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Tales of a Lost Sword 91

Tagged as: ToaLS 91, ToaLS.

Written by AznRiceFan on October 11, 2011
Episode 91 Regrets of a God
‘When was it that I became this way? I don’t remember. When was it that I lost myself? I don’t remember. My only waking memories are of being a Fatalist. There is nothing else, only that deep, black void. That is where my reason for existence lies—in being a Fatalist…’

A much younger Arai stands alone, a small frown on his tiny pale face as he waits outside the throne room belonging to his grandfather in the Fatalists’ castle. In his small hands he carries a beach ball, as he watches the closed doors intently with his clear blue eyes.

He turns as someone approaches the terrace from the flight of stairs leading up to it. “Mother!” Arai shouts, taking a few steps towards the dark-haired woman now gliding towards him with a smile on her face.

“Arai,” the woman says gently in a soft voice. She stops next to the young boy, peering at him from high above. She is so much taller than him, that the light from the sun obscures her face from Arai’s view.

“My dear Arai,” the woman continues, “what are you doing outside your grandfather’s hall?” She wraps her hands around Arai’s head, cradling him in her hands.

“Grandfather called me up here,” Arai answers simply. He looks away, the frown on his face growing slightly. “Mom, do I have to do this?”

Arai’s mother looks away for a moment, turning her head towards the closed wooden doors leading into Grendel’s throne room. Arai, however, still cannot see the expression on her face.

Yet when she bends down, Arai sees that she is neither wearing a smile nor a frown. Instead, his mother places her hands on his shoulders, and looks at him right in the eye. Finally, she breaks into a thin smile. “Yes, of course you must, my son. You are Grendel’s heir, you must do as he says. One day the throne shall be yours. You cannot neglect your duty as a prince of this world.”

“But Mom, I don’t want to do it…”

“I know, Arai,” the woman whispers in his ear, hugging Arai closely. “Sometimes you must do things you do not want to do. But they must be done, for the sake of either yourself, or those you care about.”

Arai’s mother steps back just a little bit, and gently removes the ball from his hands. She flashes him a kindly smile with her pale face. “I’m going to take this ball, okay? I know you are still young, but now you mustn’t neglect your duties. You must work hard, and there will no longer be much time for play. Okay?”

With a rattle, the doors of the hall suddenly burst open. An armored guard steps out into the sunshine, his metal armor gleaming brightly in the sun. He looks down at Arai, his face hidden behind a visor. “His Majesty Grendel requires that Arai Mage, heir to the throne, enter the throne room.”

Arai glances uncertainly at his mother, but she nods with a smile, goading him in with her hands. “Go on, Arai. I shall be waiting out here for you when you are done.”

Nodding back hesitantly, Arai enters the throne room with the guard. With a bang, the doors slam shut again, leaving Arai’s mother standing outside, alone.

As the birds chirp nearby and the sun glides down merrily into the terrace, Arai’s mother continues to stand still, holding her son’s ball in her hands. She sighs, an unmistakable frown that is neither fully anger nor sadness crossing her beautiful but strained face as she glares at the solid doors barring her from her son.

Inside, Arai takes a step back with shock. Tripping over himself, he lands on his bottom, gazing up at his grandfather Grendel, who sits proudly upon his throne. Arai’s eyes widen, as his mouth drops as well, a fearful gasp exiting from it.

“What’s wrong, my grandson Arai?” Grendel thunders in his rough, aged voice. “It is a request made by me, Grendel, the king of this world. My wish cannot be denied. This is a tradition that has long existed in our family line. To prove that you, Arai, grandson of the king, deserves to take my place upon this throne and as commander of the Fatalists, I desire that you end the life of the woman who gave you life.”

“Wh…Why?!” Arai whispers, his voice shaking and cowering as much as his body.

“I have my reasons!” booms Grendel unpleasantly. “Besides, to become the king and to lead the Fatalists, one requires a nature that displays no mercy to either enemy or friend, and who will oblige to fulfill their duty at all costs. Such is the fate of he who desires to take the throne.”

“But…I…I can’t!” Arai screams, closing his eyes and shaking his head vigorously. “I won’t do it!”

“Then I have no use for you,” Grendel growls in a low and dangerous voice. “Guards. Kill him if he is of no use to me. I do not need an heir that is weak and stupid.”

“What?” Arai cries, raising his head from his hands as two guards, armed with long spears, approach him with weapons raised. Fearfully, Arai turns and runs, slipping past the two guards. He smashes through the two doors leading into the throne room, his breathing heavy as his face meets the sunshine outside once again.

Arai lowers his face and gazes down at the ground, unable to meet the strangely cold sunshine with his eyes. The words of Grendel float once more through his mind, taunting him, manipulating him.

“Arai!” A gentle voice greets Arai, as his mother hurries towards him, arms open to embrace him.

Sniffling, Arai bites his lip, and steadies his shaking hands. Discreetly, he reaches into his robes and draws out a switchblade the size of a small dagger. He flicks it open, revealing its silvery metal blade, clean and untainted, but not for long.

The powdery white snow crunches beneath Ryuu’s rough hiking boots. He sighs, staring up at the sky as the snow continues to drift down from the heavens towards them. “If it keeps snowing like this, we’ll never get to that Second Triplicate.”

Ryuu looks over at the sleeping figures of Kunai and Ivy, who are huddled together on the ground, wrapped tightly in their sleeping bags. He takes a seat next to Arai, who is sitting still, munching on a cookie.

“Say, Ryuu,” Arai pipes up suddenly in between bites of his cookie. “Remember that one time we fought at Kerning Coliseum? Remember? It was during that tournament when we were still in the Academy.”

“The hell are you reminding me about that for?” Ryuu growls unpleasantly, leaning back on his own sleeping bag with a sigh. “Of course I remember. That was the first time you ever beat me in a fight. I didn’t know whether to be happy for you or to be pissed I lost to such a weakling.”

Arai frowns ever so slightly, though Ryuu does not see. The mage puts on a smile again. “Yeah, but even though we were friends before that, it wasn’t until after I beat you in that fight that you started trusting me as an ally. It makes me wonder what would happen if you and I were to fight as real enemies.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Arai?” barks Ryuu. “We’re allies, that’s all. Unless you tried to bury me in a bathtub full of cookies, I don’t see how we’d ever end up fighting as enemies. Friendship comes before anything else. I’d never hurt you unless I had a reason to. And you’re too nice for that, anyway, Arai.”

“Yeah,” mumbles Arai softly, “I’d never hurt you either, Ryuu. Though for me, it’s ‘duty’ rather than ‘friendship’ that come first above all else.”

“Hm?” Ryuu mutters sleepily.

“Nothing,” Arai replies, gazing up at the stars as the sky finally begins to clear slightly. Nearby, Ryuu yawns and lies down, closing his eyes as he rests his hands behind his head. Arai continues to sit still, watching the night sky quietly and alone, as all the others slumber around him.

‘If one day I were forced to choose, would I choose friendship, or would I choose duty?’

The pretty girl with long blonde hair stands uncertainly outside the doors leading into the throne room. She fidgets about for a bit, before finally deciding to reach forward and grab the handle of the unguarded doors. However, just as she does so, footsteps sound behind her.

The girl jumps, startled by the abrupt arrival of another person. Midori blinks at the girl, having made her way up the stairs leading to the terrace. She joins the girl near the doors.

“Can I help you?” Midori asks in a rather neutral voice. She looks at the girl, who still has her hand on the door. “Do you have some business with His Majesty?”

“N-No!” the blonde girl whispers, shaking her head quickly and turning away. She makes to run away, hurrying in the opposite direction that Midori came from.

Midori watches her go with puzzlement. Suddenly, her eyes widen with realization. “W-Wait!” she cries. “Haven’t I seen you at some of the nobles’ balls? Yeah…your name was, er, what was it…Shirley, wasn’t it?”

Shirley stops in her tracks, looking back over her shoulder to stare at Midori. The two exchange an awkward and confused glance.

Midori and Shirley sit down inside a darkened bar inside the Fatalists’ castle. The bartender silently slips them two glasses of bright purple liquid.

“I see,” Midori mutters, “so that’s your relationship with His Majesty. Does he know how you feel?”

“Yes,” Shirley replies quietly. “But given the tremendous burdens placed on him as the King, he says he does not believe we can be together.”

A long silence falls as the two of them sit side by side, staring ahead into nothingness. After a few minutes pass, Shirley turns back to Midori uncertainly. “Um…if I may ask, is Arai happy?”

Midori does not reply immediately. She takes a swig from her glass and places it back down on the bar counter. “To be honest, I really don’t know that much about His Majesty. I don’t think any of the other Fatalists do either. He keeps a lot of his own thoughts to himself. All we know is that he is a capable leader, and that under his guidance, we will surely prevail in this war.”

“Knowing him, he must not believe that at all. But he must carry on, understanding that so many rely on him…” Shirley sighs, speaking so softly that her voice is barely audible at all.

“What was that?” Midori asks loudly.

Shirley flinches, shaking her head hastily. “N-Nothing!” she mumbles. Uncomfortably, she gets onto her feet. Bowing slightly to Midori, she adds, “I should get going.”

Without another word, Shirley leaves the bar, leaving Midori sitting there silently. She takes another swig from her glass before sighing. “I guess I should see her off…”

Like a silent and invisible sentinel, Arai leans over the edge of the balcony in the terrace outside his throne room. He watches the world below, as the sunlight streams over the tops of the green trees stretching for miles all around. Suddenly, he spots the figures of two women walking out of the front gates of the castle on the ground far below.

Leaning even further forward to look, Arai sees that it is Midori and Shirley. A faint smile crosses his lips. “Shirley, huh…?” he sighs, the slightest hint of yearning in his voice. “She must have come to try to see me again.”

Arai watches the two girls speak briefly for several more seconds, before turning away. He steps back towards his throne room, entering through the double doors shielding it from the outside.

Inside, with the windows closed, Arai steps back into darkness, a frown now on his face. He walks briskly towards the middle of the room, before turning away to his left and walking through a side door.

He enters into a sort of miniature chapel, where two shrines can be seen at the end of the tiny room. Arai closes the door gently behind him with a click and turns his attention to the two shrines of prayer to the dead. Atop the two gravestones are the pictures of Arai’s mother on the left, and on the right is a picture of Ryuu.

Arai smiles grimly as he turns his face away from the staring images of the two people whose deaths he personally caused. “Shirley…be glad you are not mine. Otherwise, you would have to come to this place, and never leave.”

‘Why is it that I always choose duty? Perhaps it is easier to choose duty because it is the choice that requires the least thought. Perhaps it is because I am afraid to choose something else. I don’t know. Maybe I am incapable of choosing anything else.

‘But I have always killed those who were closest to me. It is part of my duty, and I cannot think twice about my actions, or I will be weighed down by the magnitude of it all. Killing is part of who I am. I must do it to succeed. That is all.’

Arai opens his eyes. A faint mist has already formed around him, hovering low near the ground. With a splash, blood splatters down his front as he rises from the ground, though he shows no sign of being inhibited by his injuries. Turning around, Arai faces Kunai and draws his staff.

“My duty cannot be ignored, Kunai. Prepare to die at once!”
More blasphemous god references. Because getting banned by the Vatican is good PR.

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October 11, 2011
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