As the sun sank they set up camp. Arkit sat down on the ground completely exhausted and next to him Noloty stretched the tent and lit fire. She poured plenty of warm black tea and offered it to Arkit.
“It’s cold and the air’s dry, so if you don’t drink a lot you will ruin your body.”
Arkit received it obediently, probably because he was tired. He’s so cute like this, thought Noloty. I wish he’d always be tired.
While seeping the sweet black tea, Arkit spoke.
“We might be killed.”
“Kachua might kill us. If I bring you along Kachua will be angry.”
The Indulging God Cult never forgave traitors. It was quite likely.
“Then I’ll beat Kachua.”
Noloty said confidently. However, Arkit snorted and laughed.
“I don’t know what’ll happen to you though.”
“You’ll be killed by other Armed Librarians. Since you became my underling you are also a traitor. There’s no way they’d forgive you.”
“No, I think it’s fine though…”
They would definitely be mad at her, but will probably not kill her. Even at worst they will only demote her.
Noloty held her head.
“I don’t want to get demoted… I didn’t even pay back my loan yet… Ugh…”
Seeing her troubled, Arkit laughed.
“That’s great. Just die, you Armed Librarian. Having an idiot do stupid things and die for them is the best.”
His happy laughing eyes cussed at Noloty.
Those eyes… I thought we’d be able to talk happily but they reject it all. His eyes think of nothing other than fighting and killing.
A child shouldn’t have eyes like those. No, no one should.
The next day was clear.
“Wow, look at the sky!”
Since they got far from the dirty Toatt Mines, the air suddenly felt good. Noloty was looking up to the heavens in high spirits, and Arkit lowered his gaze. His eyes still thought only of battle.
The pair started walking. Noloty found all sorts of things along the way and spoke to Arkit. Grass wet with dew, migratory birds flying in the sky, a white fox peeking from afar… but none of those moved his heart. He never responded to Noloty in a child-like way.
I want to somehow make Arkit smile. If he smiles something will change in him, Noloty thought.
They approached a river. Noloty looked for a spot from which Arkit could also cross it. As they came to a rocky area, the both of them gasped.
A large school of salmons filled the river. They jumped from the water to land on the rocks, hit them and jumped again. Pushing and shoving each other through the rocky area, they were aiming upstream.
For the first time, Arkit let out a child-like voice. One salmon was blown away by its peers and landed at his feet. He picked it up. The salmon struggled, slipped from his small hands and fell. Arkit tried picking it up again. Noloty lent a hand. They returned the salmon to the river.
Arkit looked at Noloty with a surprised face.
“So even Armed Librarians do some good things.”
He muttered unexpectedly.
Arkit’s hatred of Armed Librarians seemed to be deep.
“Shall we go?”
Noloty said and started walking.
That day also turned to night. Noloty paid close attention to the surroundings while setting up camp and making fire. They had to be careful of things like wolves and bears, and the Cult’s followers that disappeared somewhere might also show up to attack.
Noloty put the roasted ham on a slice of bread and passed it to Arkit. He began to eat it restlessly.
The meat’s fat began bubbling up on the frying pan. Noloty wiped it off using bread and ate. Its saltiness made it delicious.
Arkit looked at Noloty’s meal.
“It looks good.”
“So eat yours too.”
She gave him the half-eaten bread and the frying pan. Noloty cut another piece of bread, spread salt on it and began eating.
Arkit seemed to have trouble eating it as he stuffed his cheeks.
“Say, Arkit. What kind of a person that Kachua guy is?”
“I don’t know him well. I only met him recently.”
“…I see, only recently.”
Saying so, Noloty soaked her bread in black tea.
She had a guess about what Arkit was for the Indulging God Cult. The Armed Librarians already knew about them.
Those who were allowed all their desires and pursue happiness by all possible means were known as True Men. The people known as False Men served the former and were used by them. They seemed to be working together in order to reach the place known as Heaven.
In the past, they fought the True Men Cigal who accumulated money. Ganbanzel sought strength. There was also Parney who wanted fame.
Arkit was probably also a True Man. Was his happiness the killing of Armed Librarians?
“Say… do you also want to go to Heaven?”
Arkit, who finished eating his bread and started sipping the sweet black tea, widened his eyes in puzzlement.
His way of saying it made Noloty also widen her eyes.
“You don’t know it? Isn’t it the place you guys want to reach?”
“Want to reach, where?”
“As I said, Heaven. It’s a place you go to after you die.”
“What are you talking about?”
“About the Indulging God Cult.”
Arkit tilted his head.
“Indoljing… is that some kind of religion?”
Noloty could not believe it. As far as she could tell by looking at his face he really didn’t know. He wasn’t a child good at lying.
“Don’t you know Cigal Crukessa and the like? They should be your comrades.”
“I don’t. Who’s that guy?”
“He was the person who spread Dragon Pneumonia in Toatt Mining Town last year.”
“Wasn’t that just some antigovernment organization? Why are they my comrades?”
“But he was a True Man from the Indulging God Cult…”
Her cup was blown away. The remaining tea covered Noloty.
“Don’t say such bullshit! As if those guys would be my allies! Don’t screw with me Noloty!”
“But it’s true…”
“They’re the worst! Didn’t they involve a lot of people up to the point they almost died? They’re even below Armed Librarians! Don’t lump me in with them!”
Arkit was truly angry.
“Sorry. I get it. I won’t say it again.”
Saying so, Arkit went inside the tent. Before that, he turned around and asked.
“Who were those guys you said?”
“The Indulging God Cult.”
“What is the most important person there called?”
“A True Man maybe? No, maybe the most important there is the Overseer of Paradise?”
“…Overseer of Paradise.”
Arkit entered his sleeping bag. After that he didn’t say anything until he fell asleep. Noloty also decided to sleep in preparation for tomorrow.
Inside her sleeping bag she was thinking. Arkit doesn’t know about the Indulging God Cult. So he’s just a person being used by them just like Mokkania-san and Enlike-san.
Even so, she still had some doubts. Just what were they using him for? He only made a sloppy terror attack. Furthermore, even if Arkit wasn’t there it would probably not affect the plan at all.
New questions were born inside of Noloty. Just who was Arkit?
The third day came. Arkit had even less stamina than she thought. She planned on arriving during that day, but it was most likely not going to happen.
While walking, the pair was blocked by a big rock wall. It was impossible for Arkit to climb over it. They couldn’t see any way to pass it either to the left or the right. Having no choice, Noloty carried him on her back.
“I think it would be scary for you, so don’t look down.”
Saying this, Noloty began climbing the rock. There’s no way she’d be able to climb it alone, Arkit worried while on her back. They would be in trouble if he got scared. They reached halfway through the rock and Arkit was quiet. Noloty was relieved and hurried ahead.
But still, just who is Arkit? What’s the aim of the Indulging God Cult? Noloty was thinking while climbing. No ideas came to her. It was probably useless for her to think of this anyway. She had no choice but to beat up that Kachua guy and ask him.
While thinking of this, they reached the summit. The rest seemed to gently slope down so Arkit should probably be fine walking on his own legs.
When she took Arkit off her back, her heart skipped a beat. At some point without her noticing he held a knife. It was the one she used to cut the bread and ham the other night. Even that kind of knife would be enough to cut her carotid artery from behind.
She forgot that Arkit wanted to kill himself. She also forgot he had said that he would be satisfied with killing an Armed Librarian in exchange for his life.
“U-umm, I’d like you to not do such things.”
“…You really are stupid.”
Arkit said, returning the knife. He probably thought that Noloty was angry. Which was obvious. Everyone would be angry. It wouldn’t even be strange if she were to kill him.
But Noloty was different.
“Please stop that. You really scared me.”
Saying so, she put the knife away.
“I really don’t get you.”
“What is it with you? Why aren’t you mad? Is something wrong with your head?”
She couldn’t understand what he said. She didn’t even think of becoming angry.
“Really, why’s a person like you an Armed Librarian?”
Noloty felt vexed at these words. Strictly speaking she wasn’t an Armed Librarian, but she decided to not mention it.
“Yeah, but I’m doing my best… and I’m also quite strong.”
“That’s not what I meant…”
Arkit lowered his pained gaze.
“Since there’s someone like you in the Armed Librarians, why did they do such a thing?”
“Or maybe it’s still like that even with people like you? Killing people without any reason and buying their lives with money?”
Noloty was speechless.
“…What are you talking about?”
Arkit didn’t reply. From that moment on, followed by the sun setting, them eating and then going to sleep, he didn’t say anything and didn’t reply to any words.
Noloty kept thinking inside the tent lit by lamplight.
Armed Librarians killed people without any reason and bought their lives with money. It was the first time Arkit let his true opinion be known.
“Arkit, is all this for revenge?”
She spoke to the boy sleeping next to her. She knew that he was awake.
“Yeah. The Armed Librarians killed everyone that was important to me without any reason.”
The Armed Librarian certainly did fight as their job. They also killed people. But there shouldn’t have been people who were killed for no reason. There were some exceptions, though.
“Was it the Director?”
“No. The one who killed them wasn’t Hamyuts.”
That seemed right. She was abnormal, but she wouldn’t fight any unrelated people. He would probably not come to hate the Armed Librarians because of Hamyuts.
Besides, Hamyuts was supposed to be known as a protector of peace to the general public. She prevented the invasion of the Guinbex Empire, monitored the peace agreement between the countries, and resolved numerous terrorism incidents. Without knowing her personality one would think she was an ally of justice.
“So who killed whom?”
Arkit didn’t say anything.
“If you don’t tell me I can’t understand.”
“Who said I want you to understand?”
Although Arkit slightly opened up, he still refused as stubbornly as ever.
“The Armed Librarians do fight as their job. They also kill people. But that’s only when there’s nothing to do but kill.”
Arkit’s shout echoed in the silent wintry mountain.
“…Why even you started saying things like that? I thought that you’d be able to understand…”
Then she only heard silence. However, Noloty knew that at the other side of the darkness he was crying. She got out of the sleeping bag and gently put her hands on Arkit’s body.
Noloty kept stroking his body until he stopped crying.
“…Did you calm down?”
She called out to Arkit who turned his back to her. When she saw he stopped crying, she removed her hand.
“Why are you doing all this?”
“I don’t have a reason. I just don’t want to let you die.”
“Liar. There has to be something. You’re just trying to use me.”
“No. The ones using you are the Indulging God Cult.”
“Kachua’s no liar.”
Their opinions just couldn’t mesh together. Noloty couldn’t compromise. The Armed Librarians weren’t bad; Noloty believed so.
“I’m not lying. You really are important to me. These are my true feelings.”
“No. You want to use me. You’re actually planning something deep inside you. I’ll never believe what someone like you says. I’ll never listen to what someone like you says.”
“…So, if I prove to you it’s true, will you believe me?”
Arkit sank into silence as if he was caught off-guard.
“I will not use you. I act only for you. If I’m able to prove that, then believe what I say and listen to me. That’s what I mean.”
Arkit made a small nod inside his sleeping bag.
“Then I’ll prove it. I haven’t decided how to do that, but I will. Because I’m serious. Good night.”
Noloty also turned her back to Arkit. And she then tried to sleep.
“If you’re serious I should be able to know. I’m not wrong. The Armed Librarians are the worst. If you can’t understand that, I can’t believe in you.”
“Kachua understands. So I believe him.”
She made no reply. Noloty just closed her eyes and fell asleep.
She was now able to understand what the man called Kachua did to Arkit.
Arkit had someone close to him killed. His family, or perhaps his friend, she didn’t know.
And that person was probably a follower of the Indulging God Cult.
Kachua approached Arkit and explained the situation to him while concealing the information about the Indulging God Cult. Thereby he induced him to hate the Armed Librarians.
But even with that there was something she couldn’t understand.
What was the Indulging God Cult trying to make Arkit do?
Each buried in their own thoughts, the pair sank into sleep. Late at night, when dawn was approaching, a figure appeared close to their tent.
He was the Overseer of Paradise, Kachua. He stood motionlessly in a place about ten meters to the side of the tent.