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The menu being served in the diner was so big, that it was hard to imagine that the entire city was currently rebuilding from an attack by several Sin Archbishops.
Incidentally, the same went for the food at the healing facilities; the wide variety of food listed made Garfiel’s stomach grumble with anticipation. That was great for the still-growing Garfiel’s sizeable appetite, but it also made him question: in their situation, was such a luxury allowed?
Wilhelm: “Even though most of the city’s faculties have been halted in some way, aside from some human casualties and the collapse of a few buildings, the scope of the damage is limited. The inhabitants’ hearts would succumb before full reconstruction, if a quality-of-life decrease were to happen because of this terrible situation… This is what seems to have been Mister Kiritaka’s thoughts.”
So Wilhelm spoke to Garfiel, who had raised his eyebrows in response to the food that had been brought to them.
They happened to be sharing a table at the diner, eating quietly, face-to-face. The old swordsman’s words made Garfiel’s eyes widen, as the latter pictured the thin man in his head.
If Garfiel was to be honest, he didn’t think much of Kiritaka. However, he had heard of all the hard work that he had put in protecting the city during the Witch Cult’s their attack.
It had not been seen, but he was a person who probably had worked hard. That was why Kiritaka seemed to have something in common with Subaru, in that their normal behavior and their attitude in times of emergency had stark contrasts―― Ergo, he felt a lump.
Mimi: “Mmmm~! Yummy yummy! Mimi thinks that it’s great that the food tastes sooo~ good, because that means you’ll feel happy! Free food is the best food, that’s what the lady saaaid~.”
Garfiel: “Ha! Good thing you’re energetic. Yer manners… So respectful ‘n proper! I should get’cha to help me with ‘em later.”
Next to Garfiel, Mimi was smiling and spoke just before she began eating. Surprisingly, Mimi seemed to be well-versed in eating etiquette, knowing how to properly handle eating utensils.
Wilhelm: “Garfiel-dono, you…”
Garfiel: “Don’t expect too much from me. Been tryin’ to fix a few things my sister told me to, in the last year.”
Wilhelm: “To strive for it is the correct choice. As long as you continue attempting, until it bears fruit.”
He nodded, and, witnessing the fruits of Garfiel’s labor, he also appended the second half of his words.
In his hands, the knife and fork were being held in an incredibly shoddy manner. That had not bothered him back when he was living at the Sanctuary, but in the past year of living in the Roswaal mansion, Garfiel had grown ashamed of his whole life.
Table manners were not the only thing he was working to correct, there were several other aspects as well. However, it was difficult for him to say that he had succeeded in correcting many of them.
Garfiel: “It’s true that it’s lackin’ in comparison to the midget here.”
Mimi: “Mimi’s been doing this since she was a little girl. Both the lady and the captain really love eating! Thanks to that I became berry gud!”
Garfiel: “All the others in our lot are real proper, ain’t they? Not only those who had to study proper etiquette, but the Captain and Ottobro’re great at it too.”
Because of their position, it made perfect sense that everyone from the Roswaal mansion, including Roswaal himself, had mastered their formality and neatness. Despite their origins, Emilia and Beatrice were adept at it as well. It seemed like it was easy to learn with proper practice.
But in that case, how did Subaru and Otto get so good at it? You could say that Otto would have learned it, being from a respected family of merchants, but Subaru was a complete mystery. Then again, Subaru was known to have learned many random skills, so that made a modicum of sense.
Garfiel: “I think the Captain bastard’d be able to eat the rice with these two sticks, tho’. What do ya call ‘em… clorsticks, was it?”
Mimi: “Clopstiiicks~, and they’re really difficult! Everyone in Kararagi uses them, but Mimi can’t handle them properly since Mimi’s hands are too small!”
Wilhelm: “Chopsticks, huh? How nostalgic. It is true that they are tricky to handle.”
Even Wilhelm acknowledged the high level of difficulty of using this mysterious tool, the chopsticks.
In Garfiel’s point of view, it was amazing that Subaru was able to use these to bring food towards his mouth. Ram, too.
Albeit in her case, it was probably because she had always been unusually perceptive at these things.
Garfiel: “Wilhelm-jiisan ain’t very good with chopsticks either.”
Wilhelm: “I have been to Kararagi a few times, so I have attempted to use them at those opportunities. However, I believe it is a rather difficult tool for everyday use.”
Garfiel: “To Kararagi…”
Wilhelm: “Yes, a few times―― Such as when I was chasing down the White Whale.”
Wilhelm narrowed his eyes in nostalgia, and Garfiel was at a loss for words.
Albeit he grasped only the broad strokes of the story, and was not sure about the details, Garfiel did indeed know about the connection between Wilhelm and the White Whale, one of the Three Great Witchbeasts. On the surface, the elder had traveled to several countries, in pursuit of clues to avenge the death of the Sword Saint of the previous generation.
After having overcome years of hardship, Wilhelm had finally been able to defeat the White Whale. However, the old swordsman, who had supposedly accomplished his revenge, encountered his wife whose soul had seemingly been brought back, and crossed swords with her――
Wilhelm: “Was the use of chopsticks the only thing you wanted to ask me about, Garfiel-dono?”
Garfiel: “Oh, uhh…”
Wilhelm: “Of course there are some things I cannot tell you, but I owe you a great debt for yielding me the chance to face my wife. If there is anything this old man is able to answer, I will do so.”
Regarding his wife, Wilhelm stated assertively.
By now, it was well-known that the two dead people who had joined the Witch Cult, were the previous Sword Saint, and Kurgan the Eight-Arms. Unquenchable rage flared at the thought of those deeds of mistreating the dead, but that feeling would be put aside for the moment being.
If there was one thing he had to ask, that would be――
Garfiel: “Are ya sure that what my amazin’ self fought was really Kurgan, the Eight-Arms…?”
Wilhelm: “Hmm… What do you mean?”
Garfiel: “Well, couldn’t it be some other guy who looked like him? If not, then what?”
Wilhelm: “You are saying something does not seem right, hm―― I see, I understand.”
Wilhelm nodded at Garfiel’s mumbled, clumsy words. Halting his meal, his piercing blue eyes looked directly at the young boy in front of him.
Wilhelm: “Does the fact that you managed to win make you doubt yourself?”
Garfiel: “…My amazin’ self’s the strongest, I’ve trained to be the strongest, ain’t gonna stop now. That’s what needs to be done, that’s what my amazin’ self’s gotta do for the Captain. But it’s not like this. The peak my amazin’ self’s lookin’ at ain’t this.”
The hero. The God of War. Kurgan, the Eight-Arms. A legendary being, the strongest and most powerful of the Multi-Arm Tribe, he was a legend in the Sacred Vollachian Empire.
During the battle, there had been many times where Garfiel had thought he was sure to lose, where he had thought he was about to die, only to survive by the skin of his teeth. He had challenged Kurgan to a one-on-one battle, and had throttled his neck.
Garfiel agreed that coming out of the fight alive was a great achievement. Because of this, the people surrounding him had a favorable opinion. Even by a Sin Archbishop, his oppressive strength could not be ignored. Defeating him single-handedly, had undoubtedly been his contribution to the defense of the city.
But Garfiel’s conviction, and what had actually happened, did not match together, in his mind.
Garfiel: “Wilhelm-jiisan, the Sword Demon Wilhelm knows first-hand how it’s like to fight Kurgan the Eight-Arms. What did’cha think of it, old man? Was that the real deal?”
With a look as if he were clinging onto something, Garfiel chose to rely on Wilhelm’s memories.
Garfiel was not sure of what answer he wished to hear. Would he be satisfied if Wilhelm denied that he was wrong?
But even if Wilhelm denied the fact that Garfiel was wrong, would he still be able to believe that denial?
Wilhelm: “Indeed, it is true that nearly thirty years ago, I became acquainted with Kurgan. We fought each other a total of four times. I chopped off his arms and he slashed my guts… You could say it was a relationship based on piling up life-or-death battles.”
Not long ago, the relationship between the Kingdom of Lugunica and the Sacred Vollachia Empire had been at its worst in hundreds of years, and a fierce clash took place in a city near the border.
To avoid the intervention of the Divine Dragon, Vollachia had invaded a city only using a small number of troops. Wilhelm, the Commander of the Royal Guards at the time, had been the one to fight them at the time.
The fight that followed had been a fair one, with both sides fighting each other to a standstill. It was said that after four battles between the two forces, the dispute was settled with the retreat of the Vollachian party.
Wilhelm: “It was a good fight. With eight arms and four Demon Cleavers, attacking and defending against all eight attacks in one blow was a matter of life-and-death…”
Garfiel: “Aye, that’s how it went. In fact, almost died to it.”
Wilhelm: “It was one move against eight of them. So I had to choose whether to reduce the number of moves available to him first, or to deal a fatal blow with my one move, all while evading all eight of his attacks.”
Garfiel: “…Oy, not askin’ for a lecture on how to beat him…”
Garfiel would have been interested in a discussion about tactics, but now was not the time. Right now, he was more interested about the answer to his question.
At Garfiel’s words, Wilhelm shook his head horizontally, prefacing with “I apologize”,
Wilhelm: “As you get older, one cannot help but reminisce over past memories. Especially in the past few days, I have found myself doing so very often.”
Garfiel: “Don’t like lookin’ at the past myself. Can’t speak for others, tho’.”
Wilhelm: “Rather than gazing at your back, it is more like looking back at your footprints to see how you have ended up in your current position. However, I do agree it makes me seem emotional―― But more importantly, you were talking about Kurgan.”
Wilhelm’s face turned serious when the turn came to answer Garfiel’s question. From the look in the young warrior’s eyes, the old swordsman could see the worries that troubled him.
It was completely natural, as hesitation and worry were walls that all combatants would encounter at least once.
And the answer to that problem was――
Wilhelm: “My apologies, but I did not exchange words with Kurgan during our battle the other day. It was probably him, but I could not afford to let my attention waver during my own fight. Therefore, I do not possess enough evidence to say with full confidently that the one Garfiel-dono fought was really Kurgan the Eight-Arms.”
Garfiel: “No evidence…”
Wilhelm: “The answer should be exactly as you feel, Garfiel-dono. But I do understand why you might be dissatisfied with it. Because of this, I shall tell you my personal opinion… The two we faced, both my wife and Kurgan, were not really those two people.”
As Garfiel raised an eyebrow, Wilhelm let out a long sigh. The subject at hand was too heavy to end without a clear explanation.
Noticing the confused look on Garfiel’s faced, Wilhelm prefaced with “May I?”, before continuing his statement,
Wilhelm: “There is no doubt in my mind that what we fought were corpses that the Witch Cult shamelessly defiled, having been made into their puppets. However, I believe that in their last moments, they were able to regain control of themselves, and truthfully speak their minds.”
In his final moments, or rather, when the battle had been settled.
After all his eight moves had been evaded, Kurgan had been dealt a fatal wound from Garfiel’s fangs, and so arrived his end. The words that Kurgan had uttered right before disappearing still lingered in his ears.
Leaving merely a single word, the God of War then turned to ash and was scattered by the wind. At that time, in the moment of victory, in his mind there had only been the joy of being recognized by a legend.
However, as time passed, negative thoughts had begun bubbling up. How had he been able to defeat the God of War of legends so easily, when he himself had yet to reach his full potential, had yet to face the tiger that laid inside of him?
Sure, it had been an extreme situation, he had staked his life, behind his back there had been his younger siblings, with whom he had not exchanged nearly enough words―― Was that the only reason why he had been the victor?
Wilhelm: “Kurgan was a very quiet man. It would not surprise me if, even in his last moments, he had not been willing to leave more than a few words.”
Garfiel: “Ohh, there was one word. He told my amazin’ self one word…”
Wilhelm: “Then do not tell us that one word―― It was the commend of Kurgan, the Eight-Arms, to the warriors who bested him in battle. It is something not to be shared with those uninvolved in the battle.”
When Wilhelm cut him off, Garfiel held his tongue.
Praise, coming from a god, to a warrior. Was he worthy of it?
Garfiel: “Don’t get it.”
Garfiel: “Those two, weren’t really those two. Ain’t in the mood for riddles. Tell me. I dunno what you’re thinkin’.”
Garfiel voiced his displeasure, his tone becoming raspy. He was fully aware that he was being rude.
Behind Wilhelm’s eyes, there was the slightest change of emotions. Garfiel leaned forward, as a means to get the other to reveal the answer to his own troubles. But,
Mimi: “Garf, you’re being a bad boy!”
Mimi: “Ojii-san, did that make you feel loneli? So Mimi thinks it’s a bad, bad idea to be so pushy? Also, the look in Garf’s eyes look suuuper~ bad too! That’s not good!”
Mimi, who was sitting next to Garfiel, jabbed her finger into his side. Being poked by the touch of her finger, Garfiel raised an eyebrow wondering what it was all about, then quickly came to his senses.
Wilhelm’s eyes were full of kindness as he watched Mimi’s antics, the same expression that he had shared with Garfiel just a few moments ago. And there was something more to it.
Only then did Garfiel realize how he had unknowingly and unreservedly gouged Wilhelm’s wounds.
Garfiel: “…Sorry. Was only thinkin’ ‘bout myself.”
Apologizing, he bowed his head.
Wilhelm had had an unexpected reunion with his supposedly-deceased wife, which had ended with swords. The Sword Demon then exchanged his last farewells―― and devoid of consideration for his spirit, violent, selfish words were piled upon this.
To the boy bowing in front of him in shame, Wilhelm shook his head.
Wilhelm: “No, I am very much in the wrong for being pretentious. At your age, it is only natural to display such rashness for an answer. I would have done the same. But as we get older, we tend to forget that.”
Garfiel: “…Can’t even imagine Wilhelm-jiisan actin’ like that.”
Wilhelm: “It is not so strange. It pains me to say this, but I was more impatient and foolish than most young men of the time…”
After the old man’s calm demeanor and consolation was presented to him, Garfiel still felt bad.
The Sword Demon was famous for his deadly skill with the sword, yet there had never been any talk of him having a vicious personality. The reason Garfiel had started his self-reflection was because of the elder’s kindness. Anyhow,
Wilhelm: “They were both themselves, and yet, they were not. I am not trying to make this a riddle nor being evasive. It is exactly as stated.”
Garfiel: “Exactly as stated… Not sure if I’m getting’ it.”
Wilhelm: “In his last moments, while on the verge of death, it is certain that his own will returned. But before that, those wicked scoundrels were using him as a puppet, and so he was not able to exercise the full extent of his swordsmanship.”
Wilhelm: “In other words, neither the Sword Saint of the previous generations, nor the Kurgan the Eight-Arms, possessed the level of ability they originally did.”
Wilhelm told the speechless Garfiel his observations. That his opponent had not shown his full strength, albeit he himself had battled with such brutality, was not an assertion that he could just accept.
With his life on the line, he had won in a fight of life-or-death. However, it was the answer he was looking for, because the question on his mind, was whether he had been an opponent that required him to put his life at stake to defeat.
There was that, but…
Wilhelm: “If I had faced my wife in her prime as I am now, I would have been defeated within the first few strikes of her blade. I was only able to finally best her by throwing away everything else except the blade, while in my prime―― It is impossible that was its level.”
Garfiel: “If the same applied to both, then…”
Wilhelm: “Kurgan’s skills were degraded compared to their previous state, merely a shadow of his former self. I apologize for saying this, but… I believe that, had your opponent been the real Eight-Arms, it would be unthinkable that you would not have been reduced to a corpse on the ground. He was quite the fighter.”
Garfiel: “Oh, so my amazin’ self’s…”
Wilhelm: “――Do not be so prideful, young man.”
Immediately after, Garfiel’s hair stood on end with the realization of a stinging battle aura, and he instinctively kicked his chair away and jumped back to the entrance of the diner.
With the other people in the dining hall startled because of the sudden situation, only the figure of Garfiel was different, as he stood on all fours and breathed heavily. Meanwhile, Wilhelm and Mimi were still seated as if everything were normal.
Garfiel: “Ha, haaa…?”
Wilhelm: “I have the impression that Garfiel-dono has a large vessel, but it has yet to be filled. Although I am already in the realm of antiques… I can still recognize a real deal when I come across one. If a part of it can be felt now, then it means it shall be worth the effort.”
Having said that, Wilhelm stood up and wiped his mouth. His plate had been emptied. And his demeanor showed that he had said what needed to be said.
If there was still something missing, it was not on Wilhelm’s part.
The missing part was in Garfiel’s heart. And because part of the vessel donned a hole, the conviction it possessed was now spilling out.
Wilhelm: “That conviction is what you require to become even stronger. Do not lose sight of it.”
Garfiel: “Gonna keep that mind… Quite the bad person, aren’t’cha.”
Wilhelm: “We are not exactly on the same faction, you know. There should be some level of caution. But――”
Wilhelm, who had finished his meal and was getting ready to leave, looked at Mimi and stopped mid-sentence. Mimi was humming happily while stealing her favorite pieces of food from Garfiel’s plate and continuing to eat.
That Mimi, then noticed Wilhelm’s gaze,
Mimi: “Hmmmm~? What is it, ojii-san?”
Wilhelm: “It is amazing that you were capable of seeing through the hostility of a battle aura in a split second’s time.”
Mimi: “Ojii-san doesn’t have any reason to be bad to Mimi or her friends, though?”
Wilhelm: “You have a good eye―― With you by my side, straying from the beaten path would not be a worry.”
Nodding to Mimi, who answered as though it was obvious, Wilhelm then turned his focus to Garfiel. While heading to the eatery’s exit, the elder swordsman indicated Mimi with his hand.
Wilhelm: “You would be wise to care for her, as the opposite gender will become a treasure later on in life.”
Garfiel: “――Hk! What’s wit’cha! My amazin’ self’s already in love with someone else!”
Wilhelm: “Whatever you choose to do, do your best to not get lost along the way―― Lest you end up much like this rotting demon.”
Having said his final words, Wilhelm walked out of the dining room.
Watching while unable to say anything back, Garfiel clacked his fangs in annoyance. He walked back to his seat, and gobbled up the remaining food in one go.
Mimi: “Oh, Garf, that’s bad maneers!”
Garfiel: “Don’t wanna hear that from someone who was stealin’ food from others’ plates a second ago. Ah, shit! Even more pissed now than I was before, like this.”
Rather than feeling the release of his doubts, he only felt more and more troubled.
The path ahead had been illuminated, but the guidance had been so difficult to understand that Garfiel was still unable to piece together the clues.
It was a frustrating feeling, to be just one step short of being convinced of his own strength, despite having all that was necessary.
Garfiel: “Damnit, what should be done now?”
Mimi: “Garf, are you bothered? What’s bothering you?”
Touching the white scar on his forehead, Garfiel blurted out his thoughts, putting a concerned expression on Mimi’s food-stained face. The girl delicately wiped her stained mouth with her sleeve,
Mimi: “If something bothers you, talk. Mimi will give you the answer!”
Garfiel: “…My amazin’ self’s not sure on what the hell he’s supposed to do now.”
Mimi: “When you’re done eating, you should take the plates off the table! Here!”
Garfiel: “That’s not really what I was talkin’ ‘bout.”
Having said that, they both took their empty dishes to the kitchen, and left the diner.
Their stomachs had been filled. So should they continue working on the city’s reconstruction during the afternoon? If working meant he would be able to avoid thinking about it, he would do it.
Garfiel: “Ahhhh, my belly’s all full. Should we continue the reconstruction in th’ afternoon? My amazin’ self can’t imagine workin’ feelin’ like this.”
Mimi: “Aaalright~, let’s gooo~, Garf!”
Garfiel: “You’re quite the energetic gal, aren’t’cha. So where are we goin’?”
Mimi: “It’s obviooous~, to Garf’s brother, siblings and mother’s house!”
Garfiel had been walking behind Mimi’s leisurely gait, but when his brain processed what the small girl had said, he stopped dead in his tracks.
His fangs gnashed together, and Garfiel’s eyes widened, as he turned his head away. He struggled to keep his inner thoughts from being laid bare on his face as much as possible.
Garfiel: “What’cha say?”
Mimi: “Right now, Mimi’s going to Garf’s family! That’s what Garf needs right now!”
Suddenly, Mimi puffed out her small chest and raised her tail. Then, she pointed to the surprised Garfiel and exclaimed.
Mimi: “Talking with your family is beeest~! That was Roshi’s lesson!”
 Her line is “ジョウズ”, but the correct way to write this is “上手”, meaning “skilled/good at”. They’re pronounced similarly, however.
 So difficult that both Garfiel and Mimi mispronounce it. They’re written “ハシ” (pronounced “hashi”), not “ハシと” (hashito), nor “ハシな” (hashina).
 She uses “さびしそ”, pronounced “sabishiso”, but the correct way to write this is “さびしい”, pronounced “sabishii”, meaning “lonely”.
 A bit of a pun because “器” can mean both “vessel”, “ability” and “capacity”.
 She uses “オギョ―ギ”, pronounced “ogyogi”, but the correct way to write this is “御形”, pronounced “gogyou”, which means “manners”.