From the beginning of her teens and until she was eighteen years old, Noloty was in Librarian School. Funded by Bantorra Library, it was a school meant to raise Armed Librarians. There were no tuition fees. People who needed it received financial support.
It was a privileged environment, but in exchange the years of their youth would be difficult. In addition to regular studies there was harsh battle training. Because those who didn’t have satisfactory results would be kicked off immediately, the children had to spend even their scarce free time on training. After a month the amount of students was halved. Among the remaining children, only one in a hundred would become an Armed Librarian.
On the same day as her thirteenth birthday, Noloty’s training of fundamental martial arts has been completed. It was time for the children start their Magic Deliberation. They started learning their preferred abilities.
On that day, Ireia visited Noloty’s school. She had served there as the chief executive for teaching her juniors for nearly twenty years.
Ireia spoke to the children in a friendly manner.
“Although there is nothing wrong with using guns, you should be able to fight even without them.”
One of the students nodded. He immediately went to the instructors in order to receive advice on how to train his body.
“I think that you are aiming for a much too strong ability. How you use it is more important than how strong it is.”
The student told this started thinking. Ireia was teaching one child at a time in this fashion. Hearing what kind of ability they were going to use, she gave them adequate and detailed advice.
She came to Noloty. Seeing she had straw rope wrapped around her arms, Ireia made a puzzled expression.
“What do you use this rope for?”
Noloty answered nervously.
“I use it to protect my fists’ bones.”
“A good idea. But it makes handling things hard, does it not? Unless you are careful your gun or sword will slip.”
“No, I don’t hold anything.”
“Oh my, how rare in this day and age. What kind of an ability do you use?”
“I don’t have any special ability. I fight using only my fists.”
Ireia tilted her head, confused.
Fighting unarmed would make one weak. Needless to say it couldn’t beat guns or swords. Even holding a single stick would be stronger than fighting bare-handed. No matter how well-trained, the human body could not become as hard as steel.
In addition, those who are strong barehanded will still be strong no matter which weapon they use. Regardless of one’s reasons, fighting unarmed shouldn’t even be a choice.
“Why are you fighting barehanded?”
Noloty struck her palm. She wanted her to ask that.
“Because it’s easier to hold back like that. I can go easy on people by attacking not with my fists but with the heels of my palms, kicking with my heels, striking the area around the calf and such. I can also grab and subdue them or twist their joints – I have many ways to beat people without killing them.”
“I see… so that is what this is all about.”
Saying so, Ireia grabbed Noloty and threw her. Since she was among the most physically powerful among the Armed Librarians, Noloty’s body flew away like a ball.
“Why are you thinking of going easy on enemies when you cannot even beat them?”
Ireia said to the collapsed Noloty. At that moment the other children spoke in.
“Noloty’s weird. She says that even if she becomes an Armed Librarian she doesn’t want to kill people.”
“A strange child. Then, why did she want to become an Armed Librarian?”
Ireia tilted her head. Enlike also felt the same. Noloty wanted to become an Armed Librarian but did not want to kill people – she had embraced this inconsistency ever since she was a child.
Even when the kids around laughed at her and Ireia was angry at her, Noloty didn’t abandon her unarmed combat. And the price she paid for it was not small.
A few years later, Noloty went to see the results sheet affixed to the bulletin board.
Her grades were in the fifth place from the bottom out of fifty people. Everyone below the fortieth place except Noloty left the Librarian School.
Her chosen subject’s grades have reached the standard. Her motor skills and reflexes were close to the top. However, those didn’t have any meaning if she didn’t grow stronger in battle. Fighting unarmed was far too big of a handicap.
One of the students came to talk with her.
“The principal told you to come to her office.”
Noloty hung her head. There was no way she wouldn’t know what she wanted of her.
“I am sure you’re aware of it, but what we’re doing here is not charity work. We’re not just raising children, but raising Armed Librarians. We spend a lot of money on that.”
In front of her was the principal of the Librarian School. Noloty was handed a notice that her scholarship was to be discontinued. The fact that it wasn’t an expulsion was probably done out of kindness.
“It’s not impossible for you to stay at this school. But you probably cannot pay the tuition fee. If you still aim to become an Armed Librarian you will have to borrow money from the Library.”
Noloty nodded. It was impossible for her hometown to give her money no matter how she thought of it.
“Is that fine? It’s an amount you can pay back if you become a trainee, but if not you will be in debt for decades.”
“I will become a trainee. No, I will become an Armed Librarian.”
“For you it’s…”
The principal was hesitant. She couldn’t tell a student it was impossible.
“I have something to ask. You once used a mock gun to fight against Rolatza, right?”
Rolatza was the person who had received the best grades. Although she later became a trainee, she made very little progress afterwards, gave up and became a normal librarian.
“I heard that you were dominant at that time.”
That was true. It wasn’t that Noloty couldn’t use guns and swords. Rather, she might have even been better than the other students at handling them.
“I’ve always wondered… why won’t you use weapons? Why do you purposely create a handicap for yourself?”
“I’ve thought of trying to use them. But then I realized it wouldn’t be good.”
“Even when using weapons I ended up looking for ways to hold myself back. If it’s a game using a mock gun I can fight with my full power. But, if I do image training with battle in mind, I just can’t fight like that. So in the end I’m stronger when unarmed.”
“So you hate killing people that much.”
“If you become an Armed Librarian there will come a day where you have to kill. The job of an Armed Librarian isn’t just diving in the Labyrinth.”
“There will never be a time where I have to kill. That’s why I will become stronger.”
“Why did a child like you think of becoming an Armed Librarian?”
“…For my hometown. If I don’t become an Armed Librarian it will be destroyed.”
“Then you have even more reasons to use weapons. You have no leeway to think about your enemy’s wellbeing.”
“No. Both the enemy and the village are of the same importance to me.”
“…I don’t get it.”
The two sank into silence for a while. Before long, Noloty raised her downcast head and smiled.
“Don’t make such a face. Everything will be fine. I just have to make more of an effort than before, so it’s not a big deal at all.”
“Not a big deal? Even your training now is going to be harsh.”
“It’s fine. No matter how hard it is, it will all be fine. Because I will be the only one to suffer.”
Saying this, Noloty smiled. The principal then muttered.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a student smile when their scholarship is terminated…”
“I see. If you can keep smiling even while suffering you are welcome to stay in this school. However, if you become unable to smile please quit.”
Noloty said and smiled sweetly.
“I just have to make more of an effort than before” – Noloty put these words to practice.
She kept training in every spare minute. However, since days only had 24 hours, she reached her limit. Therefore, Noloty worked on improving the quality of her training.
She asked stronger Armed Librarians or trainees to help her with real combat training. Noloty was the kind of person who grew stronger by losing. She was beaten and defeated again and again. She challenged in order to be defeated and fought in order to be beaten. Injured on every inch of her body, she grew stronger little by little.
She trained her fist to be able to scrape bones. She ran and ran until she collapsed and couldn’t move. She conducted Magic Deliberation until just before her mind fell into chaos. With that many sacrifices Noloty was finally able to raise her grades to the standard of the other students.
Still, her promotion to a trainee, let alone an Armed Librarian, was still far away.
On a certain day she met someone. It happened when she was pounding the ground on Bantorra Library’s backyard in order to temper her fists. The student called Volken came to speak with her.
During that period of time Volken was the talk of the town. He, who was said to be a genius comparable to Mattalast and rumored to become a future Acting Director, had refused promotion to become a trainee.
That same Volken spoke with Noloty now.
“You’re Noloty-san, right?”
She knew who he was with a single glance, but he apparently didn’t know much about her. Volken was an elite with a bright future ahead and Noloty was simply mediocre.
“There’s something I’d like to consult with you about. Do you have some time?”
“I don’t mind if it’s me you want, but…”
“I probably have no one but you to consult about this.”
I wonder why, thought Noloty.
“You might be aware of this, but I declined becoming a trainee. It’s about the reason for that.”
Saying this, Volken drew out a Dancing Blade and made it fly. It floated in air and returned to his hand. It was extraordinarily fast. He will probably be able to become an Armed Librarian even with just the power of the Dancing Blades which wasn’t his original ability.
“I’m afraid of killing people. I heard that you’re also worried about the same thing.”
“You’re afraid of it?”
“Yes. I have the resolution needed to die in battle. But I’m still not ready to kill. Therefore, I can’t go out to a real battlefield yet. How do you think I can gain the resolution to kill people?”
Noloty certainly had similar worries. She now understood why he came to consult her.
“I will probably not be able to help you. Please ask other people.”
After saying this, Noloty hung her head. Their problems were fundamentally different. Volken wanted to become able to kill people, but Noloty did not.
“Is that so…”
Volken probably did not understand the reason for her refusal. At that moment, another person joined the conversation.
“What are you doing? If you’re looking for advice let me join in.”
It was the Armed Librarian Mattalast. He spoke in an easygoing manner.
“It’s probably something you wouldn’t understand, Mattalast-san.”
Volken said. Noloty interjected at that point.
“No, I believe that Mattalast-san would understand it better.”
“Is that so?”
Volken was somewhat surprised.
There was a reason Noloty said this. Mattalast was a kind person; he connected with any person, whether they were his friends or not, without any discrimination. But at the same time, he was dreadful enough to kill his enemies without wavering. Volken probably needed that sort of attitude.
Volken spoke to Mattalast of his situation.
“I see, so that’s why.”
Mattalast thought for a while.
“You’re probably overthinking this. Killing people isn’t that hard.”
“But it’s not like I want to become a murderer. If an Armed Librarian loses their human heart they will become worthless.”
“That’s true. You should just be yourself.”
Saying this, Mattalast drew his gun and pointed it at Volken.
“The thing needed to kill people… is simple resignation. You don’t need to hate them. You don’t need any resolution either. Just by giving up, people can kill their brethren.”
Volken was probably not the only one whose heart stung hearing those words. Or rather Noloty was the one to receive a shock by that.
“Most people think, ‘I don’t want to kill’. Leaving aside exceptions such as the Director, anyway.
So they give up. They give up on the desire to not kill anyone. It’s not difficult. Giving up on something is much easier than the opposite.”
Volken thought for a while as if holding something in his grasp.
“If possible it’s better to not give up. Because it’s better for people not to die than the opposite. However, giving up is also necessary.”
Noloty who stood on the side also heard Mattalast.
Give up not killing anyone. Those words fell heavily inside her head.
“By the way, is this girl a fan of yours, Volken?”
Mattalast brought up Noloty as a topic. She became sullen.
“N-no, I’m a student.”
“Ah, I see. So you’re both a student and his fan. Sorry for interrupting.”
Saying this, Mattalast started leaving. Noloty was troubled. If she denied it too badly it would be rude to Volken.
“Mattalast-san, don’t make fun of Noloty-san.”
“I did make fun of her, but not of you.”
“I say, you…!”
“I’ve found an interesting kid in today’s harvest.”
Mattalast cackled and Volken sighed. Meanwhile, Noloty kept hearing the words “give up” in her mind.
Noloty studied techniques and tactics by reading the Books of past Armed Librarians.
While seeing the people inside the Books killing other people, she thought of Mattalast’s words again and again.
Give up on not killing people… can I even do that? If I don’t, will I even be able to become an Armed Librarian?
As time passed the only thing she was able to accumulate were her debts.
One day, one of her juniors came to talk to her. It was Mirepoc who had quickly turned from a soldier to a trainee.
“You don’t have to call me that… No, you really don’t have to. You’re the one above me in rank, Mirepoc-san.”
“Right… yeah, that’s true. I understand, Noloty-san.”
Mirepoc seemed to be a bit hard to speak with.
“I came to complain a little about your attitude.”
“You seem to be unwilling to kill people. People like Mattalast-san and Volken-san have praised you as a kind person because of that, but I don’t think so.”
It was a sudden complaint, but Noloty didn’t feel uncomfortable. Mirepoc was probably volunteering to take that thankless role for Noloty’s sake.
“I believe that’s only escapism. You’re neither brave nor kind.
Because even if you don’t kill someone, other people will. Even other people find killing unpleasant. It just seems like you push this unpleasant job on them.”
While answering, Noloty smiled only very slightly.
“Because if I don’t kill, at least one person will stay alive, right? So it’s better that way.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“You really are stubborn. I now understand why Ireia-san’s so troubled.”
But Noloty’s heart trembled while hearing this. Not killing people… she wondered if she could persist in this ideal.
After many efforts, Noloty gradually increased her grades. But that path was slow. Even when she dove into the Labyrinth for real combat training she had made a blunder. She got lost and when she was surrounded by Guardian Beasts she was rescued by Ireia. Noloty faced her at the entrance to the Fifth Labyrinth.
“I thought you were getting better lately, but this again?”
Ireia reprimanded her with a friendly smile.
“What are we going to do with you?”
“I will get stronger.”
“You always say this.”
“I have nothing else. I will get stronger.”
Ireia spoke to the other students.
“We will finish here for today. You all can go back. Noloty-san will stay behind.”
It was usual for her to be mad at Noloty, but this time something felt different from usual. Ireia’s expression seemed to indicate she had reached some sort of decision.
“I have told you this again, and again, and again, but this is impossible for you. Even in the unlikely chance that you become a trainee or an Armed Librarian, you will definitely die. Are you not going to make any decision?”
“I’ve made it. I’ll become an Armed Librarian.”
“I see. So I have made a decision, too.”
At that moment, Noloty made a huge leap backwards. Ireia did nothing; she was standing quietly. Yet Noloty couldn’t help but withdraw.
“I like you. Therefore, I do not want to see you get killed at the hands of some trifling enemy.”
Noloty froze. She started running as if she was being whipped.
Ireia’s charge was more terrifying than the attack of a tank. Noloty avoided her protruding arm. She felt as if the wind pressure created by the attack gouged some of the flesh on her face.
Was she serious? Those immediately vanished with Ireia’s assault.
Noloty ran while brushing against Ireia’s side. She won with her reflexes and leg speed. She was now only escaping.
But it was meaningless – one glare from Ireia could manipulate the flow of time. Noloty’s legs started slowing down. Her head got grabbed and she was turned around. She was held up with her back against the cold wall.
Noloty hit Ireia’s stomach and face with her fists. Her lips were cut and she started bleeding from her nose. Yet her heavy, hard body did not move.
“Great punches. How regrettable.”
She exerted strength in her fingers holding Noloty’s head. Noloty kept hitting her. She did so determinedly. While being beaten, Ireia waited for something.
A short scream that did not form any words leaked from Noloty’s mouth. A tremendous explosive sound resounded inside her head. Even if someone beat a bass drum next to her ear it would be much quieter. It was the sound of her skull cracking.
Ireia released her hand. Noloty’s body collapsed. Gently catching her, Ireia carried her on her back.
“Even when you were on the brink of death your fists still lacked the drive to kill.”
Noloty could not answer in her present condition.
“The problem is not that you are stubborn or anything like that. It is as if you do not even listen to other people’s advice. Even using force does not change you.
What are we going to do with you? What can be done with a child like you?”
Just like that, Noloty was brought to the hospital wing.
Even when her skull was healed, the ringing in her ears did not stop. A storm was brewing inside her head. It was so loud that she couldn’t even sleep at night.
Voiced were mixed in the sounds of the storm. They were the voices of the many people she had met so far. ‘What are we going to do with you?’ ‘That’s only escapism.’ ‘I’m scared of killing.’ ‘Noloty senpai.’ ‘It means a debt.’
“Shut up, please be quiet…”
Noloty muttered so at the insects flying on the ceiling.
The ringing didn’t stop. They kept whispering to her. ‘…fight against Rolatza…’ ‘Don’t forget, Noloty.’ ‘Great punches. How regrettable.’ ‘I think that is miserable.’ ‘You don’t need hatred.’ ‘The world.’ ‘Even Ireia-san was shocked.’ ‘You still don’t have the resolution to kill.’
“I know it, so be quiet!”
Noloty said to the ringing. She covered her head with the blanket, but the voices echoing in her head only grew louder.
“You’re too loud, please, really, be quiet…”
At that time, she noticed there was a sound outside the window. It wasn’t the ringing or an auditory hallucination. It was the barking of a stray dog.
Noloty got up. She went outside with her body swaying and walked towards the dog.
‘It’s simple. Don’t think too hard about it.’
She heard a voice inside her head. The dog at her feet was howling.
‘Just give up. Give up on not killing people.’
She heard a voice inside her head. She noticed for the first time that the devil’s voice wasn’t eerie, but a sweet, gentle voice.
The dog was loud. She couldn’t kill humans, but had a feeling that she could kill this dog. Normally she couldn’t do it, but right now she could.
If she could give up with this dog, she could probably also do so with people.
However, some time passed. The dog ran away at some point. Noloty stood still in place. She certainly did think of killing it, but her body didn’t move.
Noloty laughed and leaned her body listlessly on the wall. Her back slowly slipped down and she sat on the ground.
This is impossible, thought Noloty. I’ll probably never feel this way again. Even at such a time I couldn’t kill a single dog. It seems like killing people is impossible for me.
By thinking so she felt better. As her doubts cleared, the ringing also grew quieter.
“Thinking of it, it really isn’t a big deal.”
Noloty muttered. She was the only one to worry about her not killing people. It was only a matter of her worrying, trying to make an effort and solving it. It really wasn’t a big deal at all.
Then let’s give up. I will no longer hesitate.
Noloty looked up at the starry sky and smiled. She noticed for the first time that the stars were beautiful that night.
And just like that Noloty gave up on killing people. She gave up on giving up.
Enlike couldn’t understand it. He gave up on not killing people without a moment’s hesitation. He couldn’t believe Noloty was unable to give up.
Just saying she was kind wasn’t enough of a reason. Did she have an important reason for why she could not kill?
He had once asked Noloty that while she was alive. Enlike thought back to that time.