Present – December 28, 1926
Young men were working busily in the party hall’s kitchen. They were not the hall’s workers, but Armed Librarian trainees.
If normal people were involved in the quarrels between Armed Librarians they wouldn’t be able to avoid serious injuries. If that happens it would become a serious felony despite it being a party.
Therefore, the trainees, who had less chances of being injured, were forced to work there.
“Heeey you trainees. Dooon’t slack oooff!”
The new Armed Librarian and head chef Rizzly came to hit the heads of the trainees. None of them were slacking off though, only being pestered.
Rizzly had the worst personality, but he had high-level offensive capabilities. Although the trainees thought he was annoying, they couldn’t defy him.
“Shit, this is no work for an Armed Librarian…”
“Even Enlike-san was better than this…”
“I’ll pay him back someday!”
The trainees worked while complaining.
There was one exception among them. It was the boy washing dishes in a corner of the kitchen, Yankuu Kuin.
He was noticeably young even among the trainees. He seemed to be around fifteen or even less than that. Although he was slender, his body was lean and well-toned. For some reason he was injured all over his body.
He wore a short shirt that exposed his midriff and both shoulders as well as leather pants. Most of his hair was short except for a part behind his head which grew long and was tied on his back.
He had gentle features but they seemed somewhat blank for some reason. However, an intelligent light could be seen in his eyes. He was the only one there to not complain at all and simply work in silence.
“Yankuu! If you’re finished with the dishes come peel this potato!”
Rizzly threw a bucket with all of its contents at Yankuu. He caught it expertly without spilling anything.
“Don’t slack off even while I’m not here.”
Saying that, he loaded both hands with large dishes and went back to the hall.
Once he was gone, the trainees started spouting out their discontent.
“He’s like a tyrant, doesn’t it piss you off, Yankuu?”
A trainee spoke to him as he poured some sour sauce. Yankuu answered calmly.
“Nothing to do about it. It’s our fault we’re weak.”
“You’re so mature… ah, my shoulders are stiff.”
The other trainees turned their heads.
“I wonder if we’re always going to be treated like that… if only Noloty was still alive it would’ve been a bit better.”
The moment he said this, he heard someone reprove him with ‘you idiot’ in a small voice from behind. The trainee at the back kept talking as if forgetting who was in front of him.
“…You don’t have to mind it too much.”
Yankuu said while pulling out a potato from inside the basket.
“I’ve already accepted what happened to Big Sis Noloty.”
The trainee said with a somewhat uneasy expression. However, he couldn’t help but feel so. Everyone there knew just how much Yankuu had grieved Noloty’s death.
Yankuu Kuin. He came from the same village as Noloty. He was a boy who admired her and wanted to become an Armed Librarian.
Yankuu hadn’t participated in the fight against the Indulging God Cult even once. Around the Dragon Pneumonia Incident he just reached the age of thirteen and was able to complete his Magic Deliberation. Even if he fought, he would have just been a burden.
Yankuu was happy when he heard of Noloty’s activities in his Librarian School in Rona. He hadn’t told her he was aiming to become a Librarian. He had the feeling that if he did she would spoil him. Even Noloty would probably be envious of how they took care of him. He didn’t like it.
Now he regretted it.
He might have been a burden to Noloty and he might have been completely useless, but even so, he wanted to fight along with her. If possible, he would have liked to die instead of her.
Both after he came to know of Noloty’s death, as well as during the Rebellion afterwards, Yankuu could do nothing but stay in the Librarian School lodgings and listen to the radio.
It happened two weeks after the Deep Blue Curse Rebellion. Inside the reading room below Bantorra Library Yankuu read Noloty’s Book. Since it was the time for Bantorra Library’s Archives to be closed, there were no people around other than Yankuu and Mirepoc. Among this silence, even the sound of putting the Book from the table into a box sounded terribly loud.
“I had no idea… either about you nor of Noloty’s village.”
Mirepoc said, dropping her gaze.
“Even though I supervised her for a year she hasn’t told me anything. She wasn’t able to trust me after all…”
“What did you think about Big Sis?”
“…Actually, I thought of her as my rival. An opponent that I couldn’t bear losing against. But now she’s gone to a place I can’t reach.”
“Noloty is the hero of Bantorra Library. They will speak of her name along with Enlike-san for all eternity. It’s already far beyond my reach.”
Yankuu hit the desk with his fist. The sturdy oaken desk crumbled into pieces of wood.
“Why did she have to fall as low as becoming a hero?”
Living for a single day was much more precious than her name being spoken of forever. Noloty was that kind of person. Even the entirety of Bantorra Library couldn’t equal Noloty’s life.
She was that sort of person.
After reading Noloty’s Book, Yankuu returned to the Librarian School. The principal spoke in front of all of the students and told them that they had to fill up the holes created by the Armed Librarians who’ve died in battle. He expected each and one of them to make even more efforts.
Then he called up Yankuu by name and made him stand.
“You above all else have the most outstanding talent this Librarian School has seen since Mokkania. There is nothing to criticize about your behavior or enthusiasm. All of you, take Yankuu as a model, and train yourselves in readiness to surpass him.
Keep your efforts without priding in your talent, Yankuu, so you could succeed the fallen Armed Librarians.”
Yankuu made a small response and sat down. However, he could understand; while he might have been able to fill up the hole of Ireia or Mokkania, no one would ever be able to replace Noloty.
No matter how strong one was, they would not be able to fill the hole left behind by her.
Just as the principal said, Yankuu used to be an exemplary student. His strength increased dramatically. His conduct and training were perfect.
But that Yankuu has changed. Noloty’s hole opened up in his heart.
The principal stopped Yankuu in the middle of a sparring match between students. He stopped him by shooting. It was such a situation where he wouldn’t be able to restrain him with words in time.
Yankuu stopped in place as if frozen, blood spurting from his shoulder. In his hand was a wooden short sword. Its tip was stopped three centimeters away from his opponent’s chest.
His opponent was caught by some clay-like substance from his waist down. His eyes were wide open in fear.
“No matter if it’s a wooden sword, if you put too much weight into it, that would end badly if it pierces.”
“Sorry, I got caught up in the heat of the moment.”
He said and jumped aside. Not only his head was in heat. It was also his heart, his breath, and his entire body.
“Free the restraints.”
Yankuu released his Magic Right. The clay apprehending his opponent’s waist melted and disappeared. Not even a speck of dust was left behind.
Yankuu’s ability was the control of mud. He could produce and release mud from inside his body. Its nature changed freely with Yankuu’s will; He could make it solidify to turn it as hard as rock, or melt it down so it would turn like gum, jelly or even water.
Its lethality was low, but on the other hand its other applications were unprecedented. His ability was still in development, but were he to prefect it he would probably become a warrior on the level of Volken or Vizac.
“Sorry, I overdid it.”
Yankuu apologized to his opponent. The principal then spoke to him.
“You were also careless. You didn’t have a proper sense of danger just because your opponent was Yankuu.”
“Although you’re training, fight as if it’s the real thing. If you think you would have died then re-discipline yourself. And Yankuu: this isn’t real combat. Go to your room for three days.”
The students watching the course of events muttered among themselves.
“What’s wrong with you, Yankuu?”
He wanted to say “nothing” but stopped himself.
Just like Noloty, Yankuu hated hurting people. He had thought he was a person who couldn’t kill.
However, Yankuu recently started questioning this. Something brutal was being born in him. Or perhaps something was waking up.
It was decided that Yankuu had enough of an ability to be promoted to a trainee. In order to receive the formal approval, Yankuu and the Librarian School’s principal were headed to Bantorra Library. It was unlikely for his promotion to be refused after the School approved it. Actually, it had the implication that this will be his debut.
“There weren’t even five people among the Armed Librarians that were promoted to a trainee when they were fifteen. But don’t think of this as an honor. What’s important is not when you become an Armed Librarian but what you do as one.”
The principal said before they passed through Bantorra Library’s gates.
“You have probably already been notified, but your inspector will be Mattalast. Listen well to what he has to say.”
They came together to Mattalast’s desk. He stopped his hand that was writing something and stood up. After he and the principal exchanged greetings briefly, he extended his hand to Yankuu.
He grabbed it back. It was a soft handshake, but he could still feel Mattalast’s frightening strength from it.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Mattalast. This principal forced me to take care of a problem child like you.”
He probably expected him to be diplomatic about the whole business. However, Mattalast had been frank.
“A problem child? Me?”
“No honors student would get punished five times in half a year, right? Furthermore all of those punishments were about you overdoing your training battles.”
Mattalast hit the documents on his desk. The incidents caused by Yankuu were written on them. During these six months Yankuu’s good conduct became a thing of the past. Something violent welled up within him and he couldn’t restrain himself.
“Even if the job of an Armed Librarian is fighting, people who can’t show the minimum restraint will be punished. Just what happened to you?”
Mattalast made the principal leave and faced Yankuu alone.
“The reason is Noloty, right?”
“She was a good kid. It’s natural for you to be dragged along. But a year has passed. I think it’s time for you to find some solution.”
Yankuu shook his head to the side.
“I’ve already made up with it. I’m just angry and can’t do anything about it.”
“At the Indulging God Cult?”
“I don’t understand.”
Yankuu answered frankly. The Indulging God Cult had been destroyed and so both Kachua and Daltom, the one to kill Noloty, have already died. So there was no need to keep being angry. He understood this, yet his anger was yet to calm down. He wasn’t able to find anyone he could hit.
“Anger with no outlet, huh. Troublesome.”
Mattalast held down his hat and picked up the documents from the desk.
“I think it’s fine for you to graduate the Librarian School. However, I can’t allow you to be promoted to a trainee. I can’t let you accept responsibility while you harbor feelings like that.”
“Then what’ll happen with me?”
“Let’s say you’ll be under my custody. There’s no such system in place, but I’ll make the Director overlook this. You won’t be promoted until you calm down.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Nothing. At any rate, put yourself in order. Because if not…”
Mattalast smiled lightly.
“Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Under such circumstances, Yankuu got himself a long time of leisure.
After moving to a dormitory at Past God Bantorra’s Island, there was nothing for him to do. He barely knew anyone at the Library. He became estranged from his friends at the Librarian School due to his frequent violent incidents. Yankuu simply loitered around town.
Was there anything good in doing so? Was it fine for him to be supervised by Mattalast? He had nothing but doubts.
Walking around aimlessly, Yankuu approached the gates of Bantorra Library. Just as he thought of turning on his heels and return to the town, he found a side-street.
“…Was there a road here?”
The narrow road seemed to be surrounding the Library. Yankuu entered it.
While walking he was thinking. He thought about the anger with no outlet that was inside him.
Although the Indulging God Cult was destroyed, his rage was yet to calm down. On the contrary, it seemed to have only grown deeper.
He muttered aloud. Yes, the target for his anger was there.
When people fight each other, someone will die. I know this. But why did it have to be Big Sis Noloty? Why did this killing happen? Why did the Indulging God Cult exist?
Why. The more he pursued this, the more he couldn’t stop.
The subject of his anger was much bigger than just the Cult. It was directed at destiny and at the world itself.
He was simply and helplessly angry. As he kept on thinking of this and walking around, a voice called out to him.
“Welcome to the road of hesitation.”
Yankuu stopped and looked at the side of the road. A woman was sitting on a plain wooden bench. She was a beautiful woman with short, flaxen hair and a plain one-piece dress.
“Ah, sorry for calling out to you suddenly. I have no important business so don’t mind me.”
The woman spoke in a rough tone that didn’t suit her features.
“…Road of hesitation?”
“I just decided to call it like that. For some reason, people who hesitate or worry about something always end up encircling this road.
A person called Renas used to stroll here. Before her was also the guy called Mokkania. According to what I’ve heard, someone named Minth also walked here. Oh right, there was also Volken.”
There were some familiar names among the ones the woman spoke. All of them, maybe.
“But there’s a certain omen. All those who worried while walking around here, vanished from Bantorra Library without a trace. How mysterious.”
The woman said so and smiled. He only now noticed this, but the woman sometimes touched her legs. Was she on the middle of a stroll as well?
“Yeah. You as well, tail-haired boy, right?”
The woman said while looking at Yankuu’s hair.
“What are you worried about? Nothing good would come out of it, but probably nothing bad either.”
She was an unknown woman that he would probably never meet again. Yankuu casually opened his mouth.
“One year ago, a person important to me was killed by the Indulging God Cult. It still haunts me. I can’t move on even after a full year.”
“A year ago is just like yesterday. It’s natural to get caught up on a person’s death if they’re important to you.”
She wasn’t trying to console him, but spoke of her true feelings.
“So what are you worrying about?”
“I want to fight. I’d like to settle that person’s death. But my anger is all just pent up and I have no opponent for it.”
“I see. Because the Indulging God Cult was destroyed.”
Although it was the middle of the conversation, the woman stood up.
“However, your real enemy is still alive.”
“Your enemy is not just the Indulging God Cult. It’s also the Armed Librarians.”
The woman went on the opposite direction from Yankuu.
“Besides, the Indulging God Cult might have still survived. No, it probably did.”
Leaving those words behind, the woman left. Yankuu tilted his neck and watched her off. Was she just a strange person?
He soon forgot about her. However, her words were left in the back of his head. The Indulging God Cult was alive and his real enemy was the Armed Librarians.