It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (88/110), enjoy~
Chapter 3 – Beyond Despair
The world was filled with white.
It was hard to tell if he was looking up or down. His sense of equilibrium was unclear, he was not sure whether he was looking to the right or the left.
But at least he knew one thing.
(Oh, here I am again.)
Hiro had visited this place only once before. It was an event that he had never forgotten, and it was etched in the corner of his mind.
Therefore, he was surprised, but strangely, he did not panic.
He felt as if he was in a slumber, and the warmth of the embrace made him feel nostalgic.
It was only for a short while that he was dominated by the feeling of floating in his dazed consciousness.
As his senses begin to circulate through his body, he realizes that he is lying face down on the floor.
“…As expected, it seems that there are no answers from the beginning.”
A voice poured down from above him, and it was also a familiar voice.
In order to match the style of the image in his head, he put his left hand on the ground and put strength into his arm.
He lifted his heavy head and raised his body to see a gleaming chair in front of him.
As he looked upward, he saw a majestic young man sitting on the throne, just as he remembered.
The wind was blowing.
He felt a gentle caress on his skin, which brought peace to his heart.
The next thing he knew, he felt a soft touch on his back. He looked down to check the strange sensation, and before he knew it, he was sitting on the jet-black throne.
“I can’t even get mad at you for being so stupid.”
As if caught by the voice, he turned to the front.
“My sister would be mortified. If she knew that you hadn’t changed at all.”
“…I don’t regret it. It was the most effective thing I could have done.”
“Hah… You always argue like you know everything.”
After holding his forehead as if he were suffering from a headache, Altius gave a deep sigh.
“It’s a bad habit of yours. You always believe that you are right, and you put yourself in danger by sticking to yourself.”
“But I’ve saved more lives than I can hold in my hands.”
“Hah, you just think you’re saving them.”
Hiro’s eyes blinked in bewilderment, wondering what he was talking about.
“Have you seen what happens to the people you save from bandits? Did you see the end of those you saved from the tyrannical nobles? Have you ever seen the end of those you saved from monsters?”
He couldn’t find any words to reply.
His thirst was growing rapidly. He felt a strange pressure in his throat as if it was tightening.
Altius was right; he had never seen any of this through to the end.
The place where Altius had arrived, the end of his dream ― he had disappeared without even seeing it.
“I have to say. It’s a bit selfish of you. You decide the end as you see fit. It’s just a matter of self-satisfaction, isn’t it?”
Before he could say anything else, Altius interrupted Hiro with his hand.
“You can’t rely on anyone; you can’t trust anyone; you can’t open your heart to anyone. And to top it all off, you put your own life in danger and think you’ve saved it. That’s nothing short of arrogance.”
“It’s not like it was a thousand years ago… Arrogant or not, I’ve got the power to do it.”
“Is that what this is all about?”
Altius’ golden eyes caught Hiro’s right arm and gave him a look of mockery.
Hiro is ashamed to admit it, and he puts his face down and bit his lips.
“…The situation was so bad that the country would collapse if I didn’t do something about it.”
There was more he wanted to say, but he couldn’t put it all together, and the conclusion he spat out with a shaky heart disappeared as if it had been snatched into the void.
No, it was blown away by a single snort.
“Hah, if a fragile country can be managed by a single person, why not destroy it?”
Hiro shouted at the simple decision ― and the overly selfish statement.
“Hey, we all fought hard and sacrificed a lot to build this country!”
“So, what’s wrong with that?”
Altius, with a calm face, brushed aside Hiro’s passion.
He then smiled coldly and tapped his fingers once hard on the armrest of his chair.
“I don’t want it. I don’t want a country like that, a country that would require the sacrifice of my brother-in-law.”
“What the hell… is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m telling you…”
Altius crossed his legs and smiled fearlessly, folding his hands in his lap.
“I’m the first emperor, remember?”
With a smile as innocent as a child’s, Altius stuck out his chest without any sign of shame.
He was as confident as ever, and Hiro had no idea how to respond. As if he had looked directly into the sun, Hiro let his gaze drift down to his feet.
“You’re too selfish…”
“It’s fine to be selfish. That’s what an emperor should be.”
He was born to be a king, arrogant as a lion, self-important as a tiger, and his confidence never wavered from his bold demeanor.
“You are always taking things too hard. You put someone else first and stifle your emotions. I’ve always been dissatisfied with that.”
After cutting off his words, Altius pressed his fist against Hiro’s chest.
“――I’d like to punch you in the face.”
After closing one eye in a mischievous manner, Altius leaned back in his chair.
“But, for once… that’s not my role.”
Altius said with a sad look on his face.
The past and present, two eras that no longer intersect.
Altius’ role ended a thousand years ago. Whether it was happiness or unhappiness, he could not decide, but his time had come to an end.
“I’ve never felt so itchy in my life. There is nothing more frustrating than having to watch my brother-in-law suffer. If I had been there, even if I could not save you, I would not have made you look like that…”
It’s no use talking about it, but it’s true that with Altius in his prime, many of the problems surrounding the Grantz Empire today could be solved. He would have reaped all the benefits of his mighty arm.
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to give up on that one.”
With an aloof attitude, Altius threw away his regrets and took out a black card from his pocket.
It’s the “spirit talisman” that Altius handed to Hiro just before he returned to Earth.
As time passed, it turned black, and every time it reacted to something, the erosion rate increased.
It had disappeared from Hiro’s hand at some point…
“The last triggering condition was met. The fact that Hiro was as self-sacrificing as ever is so completely predictable that it’s not funny.”
Altius said dumbly and then made a serious face.
“You were really reckless…”
Hiro smiled bitterly when he was told in a somewhat accusing tone.
“You’re always trying to go down dangerous paths. Like a commandment, you continue to live with a curse on yourself. Isn’t that hard for you?”
“…To be honest, it’s hard.”
The title of “Twin Black Hero King” is too much to bear, and the title of “God of War” was established based on many sacrifices.
He was so overwhelmed by responsibilities that he felt like he would be crushed.
“But I cannot allow myself to be weak.”
“Why? Because it would disappoint me?”
“No. I’m not afraid of being disappointed now. I just don’t want to have any regrets.”
Hiro looked at his own trembling left hand.
“I don’t want a repeat of what happened a thousand years ago…”
He wondered if he could understand the horror of his loved ones wandering on the fuzzy border between the living and the dead, of their body heat disappearing, of their hearts beating but their breaths getting shorter. The fear he felt when he realized that all he had left was a mere shell in a moment of time that would never be rewound ― he wasn’t sure he could endure the despair of that moment again.
“I don’t want to feel like that anymore. I don’t want to lose anyone, and I don’t want to be unable to protect anyone.”
“My sister would never want that. She will never approve of the way you are.”
Altius muttered quietly, and silence fell between them. The two of them were unable to come up with a topic, and a subtle pause was created.
After such a suffocating silence.
“…You’re not the same anymore. It’s time for you to go your own way. It’s time for you to be free to move and live as you please without being bound by anyone. You’ve done enough for Grantz.”
Hiro didn’t answer anything. He turned his face down and remained silent.
Altius sighed and played with the black card as he continued to speak.
“That day, just before you returned to Earth.”
Hiro’s shoulders shook. He looked at Altius with a surprised face.
“Did you think I didn’t know anything about it?”
“No, because I’ve never told anyone about it…”
Altius snorted frowningly.
“I’m your brother, you know. Of course, I would notice.”
He looked dumbfounded, but his face was full of affection, and his tone was not accusatory.
“I was surprised when I found out that you had challenged the Faceless King, but I still thought it was typical of you. You were going to take all the blame, weren’t you?”
And yet, he failed ― the result of maniacal rage.
He always aspired to be ruthless, was willing to be defiled, challenged, fought, and pursued the heavens in a single fell swoop ― but his hands never grasped anything, and in return, a curse was placed on his body.
When Hiro clutched his hands regretfully, Altius smiled.
“As I told you before, I had many options for you.”
As Altius said this, three books suddenly appeared out of thin air.
All of them were familiar to Hiro. The three books were “The First Emperor’s Memoirs,” “The White Book,” and “The Black Book.”
Altius picked up one of them, the first emperor’s handbook.
“When I realized I was dying, I wondered if there was anything I could leave behind for Hiro.”
He was aware that Altius wanted something from him. In order to find out what it was, he had been holed up in his office since he was re-summoned, researching various things.
The more he studied history, the more he realized how irresponsible he had been, how the things he had left behind had affected future generations.
That cursed work has now been passed on to Liz, who is now suffering from a sad fate.
In the end, he could not find out the true intentions of Altius and ended up being shown the truth of the world.
“What did you want?”
“I wanted only one thing, and my wish was always one thing.”
Altius picked up the Black Book and smiled wickedly.
“So, in order to make my wish come true, the first thing I did was to give Hiro the position that everyone wanted. Selfishly, I turned into you and took the throne as the second emperor.”
He noticed that too. As a prankster, he would have happily disguised himself.
But it was out of the ordinary.
Who would have thought that the emperor of a superpower would take action to distort history himself?
“Why would you do such a reckless thing?”
When Hiro threw a reproachful glance at him, Altius plastered a look of helplessness on his face.
“I am your brother-in-law, and you are my brother-in-law. The only family that survived that horrible war ― even if we do not have blood together, the bond between us is not thin.”
Altius put on a cheerful face but created an air of loneliness and looked like he was about to cry. The face that he only shows to his family, the certain affection that resides in it, is an unchanging feeling.
“It is a sin for an emperor who has conquered the world to desire only the happiness of his brother-in-law?”
He felt that these words contained all of Altius’ desires, his sincere wishes.
“Even if you can’t grab it, don’t give up, take the path you like, and pursue the distant ideal once again. I have left everything for you.”
Altius smiled as he covered his right eye with the black card.
“Next―… No, that’s a big deal.”
Muttering as if to himself, Altius shook his head and then smiled.
“So I’ll just give you one more piece of advice.”
A voice full of dignity ― A voice he had heard many times before from a face full of mystery.
The quality of his voice, essential for a champion, contained a sense of intimidation that he could not hide even if he tried.
“When you get the truth, you will understand everything.”
He didn’t force it. His words came naturally to Hiro.
Altius was born with such a deep and fascinating voice.
“Don’t make the wrong choice. I can no longer help you.”
Altius gets up from his chair and spreads his arms to tell him how big the world is.
Even though he reigned supreme over the entire race, his hands could not grasp the world.
Yet, there is no regret in his hands, no regret, just a sense of satisfaction.
“But don’t worry. My will remains, and I am sure it will help you.”
He looked up to the heavens and gave a comforting smile.
He turned to Hiro with a radiant expression on his face as if to say that he had nothing left to think about.
“Now, it’s time to wake up.”
Hiro’s vision was quickly enveloped in light, but strangely he did not feel the glare.
Without closing his eyes, Hiro looked at Altius standing in front of him.
“…I wonder if I can find it?”
The words had no context and lost their subject. However, Altius nodded vigorously.
“Yes, you will find it.”
As he smiled calmly, Hiro relaxed his shoulders and looked up at the sky.
“I see… then I’ll―”
He did not say the last word until the end.
But he was sure that Altius knew what he was talking about, even if he didn’t say it.
“I’ll see you again.”