The path to Kindness.
S31 – Life
I’m sure that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life the first time that I killed a monster.
I have skills and status values, and on top of that, if I kill monsters then my level rises. Having been reborn in a game-like world, I had somehow been living with the sense of this being a game. I realised that I was mistaken at the time when Natsume tried to kill me. And also, at the time when I used my own hands to take a life.
That happened some time after I had entered the academy. As part of practice with fighting monsters, I faced a monster for the first time in my life. Since it was an opponent that would be used against the immature school students for practice, the monster from that time was quite weak. One weak enough that an adult who does not normally fight would be able to repulse it, practically a small animal. But a monster is a monster. Monsters are harmful animals that actively hunt people, so even if they are merely weak monsters it would still be harmful to not kill them. No matter how weak they might be, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the monsters are not dangerous. Even if it can be said that an adult would be able to repulse them, putting it another way, it means that children would be in danger. In addition, even adults would not necessarily be able to repulse them without suffering any injuries, and in the worst case their lives would be in danger. In practice, even such weak monsters cause a small amount of harm every year. At the same time as giving the students practical training in fighting monsters, it also had the meaning of thinning out the monsters. Therefore, the monsters must be killed without hesitation. Yet……
The monster attacked me with the intent to kill. It had the will of a living creature. It was something entirely different to a game programme and it took action with intent. Rather than fighting a monster, it felt more like I had taken it lightly and it was like I was fighting a living creature. I don’t mean in the sense that there was a big difference in abilities between us. Speaking of which, my status values were high compared to my classmates and I could easily beat a weak monster. But that’s not what I’m getting at. It’s difficult to put the sensation I had into words. However, while I was facing that monster, it was far more real compared to what I had imagined, and at the time I experienced what is known as fear.
Yes, I was afraid. The monster that was approaching me, was a being that was trying to kill me, and in turn, it was one that I had to kill no matter what. In the end, I wasn’t able to kill the monster in my first fight and I wasn’t able to do anything other than to keep avoiding the monster’s attacks. And then, being unable to just sit by and watch, my team member Palton finished it off. Easily.
I asked that of Palton. Even I myself didn’t really know what I was asking about. However, I simply muttered the words that popped into my head.
「Ah, excuse me. It seemed like you were having trouble, so I couldn’t help it.」
Palton’s response to my question was like he thought he had to apologise for stealing my prey.
「I have been presumptuous. Now that I think about it, there is no way that Shurein-sama would be having trouble. I get it now! You had grasped this monster’s movements, right! Rather than being careless, you devoted yourself to observing this weak monster. This has been enlightening.」
No. That’s not it. That’s not the reason why I asked and not the reason why I couldn’t defeat the monster either. But, I understand. I know all too well. This is just how this world and Japan are different.
In this world, a life is a trivial thing. Far too trivial. It’s a matter of course to kill monsters. It’s a matter of course to kill demons as they are the enemy. Even amongst humans, killing each other becomes easy. The people in this world are far too indifferent to taking lives. They take lives as if it’s their job to do so. Even Palton didn’t feel anything in particular after killing that monster.
I hardly think I’m a saint myself either. Back when I was in Japan I would eat meat after all, and I also killed insects. I cannot say that all lives are valued equally, regardless of whether they’re an insect, an animal or a person. I also understand that because monsters are harmful animals that attack humans, that people will be killed if they are not killed instead. However, I feel a sense of resistance to the idea that monsters should be killed as easily as insects.
Even so, on that day, I killed a monster with my own hand for the first time in the end. I was too scared to betray the look of respect that Palton was giving me. And also, most of all, it was because I had recalled the time when Natsume attacked me and it seemed that I was about to die. Having the thought that I must be able to protect myself by myself, I took the life of a monster in order to raise my level. For the sake of my own convenience, I took a life.
I’ll never forget it. The feeling as I cut through the hide with my sword, cutting through the flesh, and even the feeling of the bones being severed. The smell of the blood scattered around. The cries of agony in death. The moment when the life faded was burned into my eyes. What lay before me was something unlike the computer graphics of a game on a screen – it was the death of something in real life.
Even in Japan, harmful animals are exterminated. Going further, the meat lined up in shops was also once living cows or pigs. For humans to live, lives must be taken. Even if indirectly, for us humans to live we have to take countless lives. However, I hadn’t known how heavy it would be to take a life directly. Thus, I came to realise this – if it’s this hard with a monster, just how heavy would it be to take the life of a human?
It’s scary. Just thinking about it is scary.
Just how can Natsume do such a thing? If he had experienced the same feelings as me, then there’s no way that he should be able to think that this is a dream-like world. Even if this is a game-like world, it is no game. Even if you view lives lightly, the weight of those lives is no different to those on Earth. It’s just that the people here don’t know that.
I do understand at least that in this world where strife does not cease, that it’s better to view lives relatively lightly. For the sake of their own livelihoods, people kill the monsters and demons. I can’t tell them to stop that. After all, I myself have killed monsters for my own sake. I will have to carry that cross for the rest of my life. I also understand the feeling of wanting to lessen that burden even just a little bit, by thinking of lives as being something light. However, I can’t change my feelings so much that I could say that it’s “inevitable”. After all, I know of a Hero would continued to pursue his ideals until his death, even though he too couldn’t change his feelings despite all that.
「It’s fine if it’s just a dream. It’s fine if it’s laughed off as being nonsense that is impossible to achieve. Even so, it should also be fine to aim for such a thing. A world where everyone can laugh and live in peace. I will continue to chase after that ideal. Until I die.」
Julius-nii-sama said that, and continued to fight. Despite the contradiction of fighting in order to achieve peace. While suffering, he carried on fighting without letting me see his distress. Seeing him like that, I felt that I wanted to inherit Julius-nii-sama’s ideal. I’m scared of fighting. I’m scared of taking lives. I’m scared of lives being taken. I can’t become a proper Hero like Julius-nii-sama who holds the resolution of being able to continue on fighting. Even my goal, is nothing more than a copy that I got second-hand from Julius-nii-sama. I’m nothing but a half-baked phony Hero.
However, precisely because I’m like that, I think that there should be some things that I can accomplish. Perhaps knowing the weight of a life will form the first step. Perhaps the sense of ethics that I got from being born and raised in peaceful Japan will be of some use. Perhaps I can reduce the amount of conflict a little bit, even if I can’t get rid of all conflict. Even a shameful and pathetic Hero like me, would want to find something that I can do. I want to do the best at the things that I can do. Yes, this is what I had thought before the Kingdom was attacked by Natsume already, and after that I did what I could with whatever events happened before me.
As if those thoughts of mine and Julius-nii-sama’s will were being ridiculed, I was informed about the true nature of this world, and I got overly emotional. I could tell that I had used improper words immediately due to Kyouya’s expression. Because Kyouya had a painful expression as if trying to endure something. With that expression of Kyouya’s which indicated that he hadn’t killed Natsume because he had actually wanted to, somehow I felt a sense of relief. However, it’s not like these emotions that are welling up in my chest would simply calm down, and rather than pile on more words that would simply make things worse, I just stared at Kyouya’s face.
「……Sorry. I got a bit emotional and said too much.」
I don’t know how much time passed like that, but I finally regained my presence of mind somewhat, and apologised to Kyouya. Because I somehow realised that it would be unreasonable to criticise Kyouya here.
「No. There’s no need to apologise. You are right, Shun.」
Kyouya weakly shook his head.
「I’m jealous of you Shun, for being able to carry on doing what is right.」
Upon seeing that weak and frail expression, I suddenly couldn’t believe that this was the same person who ruthlessly killed Natsume. I can at least tell that Kyouya has been through a lot as well. Kyouya showed that weakness only for an instant though, and after closing his eyes for a brief moment and then opening them again, a strong expression had returned to his eyes.
「You are right, Shun. However, I have no intention of deviating from my path. I won’t regret what I have done either.」
Before me was a man who carried a conviction that he could never yield on. A conviction that would never be compatible with my own.