Story 4: Krieger
“[Dragon Extermination Knight, Siegfried] attack!”
“Argh, I lost again…”
Krieger, the green-haired young boy, and red-headed Rick both loved Buddyfight. They had been born and raised in the same country village in Germany. Since their houses were close to each other, the two quickly became friends and had Buddyfights whenever they had a spare moment.
As Krieger picked up the Siegfried card that had just won the match, he gazed at it with admiration.
Krieger: “Legend World Heroes really are strong and amazing…I love them.”
Rick: “Next time, my Dragon Brigade will win!”
Krieger: “I welcome the challenge!”
The two friends laughed innocently.
“I knew you’d be here!”
A girl with short silver hair opened the door to the secret base that they had constructed behind the school.
“Hmph! If you’re going to Buddyfight, I wish you’d invite me too.”
“Sorry, you were talking to some other kids, so…”
“You don’t have to be so shy.”
The girl, Fel, also lived near the two boys, and had been their playmate since they were very young. Unlike Krieger and Rick, who were introverted and couldn’t fit in well with others, Fel was a lively girl who made friends easily. As a result, Fel was always the one to take charge and lead Krieger and Rick by the hand. In fact, Fel was the one who came up with the idea for the secret base that the three friends had built together.
Fel: “Next, you’re going to Buddyfight me!”
Rick: “I’m not gonna lose!”
As Fel brought her deck out, the two boys put away the cards spread out on the floor.
The three of them always played together like this.
They thought that their days would continue in this way forever.
And then that fateful day came.
◇ ◇ ◇
That day, they were on a school field trip to a nearby forest.
The students spent the morning traveling to the forest, and in the afternoon they ate their packed lunches and then played with their close friends.
The anomaly occurred when they were preparing to head back.
“Hey, what’s that?”
A student pointed at the sky.
Up above, a black fissure ran through the sky like a crack in a window pane. The fissure grew larger and larger, turning into a pitch-black hole. The teachers realized that this was an abnormal situation and gathered the students, encouraging them to evacuate and take shelter.
But within moments, a massive monster emerged from the hole. It was a sinister monster with a pitch-black body and four arms, and a huge mouth on its torso.
“What is that?!”
“R-Run for it, everyone!”
“Someone call the Buddy Police!”
The teachers and students were in a panic.
The massive monster breathed reddish-black flames from the huge mouth on its belly, burning the forests and blackening the ground. The students found themselves separated even further by the collapse of the burning trees, and nobody could tell where anybody else was.
“Krieger! Rick! This way!”
In the middle of all of this chaos, Krieger and Rick were running through the forest, led by Fel. Fel chose the paths that would be best for the two boys, who were not very athletic, and called out to guide them.
But at this point, the massive monster began to thrash about and blast the area with fireballs. Unfortunately, one of those fireballs landed right near the three friends.
The impact made Krieger lose his balance, and he tripped over a tree root. A large tree, already in flames, started to topple toward Krieger.
Krieger was frozen in fear.
Rick was petrified as well.
Fel was the only one who overcame her own terror and ran towards Krieger. Just as the large tree was about to collapse, she threw herself at Krieger and managed to shift his position just enough.
Both of Fel’s legs were trapped under the large tree instead.
“Fel! What should I do? What should I do?!”
“Krieger…hurry…you have to get away…”
“But…But if I do that, Fel…”
“Don’t worry about me…!”
Even in this dire situation, Fel was trying to get Krieger and Rick to safety.
The next fireball headed towards them, as if to pour salt on their wounds.
Fel raised her voice in emphasis, but Krieger was in a state of confusion and could do nothing but stare at the approaching fireball.
In a moment, the fireball would consume all three of them…
“Leave it to me!”
…But it didn’t.
A large shadowy form appeared suddenly, standing before the approaching fireball and destroying it completely.
“Are you all right?”
An enormous hooded man in tattered clothes and a huge, heavily armed three-headed wolf appeared before Krieger and his friends.
Krieger nodded timidly, and forced the words out of his trembling lips.
“Um…Fel…Please rescue Fel…!”
With both her legs pinned under the massive tree trunk, Fel had fainted. The giant man looked at Krieger and Rick, then Fel. He approached without a word.
The giant grabbed the huge tree with his hands, and lifted it with a grunt before throwing it in the opposite direction. Then he lifted all three of them, as though they weighed nothing at all, and put them on his shoulders.
“Cerberus, we’re going to retreat for now.”
“Rouga! We’re so close to cornering him!”
“I know that. But we can hardly continue under these circumstances. Fear not, we gave him a mortal wound. And the Buddy Police will come soon enough.”
The giant and the three-headed wolf ran through the forest with tremendous speed.
The form of the massive monster retreated into the distance.
As Krieger gazed blankly at this scene, he began to feel frustration at how helpless he had been. He felt despair at the insurmountable difference between himself and the heroes he had admired. Fel had protected him, yet he had been unable to help her. He bit his lower lip, ashamed by how pathetic he was.
“If you want to save your friends, you should gain strength. The strength that will let you follow the path that you believe in. Even if that leads you to walk a separate path from your friends.”
That was what the giant said.
Krieger didn’t know how to respond, but he definitely felt those words deep in his heart.
The massive monster had disappeared by the time that the Buddy Police arrived. The Buddy Police continued to search for the monster for several months, but in the end they were unable to locate it.
◇ ◇ ◇
It had been a few years since that incident.
I, Krieger, was now 13 years old.
“Good morning, Fel.”
I greeted her at the front door.
She had always kept her hair short because it got in the way when she was participating in sports, but now her hair had grown long and she kept it tied back in a ponytail.
“Mornin’. Thanks for coming by again today.”
“No need for thanks, we help each other all the time.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. After all, you’re always helping me, Fel.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“I know for sure.”
I felt this way from the bottom of my heart. Fel had always helped me. She had always led Rick and me, and I couldn’t count the number of times she’d saved us. Yes, just like she saved me in that burning forest.
I pushed Fel in her wheelchair.
Fel lost the ability to use her legs in that incident. The least that I could do to repay her was to help her in her daily life however I could.
As we headed out together, I could see Rick waiting across the street. His spiky red hair really stood out. As Fel and I waved to him, he responded brusquely.
The three of us always met up early in the morning and went to school together. This was our daily routine.
◇ ◇ ◇
The school day had ended.
I walked Fel back to her house, and immediately headed out. Rick had left school without us, saying that he had something he needed to do, so I was alone for the moment.
After that incident, I started going to a training gym so that I could get that much closer to being like those heroes that I had admired. I remembered reading in some book about how a strong body develops a strong will, so I began training in desperation, like a drowning man clutching at straws.
When I’m training, I always think back to that day.
I do this so I don’t forget how frustrated and helpless I felt that day.
I do this so I won’t ever be as pathetic as I was that day.
As the sun was beginning to set, I left the training gym.
I bought a sports drink at a nearby shop and drank it in one gulp. The cool liquid ran down my throat and spread throughout my body.
Hm, I’m hungry now. Guess I’ll head home quickly and have some dinner.
As these thoughts went through my mind, the next moment–
The ground shook, accompanied by a tremendous rumbling.
The sudden shock made me lose my balance, and I ended up falling with both hands on the ground. As I looked around, trying to figure out what was going on, I saw a familiar silhouette.
I’d never forget that image.
A pitch-black body, with four arms.
A large mouth on the torso.
It was the massive monster that had attacked us in the forest on that fateful day.
That massive monster was standing here, in our town.
Now that I saw it before me, my mind went blank.
Why? What is it doing here? How did it get here? Now that I think of it, they said that monster’s whereabouts were unknown. Is it going to keep appearing before us? I can’t take this anymore. Please stop. Please go away. Why why why why why–
“…Calm down, Krieger,” I scolded myself.
If I froze here and now, then what had all of my effort been for? I took a deep breath, and looked at the massive monster one more time.
That’s when I noticed something.
The massive monster’s path was definitely taking him towards the same place I was headed. It was the direction of the residential area where we lived.
And of course, that meant…
Fel was there, and she couldn’t use her legs. At this time of day, her parents probably weren’t home yet. Rick had mentioned having something to do, so he likely wasn’t nearby either. Then who was going to help Fel?
As the townspeople finally grasped the situation and began to panic, I ran in the direction of the massive monster.
Even as I nearly collided with the people fleeing towards me, I ran as fast as I could.
Just like that day, the massive monster shot fireballs in every direction, and the town began to turn into a sea of flames. There were a few times that pieces of broken buildings grazed my body, but I ignored it and kept running.
Finally, our houses came into view.
What I saw made me choke and freeze in my tracks.
Fel’s house was half-destroyed.
I was scared.
I was scared of seeing what lay beyond.
But even as I was struck with fear, I didn’t pause any further.
If I stopped here, it would be the same as that terrible day.
I climbed over the rubble and burst into Fel’s house.
If she wasn’t here, that would be fine.
If she had already evacuated, that would be best.
But if there was even a chance that she was still here…
“Fel! Are you here?” I shouted over and over again as I searched for her.
Then I spotted her wheelchair on its side next to some fallen rubble. I ran over immediately, and found Fel on the ground, thrown out of her wheelchair.
I called her name, but she didn’t respond.
I grew pale with fear as I checked Fel’s breath. Fel had fainted, but she was still breathing. I was relieved by this for a moment, but snapped back to reality when I heard the massive monster roar.
I looked behind me and saw that the massive monster had already gotten quite close to us.
I could carry Fel on my back and run, but I would only get so far.
In that case…
I lifted Fel up in my arms. I carried her to a part of the house that was still intact, and gently lay her down on the ground.
“Wait here. This time, I’ll save you,” I said softly, and ran towards the massive monster. I had to somehow change the massive monster’s direction. That was the only plan I could think of on the spur of the moment. Even though I knew that it was incredibly foolhardy, I headed for the massive monster.
I picked up a nearby stone and threw it at the massive monster.
“I’m your opponent! Come over here!”
Perhaps it understood my words, or perhaps the rock had been effective. The massive monster looked down at me, near his feet.
[You fool. Do you wish to die?]
The voice seemed to echo down to the bowels of the earth, and it made chills run through my entire body. But I clenched my fist tightly. If I let this discourage me, I wouldn’t be able to save anyone. I had to be brave.
But that was when I had an unexpected encounter.
“Huh? Is that you, Krieger?”
It was a second voice, different from the massive monster’s.
It was a familiar voice.
It was a voice I’d heard just this morning.
Near the massive monster’s feet, showing no signs of concern, there was the unmistakable sight of my best friend.
“Rick, what are you doing here…you have to get away!”
“Huh? Get away?”
“What do you mean why? Our homes have been destroyed, and Fel has collapsed, and the massive monster is right there–”
Rick spoke decisively, as if to cut off my words.
“No way, why would I run? This is my Buddy.”
I couldn’t understand it.
My brain needed time to process this.
This massive monster…was Rick’s…Buddy…?
“What are you talking about…”
“It just happened today! I went to the forest where that incident happened! Apparently, this guy took some fatal damage during that incident! It seems he sealed himself away in his card to heal his injuries, and waited for a human Buddy to someday release him from his seal!”
As Rick happily told me all this, he was clearly different from his usual self.
The Rick that I knew, who was brusque but kind at heart, wasn’t there.
“So I became his Buddy, and revived him! In exchange, he’s going to lend me his power!”
“Rick, do you hear yourself? Do you realize what you’re saying…”
“Huh? Like I said, I’ve gained his power and–”
“He’s the one who attacked us on that day! And now, he’s destroying our town!”
“That just shows how strong he is. That’s fine by me!”
“It’s not fine at all!”
“…Hey, Krieger. Do you remember what that guy said, back on that day?”
“If you want to save your friends, gain ‘strength’.”
So Rick had also heard the words of the giant who had saved us on that day.
“You know, Krieger. Back on that day, I wanted to save you and Fel both. Because you were my friends. But I was so scared, I couldn’t move a muscle.”
It was the same for me.
“I was so frustrated. I even felt furious at myself for not being able to do anything.”
Same for me.
“The strength to help my friends that he talked about…I didn’t have it.”
Same for me.
That’s why I decided to change who I was.
“The strength and courage that Fel showed when she risked her own life to save you…It still torments me all the time. Every morning, when I see Fel’s paralysis, it’s proof of her courage. And I feel like my own weakness is being thrown in my face!”
Rick’s voice got louder and louder.
It was as if he was trying to purge all of the ugliness within him; as if he was reproaching his own weakness.
“I don’t want to face my weakness any more. I want strength. I want power. When I heard this guy’s voice, I was saved! I was finally able to gain the strength I needed! That’s why I’m going to prove my strength by destroying this town with him!”
[That is as it should be, my Buddy. To create something new, the old must be destroyed. Together, we will build our new world to come,]
“Yeah, let’s smash everything and prove just how strong we are! Hey Krieger, you should join us! Let’s make a world together, where we never have to feel pathetic or humiliated!”
Rick sounded like he was genuinely having a good time.
Hearing his words, I felt something within me fall away.
I forgot all of the fear I’d felt until a moment ago, as anger built up within me.
“…That’s not strength or power.”
“What you’re doing is wrong!”
“What’s wrong about it? Look at this town! There’s nobody here who can match us! We’re the strongest!”
“Rick, what you’re saying is messed up!”
“There’s nothing messed up about it! Those with power trample those without power! That’s the natural order of things!”
“All you’re doing is showing how weak you really are!”
The expression on Rick’s face changed. He swallowed his breath, and then began to speak slowly, as if wringing out each word.
“Hey, Krieger, let’s have a Buddyfight.”
“A Buddyfight. I’ll use my new Dragon Brigade to beat up your so-called Heroes. Maybe then you’ll feel like acknowledging my strength.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
As Rick held his deck in his hand, the massive monster asked:
[Are you sure? I could obliterate him, here and now.]
“Don’t! I’ll be the one to crush him, in a Buddyfight!”
[…Do as you wish.]
Rick activated the Buddyfight System. With the burning town as our backdrop, the Fight Stage rose up. As the V-Boards appeared near our hands, Rick and I luminized our decks.
“Together with the power to save the world, I will become a hero! Luminize! Savior Heroes!”
“Burn everything, devour all, and prove my strength! Luminize! Evil Dragons!”
“Buddy…fight! Raise the flag!”
I turned over my flag card.
Next, Rick turned over his flag.
“Darkness Dragon World!”
And so our Buddyfight began.
“My turn! Draw. Charge and draw! I pay 2 life and call [Source of Demonic Dragon, Zahhak] to the center! I use the effect to add this card to my hand.”
Rick’s Life: 10 → 8
Rick took a card in his hand.
The card belonged to the monster from that fateful day, Rick’s Buddy.
“I pay 2 gauge and place Zahhak in the soul as I Buddy call [Evil Deity Karma Demonic Dragon, Aga Manafh] to the center!”
Rick’s life: 8 → 9
An ominous massive form, the living symbol of the disaster that happened that day, descended to the center position.
[My name is Aga Manafh. In my new world that is to come, there is no need for vermin. Accordingly, I shall burn all that lies before me.]
“And I set Death Gauge Timer! Its effect lets me increase my gauge. Aga Manafh, attack the fighter!”
Fireballs shot out of Aga Manafh’s arms and made a direct hit.
Krieger’s Life: 10 → 7
“And with that, my turn is over.”
“Hff…hff…Next…it’s my turn. Draw. Charge and draw. I equip [Dragon Vanquishing Sword, Balmung]!”
As I placed the card on the V-Board, the dragon-slaying sword appeared in my right hand. I stabbed it into the ground, and proceeded to call a monster.
“I pay 1 gauge and call [Dragon Extermination Knight, Siegfried] to the right!”
Siegfried appeared in the right area.
Siegfried is a dragon-slaying hero, and one of my favorite cards. If I use this card’s effect…!
“Siegfried’s effect destroys a monster that has ‘dragon’ in its attributes…in other words, I destroy Aga Manafh!”
“Time for Soulguard!”
Aga Manafh stayed on the field using Soulguard, but now he was down to 0 soul cards. I could finish him off with my next attack!
“I’ve been waiting for this moment! Aga Manafh’s ability, activate! At the beginning of an attack phase, he destroys one monster! Begone, Siegfried!”
A fireball shot out of the gaping mouth on Aga Manafh’s body, bearing down on Siegfried. When the flames that wreathed the right area vanished, Siegfried had vanished without a trace.
“But at least I still have Balmung…”
“I pay 1 gauge and destroy Death Gauge Timer to cast [Gale Impulse]! I destroy Balmung!”
The shockwave released from Rick’s spell card destroyed my Balmung.
“It can’t be…”
“Krieger! Now you have nothing left on your field!”
The dragon-slaying hero Siegfried and the dragon-slayer sword Balmung were both destroyed. Then, what could I do next?
“…My turn is over.”
“It’s my turn! Draw! Charge and draw! I call [Misbegotten Child of a Demonic Dragon, Tchimno] to the left!”
A small dragon wearing a black eggshell like a hat appeared in the left area.
“And in addition! I pay 1 gauge to cast [Ultimate Buddy!]! I place this card in Aga Manafh’s soul and increase his attack by 5000! Now, Tchimno, let’s get things started by attacking the fighter!”
Tchimno hit me with a head-butt.
Krieger’s Life: 7 → 5
“Aga Manafh, attack the fighter!”
Krieger’s Life: 5 → 2
“Aga Manafh! Double Attack!”
[Be engulfed, child of man!]
Not yet. Please, not yet.
I can’t afford to let it end yet!
“I cast! [Holy Grail]! The attack is nullified!”
The Holy Grail that emerged from the spell card blocked Aga Manafh’s fireball.
“Tch! My turn is over.”
I barely managed to survive by the skin of my teeth.
“It’s my turn.”
“Give up already. By now, you must understand that there’s no way you can beat me and Aga Manafh’s strength, no matter how hard you struggle! So come join us!”
Rick was correct. My situation was hopeless.
I glanced at my hand cards. However, there were no cards that could take down Aga Manafh. Even as I thought of all the cards in my deck, I couldn’t think of anything that could defeat Aga Manafh and eliminate all of Rick’s Life.
Rick had definitely gained strength.
A strength far greater than mine.
But he’s wrong. This isn’t the kind of strength that the man who saved us was talking about.
“If you want to save your friends, you should gain strength. The strength that will let you follow the path that you believe in. Even if that leads you to walk a separate path from your friends.”
I flashed back to the man’s words.
I want to save Fel.
And at the same time, I want to save Rick.
Rick, who had burdened himself with his weakness ever since that day.
Even if I end up at odds with the path that Rick has chosen, I’m going to follow the path that I believe in. I’m certain that Rick has chosen the wrong path. That’s why I’m going to prove it to him.
“What I want is the strength to protect my friends!”
[I shall lend my power to thee.]
In an instant, everything around me was bathed in light.
As I stood there, not knowing what had happened, a knight encased in shining silver armor appeared before me.
[My name is Siegfried.]
“Siegfried?! But you don’t look like the Siegfried that I know.”
[I am a Messiah Arms. I am the power of the hero who saved the world from evil dragons, given physical form. As a result, I am both Siegfried and not Siegfried.]
[Dost thou wish to be ‘saved’?]
“No… But I wonder if I deserve to use the power of a hero.”
[We Messiah Arms appear only to those who truly desire ‘strength’, taking on a form appropriate to the questor. The fact that I have manifested means that thou art worthy of wielding the power of Siegfried.]
“…Then… I’d like you to lend me your strength. My friend is in mortal danger. And my other friend is trying to walk down the wrong path. I want to save both of them. So please, fight together with me, Siegfried!”
[Young boy, whose name means ‘warrior’. My power shall be with thee.]
The next thing I knew, I had returned to the Fight Stage.
“Wh-What was that light just now!” yelled Rick.
Did that mean that it wasn’t a dream or a hallucination?
“Draw. Charge and draw.”
Emboldened by a mysterious confidence, I drew a card.
And there it was. The ‘strength’ I had been seeking.
“Rick. The strength that you have gained is the wrong kind.”
“Hah! No matter what you say now, it’s nothing but the whining of a loser!”
“No, I will win. I’ll win, and I’ll save both you and Fel!”
I raised the card that I had drawn.
“I pay 1 gauge and Buddy call [Projection Shell, “Siegfried”] to the right!”
[My strength is thy strength. Now, accept my sword of impact.]
Krieger’s Life: 2→ 3
A knight clad in shining silver armor appeared in the right area.
It wasn’t a dream or a hallucination.
His power was within me.
“I use his effect to add [Heroical Armor, Balmung] to my hand, and equip!”
Krieger’s Life: 3→ 2
“Siegfried and Balmung? What’s going on? They don’t look like the cards I know!”
“That’s right. These aren’t Hero cards any more. Their strength is for saving someone else, and for protecting someone else. They are Messiah Arms!”
“And that’s not all! There’s more to come!”
I picked up the other card that I had drawn.
This was the true power of Messiah Arms.
The strength to save the world and make things right.
The power to protect my world.
“Siegfried! Balmung! Messiah Unite! I pay 2 gauge and equip [Messiah Arms, Siegsabre]!!”
Balmung in my hand, Siegfried, and I myself combined into one being. Siegfried’s power was reshaped into my own power, and materialized in a new form.
A shining silver sword representing my willpower was equipped, becoming one with my body.
[That power…! Is it superior to my own?!]
“Here I come, Rick!”
I kicked off of the ground.
I could tell that I was moving at a speed unimaginable under normal circumstances. Siegfried’s power wasn’t just flowing through the weapon, it was running through me as well.
I landed in the center area and kicked off again, this time jumping above Aga Manafh’s head. Aga Manafh attacked with his four arms, but I sliced off the menacing limbs with Siegsabre.
[This is madness! How can such a thing be?!]
“When Siegsabre attacks, I can choose one card that has ‘dragon’ in its attributes and nullify all of its abilities, as well as sending it to the drop zone. Now, this will end it!!”
Siegsabre swung down upon Aga Manafh’s head, splitting his entire massive form in half.
Rick watched Aga Manafh’s destruction and reached out towards the empty space where he had been before falling to his knees in despair.
And here came another slash from Siegsabre. The blow destroyed Tchimno, and reduced Rick’s Life.
Rick’s Life: 9 → 4
“The Balmung in Siegsabre’s soul lets me Stand Siegsabre by paying 1 life.”
Krieger’s Life: 2 → 1
Siegsabre could attack once again.
This would be the last attack.
I stood still in front of Rick.
“Rick. The courage that Fel showed that day, that we both yearned for…that strength wasn’t for hurting someone else. It was for protecting someone else, remember?”
I gently struck Rick’s cheek with the flat side of Siegsabre.
Rick’s Life: 4 → 0
◇ ◇ ◇
“You know, you don’t have to come every day.”
Fel said this to me, when I visited her in her hospital room like always.
“It’s fine, isn’t it? It’s not like I have anywhere else to go.”
“C’mon, you really ought to make friends with our other classmates.”
“I-I like to do things at my own pace!”
“Well, Rick’s probably not coming home for a while yet, so I guess it can’t be helped.”
“Yeah. When he comes home, let’s be sure to tease him mercilessly.”
“Let’s do it, let’s do it! We’ll tease him so much, he’ll be too embarrassed to ever do anything bad like this again.”
Rick had been taken in for questioning by the Buddy Police. According to the reports, Rick’s mind had been taken over by Aga Manafh, and it was currently unknown how the authorities would be dealing with him.
After a brief silence, Fel quietly began to speak.
“…Hey, Krieger. Isn’t it about time that you said it?”
Those words startled me so much, I thought my heart would leap out of my chest.
“Huh? Wh-What do you mean?”
“Oh, you’ve been awful at hiding the truth ever since we were kids. I know that every day you visited me, you were trying to figure out the best moment to say it.”
“Uh, ah, that is…”
She was so right, it was astonishing.
I guess I’m no match for Fel, no matter what.
“Well, the truth is–”
◇ ◇ ◇
A few days after the incident that Rick and Aga Manafh had caused, I received a letter. It was from a Japanese person named Kei Jinguji. The letter said that soon, an elite school dedicated to Buddyfight called the World Buddy Academia would be opening its doors, and that I was invited due to my heroics during the recent incident.
When I read that letter, I have to admit that my heart began to race. I loved Buddyfight so much, and here was a chance to face powerful opponents gathered from all over the world. I might never have such an opportunity again.
But on the other hand, I felt like I couldn’t leave Fel all alone in Germany, with her disability. With Rick gone, my absence would be sure to make Fel’s life more difficult.
I was unable to sort out my wavering feelings, and unsure of how to tell Fel about this, I simply let the days go by.
“…I see…” Fel nodded understandingly as I finished my explanation. Then she said, unconcernedly:
“You should go to Japan.”
“You don’t need to worry about me! I’ve gotten used to life in this wheelchair, and more importantly, I’ve got lots of friends…unlike you, Krieger.”
“But Fel, it’s my fault that your legs…”
“It’s not your fault, Krieger. Besides, you’re hopelessly in love, aren’t you? With Buddyfight.”
“Then you should go. If you gave up something that you loved for my sake that would make me sadder than anything.”
Even so, I couldn’t quite come to terms with this. Despite her words, I was sure that Fel was just trying to be strong.
Seeing my indecision, Fel made a suggestion.
“All right then, let’s make a promise. You’ll go to Japan, and in exchange, after your graduation you, Rick and I will meet here, all three of us. Okay?”
Surely Fel must be feeling lonely too. The three of us had been together for so long, there was no way that she wouldn’t feel lonesome at the thought of us going our separate ways. But even so, she was thinking of me, and encouraging me to spread my wings.
I can’t force Fel to continue encouraging and supporting me. I can’t rely on her kindness forever. That was what I thought.
After all, I had the strength to walk my own path now.
“I understand. I’m going to go to Japan.”
“Okay. Good luck.”
After that, Fel and I played Buddyfight in her hospital room.
We won, and we lost, and we had so much fun together.
As sunset approached, I began to put away my cards so I could head home for the day. Fel called out to me, as if she’d just thought of something.
As I turned towards Fel, I felt her lips on my cheek.
“My first kiss. I’m giving it to you, so you’d better return and give it back to me.”
Seeing the cheeky grin on her face, I felt a rush of embarrassment and hid my face with my school bag.
I would go to Japan.
And I would come back here, no matter what.
And when I did, I would gather up all of my courage too, and return Fel’s gift.
Text by Shun Menjo