“Are there still no signs, Enbos?”
“No. At times he has stirred, but otherwise nothing has changed.”
“I see. Even so, I suggest you take a break. You have literally not moved from here for the past two days.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve waited for far longer. As for you Takashi, you need to rest. You’re deadbeat and we don’t need another corpse in the room.”
“… I understand. Please tell me when my son wakes up.”
I watch his reluctant form disappear around the corner and close the door. Poor Takashi. I have a feeling he holds himself partially responsible for this ordeal… just as much as me.
Looking back at Hachirou’s immobile form, I replay the events that led up to his flight. There were signs. I even noticed his sudden change in demeanour and yet I didn’t lift a finger. The only saving grace from this disaster is he’s still alive, barely. His injuries, blood loss and hypothermia would be enough to kill a normal man. I’m not sure if I should chalk it up to being a kobold or if he has a strong will to live, but somewhere in my heart I hope it’s the latter.
“Why Hachirou? Just what happened in your past to make you act the way you did?”
Sadly, there is no response and yet I keep watching in anticipation. As hundreds of empty seconds tick by on my internal clock, I find my mind wandering. For instance, aside from the digital clock being displayed by Crest, there is also my orange spiritual energy meter to consider. Once again I find there’s less than expected, except this time I haven’t budged from this room for the past two days. Why is my spiritual energy now decaying faster?
As I mull over this personal problem, I hear a slight voice coming from the bed.
“Ha… ya… te?”
“Hachirou, you’re awake! Take it easy now. You have been asleep for more than two days. Here, have some food.”
“Enbos…? I see… I’m alive.”
“Less talking, more recovering. I’ll go tell the others right away!”
“No Enbos… There is something I have to tell you… while we’re still alone.”
Hearing Hachirou’s request, I agree and use this chance to calm down. With his body as weakened as it is, I reheat the ceramic bowl with <Conjure Flame> and slowly spoon feed Hachirou his soup. After he finishes half a bowl, he raises his hand to stop me.
“Please, don’t move around too much. You lost a lot of blood and came up with a cold. It’s a miracle you’re still alive.”
“Not a miracle, it’s all because of you. Thank you for saving me once more.”
“… If I had stopped you sooner, none of this would have happened.”
“Please Enbos… don’t talk about that. I-I once made… a similar mistake in my past.”
He looks down at his blanket with apparent shame. His ears droop and his shoulders drop. Normally I would leave him be, but not anymore.
“Hachirou… Please, tell me what happened. I think it’s time I heard the whole story.”
“… Yes, yes you are right. Maybe… I should have done this from the very beginning.”
Hachirou takes a deep breath, and after a brief moment of hesitation, he begins to recount his memories.
“… I see. So I really do resemble Hayate.”
“Indeed, Enbos. Like two heads on an Orthrus.”
“An Or-what? On second thought, never mind. I’m sorry for making you tell me something so… difficult.”
“In truth, I feel better now that I have told you, Enbos.”
Still, that is such a painful memory. Even I would feel reluctant about sharing it. Did he feel compelled to tell me or is Hachirou finally overcoming his trauma?
“Have you told anybody else? Your family?”
“N-no, I haven’t… But I will in due time.”
Seeing Hachirou look forward with determination, I realise he’s changed, or rather, he’s changing. I don’t know what happened during his struggle for dear life, but he now looks much stronger than ever before, well, mentally at least. For an instant, his upright form reminds me of his old man… Oh darn, I forgot to tell Takashi!
“I’ll be right back, Hachirou! I’ve left everyone in the dark for far too long.”
“Please wait a moment Enbos! Th-there’s one more thing I must say…”
I stop myself before the door and turn around to Hachirou’s hesitant voice. His prior confidence has vanished, and now he’s back to his old timid form.
“W-when you were carrying me on your back… Y-you said something to me…”
Oh shoot, is he referring to when I said I’ll bring him back if he dies?
At the time, I was desperate. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing another life in my arms. His feeble words… his delayed responses… it was all too much for me to swallow. Up until Hachirou’s recovery, I was still considering taking his soul. There was no reason for me to let him die, though it would go against everything Takashi has preached.
But now that things have settled down…
“… y-you said, “Believe in me.””
“Oh, you mean that. I wasn’t sure if you were still conscious, but I wanted you to know I was…”
“T-the truth is En-enbos… I-I didn’t want to believe in you.”
“Eh!? What do you-”
He doesn’t believe in me? What is that supposed to mean when you were half-dead? Was he really considering death?
While I’m left dumbstruck by his words, he continues to add to his baffling statement.
“Th-the truth is…. The truth is… I didn’t want to believe in you be-because…
… I wanted you to believe in me!”
With his last syllable, he clenches his waterlogged eyes and braces himself for my reply. While I don’t know how Hachirou has taken my words, I do know my next response will change his outlook forever. But instead of carefully choosing my words, I utter the following line so naturally that I don’t even realise…
“… I do believe in you, Hachirou. I always have. Thank you for being by my side.”
With those words, I open the floodgates to Hachirou’s heart. He begins crying in earnest relief, as if all his inner demons have been washed away. In Hachirou’s mind, I’m not sure if he sees me as Enbos or Hayate, but it doesn’t matters. I’m just glad he has finally forgiven himself.
As the sun dawns, I witness the rise of a new day and a new kobold. I watch over him with an invisible smile, and I would have continued doing so…
“Hachirou, you’re awake!”
… if the door behind didn’t fly open and knock me down face first into the floor. I can tell by the voice that it’s Chiyoko, as she proceeds to stomp over me like a carpet.
“What the hell is your problem, Chiyo-…! Eh?”
Impossible… I must have hit my skull too hard.
As I pull myself up and gape at the marvel before me… Chiyoko is openly crying into Hachirou’s chest.
“You idiot! Idiot, idiot, IDIOT! How do you think I felt when you disappeared before the feast! A-and then I find you all covered in blood, j-just like Hayate! Seriously, you’re… you’re such a big idiot! Are you trying to give me a heart attack? Please Hachirou… I-I don’t want to lose you too…”
“I-I’m sorry sister… I’m so, so sorry…”
“Sorry isn’t enough! You’re my one and only twin brother. I cherish you more than anyone else…”
“Huh? I-I never knew you- Ow!”
“You horrible brother! Don’t you feel the same? Please Hachirou… take care of yourself better…”
“Un, I will Chiyoko… I swear I will…”
I silently watch the sibling’s emotional reunion. After all of Hachirou’s worries of never reaching his kin, Chiyoko has reached out and touched him instead. In turn, Chiyoko’s rigid shell has finally fallen off to expose her fragile heart. Seriously, you two had each other all along, and yet you both tried to shoulder the burden on your own.
The sight of them pouring their hearts and tears is truly endearing. It leaves me feeling…
“Is Hachirou awake!?”
“Thank goodness you’ve recovered!”
“Huh! Why is he crying!? Wait, is that Chiyoko? Why is she crying!?”
“It’s good to see you’re alright, Hachirou.”
“Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”
… incredibly annoyed when I’m being shoved aside by this anxious bunch!
“Oi, calm down already! I’ve only got so many ribs to spare before you’ve crushed them all!”
“E-everybody? What are you all doing here?”
“Oh my, what a thoughtless question, Hachirou. We were concerned about you.”
“Indeed. While we could only hope for the best…”
“… we all put our faith in you. We’re happy you are well.”
It seems I’m not the only one who believed in Hachirou. In fact, they have always believed him. The only difference is his blinds are finally gone.
“T-thank you everybody! I feel truly blessed.”
“Don’t push yourself to bow, Hachirou! You still haven’t recovered.”
“Exactly! Once you’ve recovered I’ll treat you to, erm, one of your “recipes”.”
“That is generous offer indeed, big brother. Also, I’m sorry for ruining the family feast.”
“An empty stomach is a small price to pay for the life of one of our own.”
“Gahahaha! Besides, why not have a family feast here? All we need is a little room!”
“Huh? Ken, what are you… No, no, no, stop! You imbecile!”
While I wonder what the loudmouth is planning, he walks over to the wall and takes a stance. He then throws a powerful punch and… destroys the wall connecting both rooms. While I’m perfectly fine, a cloud of dust settles over the Nomura family.
“*Cough, cough!* You muscle-headed fool! We have the elderly and the injured in this room, and yet you do something as dumb as that! What if the roof came down on us!?”
“Sorry Takumi, I only thought-“
“You weren’t thinking!” exclaim several kobolds in unison.
“This is troubling. It seems I have a lot of cleaning to do.”
“You won’t need to do anything Honoka, because he will be doing the cleaning!”
“Please, quite down everybody. Hachirou is still…”
“Pfft! Heheh… Hehahahahaha!”
Everybody in the room, well, both rooms, suddenly fall silent. Nobody could identify the sound, and yet everybody knows the voice. We all look at Hachirou in amazement as we realise one simple fact: it’s the first time anybody has heard him laugh. It is such a rare occurrence that we are all mesmerised by the young kobold’s voice, one filled with pure joy. Eventually, like any cheerful family, we all join in the laughter.
It will become one of the most pleasant memories in all my lives.
After participating in the hysteria, Takashi retreats outside to gaze at the clear sky. He can still hear his children celebrating Hachirou’s awakening, and it greatly warms his heart on this chilly morning.
“Thank you, Enbos. You’ve brought so much peace to my family.”
Though he does not say so directly, he is genuinely grateful for everything Enbos has done. For two years, he was unable to uproot the sorrow that dwelled in his children, or in himself. While some scars remain, it has undoubtedly eased thanks to Enbos’ kindness, and for that, he is willingly to do anything to help him over the coming weeks.
Takashi raises his head and seemingly speaks to the air, or rather, the flock of migrating birds overhead.
“Can you see us, Hana? Everybody is doing well. You don’t have to worry anymore. I hope you’re doing well too.”
There is no response, only the howling of wind, but to Takashi’s soul he has heard everything he needs. He starts walking back into the building, but before he rejoins his family’s antics, the head of the Nomura clan mutters under his breath…
“I’m starting to feel sleepy.”