Chapter 17 – Lies and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
LEVEL 2: Everything is Precious, Nothing is Replaceable
Chapter 17: Lies and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
“Heeeeey! Harucchi! I heard all about it! You killed Deathpatch! You’re AMAZING!!! I’m soooooo JEALOUS! I’m superrrrrrrrr ENVIOUS!!”
They were having drinks at Sherry’s when Kikkawa approached their table, loud and boisterous as usual. It was all Ranta’s fault for opening his big mouth. The news spread fast, and now everyone knew that Haruhiro and his team were the ones who killed Deathpatch.
That was fine with Haruhiro though. He knew killing Deathpatch was one hundred percent luck, but dead was dead, and this felt much better than being mocked as “The Goblin Slayers” all the time.
“Yume’s so glad.” Yume fell flat onto the table with a sigh. “Yume sure thought we were done for a dozen times…”
“Y-yeah… me too,” Mogzo agreed, looking sleepy. “It was a really close call.”
Shihoru glanced reproachfully at Haruhiro. “And someone almost got himself killed…”
“Uh… that was… you see…” Haruhiro rubbed the back of his neck and gave a short cough. “Yes. I regret my decision. I’m sorry.”
“Oh…” Shihoru’s gaze dropped to the floor, her expression bashful. “I-I was just kidding. I’m not saying it’s your fault or anything. Really…”
“Mmm…” Yume said looking thoughtful. “If Haru didn’t stay behind to keep Deathbatch distracted, we all might have been wiped up.”
“Yume, the expression is ‘wiped out’,” Haruhiro, ever the straight man, corrected.
“Ho… that so?” Yume asked.
“And it’s Deathpatch, not Deathbatch…”
“It all sounds the same to me,” Yume frowned.
“B-but!” Mogzo indicated the meat-cleaver sword he had his arm wrapped around. “Everything turned out fine in the end. All’s well that ends well, as they say…”
“You’re right, Mogzo,” Yume agreed. “And you got yerself a new sword!”
Shihoru nodded. “Your old bastard sword was getting really worn out too.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Mogzo said, beaming with delight. “What do you guys think I should name it? I’ve been trying to think of something, but nothing’s come to mind…”
Yume’s suggestion was “Meat-Cleaver Sword #1” which Shihoru timidly, but immediately, shot down. Surely Mogzo wanted to name it something awe-inspiring and cool. What was his definition of “cool” though? Something like, “Eternal Blaze of the Executioner” was what Haruhiro came up with, but he declined to propose it out loud. It sounded horrible even to his own ears. So… a name… name…
Ranta was with Kikkawa, retelling the “Legend of the Heroic Deathpatch Slaying Warriors” to the other Crimson Moon members gathered. The way Kikkawa was telling it, it was almost like he’d been there too, and Haruhiro wasn’t sure if that was amusing or annoying.
Mary had said earlier that she wanted to talk with Hayashi, so she was up on the second floor with him. Haruhiro hoped that after this, she would be able to find some peace within herself.
He took another swig of beer and frowned at the bitter taste. He was really glad that no one died back there. But despite how relieved he was that everyone got out alive, he couldn’t be entirely happy about it, deep down in his heart. Did he really perform flawlessly? Could there have been a better way, could he have made a better choice?
At the time, he’d believed, he had chosen the best option. If they were put in the same situation again, Haruhiro thought that he would make the same decision. But was that really the best thing to do? Maybe there was something he could have done before they were driven into a corner with no way out. Something like preventing the team from getting into that kind of situation in the first place?
The self-criticism that filled his mind overshadowed any happiness he was feeling from everyone surviving. But that wasn’t the case for anyone else. Why? Why was he the only one who couldn’t be happy?
Because he was the leader.
The others were different. That was why. There was a gap between him and the rest of his companions. Was this a gap that couldn’t be filled? Not now, not ever?
Suddenly Haruhiro felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Are you okay?” Mary asked.
She was so close, it almost made him jump.
“Ah…” He stalled for a moment before finally asking, “You’re done talking with Hayashi?”
“Yes. Just now,” she replied. “Is something wrong?”
“U-uhh… why do you ask?” Haruhiro said.
“You seemed a little out of it,” Mary explained.
“Really? Er, n-no, I’m fine. It’s nothing, really,” Haruhiro assured.
Mary smiled slightly. “You’re a terrible liar, Haru.”
“I guess…” Haruhiro said, sliding his chair over to make room for her.
Yume, Shihoru, and Mogzo were still hotly debating names for the sword. Truthfully, Haruhiro would very much have liked to confide in Mary about his doubts. And just a few days ago, he probably would have. But not now. Not anymore. He was more self-aware now than before.
He was the leader. Even if he lacked ability and was ill-suited for the role, he was still the leader. If he didn’t keep a good enough grip on himself, all of his teammates might die.
“Really, I’m fine,” Haruhiro said, this time with a smile. “It’s a lie, but it’s also the truth.”
Mary patted him softly on the shoulder once more. She withdrew her touch almost immediately, but for Haruhiro it was reward enough. A poor, simple reward it may have been, but he didn’t criticize himself for feeling that way. It was fine to enjoy the things that were meant to be enjoyed, because no one knew when these happy times would come to an end. It might be soon, for all anyone knew.
Ranta and Kikkawa, arms linked, skipped over to him. “The rest of you guys too! Get over here! Kemuri from the Daybreakers is here tonight and he just so happens to want to buy the slayers of Deathpatch a drink!”
“You’ll never get a SUPE-CHANCE like this again, Harucchi!” Kikkawa declared. “SUPE-DUPE CHANCE!”
“What’s a ‘supe-dupe’?” Haruhiro sighed, shrugging his shoulders. Then he blinked several times as the information sunk in. “Wait, you mean Souma’s Daybreakers?”
“Whoa…” Yume’s eyes went wide.
“That’s incredible…” Shihoru said, trying to make herself appear as small as possible.
Mogzo stood up and sat down several times, unable to decide which was appropriate. “W-w-what should we do…”
“It’s a rare opportunity,” Mary said, cool and collected as ever. “We should take him up on it.”
Haruhiro nodded right away, surprising even himself a little. Were he the same Haruhiro as he had been yesterday, he would have hesitated. Today, he was no longer that person. It made him wonder what changes tomorrow had in store for him.
Not dying today meant that he would get to see the person he became tomorrow. And who knows, that might just be a wonderful thing indeed.
“Let’s go, everyone.”