Zatoh turned his blood-covered face towards Noloty after getting up.
“What are you doing?”
He angrily asked. He didn’t seem to be in pain. He couldn’t possibly be a man who just shoved a sword into his heart and neck. Even his left hand didn’t have any wounds anymore.
“Because you went after me, I thought you intended on killing me. But you just wasted that chance to watch me… why?”
I was busted, Noloty thought.
She thought about escaping. If Zatoh is the Monster she couldn’t handle him by herself. She needed to escape and then call for assistance.
Her reason called her to do that. Strangely, however, her feet couldn’t move.
Why was that?
Even if he had the same ability, it wasn’t enough evidence to say Zatoh truly was the Monster.
Besides, she didn’t feel any hostility from him. Noloty couldn’t feel any intentions of an attack coming from him. She could feel in one way or another that this man only wished to hurt himself.
Zatoh picked up the short sword that fell into the sea of blood.
“Oh well. I’ll just try it again. This time I won’t fail.”
Noloty raised a bewildered voice.
“I’ll stab my heart and neck again. Once I have fallen, I’ll keep doing it until my regeneration can’t keep up. Then I will die.”
After saying this, Zatoh directed the short sword to his chest. Noloty grabbed his hands.
“Wai- Please wait!”
“Don’t just keep talking by yourself.”
“U-umm, I didn’t come to kill you. Please wait with that whole suicide business.”
Once again, Zatoh looked angry.
“Then why are you here?”
Noloty hesitated a little.
“I wanted to save you.”
When Noloty said this, a strange atmosphere enveloped her as if the air was torn apart. She knew this kind of feeling. It was the atmosphere of facing the anger of an overwhelmingly strong person.
“So it’s simple. Kill me. The only way of saving me is to kill me.”
“…That doesn’t count as saving at all.”
“Please don’t say something like suicide is wrong and I shouldn’t do it.”
Noloty desperately focused her eyes on him as if to not get overwhelmed, and answered.
“Suicide is wrong and you shouldn’t do it.”
A shiver ran through her spine. She felt as if his stare was physically assaulting her.
“I advise you to go away while I’m still calm.”
Noloty thought that would perhaps be best. However, she stopped herself from following his advice. If she would withdraw here, why did she come in the first place?
Everything’s fine, Noloty encouraged herself. She could still stop him. Her superiors were far scarier. Compared to them she can’t be afraid of this person.
“What are you doing? If you’re going away do it quickly.”
Zatoh said angrily.
“Choose quickly. Will you kill me, or will you scram?”
“If I tell you I want neither, what will you do?”
Zatoh sighed. And he seemed to become even angrier.
“What do you think I’ll do?”
“I don’t know. I’m not very smart.”
Don’t avert your eyes. Noloty thought this while the two of them glared at one another.
“Tell me just one thing. Who are you?”
Zatoh thought for a while, averting his gaze from Noloty.
“I’m just a fool.”
After saying so, he fell silent. Noloty also didn’t know what to say and stayed silent.
If this were a battle, this situation would be like the both of them were stuck in a stalemate as they waited for each other’s moves. Since Noloty didn’t want to kill him but Zatoh wanted to die, they were incompatible. It was a battle conducted with something other than physical violence.
The slender lamp illuminated the both of them. They could hear the roars of the sea from afar. Since the unceasing cries of the seagulls were not heard anymore, they probably went back to roost already.
Noloty stared at the person in front of her as if ascertaining him.
Is this person the Monster? If he is, why is he here, and why does he want to die? And if he isn’t the Monster, who is he?
“Why did you come here?”
Zatoh asked. Noloty didn’t answer.
“Is it a mission from Hamyuts Meseta?”
Bull’s-eye. Noloty’s face stiffened. Seeing her face, Zatoh further questioned her.
“What’s Hamyuts Meseta trying to do?”
“I don’t know. I’m just a subordinate.”
“What’s your mission?”
“…I don’t really know. I just need to save you, that’s all.”
“Anyway, it seems like you weren’t told…”
Zatoh’s eyes twinkled. Noloty could feel a pressure that wasn’t there before.
“About me being the Monster.”
Once again, a shiver ran down her spine. Her entire body became tense. Her feet screamed for her to run away.
“Does an Armed Librarian trainee intend to save the Monster that attacked Bantorra Library?”
“…Are you the Monster?”
“I’ve said it just now. I’m the Monster you guys are looking for.”
Zatoh said resolutely.
There was not a doubt anymore. Her secret mission or whatever didn’t matter. She has to kill him. Or if not, escape. Flee, call for reinforcements and kill this man. This was the rational decision. It was the natural course of action.
But why was it that Noloty couldn’t move?
She could smell the scent of some lie in Zatoh’s words. She was bothered by something. She felt like something didn’t fit.
In the battle between her reason and feelings, her feelings won.
“…Thinking about it, you thought I came here to kill you, right?”
“There’s a lot to think about. Certainly, if you’re the Monster, you need to be killed, but…
I’m not naïve enough to be fooled by such a lie.”
“What are you talking about?”
Noloty talked while desperately trying not to let her voice shake.
“I’m saying that you’re lying.”
Zatoh ground his teeth. He was trying to suppress the anger that nearly reached its boiling point with reason.
“Stop saying those stupid irresponsible things. That’s enough. Kill me already.”
Aah, as I thought, Noloty thought to herself. He’s bad at lying.
“If you were the Monster, you would have killed me long ago. Why would a person like that, who invaded Bantorra Library and killed some people, suddenly hesitate about killing me?”
Noloty clearly confirmed that Zatoh became slightly flustered by her words.
“I seek death. Killing you holds no meaning for me.”
“If I were to die, plenty of my seniors from the Library would come here. People such as the Director or Mattalast-san will gang up on you.
Wouldn’t it be easier that way?”
“‘Kill me because I’m the Monster’. If that’s what you want to say, you should have just attacked the Director and me without saying anything since the very beginning. Am I wrong?”
Zatoh downcast his face and went silent for a while. He then raised it.
“I see. I didn’t think of that.”
Oh no, Noloty thought.
Maybe I’ve made a huge mistake.
“Let’s try it then.”
Zatoh extended one hand towards Noloty. She fled backwards. She crashed into the pile of coal bags, which then collapsed and went down on her. While knowing this would happen, she had no choice.
The floor where Noloty stood before was burnt. Zatoh’s body began emitting sparks inside the dark warehouse.
This was also the Monster’s ability she heard about from Mirepoc. Lightning.
Saying so, Zatoh reached towards Noloty who was buried under the sacks of coal. Noloty mustered her entire body’s strength to stand up. She flung the sack on top of her towards Zatoh.
He lightly avoided the sack that came flying at him. However, she was able to buy enough time to roll towards the warehouse’s edge. Noloty stood up and turned around.
Once again, Zatoh’s hand shone with a blue light. Noloty immediately ran to the side. She would never be able to dodge the attack based on her sight. She had to move around and hope for good luck. She couldn’t do anything else.
She barely dodged the second lightning strike. Sacks of coal burst open and rained on Noloty.
“I told you not to move.”
Zatoh’s lightning struck the place at the warehouse’s entrance. Just before her body touched the door, it was wrapped in lightning and its hinge was blown off. Noloty dodged the collapsing door.
She didn’t manage to run away, but the door being open was a blessing in disguise.
After somehow avoiding the lightning strikes several times, she started running towards the exit-
And then, she noticed.
What have I been avoiding in the first place? Are my physical abilities so good that I can avoid lightning strikes coming at the speed of light? Only someone like Mattalast-san should be able to avoid them using his Prediction.
Zatoh’s hand glowed, and the next lightning strike came.
However, Noloty didn’t avoid it.
The lightning flew at her. This deadly attack hit in the distance of a meter from where Noloty was standing. Some sparks burnt Noloty’s bare feet, but that was all.
Zatoh went silent.
He didn’t send another attack. Nothing. He didn’t intend on hitting her from the very beginning. He opened the door with his lightning and tried to make her run away.
“…How kind of you.”
Zatoh embarrassedly turned his eyes away.
“I can’t think of you as the Monster at all. How did you manage to have such a drastic change of heart in just a month?”
“That’s enough. Just run away from here.”
“And what should I do when I run away?”
“Call another Armed Librarian here. It can be Hamyuts Meseta or anyone else.”
“Are you still saying that? There should be a limit to being stubborn.”
Then, Zatoh stared at Noloty with terribly serious eyes.
“You’re the stubborn one, Noloty.”
“Why won’t you kill me? There should be plenty of reasons. I called myself a Monster and attacked you. Even that should be enough to kill me.
You mustered your courage, made things hard for yourself again and again, but you still won’t kill me. Is your mission of saving me such an important thing?”
Now, it was Noloty who didn’t know what to say. What he said was true. She desperately searched for a reason not to kill him.
It was because Hamyuts had given her that mission. No, that wasn’t it. She answered,
“I just don’t like it.
Why are you only thinking about killing and whatnot?
Is something troubling you? That’s why you want to die and think that you have to? I told you I will save you. Or do you think I can help you if you don’t say anything?”
“This isn’t a matter of you wanting to die or me killing you, right?”
“I’ve had it with you. I’ll get killed by someone else.”
“Don’t talk to me.”
The lamp was broken by Zatoh’s lightning. As the slight flame that remained went off, the warehouse was wrapped in darkness.
I probably can’t do anything here anymore. Noloty turned her back to Zatoh.
“…I’ll come again.”
“And do what?”
“I don’t know. But if I won’t come, I can’t make anything happen.”
“Aren’t you afraid of me?”
Noloty asked finally,
“Why didn’t you kill me?”
She didn’t receive any answer. But when Noloty left the warehouse, she could faintly hear a voice coming from within the darkness.
“…Because I have killed too many people already.”
Noloty returned to the sheriff’s offices which were already empty. She sat on the sofa, put the newspaper on her knees and started thinking.
Who is this Zatoh?
Thinking about it plainly, he’s the Monster. He possesses the same abilities and admitted himself of being the Monster. However, he’s far too gentle for it.
What am I going to do now? Even without this top secret mission, I have to save him.
But if he’s really the Monster, I’m essentially betraying the Library.
Should she save him or not? Should she follow Hamyuts’s orders or… Noloty worried about those things.
Suddenly, a voice echoed inside her head.
‘Noloty, can you hear me?’
It was the Thought Sharing coming from Mirepoc, Noloty’s direct superior. Noloty took a piece of colored cloth from her back pocket in a hurry. This small banner, woven with Mirepoc’s hairs, was a Magic Tool designed to aid Thought Sharing. Without it, Noloty couldn’t send back her thoughts.
‘I hear you.’
‘I see. Because you’re far, we can’t keep this up for a long time. What about Luimon’s Book?’
Thinking about it, her current mission was the search for Luimon’s Book. Because she was so preoccupied with Zatoh’s matters, she forgot about it.
Frankly speaking about her current situation, she should probably back off the top secret mission, Noloty thought.
But thinking about it, Zatoh said he was the one who stole the Book. Whether or not it was true, she should at least report that now.
‘I found some suspicious person. I’m focusing on him.’
Mirepoc’s calm surprise was transmitted. She probably thought Noloty couldn’t resolve it on her own.
‘However, I still can’t fully grasp the situation. I don’t have enough information yet. I’ll report when I know more.’
‘Does it seem like the Book can be recovered?’
‘I still don’t know. I found the person who stole it, but as for the Book’s presence…’
‘I see. I’m sure you know this, but the retrieval of the Book is your top priority. Do you understand?’
She couldn’t answer that it was far from being so. If she were to say it, Mirepoc would come flying there from Bantorra in a rage.
‘I will also investigate the background of the crime.’
‘…You don’t have to do that.’
‘Please kill him.’
‘We’ll know the truth at the Library. There’s no need to keep him alive.’
Noloty didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t just agree with that order.
‘So you’re hesitating.’
Mirepoc’s disappointment was transmitted through.
‘I want you to realize already that your naiveté is inhibiting your growth.’
‘…I’m expecting a good report.’
This was the limit of Mirepoc’s ability. The Thought Sharing was cut off there. Noloty collapsed on the sofa and sighed deeply.
“Why are they all so focused on killing?”
Noloty clenched her fist and struck the sofa. Then, she stared at that fist.
Suddenly, she recalled the time when Luimon Mahaton was still alive.
Until half a year ago, Noloty’s training instructor had been Luimon. Mirepoc replaced him after his death.
“Why don’t you have a gun?”
Luimon said this to her a long time ago.
“Your fighting ability isn’t lacking. You’re definitely already stronger than me.”
Saying this, Luimon pointed at Noloty with his index finger. He lightly flipped his finger as if shooting.
“But you don’t have any sword or a gun.”
Luimon’s weapon was a rifle with a bayonet. His giant body and physical strength allowed him to lightly handle this weapon which was too big to wield normally. Compared to that, Noloty’s only weapons were her fists wrapped in straw rope.
Currently, many Armed Librarians used both guns and swords. A sword for when they were close, and a gun for when they were far.
Almost all of them were like that, except for people like Mattalast who specialized in a single weapon or people like Hamyuts who possessed special abilities. Noloty did not choose this extremely reasonable fighting style.
Instead, she chose the most irrational style – melee combat with her fists.
“I hate guns.”
Noloty answered Luimon’s question.
“Because they kill excessively. Even if you don’t want to kill someone, you may end up doing that.”
“You’re such a kind girl.”
While saying so, Luimon seemed to be worried.
“However, defeating enemies without killing them is several times harder than killing them. It requires being several times stronger and smarter, which you are not right now.”
Noloty didn’t say anything. He was absolutely right.
“Our job is, after all, managing death. We change the present into the past and contain the past as the past. Saving people is due to our morals, not our duty. We might get blamed for not killing people, but we will not be praised for it.
Even so, can you say with confidence that you don’t want to kill people?”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t become an Armed Librarian. I have the feeling your convictions will someday be fatal for you.”
“…Even so, I’ll work hard. Until I can win without killing.”
As Noloty answered so, Luimon gazed at her worriedly.
She recalled those events now.
“Why won’t you kill me?”
Zatoh had asked her.
Even Noloty could understand – the best solution was to kill him.
If he’s the Monster, he must be killed. She could look for Luimon’s Book afterwards. Because he belonged to the Indulging God Cult, Zatoh’s Book will not be found, but he must still be killed first and foremost.
Any reasons to follow Hamyuts’s orders were already slim.
If Hamyuts issued her orders while not knowing he was the Monster, her orders would become null and void. If she passed orders while she did know of it, Hamyuts would be the one to be held responsible.
And even if, say, Zatoh wasn’t the Monster, since he himself admitted on being the Monster, there shouldn’t be any problem killing him.
He must be killed. There was no other option.
But even so, Noloty didn’t want to kill people.
“I have killed too many people already.”
Noloty recalled Zatoh’s words. Zatoh didn’t try killing himself. Even though it would have been much more convenient for him than being killed. Still, he didn’t kill himself. She noticed she had some affinity to him.
Noloty was determined.
She wasn’t afraid of angering people. She also wasn’t afraid of getting fired.
While betting on her convictions, she will save that person. Noloty silently vowed this.
At the same time on the dark road. Zatoh left the coal warehouse and was walking in the city on his own. Since it was already late at night, it would be difficult finding another suitable place to lodge in.
Zatoh already stripped his blood-smeared clothes and changed. Even though he found a cheap hotel, he didn’t plan on staying there. He didn’t sleep in the warehouse because he had no money; it was because he could relax better in that sort of place.
Suddenly, Zatoh stopped walking. He stared at his hand.
That hand was trembling. It wasn’t normal. It trembled violently like the death throes of a dying insect.
Zatoh said. He felt this trembling when Noloty was tailing him and when he returned to the warehouse.
Stabbing himself like before would be inconvenient. He won’t be able to stay at a hotel if he were to scatter blood like that. Zatoh grabbed his convulsing pinky and twisted it backwards. A terribly dry sound resounded from his hand’s bones. It was the sound of bones cracking. He clenched his teeth at this pain that felt like it assaulted him from head to toe.
Although he broke one bone, his hand’s convulsions didn’t stop. He twisted his ring finger next. He bent the joints on his finger one by one such that they took the shape of a spiral.
When he touched his middle finger, the convulsions finally subsided. If he gave himself pain, the trembling would stop. The pain came out of his body and he sent it away.
The bones began regenerating. As he watched it happen, Zatoh thought,
The interval between each trembling is becoming shorter.
“I must die as soon as possible.”