One time Zatoh got out of the Book in the middle. He was a little tired. Only a small time had passed, but reading the Book exhausted his mind. He turned his head around and lightly pressed on his eyes.
“How do you find it?”
“Interesting. This boy who wants to become a monster… yeah, he’s interesting.”
Lascall, who stood by Zatoh’s side, sent him a curious look.
“However, wouldn’t you rather directly eat rather than read it? Isn’t that your ability?”
Zatoh answered while stretching his fingers again.
“Reading it is also interesting. I’m quite frankly tired of just eating.”
At that time, a huge wave suddenly appeared in the calm sea. It wet the corpse of the boy lying next to Zatoh and Lascall and receded.
Zatoh’s fingers once again touched Enlike’s Book.
Even after Enlike saw Qumola’s smile, the following days passed as usual without any change. Every day he simply sat on the beach to conduct his Magic Deliberation and improve the power and accuracy of his lightning. For a while, there was no night-time combat training. These days could have been called peaceful in a twisted way.
“That’s enough for today.”
Boramot announced. Enlike and the rest opened their eyes and stood up. Boramot started preaching like usual in front of them.
“Not even one of you had succeeded in your Deliberation today. I’m at the limits of my patience seeing your unsightly performance. If you don’t want to be killed, get stronger. Those who will not be able to will die. Don’t forget this. That’s it.”
Boramot’s sermon ended and the group dispersed. Enlike and the rest started returning to their caves like usual.
When Enlike was about to go back, Boramot called out to him.
“What’s wrong with you lately?”
Enlike returned a question because he couldn’t understand. Although the speed of his growth had slightly diminished, he still kept growing stronger.
“Lately, you haven’t been reading the Books about Hamyuts.”
Thinking about it, rather than him not reading them lately, it’s more like he forgot they existed.
“Did you already memorize Hamyuts’s capabilities? You don’t need to see them anymore?”
Boramot was wrong. Enlike’s purpose in reading the Books about Hamyuts wasn’t to check her capabilities in the first place. What he wanted to see was her smile.
Since denying it would be bothersome, he decided to leave it at that.
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Hmm… oh well. Keep making an effort so you can become a real monster.”
The two separated and each went back to their residence.
When Enlike came back, Qumola was wielding a hammer next to the bonfire for some reason.
“I’m sorry for breaking your cup, Kayas-san. I’ll try to fix it.”
“Oh man, that sucks.”
Kayas scratched his head.
“What am I going to do now?”
“Please use this one instead.”
“Is this a medicine bottle? It smells weird…”
“Ah, it’s fine.”
Kayas and Qumola talked in a friendly manner. Enlike carefully watched them doing so.
Ever since the day he saw Qumola’s smile, only one thing had changed – he began following her with his eyes. Whenever they were together, he would look at her face and movements.
Suddenly, Qumola noticed she was being watched. Their gazes met and it caused her body to shiver. The frightened Qumola went to hide behind Kayas.
Enlike averted his gaze.
“Anyways, it’s time to eat. Let’s all eat to our heart’s content and choke on it!”
After Kayas’s greetings, the usual meal time started. They also put the leftovers of the military rations inside the cloth in the middle like usual.
Then, something unusual happened.
Just before finishing his meal, Enlike still had a mouthful left. He decided putting it on the cloth for Qumola. Everyone there was staring at his face.
“What’s wrong, Enlike?”
Kayas asked without thinking.
Enlike answered bluntly.
“Umm, Enlike-san, you don’t need to worry for me…”
Qumola said with a small voice.
Feeling a bit lonely, Enlike picked up what he put on the cloth and tossed it inside his mouth. It was disgusting as usual.
He considered trying to talk to Qumola. He didn’t know anything about her. He only knew about her smile that he had seen only once and her timid appearance that was like a mouse.
Enlike wanted to know more about Qumola. However, she was terribly afraid of him. Whenever he would raise his voice towards her, her legs would shake. Whenever he looked at her, Enlike hesitated if he should try talking to her.
As meal time was over, the group began chatting. During this, Kayas was exchanging words with the others. Qumola was sitting all by herself besides him.
“Now that I think about it, Qumola.”
Kayas opened his mouth.
“I want to see your treasures.”
“Everyone gave them to you, right? Show us.”
Qumola made a small nod and ran to her cave.
“Here they are.”
She brought a small bag from the cave. She laid it in the center of the circle and sat there as well. Her position was such that her back was turned towards Enlike who sat a little farther.
“Not bad at all.”
“Oh, this is the one I gave you.”
“Who gave you that?”
The group was talking happily. Qumola who was at the center of attention also seemed to have fun. However, Enlike couldn’t take part in the conversation. Without saying anything, he simply stared at Qumola’s small back.
Feeling lonely, he finally left his spot. As Qumola and the rest were happily chatting amongst themselves, no one had noticed him.
“What is it, Enlike?”
Boramot poked out his face from inside the log cabin. Enlike had decided to come there.
“Do you want the read the Books about Hamyuts?”
Enlike shook his head to the side.
“Hmm, oh well. Come in.”
Enlike was invited inside. Boramot’s cabin was warm. On top of his table was a half-eaten canned meat, corn soup and a liquor bottle.
“What is it? Do you want to kill someone?”
Enlike shook his head.
“What’s wrong, Enlike? You’re acting strange lately.”
“I have a question. Why is Qumola here?”
“What’s wrong with Qumola? What will you do with that information?”
Boramot took a sip from his bottle and started talking.
“She’s a Meat like you brats. Since her mind is still close to a human being, I brought her thinking that she might be of use.”
“That’s it. Why are you asking?”
Boramot said in a bored tone. Enlike began thinking.
“Everyone seems to care about her. Why is that?”
As Enlike said this, Boramot looked even more bored.
“What, did you also start taking interest in the opposite sex?”
That way of speaking was more unpleasant than ever.
“That’s not what I mean. I’m just asking why everyone seems to care about her.”
After pouring more alcohol down his throat, Boramot answered.
“They’re a bunch of guys stuck on an island without knowing of the outside world. Even that sort of mouse will catch their interest.”
Enlike took offense in him calling her a mouse. He also thought that way of her, but Boramot saying it felt unpleasant to him.
“I have once seen her smile.”
“And what of it?”
“Why did she smile?”
Boramot snorted after hearing Enlike’s question.
“Because she’s a mouse. Give her some food and she will obviously smile. That’s all.”
Boramot gulped down the remaining liquor as if saying the conversation was over. Enlike felt that his eyes were telling him to go away if he didn’t have any further business.
However, that’s not what he wanted to hear. Enlike stood up while thinking about Boramot’s disappointment.
He returned in front of the bonfire. The fire was already gone and Qumola and the rest were nowhere to be seen. While staring at the bonfire’s traces, Enlike recalled Qumola’s small back and the faint smile he had seen her wear that day.
He let out that name with a small voice. There was no reply.
Enlike suddenly looked up to the sky. He could see a lone bird flying.
He shot out lightning. It shined in the night-time sky for an instant, and the bird fell down with a tailspin.
Enlike looked at the feathers of the bird that fell to his feet. Those bluish feathers looked pretty. He grabbed the bird’s neck and pluck out a slightly singed feather.
Days kept passing without any change.
Enlike’s abilities have visibly deteriorated. He failed at strengthening his Magic with the Deliberation and even in using lightning strikes which he worked so hard on perfecting until now. Also during that day, his lightning that was supposed to be able to travel about five meters struck instead in his immediate vicinity.
Enlike’s body bounced and fell on top of the sand. Boramot came up running in a hurry.
“What’s wrong, Enlike?”
Boramot’s tone was severe. As Enlike’s abilities deteriorated, Boramot also stopped giving him special treatment. His voice was the same as when he talked to the other guys, a mixed tone of scorn and anger.
Fortunately, he avoided a direct hit. Enlike rose while staggering.
“…That’s enough for you. Go back and let Qumola take care of you.”
“…Hey, Enlike. Get a hold of yourself.”
After saying this, Kayas tried lending a hand to him.
“He can go by himself. Continue your Deliberation!”
Boramot’s angry voice echoed. Enlike got up and dragged his aching body back to the cave where Qumola was.
Qumola stepped up towards the wounded Enlike who was returning to the cave. He then calmly gave her instructions.
“First, bring water. We need to cool the wound and then also let me drink a bit. Use the medicine afterwards.”
Just as she was told to, Qumola cooled off his wound and applied medicine. Both her hand movements and expression were clumsy. Seeing her fearfully touch him like that was somewhat sad.
There was no one around. Enlike thought – Maybe now I can talk to her.
Timidly, so as to not scare Qumola, Enlike raised a small voice.
Qumola started pitifully shaking even more.
“…What is it?”
She asked back in a fragile voice.
“Am I scary?”
After looking troubled for a while, she answered.
“Everyone says you’re scary.”
“What are they saying?”
“They say that you love killing and that you only think about which one of them you want to kill.”
It was not true. Enlike thought about telling her, but didn’t. If he were to say such thing, it would be like him declaring he is not a monster.
If he were to become a monster, he would be able to smile. Enlike still had this lingering regret.
“…Marlin-san, Veyzach-san and Lonkenny-san were all killed by you…”
“I had no choice.”
“We’re all here so we become monsters. If we can’t become monsters we will simply die.”
Qumola didn’t answer, and Enlike became sad again. He wanted to hear some affirmation or even a denial. The silence rejected him far more harshly than anything.
Even he didn’t know what to say. She applied his medicine using cotton.
“I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Some time before I’ve seen you smile. I want to know why you were smiling.”
Qumola’s hands froze.
“That didn’t happen. I haven’t smiled in a long time.”
“Do you remember Lonkenny’s seashell?”
“I’ve seen you smile when Kayas gave it to you.”
“Did that really happen?”
Qumola answered, confused.
“Did I smile?”
“Do you remember now? Why did you smile then?”
“When I received the shell, I thought that perhaps Lonkenny-san was still alive.”
Enlike was a bit disappointed. Is that all? He thought to himself.
“What will make you smile?”
“If everyone will stay alive, that will make me happy.”
The treatment was already over. Enlike stood up and turned his back to Qumola.
I feel like I’ve understood something.
Qumola could smile because there were people who cared for her.
That didn’t hold for Enlike. No-one cared about him, so he couldn’t smile.
For Enlike, who was all alone, the only way to smile was by fighting. Just like Ganbanzel said, just like Boramot said, he could only smile by fighting and killing.
However, he also felt that something was wrong.
Was this really his goal?
He shook off that question from his head. It was the only thing he could do.
From that day on, Qumola avoided Enlike even more than usual. Enlike was sad, but he didn’t try talking to her again.
More time had passed.
Enlike’s growth was still slow. There were those who began closing the gap among the group.
For example, Sasari. His ability allowed him to control water. The power of the high-speed water bullets he could shoot exceeded that of a normal handgun.
Although he was inferior to Enlike in his power to deal killing blows, the range and scope of his attacks were better than lightning.
One day, Sasari suddenly talked to him.
“Tonight. You and me.”
There was no combat practice in a long time. It was no longer conducted for Enlike’s sake. It would become a struggle to see who will survive and become a monster, Sasari or Enlike.
Sasari couldn’t hide the excitement on his face. He was trembling, probably due to that as well.
“I looked forward to this day.”
“Qumola will be happy if you die.”
Sasari said while smiling. The mention of Qumola’s name greatly upset Enlike.
“You know. Qumola hates you.”
That’s not true – he wanted to say, but didn’t. Qumola had a reason for hating him after all – it was because he kept killing her friends.