find a good man and give birth to a child. And, give that child lots of love and happiness.
So, I pray that my daughter can find her happiness─」
I finished speaking what I hoped for, and I felt at ease.
Drops of tears continued to shed from Alma’s eyes, but they seem to have stop for a brief moment.
…To the child who lost her parents, I am her foster parent. It is sad, but I was happy.
I pray my daughter will build a happy family, and will be able to live in peace.
I spoke what I wanted to. All my past regrets seem to have vanished, and I felt unexpectedly relieved and satisfied.
…However, new regret was also born. Speaking of happiness, maybe I should have marry. But then, Alma would not have been my child.
…Well then, this is fine.
Alma’s voice slowly sounds further away. I felt warmth, then my consciousness faded farther and farther away.
My regrets remained, but it was a good life.
At the same time, my hand slipped from Alma’s head, and my mind slipped into darkness.
…Hopefully, in the next life I want to live without regret.
♦ ♦ ♦
…That was supposed to be my last thought, but what the heck.
In front of my eyes, I see a figure of a man and woman.
Their facial features… long and pointy ears, these two are Elves.
Elves, they could possibly be the same as Alma─ in the first place, the Elf race lived their lives closed off from the outside world─ from my standpoint, I am not sure whether or not these two are Elves.
「Dear, do you see us now?」
「Ah, look here… I wonder if he understands you at this age?」
The two elves, laughed happily while looking at my face.
…This is strange. This man and woman, they laugh whenever I move.
I wondered if there is a baby next to me. So, I turn my head to get a glance.
However, I can see only bars made of wood. Given the soft sensation on my back, I determined that I was put to sleep on a bed.
…No no, wait just a second. This situation. In the first place, I was supposed to have died.
So, why am I lying down like this? What more, this bed, it is too small.
「Oh! He turns his head. Do you deny our words?」
「Dawa, you don’t like it. If so, mommy is sad.”」
「Haha, that’s right.」
This man and woman, they stare at each other and laugh.
….What, this uneasy feeling… Something is not right.
What the heck happened to me?
I took in various consideration, but my thoughts are all tangled and I couldn’t come up with an answer.
But at the same time, an undeniable answer surfaced in my mind, then a chill went down my spine.
「Hey, can I cuddle him?」
「Yes, that’s fine.」
In a state of utter bliss, two hands wrapped around both of my sides.
…Impossible, for someone who is at my age, I’m way too thin.
No, this is more than thin, rather… I’m too small!
「Yosh! It’s Papa~」
As it is, my body was soon lifted up without any struggle.
After being lifted, my eyes catch sight of the man in front of me clearly, this is papa, and those words were probably directed towards me.
No way, I─
「Ufufu, don’t forget Mama is here too.
Hey, Slava-chan? It’s Mama~」
…Suddenly, that name was uttered, and I stiffen up.
No way, having a body of a baby has to be a dream… but is it really a dream?
But it feel like reality rather than a dream. But for me to be in this small body─
「Hey, Slava, your name is Slava, it is the name of a respected martial artist who became a legend!
It’s the name of the sole person Alma-sama respects! You too will grow to become an honorable man~ Slava!」
──What now? Alma-sama?
Slava and Alma. That combination gives me a headache.
The answer I came up with a while now concerns me. Because my name was mentioned, this situation became absurd.
Perhaps, could I have possibly─ become the child of this couple!?
「N~, the shape of your ears much resemble your Mama. They are slim and beautiful.」
「Ara, his face resembles you though. I think our son, Slava, will surely be a lovely child.」
This scene unfolded before my eyes, there is nothing to deny it now.
I really want to insist about the fact that I died and this is only a dream but─ no matter how I look at it, it’s real and I can feel my consciousness.
Bah, if it’s like this.
I really, truly─ am this married couple’s son.
My life has ended, and I met death.
…But to think that Death had such an unexpected turn about.
The couple alternate between who holds me, while their faces are full of joy─ again and again, as accordance to a baby’s instinct─ I was attacked with drowsiness.
Here, maybe if I were to wake up here, I may wake in heaven.
But if, if this body was bred from this man and woman then─
This life, I will live it without regret.
I will travel across however many treacherous mountain passes that I must, becoming number one, I will climb to the top. I will firmly stand by this vow.