In the sky above, an aerial battle of dragon and wyvern unfolded.
Within that, Sakuya fought the gora to help out Izumi’s retreat.
The party fled across the battlefield-turned wasteland. No one around knew the right words to call to Aleist. By the enemy’s words, Aleist had been the cause of all of this.
(I shouldn’t take it at face value, but—)
Izumi thought, yet still ended up raising her guard to the silent Aleist. Whether he noticed her attitude or not, Aleist wouldn’t open his mouth.
At times, the breath of a wyvern or dragon would pour down and raise an explosion. Heleene flew to protect the fleeing members, and once they had distanced themselves from the battle, Millia appeared before them.
She had brought allies.
While they were too few in numbers to call reinforcements, it was a reassuring addition.
With a large wave of her hands, Millia faced them and called out.
Upon crossing a low knoll, they came upon soldiers warily watching the battle between the Gora and Sakuya.
Millia had her fellow demi-human soldiers prepare a station for them. However, upon seeing Rudel’s state, she made a terribly frightened face.
“L-lay him down over there. We’ll get to treating him—”
But Bennet was quick to inform her.
“That won’t be needed. His heart’s been pierced. It’s fatal.”
To a Rudel who was already no longer breathing, Millia desperately held in her tears.
“You idiot. It’s because you faithfully honored such ridiculous orders. The palace could have managed just fine.”
Upon hearing that, Izumi sought confirmation.
Her hand stroked Rudel, lain over a stretcher.
“Is the palace alright?”
Millia wiped her tears before explaining in a shaking voice.
“Princess Fina used the defenders to suppress the insurrection. The archduke houses helped out too… and yet, why is this guy dead?”
At the end of her sights, Rudel, his eyes closed with a slight smile on his face.
Izumi strongly clenched Rudel’s hand. Seeing Millia’s tears only made Rudel’s death seem all the more real.
“Always bringing us nothing but trouble. Yet in the end of the end, for such a meaningle—”
Meaningless, Izumi was about to say, when Bennet plainly interrupted.
“There was a meaning. Rudel held out here alone, he made a literal last stand until the allied army could arrive. Don’t say it was meaningless.”
It was then that two groups made for Rudel.
Luecke and Eunius, who had only just arrived. The dragons appeared and helped transport their forces, hastening their arrival.
Luecke pushed his way through knights and soldiers to arrive at Rudel, opening his eyes wide when he came upon the man laid out.
Eunnius was the same, albeit, he had come clearing a path far more roughly.
And looking at Rudel, he spoke.
“… Damn fool. Going off and dying.”
A terrible monologue. But his tone was terribly disappointed and horribly dark. Eunius yanked out the black bar wedged in his heart.
Luecke instantly hung his hands over Rudel’s chest. He was going to use healing magic.
Aleist opened his mouth.
“Luecke, Rudel is already…”
Luecke, the man who looked the most level-headed of the bunch, glared at Aleist and screamed.
“Shut your mouth. When it comes to magic, I’m better than anyone. Better than you, and better than Rudel. I’m number one. So you… hold your tongue.”
It was impossible for healing magic to revive the dead. No matter how many spells he used, the deceased body showed no reaction.
Izumi wanted to get a word in for Luecke to stop, but upon seeing his face, she shut her mouth.
“There’s no such thing as impossible for me. A dear friend or two… who would I be if I couldn’t help them out? I’m Luecke Halbades. I’m better at magic than anyone…”
Shedding tears before Rudel, he desperately continued to cast his magic. Those hands were beginning to burn from the heat of magic overuse.
Eunius grabbed his arm, forcefully wrenching him from Rudel.
“That’s enough! Don’t waste your mana here.”
Luecke cried back.
“Waste? You just called it a waste!? I see. In the end, that’s all Rudel was to you…”
When Luecke saw Eunius face, he couldn’t say anymore. Eunius was crying too.
“Listen here. Neither you nor I can bring back someone who’s died. But you know, isn’t there still something we can do? Fight to avenge him. Those imperial bastards are still here. Then it’s obvious what we’ve got to do!”
On those words, Luecke made a fist with his scalded palms. His subordinate Vargas held in tears, as he ordered those around him to heal him.
Izumi touched a hand to his cheek.
“Rudel, look how many people you’ve made cry… and yet, you’re the only one smiling. You really are a terrible guy.”
There, Aleist exclaimed.
“I-I’ve got it. Rudel can still make it, I think…”
Rudel was in a white, a very white space.
Hazily taking in his surroundings, the words that came out—
“This is the second time I’ve come here. The first was when I parted with Sakuya, perhaps?”
— As he calmly weighed his situation, a cracking sound came from the fist lowered on his head.
There was Sakuya—the former goddess Sakuya, floating in the air in human form. Tears welled in her eyes, her cheeks were puffed up and her face was red.
‘Rudel, you idiot! Idiot, idiot, huge idiot!’
Before the girl who continued smacking both hands into him, Rudel laughed.
“So you came to get me? Guess that means I really am dead.”
Sakuya’s crumbled into tears.
‘How many times did I tell you!? You have to fight together! And yet, why did you leave your own partner? We worked so hard so we could fight together!’
Seeing Sakuya cry, Rudel dimly perceived this was the afterworld.
“Sorry. I tried my best… but it looks like I failed.”
He had lost to fate. While Rudel thought so, he didn’t make a regretful face.
‘Why do you look so refreshed!? Everyone’s crying for you!’
Rudel sent her a bit of a sorrowful smile.
“I won’t say I have no regrets. I fought to triumph over some fate or another. And I’m only half the dragoon I want to be. I hate that I couldn’t use the chance that you gave me. But you know… I fought with my all. I exerted myself so hard that even looking back, I am certain I couldn’t have done better.”
If he lost on top of that, there was no space for excuses.
Rudel said so and stroked Sakuya. Despite the nostalgia he felt, it also brought to mind his own partner dragon.
Sakuya looked at Rudel with a serious face.
‘Are you satisfied now?’
To that question, Rudel—
“Satisfied? I’m not. I am definitely not satisfied. I wanted to ride a dragon’s back through the sky some more. I haven’t even become the strongest dragoon. My seniors are strong, see. I won once, but I’m still so far from my ideal/”
‘In that case, try looking a bit irritated.’
“You sure are stupid. I’ll never be satisfied with myself no matter how far I go. Even if I overcame, to die when the years caught up, I’d never achieve satisfaction”
(But that’s fine. Either way, I fought hard enough to think so—)
To Rudel’s words, Sakuya floating in the air breathed a big sigh. She scratched up her blonde hair and touched her left hand to her hip.
‘There’s a possibility of you coming back, but if you’re already satisfied, then—’
The moment he heard of a possibility, Rudel snatched Sakuya out of the air.
‘Hey! Up to a moment ago, you were all like, I’m not satisfied, but perhaps that’s fine!’
“Fool. If I can live, then of course I’m going to live. I’ve only just become a dragoon. I haven’t turned those imperials back. There’s a mountain of stuff left to do.”
As Rudel shook her up, Sakuya’s eyes spun as she forced her way out of his grip and unsteadily teetered into the air.
‘I’m just bringing up a possibility! And, and it’ll need Aleist’s cooperation.’
Rudel tilted his head.
‘That guy has the exchange stone, doesn’t he?’
Exchange stone. It was what Aleist received while carrying out a mission in the Celestia Kingdom.
“Now that you mention it.”
He always had it on him, so Rudel did remember.
‘If that idiot notices, it might work out. But the probability is low. And there’s no telling what he’ll have to give up. Though honestly, he’d be a fool if he didn’t keep it with him.’
Hearing of what would be lost, Rudel asked Sakuya.
“What will Aleist lose?”
Sakuya took her time explaining to him what had happened hitherto. It was the truth of this world, and about Aleist’s existence.
“I-I’ll save Rudel. I can still make it.”
His body clad in black armor, Aleist pulled off his helmet and produced a blue stone from his breast. It was the exchange stone.
Seeing it, Izumi recalled its purpose and turned to Aleist with a shake of her head.
“You can’t. If you use that, there’s no telling what you’ll pay in exchange for Rudel’s life.”
Hearing Izumi’s words, the surrounding faces looked at Aleist. A great many looked on with conflicted faces, But Aleist’s harem members grasped him.
They stared at him sorrowfully.
As a representative, Seli tried to stop him.
(There are people who want Rudel to live more than me, but there are some who would choose me too. That’s a bit reassuring.)
The gora’s revelation had raised everyone’s wariness towards him by no small amount. So if he said he would exchange his life, he worried they would happily tell him to do it.
Eunius approached Aleist and grasped his shoulder.
“Give it a rest. You think Rudel would be happy with that? You shut up and fight the empire.”
Those words were his own way of worrying for Aleist. Luecke was the same.
“You’re the worst, to even bring up choosing one or the other. Aleist, think a bit more before you speak.”
Aleist gave a bitter smile.
(Choosing one or the other, huh. Originally, the protagonist was supposed to pick either Eunius or Luecke, but… well, that’s not important.)
Aleist removed Eunius’ hand and reassured him it would work.
“Don’t worry I do have something I can give. It’s not my life, and it’s borrowed goods, but it’ll be enough, I think.”
Eunius grimaced at those words.
“So you can’t state it definitively to the end. But you should quit while you’re ahead with those gambles. The result won’t make anyone happy. Rudel is dead. You are alive. That’s the result.”
Right, Rudel had died.
(The event was definitely carried out. And those guys said they would kill me. Which means what happens here on has nothing to do with the game.)
Aleist approached a lying Rudel and had Izumi concede her spot.
His eyes abruptly met with Millia. Milla’s eyes were red and swollen.
(She really does like Rudel, doesn’t she. But I’ll be granting her wish too.)
However, Millia to Aleist.
“You’re really not going to die, right? And does that stone have that much power? If you both end up dead…”
Both ending up dead was the worst case.
(Ah, she’s worried about me too. How delightful.)
But Aleist had no conviction he could do it.
(It’s not like I never thought about what would happen If this day came. There’s far too little I can do… but even so, he’s a precious friend.)
When Rudel had helped him out so much, when Aleist thought he could finally repay his debt, he smiled.
(Aah, but in that case, I might become useless. Well, if Rudel’s there, that’s some reassurance. And this is for the best.)
Gripping the exchange stone over Rudel’s body, Aleist closed his eyes.
A blue light enveloped the two of them. Aleist whispered, making sure those around couldn’t hear—
“The cheat I have received… I return my abilities. I don’t need inexhaustible mana or talent. My noble family… I’m fine as long as they’re safe. I don’t mind if they forget about me. So… please bring my friend back to life. I don’t need anything else.”
The cheat he received on his reincarnation was inexhaustible mana.
(I’m sorry I never managed to master it to the end.)
Along with a talent in various fields, and a charm.
(Talent alone was no good. Without the effort to polish it… thank you for everything.)
To that point, Aleist had been protected by a great many cheats.
“Thank you for all you’ve given me. Perhaps this can’t be called payment. If it’s not enough, you can take my existence as well. My friend—please bring Rudel back to life. I’m begging you!”
As he strongly gripped the exchange stone, Aleist could feel the power leave his own body.
All the great powers that had helped, protected, and enhanced him.
Aleist shed a tear.
“Thank you for everything.”
Aleist got the feeling the last bit of power lingered around him. He got the feeling it asked him if he’d be fine without them.
“I’ll be alright. I’m sorry I never mastered you. You have my dearest thanks.”
The power faded. Aleist could instinctually understand various abilities had disappeared from within him.
He looked at Rudel.
The wound had closed, and with even his armor mended, Rudel opened his eyes.
Aleist cried out, as Rudel raised his torso from the stretcher. Delight spread around, Izumi leaped forward to embrace Rudel, and Aleist warmly watched over the scene.
But the one Rudel jumped up and held tight was Aleist.
“Aleist, you really did it!”
“Eh? Wait a second! With the way things were going, why me!?”
To Aleist’s confusion, the suspicious eyes of Izumi and the other women gathered.