Congratulation! You leveled up!
Weapon level up!
Empowered Slash level up!
A series of notifications claimed the death of a formidable enemy. Shesmu starred at the broken parts of the Greater Steel Doll before looting it. However, before even checking the items in his inventory, Shesmu turned around and looked at his teammates.
“Leo, you did well tanking the boss. You really became better.”
Leo’s opened for a second before happiness overtook him. His shoulders went down and breathed a sigh of relief. It was as if a mountain was lifted off his shoulders.
Shesmu knew that Leo was internally struggling. His two brothers were geniuses of a kind never seen before. One was an extremely popular figure in the gaming community and had skills that made him renowned throughout the nation. The other was even more of a monster. Just one day ago, DepressedRyan was a player of around the same caliber as Leo, and today he showed talent even a superstar could only be jealous of.
With this kind of pressure, even Buddha will succumb to envy and jealousy, if even by a little, Shesmu thought. Maybe some would judge a person’s character through these types of experiences, however, Shesmu was not one of them. If I let a brother go through all of that without giving him any support, then what kind of brother am I?
Shesmu tapped Leo’s shoulders and whispered in his ears, “Don’t take on everything alone in the dark. We’re brothers, aren’t we? Brothers share things.”
Leo stayed silent for a second before replying, “She-no, brother… Thank you.”
“Don’t sweat it.”
Shesmu then focused on Kazumi and Amaterasu. Kazumi had his chest puffed up and a big smile covered his face. Amaterasu on the other just put her hands behind her back and kept eye contact with Shesmu.
“Kazumi, your rotations were good, and your hits were clean.”
“You bet they were! Great Master!”
Kazumi had a radiant smile on his face. Since the moment they met in the Forest of Beginning, Shesmu had never praised him. For Kazumi to finally receive these words, for him to finally be accepted, Kazumi felt unending joy.
Amaterasu, on the other hand, was conflicted. On one side she was happy that Kazumi is happy. On the other side, she couldn’t stomach the cause of his happiness. She kept fidgeting around with her hands and went back and forth with her eyes looking at Kazumi and Shesmu.
Amaterasu jolted at the sound of her name and she let out a little squeak. She wasn’t expecting to be called out. For a moment, she thought that she will be praised like Leo and Kazumi. However, after remembering what happened in the Forest of Beginning, and the talk they had in the cave on the first floor, she had known that Shesmu would berate her as usual. She was just about to rebuke him when Shesmu’s voice cut her off.
“Good job. You were sharp enough to understand the rules of this minigame, and you were good enough with the sword to handle the steel dolls. Your synchronization with Kazumi was also remarkable.”
Shesmu looked at Amaterasu in the eyes. Even though she wasn’t the nicest human being, Shesmu understood that she had her own circumstances that made her that way. Plus, after thinking about it for a long time, Shesmu knew that Kazumi and Amaterasu were here to stay. They had the key to understanding the phenomenon that pushed him into this timeline after all. If they were going to stay at the party, then there was no reason for Shesmu to alienate them. That would only result in a toxic environment.
Shesmu kept eye contact with the shell-shocked Amaterasu. She never expected this outcome. The words she was about to cry out were stuck in her throat, and her mind was blank. Wasn’t Shesmu just an arrogant man blessed by good luck? Didn’t he always berate her whenever he got the chance, for no reason at all?
For a second, Amaterasu didn’t know what to do. Her mind told her that it was just a trick to make her loosen her guard. A devious plot coated by his silver tongue. However, her heart knew that his words were genuine. If so, was she on the wrong? Was he always a good human being and it was only her mind that kept feeding her bias? Amaterasu didn’t know the answer to these questions. She wanted to scream, but her throat was dry and lips were zipped.
In the end, she just lowered her head and muttered, “Then, what about father?…”
Tears streamed down her cheeks. And, one droplet at a time, fell on the ground. She, who never flinched, who was always headstrong, finally cracked. While she kept whimpering under her breath, a warm hand caressed her hair.
Shesmu came in closer and whispered on Amaterasu’s ears.
“Was it hard on you? Going to this unfamiliar place, with neither of your parents nor your friends. Was it scary?”
All of a sudden, Amaterasu broke eye contact with Shesmu and looked sideways. A look of guilt plastered on her face.
“Was I… wrong?”
Amaterasu shook her head both ways.
“No-yes it’s scary. Mom, dad, Alphonse, Edward, Ruby, Sarah, Seth, Sylph, uncle Mahmoud, Auntie Aisha, all of them are dead. Even the old Sakamoto and the great mage are going to die. We left them there.”
At this point, Amaterasu was on the verge of breaking down. She hiccuped multiple times as she covered her teary face with her hands.
From the side, Kazumi just helplessly looked at his friend. He already knew of the weight she was carrying on her two tiny shoulders. In fact, his heart was as heavy as hers. However, he knew that if he were to break down too, then there would be no one to lift Amaterasu back up.
“However, that’s not my biggest crime.” She looked up at Shesmu with watery eyes. “My crime-my biggest crime is… My hate for you!”
That final cry shocked Shesmu. He just looked at her blankly as she stormed out of his view and crawled on the far of the platform.
A deafening silence covered the map with neither of the four players moving an inch or uttering a word.
These words broke the spell.
“I’m sorry for Amaterasu. It’s just that, she went through a lot.”
Shesmu shook his head at Kazumi’s apology.
“Don’t worry, I understand that. It’s just… I have never seen someone saying “I hate you” with such a sad face. Did I dump her in a previous life or something?”
At Shesmu’s remark, both Kazumi and Leo snickered. It was difficult to imagine Amaterasu having a boyfriend, to begin with. Her getting dumped on? Whoever had the guts to do so must be awarded a medal.
“Well, it’s not far from that actually. It has to do with something in the future-”
“Let me guess, I didn’t dump her, I dumped her mother.”
“Hahaha, off again. Actually, it’s not something that you did directly. You see, in our timeline, you died before we even reached three years old. Sir Isshin, Amaterasu’s father was your disciple at the time.”
By this point in the story, Leo had already understood what was going on. Even though he had his doubts, the fact that Shesmu didn’t even flinch at Kazumi’s words was enough evidence. He thought back to the conversation he and DepressedRyan had with Shesmu about his secret and decided to leave Kazumi and Shesmu alone. However, just as he took his first step back, Shesmu’s voice stopped him midway.
“Leo, you stay here. From now on, there will not be any more secrets between us brothers. Sorry to have made you wait this long.”
For a second, Leo was flustered. However, in the end, he stood still, locked eyes with Shesmu and declared.
“Shesmu, after all of this, wanna drink together?”
This one sentence brought overflowing joy to Shesmu’s heart. Leo, you really never change. You only open your heart to someone when you share a drink with them. Don’t worry, unlike last time, I’ll bring enough booze to make you throw up last month’s dinner.
Shesmu focused back on Kazumi and saw that the latter was smiling wildly. However, that smile quickly turned more serious when Shesmu signaled for him to continue.
“The thing is, after your death, your disciples had to shoulder the burden of protecting humanity. Your disciples numbered a hundred. They all had varying degrees of power, even though even the weakest of them had the power to kill a king ranked monster. However, our enemy at the time wasn’t the monsters alone. The Devils were the scariest. Even the four heroes, your strongest disciples couldn’t do anything against them.”
Kazumi then took a deep breath and looked upwards, reminiscing of events long past.
“But your disciples never gave up. They all worked hard to increase their power. They sacrificed themselves to protect humanity. Whatever fort we had, they would defend, whatever devastated family they would feed. And, among all of them, Sir Isshin worked the hardest. In the day he would fight the monsters and defend the city. At night he would train like a madman until he collapses. That was the type of man Sir Isshin was. However, not every effort is rewarded and not every man is born equal. Even though he trained twice as much, Sir Isshin was half as strong as the heroes. In the end, he couldn’t defend everyone. Monsters kept claiming more human territories, children were orphaned, women widowed and fathers devastated. The people’s tongue is sharper than the knife. “Oh, if only the Great Master was still alive,” they would say. Even after just being saved. And, Amaterasu would hear those words, and…”
Shesmu more or less understood the situation. Even in his career as a professional player, things were the same. There will always be that guy that stays as a legend in the fans’ eyes no matter how bad he later on becomes. And there are people that will never receive the recognition they deserve no matter how well they perform, or how many hours they put into their training. This was the sad truth of life.
“Well, this is not something that I can help her out with. She has to reach her own answers herself, only then can she move forward.”
Shesmu then looked at Amaterasu.
“Amaterasu! You have five minutes to sort out your mental breakdown before we leave. The countdown starts from now.”