Hamyuts’s words didn’t reach Yukizona and Yuri who were running through the Fifth Labyrinth. Their bodies covered in wounds, the pair pushed through the Labyrinth’s path.
Normally, the Fifth Sealed Labyrinth Level would be like a jogging course for them. The Guardian Beasts roaming there would be nothing against the Decay Wave.
However, this time it was different. The powerful Guardian Beasts from the Second or Third Level stood in the siblings’ path.
“Don’t falter, Yuri! Keep running!”
Obstructing them was a powerful Guardian Beast that protected the Second Level: the five-headed large snake known as the Jail King Snake. Yukizona intercepted its acidic breath using his Decay Wave. Yuri was protecting herself behind her brother using the power he had transferred to her.
Five heads were raised to attack from all sides simultaneously. Yukizona released his Wave in the shape of a belt to defend himself.
The opening came after he protected against the attack of the Jail King Snake. Yukizona shot his Decay Wave straight ahead.
“Break through! Don’t lag behind!”
He shouted to Yuri at his back and ran straight ahead. The Decay Wave caused a part of the twisting snake’s body to wither. It became a lump of soft ashes. Yukizona tackled that with all of his strength. Piercing through the lump of ashes, Yukizona and Yuri passed through the enemy’s body.
Going through their enemies’ bodies, creating a passage and passing ahead. Although they knew it was quote rash, the pair took this decisive action.
Jail King Snake spit acid at Yuri from behind. Yukizona turned around. Some of her defense didn’t make it in time.
“Don’t stop! Run!”
They ran for their lives as Jail King Snake came from behind. There was no need to defeat it; If they defeated every one of the Beasts, they would only reach half the Labyrinth before exhausting themselves. Their goal right now was just to proceed. And to finally reach the bottommost level.
Next to block their way was the Guardian Beast from the Third Level, a Lancer. It was strong enough that even someone like Noloty or Minth wouldn’t be able to defeat it one on one.
Without using his Decay Wave, Yukizona dodged the spear’s attack with only his body. Yuri, who cut in from the side, kicked to send it flying.
Using the opening of its collapse, they ran ahead.
For several minutes after that, they had no contact with any enemy.
“Just as I thought.”
“Almost all Guardian Beasts… no, Beasts of the Final Chapter have gathered in the Fifth Level. Once we enter the Fourth we should have a smooth sailing.”
“Hurry up. We must finish things no matter what happens.”
Yukizona ran ahead determinedly. Behind him Yuri was muttering softly.
Yuri was thinking about her comrades fighting in the entrance of the Labyrinth. They were probably fighting even now without grasping the situation nor knowing the reason for it all.
When Yukizona was asked for an explanation he said nothing. He told them only to follow his orders. This wasn’t an appropriate attitude as a leader.
Yuri also knew the reason for this.
In order to explain the situation they would have to reveal secrets that have been concealed until now. Namely, the true history of Bantorra Library and the existence of Heaven slumbering in the Second Sealed Archive.
Concealing this was Yukizona and Yuri’s mission.
However, did they really need to be fixated on that mission in this situation?
Was it not impossible hiding it any longer?
Did they have to continue concealing it despite the fact that in front of them was something much more horrible than letting the secrets leak?
Yet Yuri wasn’t able to voice these doubts. She also never thought of defying Yukizona.
“…What is it, Yuri?”
Yukizona stopped and turned around.
“No, it is nothing. Let us hurry.”
Yuri kept running without stopping. Yukizona quickly overtook her.
How pitiful, she thought.
My brother still thinks of protecting the secrets and maintaining the order of the Library. He is trying to preserve the Library the same as it was yesterday.
It is impossible though… Even if we overcome this crisis, there is no way we would be able to conceal the secret from all of our comrades.
He is probably the only person to think the Library can keep going as it was. Without a shred of doubts, both Bantorra Library and the Armed Librarians are finished today.
Brother is the only one to not acknowledge this. Yuri watched her brother’s back with sorrow.
Just as Yukizona had expected there were almost no Guardian Beasts in the Fourth Level. They realized a few were left by hearing their footsteps, yet they didn’t meet them even once.
“Now it becomes easier.”
He said to Yuri behind him.
“Yes, brother. More importantly, is your body fine?”
Having said that, it was true that he had exhausted his stamina. The cause was not the battles but rather the cold. Ever since he was born he was extremely weak against the cold. It was because of a heart disease.
Yukizona started slightly coughing as he ran. The cold air of the underground was like poison to his lungs. Because of this he had never participated in regular shelving. This was the first time he entered the Labyrinth ever since his promotion test to a First Grade Armed Librarian.
It was a normal situation this was when Yuri would have paled. Yukizona shot a glance behind him and signaled with his eyes that she didn’t have to worry. This cough was not one that would lead to a fit making him unable to move.
While running, Yukizona suddenly recalled an old memory.
It was the first memory left in his mind. It was from before Yuri, two years his junior, had been born.
His mother and the maid employed in their house clapped their hands and applauded him.
Yukizona, having gotten better at crawling, grabbed the edge of the table and rose up.
At that moment, the young boy caught a violet coughing fit and collapsed. His mother and the maid shrieked. Something black came out of his mouth and Yukizona, who couldn’t understand anything, started crying.
That was his first memory.
Yukizona spent all of his life he could remember with the disease in his chest.
It was a rare, natural-born disease. It was neither hereditary nor contagious, but no way to treat it either by Magic or medicine existed. The doctors said that even for those with talent in Magic it would be extremely difficult to acquire one that could treat it.
There was nothing to be done but keeping his chest warm and letting him rest. Yukizona passed most of his boyhood on a bed. During the rest of the time he took walks in the garden on warm days or read books in the library.
His family was wealthy. His mother and father were gentle, and their house’s servants all sympathized with him and liked him. He had no inconveniences in life. There weren’t many people who suffered from the same disease, but without any doubt Yukizona was the most privileged among them.
However - or to be more precise, because of it…
In accordance with his growth to adulthood, a dark rage started burning inside Yukizona’s heart.
After reaching the age of ten, most youths began to question their own ways of life.
What if he, just like this, spends all his time comfortable and calm, waiting for death. If his life just end like that, then…
What have I been born for? If I was born only to wait for death, it was the same as not being born at all.
That was quite the first-world problem. However, because he was the one experiencing it first-hand he couldn’t realize that.
Yet he couldn’t vent out his worries. The people surrounding him were far too gentle, and his days were far too peaceful for that.
“What’s the matter, brother?”
Yukizona, who grew from a sick boy to one of the strongest Armed Librarians, had been asked by Yuri.
Yukizona asked himself why he suddenly recalled the old days. According to what he’s heard, people saw their lives flash before their eyes before dying.
Did that explain it?
There certainly was a dreadful crisis looming before him. The siblings were rushing towards their deaths.
Another scene of the past floated to his mind.
It happened when he was a boy.
The one who disturbed Yukizona’s heart the most was his little sister, Yuri. It’s not that he hated her. He liked her. She was even his most beloved person. But that was why her existence was unpleasant to him. When she was a child she took away the job of nursing Yukizona from the servants. As she grew up Yuri got a knack for it, and when she passed 10 years old she already did most of the work.
This was an act of her dearly loving her brother, but probably not all there was to it. She also clearly took care of her brother for her amusement. Taking acre of Yukizona was an extension of playing house as a kid.
‘Am I your toy?’
He once wanted to say this to Yuri while she put a pocket warmer on his chest.
What was so fun about this? You might be enjoying yourself, but I can’t.
I see. So you can have fun. Have as much fun as you want until I die.
His emotions were a mix of envy of his healthy sister and a sense of helplessness.
He had never voiced it or even let it show on his face.
That was how Yukizona originally was.
Their relationship changed when Yuri became 12 and Yukizona 14. On that wintry day, no matter how many logs they burned in the fireplace, the outside cold still penetrated the walls.
Yukizona had a fit of his lung disease. It was the first time in a month. As always it was difficult for him to breathe and he continuously produced a bad-smelling phlegm.
He felt as if his lungs were clogged by coal. No matter how much he coughed, that coal would not come out.
“Bring a doctor, quickly!”
The servants frantically rubbed Yukizona’s back. They replaced a towel wet with warm water every five minutes. It didn’t even relieve him temporarily.
The frequency of his fits has increased lately. They also became more severe as time went on.
Everything might be over today. If not today then at the next fit. Or perhaps the next one? There wasn’t much difference anyway.
Was the worsening of his condition due to his age? Or was it because Yukizona had given up? Even he couldn’t tell.
His vision darkened by the lack of oxygen. Even when the doctor finally came running there was nothing he could do.
Suddenly, Yuri thrust the doctor away. Then, she ripped the pocket warmer and warm towel away from him by force.
Is she trying to kill me? wondered Yukizona as his consciousness sank into darkness.
“What are you doing, Yuri!”
“Be quiet, mother!”
Yuri put her hand on Yukizona’s bare chest. Then, she closed her eyes and started exhaling deeply.
The next moment a change came to Yukizona’s chest. The coal clogging it up was burned and melted away. The doctor and his mother desperately tried to Yuri away. Yet she clung to her brother’s body and kept her hand on his chest.
A few seconds later, Yukizona opened his mouth.
“…What’re you doing, Yuri?”
Everyone was surprised. He had difficulties even breathing during a fit. Even after it settled down, he wasn’t able to speak for an entire day.
“Yukizona, you can talk?”
“Yeah, I can talk. I suddenly feel better.”
Of all the people in the room, only Yuri was not surprised. She was concentrated on closing her eyes and keeping her contact with him.
“Yuri, what are you doing?”
No reply. She seemed to not even hear anyone.
“…Mom, will you put out the lights?”
Yukizona said. She turned off the electricity. Yuri’s palm was dimly shimmering in the darkness. What was that? Everyone except Yuri began staring at that orange light.
With her eyes still closed, Yuri spoke calmly.
“Mother, brother, I might be a genius.”
“Is that Magic?”
Yukizona said as he looked at Yuri’s hand. Yukizona had never seen any Magic in the fourteen years of his life.
“Yes, it is Magic.”
“When did you go through that Magic Deliberation or whatever?”
Yuri shook her head.
“I did not. I just became able to do this before realizing it.”
“Is that even possible?”
At the time Yukizona didn’t know this, but it was an extremely rare occurrence. It was only made possible due to a sincere wish and a powerful will.
Yuri then spoke.
“At first I just thought I would like to do something like this. Next I thought that I might be able to do so. Just now I was sure I could do it. And then…”
While still in the process of healing, Yuri’s mom hugged her.
“This is a miracle, aaah, I can’t believe it. The Present Overseer helped us, letting such a thing happen…”
The servants also shed tears as they talked to Yuri.
“Lady Yuri! I’m so happy, I really, really don’t know what to say…”
The doctor also shrugged while smiling.
“Dear me, just now I’ve felt the powerlessness of science. It simply can’t win against Magic or people’s feelings no matter how much it struggles.”
Yuri, her mother, the doctor and the servants. Yukizona looked at all of them happily praising Yuri with somewhat cold eyes.
That’s probably a Magic Right meant to help with my disease. It would probably not be able to treat any other illness. Perhaps it might not even work on another person with the same disease.
My sister is amazing. Despite it being improbable, and without learning anything about Magic, she was still able to save me.
But just what does that mean for me?
For some reason Yukizona felt a terrible loneliness. Even though all around him were only people who worried for him and loved him.
Yukizona raised his body.
“Umm, everyone. Since I’m already fine… could you all please get out?”
Yuri looked at Yukizona as if he had put a damper on her feelings. He muttered embarrassedly as if he disturbed them.
“What’s the matter, big brother?”
“It’s not that I’m angry. I’m just fine already is all.”
Nobody could understand what made him say such a thing. Even he himself couldn’t really understand it.
“…No, I don’t mean it in a bad way. I’m really fine.”
Yukizona raised a smile. With a worried expression, Yuri and the rest left the room.
No one could probably understand his feelings. Because that moment was very beautiful and moving.
The main character of that moving, miraculous scene was Yuri. Yukizona was just a side character. He was nothing more than a poor boy saved by a miracle.
He was pitiful. No one would be able to understand him, but they probably felt horrible pity.
Starting that day, Yukizona became somewhat taciturn.
Yukizona was in low spirits. His father showed some understanding seeing him like that.
“This happens to all boys your age.”
There’s no way it does, thought Yukizona. How many brothers in the entire world were saved by their younger sister’s miraculous powers?
Compared to Yuri’s brilliance Yukizona was nothing more than a shadow. He was only a side character in her brilliant story.
Yuri annoyed him. It didn’t mean he didn’t love her; the fact that she was the most important person to him hadn’t changed. But that only further promoted his sense of inferiority.
A strange daily routine began for Yukizona. At night, when everyone slept and he was left alone, he began looking at the flowers in his room. It was the flower Yuri arranged after having finished his nursing for that day.
He didn’t feel any admiration. Nor was he grateful to her.
Yukizona looked at the flowers with intent to kill buried in his eyes. He was simply venting his anger. He tried to absolve his unspent feelings for Yuri by staring at flowers. He never thought of finding any fault with her. Neither would he hit the vase or stomp on the flowers. He just thought that he would, at least, stare it to death.
These were trivial and miserable emotions. But that was how Yukizona originally was.
However, at the same time, this was the sprouting of his talent.
Geniuses sometimes had bizarre ways of thinking. Or perhaps a genius was born from a bizarre way of thinking. That’s how it was.
Yukizona stared at the flowers. He did so with everything he had. That impossible behavior distorted the laws of the world.
One month later, Yuri was puzzled by the fact that the flowers were quick to wilt recently.
Three months later, there was were strange germs in Yukizona’s room, so the doctor came. At that time Yukizona first noticed what was blooming inside of him.
And half a year later… Yukizona became able to wither a flower just by touching it with his fingers.
A year passed. No it was no longer just flowers; he could also kill bugs and rodents. He called his own ability the Decay Wave. That very same ability brought him all the way to be one of the strongest later.
It was a strange story. The opportunity that gave birth to the strongest man was the jealousy for his excellent sister.
He never spoke of this to anyone. He was too ashamed of it.
He obviously also never told it to the originator, Yuri. However, he later wondered whether she actually had a vague idea about this.
Yukizona decided to pursue the path of an Armed Librarian. There was obviously opposition to this. His sister, his parents, his doctors, his servants and all of his friends opposed; meaning, everyone who knew him.
But Yukizona overcame that opposition.
His wish was, rather than simply live while waiting for death, to try and make his new power useful. He didn’t mind shortening his life for that sake.
Yukizona was promoted from a student to a trainee in no time. When he was a student his Decay Wave was half perfected. All he needed to do was to acquire bodily reinforcement Magic as well as knowledge and experience.
Four years passed since his ability has awakened.
One day, Yukizona spoke with his friend Mokkania. They were at the cafeteria near the Library. Yuri was also at his side, but she barely opened her mouth except when Yukizona spoke to her.
“You’ve changed recently.”
They came from the same town and were of the same age. They both possessed a cruel and brutal ability. People around them spoke of them as rivals, but they didn’t have a bad relationship.
Yukizona noticed his own change. He was silent even originally, but it became even worse recently.
“You started having a dreadful look in your eyes. It’s hard to talk to you recently.”
“A dreadful look?”
“Yeah. The same kind that Photona-san, Mattalast-san and Ireia-san have.”
“What kind of look is that?”
“Eyes that are normally gentle, but can readily kill people.”
Yukizona thought for a while.
“I have no choice when it’s for my mission… Either hurting people or killing them.”
“Killing people is your mission?”
“I might kill people for the mission’s sake. It’s different from simple manslaughter.”
Mokkania seemed lonely as he shook his head.
“I haven’t changed. I grew up.”
Yukizona definitely has changed, though. From a gentle, sickly boy, he became a cool-headed warrior. It was such a sudden change that it surprised even himself. He thought that changing one’s environment truly caused changes in people.
“Why have you changed like that?”
Mokkania asked drearily. Despite his powerful ability, his naiveté never disappeared.
Yukizona thought of his life as an Armed Librarian for the sake of his still-naïve friend. For a while he organized the thoughts in his head and then spoke.
“I’ve been thinking about something lately. I believe that life is a duty.”
“I don’t know if one needs some sense of duty to live, or if it shapes life by itself, yet both of them are inseparable.”
“People all have their own duties. And it’s not something they’re born with; I believe that they find it, or perhaps are given it, during their lives.
In some cases they find it by themselves; perhaps their families brought it forth. Sometimes their countries give them their duty; they have to defeat their enemies. I believe that fate is also a kind of duty.
Duties brings hardships. However, at the same time they also bring happiness.
It is said that adjoining happiness and misfortune creates completeness. A duty lies within that.
In short, I believe that life is made up of one’s given duty and their approach to it.”
Yukizona glanced at Yuri who sat next to him.
In the past she had happily nursed him, meaning she found her duty in him.
“I believe that becoming an Armed Librarian is my duty. Not fulfilling it is the same as not living. By thinking like that, people will change.”
Mokkania shook his head.
“This worldview is full of holes.”
“I’m neither a philosopher nor a teacher. I don’t know if this is correct. But that’s how it is for me.”
“I’m different. I won’t become like you.”
“No way. You will definitely change as well.”
Mokkania shook his head again, a miserable expression on his face.
“In the past I had had no duty. I lived without being burdened with anything. However, I’m different now. I became an Armed Librarian and got myself a duty.”
“…A duty, huh…”
“I’m grateful for the Armed Librarians. Without them, I wouldn’t have become anything.”
“You’re grateful for your duty, and because of that you can fight. That gratitude makes you strong. How fortunate for you.”
“…But I’m different.”
In the end Yukizona’s words didn’t reach Mokkania’s heart. Later they ended up going on separate ways. Mokkania became a traitor and Yukizona became the successor to the Acting Director.
It’s not like he couldn’t understand Mokkania’s feeling. It’s just that Yukizona felt differently.
I will keep being grateful to everything that gave me a duty. To Yuri… to my family… to Bantorra Library and to my comrades. To the people of the world and their Books.
To everything that gave me a duty.
Yukizona had received innumerable favors to repay - thus he felt.