Chapter 5: Goodbye
It was the first day of summer.
[Here we go, hold tight Sonoko.]
[Wa~, so fa~st!]
Sonoko was ecstatic, as Gin pulled her swim ring around. The three heroes are currently playing at a pool owned by Taisha (reserved for them). It was per Gin’s suggestion since they, as heroes, needed to improve their basic physical skills.
[He~y Sumi. How long are you gonna be doing those warm-up exercises for?]
Gin called to Sumi, hopping up by the pool side.
[You guys went in too fast. Gin, you didn't even do your warm-ups, unbelievable.]
Sumi said as she stretched.
[Water accidents are really scary. I'd rather be safe than sorry.]
[Fufu~...Take a look Sonoko. Sumi really does...have a body unfit for an elementary schooler, don't you think?]
[I'm so jealous~. It's like a fruit shop~]
[Wait, what are two looking at!]
[Gimme those peaches, pops.]
[Shut up, Gin.]
Sumi entered the water blushing.
[...so cold, it feels nice...]
[Hey, this just came to me. But what if enemies show up now? Will we sortie in swimsuits?]
[Ah~ that'll probably happen~]
[It'd look pretty miserable if we were to lose...We gotta be careful.]
[Speaking of water, Gin, you just went and drank that Vertex' water. Did nothing really happen afterwards?]
[Ah...Thinking about it, I might get addicted to that taste. I kinda wanna drink it again, fufufu.]
[I wonder if it had any addictive materials...Still, you're looking pretty well. I'm glad.]
[Super well. That's my redeeming feature!]
Gin said as she made a fist.
[Although, I'd really appreciate it if you'd spare me from the long study sessions!]
[Long or short, you can't concentrate at all, Gin.]
[Fua~ah...I'm feeling sleepy]
Sonoko yawned as she made herself comfortable inside her swim ring and floated down the pool.
[Ah, I thought she reminded me of something. Jellyfish!]
[Sonocchi was probably a jellyfish in her previous life.]
[But jellyfish are poisonous. It really hurts. I've been stung by one before.]
[That must have been terrible, Sonocchi.]
[Did it just attack you while you were swimming?]
[No, it was washed up ashore.]
[I was taking a walk, when I saw it on the shore. I went and touched it thinking it might be squishy, that's when it got me~]
[I...I see. Must have been rough, Sonoko.]
[...Don't go touching Vertex out of curiosity too.]
[Alright, Sumi!! Wanna race?]
[Abrupt, aren't we? Very well, Gin, this is what those warm ups were for.]
[Oo~ The usual showdown~]
[What's your preferred swimming style? Let's decide on one to go with. Mine's butterfly.]
[I prefer the traditional stroke style.]
[The traditional stroke. I can also do the breaststroke and the backstroke.]
[What about the crawl? It's pretty fast.]
[I do not like it very much.]
[What about the butterfly? It's more active than the breaststroke.]
[I do not like it very much.]
[What about the doggy paddle?]
[Ah, I actually like that one.]
[Sometimes, I have no clue what to expect from you.]
[I'm also good at the doggy paddle~ Wanna see~?]
[I could imagine Sonoko swimming that way.]
[Here I go~ Eee~i]
Splash, Splash, Splash, Splash, Splash, Splash!!!!!
[I knew it. Sonocchi is not to be underestimated.]
[I'm exhausted. Let's just swim normally, Gin.]
After they left, the three went to an udon shop. Their hometown had a large number of udon shops. A lot of them welcomed elementary schoolers. They had prices as low as 200 Yen, so they were light on the wallet as well.
[I'll go with Soy Sauce udon~]
[Pickled plums here.]
[Kitsune udon for me.]
Each one had their preferences. They placed their order as usual.
[Now then, let's do the "We're expecting good udon" aura ritual while waiting.]
[Yes, it is a tradition for when you're waiting for your udon.]
The three of them joined their arms, closed their eyes and emitted their aura in silence while waiting for the order to arrive.
Gin thoroughly savors her udon as she eats.
[Mmm~, so goood...]
The other two nod in approval.
[I bet if the Vertex tasted udon, they would give up on trying to destroy mankind~]
[I hear they actually tried the udon strategy once.]
[One of the Taisha people was half-jokingly talking about it, so I don't think it was serious. But since normal weapons don't work on Vertex, they had to try all kinds of stuff.]
[...So that's when they tried udon~]
[Looking at our current situation though, it must not have worked...]
[Yeah, it seems they threw udon balls at Vertex, but it didn't even faze them. We don't even know if those things eat in the first place.]
[U-unfazed by udon~]
[The more we learn about them, the harder it becomes to understand them. I mean, it's udon!! How can you not react at all?]
Sumi and the others were very serious about this matter. That's how important udon was to them.
[Speaking of which, do you two have any dreams for the future?]
[That came out of nowhere again, Gin. At this point it's become an everyday thing though.]
[It's just that I never asked you two about this. We can do our duty as heroes because we're still little girls. But that also means we won't be able to do it forever.]
[Well, I suppose we'll just be recruited into Taisha, considering the families we were born into.]
[I wonder if we'll still be able to work other jobs while being in Taisha though~]
[Yes, I have heard of such cases.]
[I'll change the question then. What would you like to do, aside from Taisha?]
[I'd like to be a scholar and specialize in ancient civilizations' history.]
[Ooh. As expected of Sumi-san. A very serious answer.]
[You're gonna study about the Christian Era~?]
[Yes, that's what I'm interested in. What about you, Gin?]
[Well you see, I don't really have any life goals. I guess I do like sports, but not enough to want to go pro. I wanna raise my little brother to be my underling, but that can't exactly be called a dream. Which is why I asked the two of you.]
[Don't you have any wishes? At all?]
[...nope, not really...]
[Why did you blush just now?]
[Ah, well; I suppose i did consider having a family of my own to be cool. But that would imply my goal in life would be to become a bride. And that's kinda embarrassing.]
[It's not embarrassing at all~]
[Fufu, it's wonderful, Gin.]
[N-no...It's pretty embarrassing. H-hey Sumi, don't cling to me!!]
[I'm thinking of writing short novels while working at Taisha~]
[I'd expect some amazing development naturally happening within 10 lines of the start.]
[An airhead like Sonoko might actually hit the jackpot and come up with something great.]
[She's a natural after all.]
[I'd love to model some characters in my novel after you two. The kind and dependable Mino-san, and the serious but sometimes interesting Wasshi~]
[Serious but...sometimes interesting...]
[Better than boring.]
[True, but...I'd like to be depended on as well.]
[Having two dependable characters would ruin the balance of the story, wouldn't it?]
[That might be the case, but...]
[I love seeing you blush and get all flustered like that, Sumi.]
Lately, it seems that Sumi has been put in such situations a lot. She might complain, but she didn't hate them. As long as the three of them were together, anything they did was fun. The heroes spent their time talking about all kinds of stuff. Since each of them was so unique, they enjoyed listening to the others' opinions.
By the time they realized, it was already sunset.
[Time sure flies when we're chatting like this.]
[I kno~w, I wanna talk some more~]
[There's still tomorrow.]
[You're right. Today was fun. See ya.]
Gin turned around and left. Looking at her back as she walked away, Sumi couldn't help but feel discomfort in her heart.
Tomorrow, will I be able to see Gin?
[Ah...Wait, Gin. Gin!!]
Gin wouldn't turn around, no matter how much Sumi called to her.
Sumi opened her eyes. It was the middle of the night at Taisha headquarters. Sumi was brought back to reality, when she saw the coffin in front of her.
That was all just a dream. Joyful memories with her friends.
The coffin she was looking at was not a dream. Inside it, Gin was sleeping peacefully. An eternal slumber. She exhausted her life as she fought back the three Vertexes all by herself, allowing Sumi and Sonoko to escape.
Sumi firmly held her hand. The hand that was so warm in her dream, was now cold. Just a few hours ago, they were playing, laughing, squabbling and fighting together. Warm tears gathered up in her eyes. Next to her, Sonoko had already cried herself to sleep.
The next day, was the moment of farewell.
Taisha Literature and History Department - Miko-sama: CENSORED
The Shinju-sama is God itself. Therefore, I prayed. That I didn't want to be separated from my friends. That was, in a way, something that would continue to be granted to me. In exchange for the sacrifice of a comrade, we gained ■■■■ ■■■■.
Hero’s Memoir 298.7.12
Minowa Gin had lost her life in duty. It was announced at Shinju-Kan. The duties performed for the Shinju-sama come in all forms; some of them were exceptionally severe. The students at Shinju-kan were taught such. Still, the death of a peer was a first. Almost all of Gin’s classmates were in tears. It seems like a lot of the male students had feelings for the cheerful young girl.
Sumi and Sonoko were dumbfounded. All kinds of feelings were clashing inside them.
One thing they had both decided on; if the enemy were to come they would fight. No matter how sad they were, if they ran from battle then Gin's sacrifice would lose all meaning. However, they still couldn't perform basic daily tasks the way they usually do.
Gin's funeral was being held in the midst of the rain. Sumi's chest tightened every time she looked at the smiling portrait of her friend. The Minowa family's sobs could be heard. Gin's baby brother was sleeping soundly.
And, at last the moment of final goodbyes had come.
The girls felt a familiar uneasiness.
Time froze. And Forestization began. Vertex had come attacking.
That moment of grief, of farewells.
The enemy trampled it as well.
Sumi let out a scream, as her feelings burst out of her chest. Sonoko wasn't surprised, she was feeling the same.
The next words that came out of Sumi's mouth were simple and clear.
Reflecting her feelings. She had nothing clever to say at that moment.
They no longer had a vanguard to rely on. The two of them had to protect the world alone. Anxiety wasn't what they felt though. Another emotion, much, much stronger dwelt inside them.
[Drive it away!]
Sumi and Sonoko transformed without hesitation.
[We'll be right back, Mino-san!]
They addressed their friend in the coffin, and headed towards the bridge.
The two heroes awaited the enemy atop the big bridge. The forestized world had the same majestic feeling as always. In face of the upcoming battle, the two showed clear hostility towards their foes. No more pre-battle chat.
They had no idea where the Vertex would come from. Sumi climbed to the highest position on the bridge, and started shooting her bow. She moved a bit far from Sonoko, but they both knew it was better than having the enemy suddenly attack them again.
[Sonocchi! One coming from the front!]
Ahead in the distance, a giant with a strange form appeared. It faintly resembled some kind of living creature.
[Doesn't seem to be any others~?]
[We're good...for now!]
The moment she confirmed the presence of the enemy, Sumi rained arrows down on it. Soaring like missiles, they pierced the Vertex. Sonoko observed the enemy's movements. It started violently spinning the cloth-like part sticking out of its body. It acted as a shield, protecting it, and immediately repelled all of Sumi's shots.
[Is that all you can do!!]
Sumi kept firing.
The Vertex deflected all her arrows in retaliation, but...
Sumi howled once again. She continued shooting as she howled; so fiercely that her fingers started to bleed.
However, Gin that was covered in blood must have endured dozens, no hundreds times the amount of pain. This was nothing. As if trying to keep up with her fervor, Sumi's brain seemed to have released some kind of limiter. The Vertex, no longer able to handle the incoming attacks was skewered all over. Its body was being torn apart in face of Sumi's immense firepower.
[Wasshi~... Amazing... Me too!]
Witnessing that sight, Sonoko got fired up as well.
The Vertex was slowly backing off. Sumi remained alert the whole time. She knew the beast could still fight back. From what looked like its tail, the Vertex expelled some sort of lump, with a mass about the size of a curled up human, and fired it towards Sumi. Sumi calmly shot it down. It exploded mid-air without ever reaching her. The Vertex continued firing the lumps at her, while Sumi, bearing the pain of her bloodied fingers, blew them all up.
[It seems to be focusing all its attention on me.]
The other hero didn't let this chance go to waste, and charged at the monster's torso.
[Here I go~~!!]
Sonoko targeted and attacked the parts that started regenerating with unmatched accuracy. In addition to Sumi's rain of arrows, the million stabs from Sonoko's spear made the Vertex let out an eerie groan. It started moving its cloth-like part, in an attempt to chase away Sonoko, who was clinging to it. However, she was fully aware of its capabilities as she's been watching the exchange with Sumi for quite a while, and knew exactly how to deal with it.
(This is so easy, the athletic courses from the trip seem more challenging~)
Agile as a butterfly. Deadly as a snake. Those words perfectly describe Sonoko.
Sumi checked her surroundings once more.
[No further enemies in sight. resuming support fire!!!]
She coordinated her attacks with Sonoko's movements. At this rate, the enemy will turn around and leave at any moment. Their victory was certain.
But the Vertex wouldn't retreat.
(...It's not going away~?!)
(Our attacks...are not strong enough)
They're once again reminded of the fury of axe blows that drove away so many enemies. But they still couldn't give up.
[Guts!! That's what being a hero is all about.]
That's what their friend would say.
Sumi bit her lip, bearing the pain in her fingers and continued shooting. During the exchange with the enemy, Sonoko caught a glimpse of the bridge's surface. A red trail. It was the noble proof that her comrade accomplished her mission.
[Yes, It's all about guts~!]
She clenched her teeth so hard you would think they'd shatter under the pressure, as she swung her spear.
A few hours later.
The Vertex was struggling just to get to the other side of the wall. The girls collapsed on the bridge from exhaustion. They were covered in wounds, but none posed a risk to their lives. It took all they had to drive away a single enemy.
[We were lucky...Only one showed up today.]
[Yes...If there were any others~...]
She didn't even want to think about it. In the end, they managed to chase it away. They sighed in relief, while making sure they wouldn't lose their consciousness. They still had to see their friend off.
The world returned to normal, and the two of them went back.
A few days later.
After they healed, and were done with their examinations. Sumi and Sonoko were called to their classroom at Shinju-kan. School had ended already, so no one else was there. Only their homeroom teacher, who had been waiting for them.
[Thank you...For not failing your duties at such a time.]
[It would be rude to Mino-san if we did nothing~]
[We couldn't get it in time for the last battle, but Taisha has been working on an update for the Hero system. We didn't manage to find reinforcement due to an aptitude problem. But Nogi-san, Washio-san, you two will be able to manifest more power as heroes. Your weapons will also change and you'll gain new abilities. To put it simply, you'll get closer to Shinju-sama, and be able to gain further divine powers.]
[That sound really amazing~]
[It is. I think it should be enough power up for you to be able to handle multiple enemies.]
[Thank you very much. If that's the case.]
[Yes, we'll be fine by ourselves.]
[Sensei, is something wrong~?]
[You know, at first I thought the hero duty would be too much burden for 6th graders like you.]
She looked at the two and continued.
[...But after going through so much, you two still are still determined to do it...]
The teacher held the two in her arms.
[You two are real heroes. I'm so proud of you!]
[...Ahaha, this might be the first time sensei has praised us like this~...]
[But sensei~, I think Mino-san was the greatest of us all. She drove away three enemies all by herself...]
Sonoko pointed at the empty desk, trembling.
[So...please don't forget about her...She was so strong...and amazing...We're not two, but three heroes....]
Sonoko's eyes overflowed with tears.
[...I'm sorry, Nogi-san. I take it back. You three are real heroes]
Sumi couldn't hold herself and burst into tears as well. Reminded of that smile as strong as the summer sun. Losing her made her realize how much she loved her.
She sobs as if expecting an answer, but there was none. No matter how much she cried, it wasn't enough.
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