[86 V1] Chapter 10 – The Headless Knight IV

The snow fell silently.

The white snowflakes falling from the dark sky, piling on silently like looming despair, were so savagely beautiful, and yet so surreal. The harsh winter dying the world white froze his tears and lamentations.

Ray was lying inside the “Juggernaut,” its canopy ripped off as he looked at the sky, hoping to at least die while doing so. He quietly watched the white snowflakes dripping from the other end, gently falling upon him.

“…Shinn.”

 
 

Ray was ten when his brother was born. That was his little brother, a sibling he had so longed for.

His little brother always clung to their parents, and moreso him. This little brother loved to fawn around for attention, and was a crybaby. Ray was always by his side, capable of anything, and always protecting him. Ray was a hero to his little brother.

When Ray was seventeen, war broke out. He, along with his parents and little brother, were no longer deemed human.

Threatened by their own country at gunpoint, they were crammed into trucks like livestock, and driven off.

Shinn kept crying in fear, and clung to Ray. The latter hugged his little brother. I’ll protect my little brother. No matter what happens. No matter who hurts him, I’m going to protect him.

Their Concentration Camp was a shoddy army camp, with a production plant, and terrifying metal wires and landmines. That was all.

Once they were notified that they could regain citizenship if they served in the military, their father enlisted first. At the very least, it’s better to have you all return home first, so he said with a smile, and never returned.

His father died. Once notification of his death arrived, his mother completed the enlistment form.

The citizenship they should have received never came. The reply from the government was that since only one had served, only that one person would receive it. However, his mother had two children to protect.

Finally, his mother died. Upon receiving notice of her death, Ray received the enlistment form.

 
 

Ray stood alone in the room, his heart filled with enough rage to contort his vision. He was holding the enlistment form.

Easily renegaded upon was the promise of granting citizenship to families once a member had enlisted in the military.

To what extent was this government, this bunch of Albas, this world, willing to doom them?

Why, why did I not stop mom, even when I started to realize it…!?

“…Brother.”

It was Shinn.

Don’t come here. Go somewhere else. Just don’t approach me. I’m not in the mood to be bothered with you.

“Brother, where’s mom?”

Didn’t I say so already? How many times do you want me to say this again? He was utterly enraged by his little brother’s foolishness.

“Why did mom die?”

A snap, and he sensed a taut rope in his heart break apart.

 
 

You.

It’s all your fault.

 
 

He grabbed Shinn by the neck, slamming him onto the ground, and choked that slender neck. Break now. Break into pieces. Rage overwhelmed his mind as he yelled out, This is all your fault.

Right, it’s because of Shinn that mom died. Mom had to die because of someone like him, this stupid brother I have to protect, to have him be deemed human. He yelled out the sins of his brother, feeling utterly relieved. Suffer this pain now. When you can’t take it anymore, die.

“—What are you doing, Ray!?”

His shoulder was grabbed and pulled back, crashing hard onto the floor, before he finally regained his senses.

What, did I, just do?

In his hazy consciousness, he saw the priest’s black robes move between them; he was checking on a completely lifeless Shinn. He extended his hands to Shinn’s nostrils, touched his neck, and was alarmed, immediately beginning resuscitation.

“…Father…”

“Get out.”

He heard the priest mutter, and gave him a puzzled look. Shinn remained on the floor, motionless.

With his silver eyes, the priest glanced at the dumbfounded Ray, and lashed out.

“Do you want him to die!? Get out!”

There was some clear malice in those words.

Ray stumbled out of the room, and tumbled about, before collapsing onto the floor.

“Ah…”

The Albas, defeated in battle, oppressed the Eighty Sixers, and the Eighty Sixers oppressed other Eighty Sixers weaker than them. This cycle of abuse was something Ray had always reviled. He despised those who could not endure or face the pain and injustice, and despicably vented on those weaker than them.

Yet he did the same thing.

His parents’ death, the despicable acts of the Republic, the cruelty of the world, and his own helplessness. These factors left him unable to restrain his rising hatred and rage. Yet the one he vented on was his little brother who was much weaker than he was, the one he should have been protecting.

Once he noticed his own sin, he shivered in fear, cupped his head, and shriveled.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

I should, have been, protecting him instead.

 
 

Luckily, Shinn quickly regained his heartbeat and consciousness. Ray could not bring himself to meet Shinn though. The priest remained wary of Ray, and forbade them to meet. Also, Ray himself was terrified of seeing Shinn’s face.

He submitted the enlistment form, as though he was trying to escape.

On the day of departure, the priest brought Shinn along to send Ray off. Ray could never say anything to Shinn however; he was heartbroken as he saw the terrified look directed at him.

I can’t die like this, he anguished.

I can’t let myself die like this. I’ve got to return alive.

So Ray thought as he vigorously fought, doing his best to survive, while all of his squadmates died off one after another.

However.

 
 

The falling snowflakes were freezing. Is this the end for me? so Ray thought in his mind, his brain having lost too much blood.

The personal mark on his twisted armor entered his eyes. It was a headless skeleton knight, originating from the cover of a picture book. It was the protagonist of the story.

For some reason, that story seemed so strange to Ray. But for some reason, little Shinn was so curious about it.

I wonder if he still remembers that picture book. The story I read for him every night?

I wonder if he still remembers that he was loved.

Ray’s face grimaced.

If only I told him on that day I left.

If only I told him clearly, it’s not your fault.

That night, Ray cursed Shinn, and ran away without looking back.

After he was criticized for his family’s death, Shinn reproached himself again in his heart.

To what extent would Shinn’s heart be twisted, after he was nearly killed by the family that should have loved him?

Would he still cry because of his parents death? Because of what Ray did to him? Could he still smile again?

“…Shinn.”

In his vision that was slowly becoming white and blurry, a heavy shadow appeared. The . They caught up?

The skeleton knight remained in a corner of his eyes. It was a hero of justice who helped the poor and saved the weak, one who fought strong foes head on.

He wanted to become a hero who would protect his little brother.

And he had personally destroyed that image, yet he continued to reach his hands out, yearning to be reunited again.

 
 
 
 

Thus, “it” ended up in that form.

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