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Future Card Buddyfight Ace-Krieger Story

Original text is here.

Link to the person, who translated the story.

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"I attack with Dragon Extermination Knight, Siegfried!"

"Man, I lost again...

In a small town in the German countryside lived two young boys who loved Buddyfighting--one with glossy green hair named Krieger, and one with a shock of red hair named Rick. They were neighbors and quickly became friends, and whenever they found the free time, they would play Buddyfight together.

Krieger picked up the card that had just decided the match, Siegfried, and stared at it admiringly. "The heroes in Legend World are so strong and cool... I just love them."

"Next time my dragon army is definitely going to win, y'know!"

"That I'd love to see!"

And saying that, the two laughed together innocently.

"I knew you two were here!" The door to their secret base behind the school slammed open, revealing a girl with short silver hair.

"Vera!?"

"Come on, if you're gonna play Buddyfight then ask me, too!"

"Sorry, but you were talking to some other kids, and..."

"You don't need to worry about that!"

Vera was a girl who also lived near Krieger and Rick, and they were all something like childhood friends. Compared to Rick and Krieger, who were both pretty shy when it came to talking to other people, Vera was brash and outgoing and could get along with anyone. As a result, Vera was the kind of person who always dragged the other two around. Even this secret base was something that Vera had come up with originally, but all three of them had worked on it together.

"I'm going to fight next!"

"Alright!"

"Sure, but I ain't losing!"

Vera pulled out her deck and the other two neatened up their cards.

And so, like that, the three of them were always together. They thought those days would last forever.

Until that one fateful day.

◇     ◇     ◇

That day, their school's field trip was taking them very close to a forest. They'd left early in the morning and now it was past noon--they'd all eaten their lunches and were now playing around with each other.

When it happened, it was almost time for them to go back home.

"Hey, what's that?" One kid pointed up at the sky.

As if the blue sky was nothing more than a pane of glass, a crack was forming in it--a black fissure running through it. The crack slowly widened until a black hole floated there under the clouds. The teachers could also tell something strange was going on, so they gathered up the kids and told them to find somewhere safe to hide. But before long, a massive monster started passing through the hole--its four arms dragged its pure black body through the hole, revealing a wide mouth in its gut. It was a sinister, frightening monster.

"What's that?!"

"E-everyone, run!"

"Someone call the Buddy Police!" Teachers and students alike fell into a panic.

The great monster opened the mouth on its stomach hungrily, and it breathed out dark flames, setting the forest ablaze and scorching the earth. The burning trees fell one by one, dividing up the students and trapping them, none of them sure where they could run to from here.

"Krieger! Rick! Over here!"

In the middle of it all, Krieger and Rick ran after Vera's voice to the middle of the woods. She'd chosen the path just for her two unathletic friends, guiding them with her words. But suddenly the monster breathed a great fireball, igniting everything around it. But those three children had the unlucky fate to be particularly close to its impact.

"Ah...!"

Krieger stumbled, hit foot catching on a tree root, and he hit the ground. A nearby tree, awash in flames, was starting to fall towards him--he was about to be crushed.

He was too scared to move. Even Rick was completely petrified.

"Krieger!!!!!!!!"

Vera alone was able to run to him, spurred on by her fear. Just before Krieger was crushed by the tree, something hit him from the side, pushing him out of the way of its path. But...

"Vera... Vera?!"

"Aaagh!"

In his place, Vera's legs had been caught under the tree.

"Vera! What should I do, I need to help you--"

"Krieger... You need to...run..."

"But--I--But Vera!"

"Don't worry about me..."

Even with Vera trapped like that, Krieger and Rick had to run away. They had to escape, and the next blaze of the monster's flame was sure to come at any moment.

"Run!"

Vera's managed to strengthen her voice again, but Krieger could only stare in confusion at the blaze of flame coming towards him. And in the next moment, the fire--

"Cerberus!"

"Leave it to me!"

--didn't burn a single one of them. Suddenly a great shadow appeared before them--before the flames--and extinguished the flames to nothing.

"Are you okay?"

A tall, hooded man in a ragged cloak and a massive three-headed wolf covered in weapons suddenly appeared before the three friends.

Krieger nodded hesitantly, and managed to muster up a shaky, scared voice. "Um, Vera-- Please save Vera...!"

Still trapped beneath the tree, Vera had lost consciousness while Krieger hadn't been paying attention. The man looked between Krieger, Rick, and Vera, and moved in complete silence.

"Hah!" The man grabbed the fallen tree in both hands, took a breath, and picked it up and threw it in the other direction. He gathered all three kids up and put them on his shoulders. "Cerberus, we need to back down for now."

"But Rouga! We almost had them cornered!"

"I know that. But we can't keep talking like this. This kid's got a fatal wound, and the Buddy Police is gonna be here soon."

"...Understood."

The man and three-headed wolf ran through the forest at top speed.

The huge monster's body slowly, slowly started growing smaller. Krieger stared blankly at the sight, frustration and anger at himself for not being able to do anything clouding his vision. There was such a painful, agonizing difference between him and the heroes he had so admired. Vera had protected him, and all he'd done to save here was stand around pathetically. He bit down on his lip angrily, drawing blood.

"If you want to help your friend, you need power. Enough power to show what you believe in. Even if...those beliefs are different from your friend's."

That's what the man said. Krieger didn't know how to respond, but those words still took root in his heart.

The huge monster simply vanished when the Buddy Police arrived, its existence seemingly fading from existence. They chased after its existence for many months after the incident, but in the end, they never found it.

◇     ◇     ◇

A few years have passed since then and now I, Krieger, am thirteen years old.

"Good morning, Vera." I greeted her at the door.

She'd always kept her hair short to keep it out of the way when she exercised, but now it hung long, tied halfway down. "Good morning. Thanks again for everything."

"I should be the one thanking you."

"You think so?"

"I do. After all, you're always helping me, too."

"Hmm... You sure about that?"

"I am."

I thought so from the very bottom of my heart. Vera has always been helping me. Back then, she'd always been with Rick and I, and she saved us who knew how many times. Even in the middle of that burning forest.

I pushed Vera's wheelchair.

Vera had saved my life, and in return lost the use of her legs. This was the least I could do for her. We went outside, and saw Rick waiting for us down the street. His spiky red hair always stood out. Vera and I waved at him, and his response was blunt as always.

"Yo."

Waking up early and going to school together, all three of us, had become a new part of our everyday lives.

◇     ◇     ◇

Now, it's after school.

I took Vera home, and then left again. Rick said he had things to do and left school before us, so right now, I was alone. After that incident, I'd decided to get a little closer to the heroes I admired so much and started going to a training gym. I remembered reading in some book that a strong heart dwells in a strong body, and it has been my only saving grace when I'd first started out. Whenever I was training, I would always think about that day. So that I wouldn't forget my regrets. So that I'd never be that pathetic ever again.

I didn't leave the gym until it was dark out. I bought a sports drink at a nearby store and gulped it down in one go, the cold of it spreading from my throat all the way through my body. Well, now that I'm hungry, I should go home and get dinner...

And in the very moment I thought that...

With a great rumble, the earth beneath my feet began to shake. It all happened so suddenly that I fell, my hand hitting the ground hard. I looked around desperately, trying to figure out what was going on, when I saw a familiar silhouette.

"Why..."

Yes. I could never forget that shape. A pitch black body with four arms. A mouth where its stomach should've been. It was the monster that had attacked us that day in the forest.

That monsters was standing here, in our town.

Faced by that shape, that true monster, my mind went completely blank.

How. Why. Why. That's right, that monster had gone missing, hadn't it. But here it was in front of me again. Stop. I can't do this again. Just go away. Why why why why--

"...Calm down, Krieger."

I scolded myself softly. If I couldn't do anything here, then why had I ever tried so hard in the first place? I took a deep breath and faced that monster anew. And that was when I noticed something.

"That direction is..."

The direction it was facing. Unless I was wrong, that was the direction I'd been about to go in. The direction of the house I lived in. And of course, in that house was--

"Vera!"

Vera, who couldn't run away. This time of day, her parents wouldn't be home yet. Rick was busy somewhere else, and almost certainly wouldn't be close by. So who was going to save Vera? Finally, everyone else in town realized what was happening, and they started panicking--but I just ran straight for the monster.

I ran with all my strength through the fleeing crowd, running into people but aiming only for that monster. Just like it had on that day, it breathed fire on my town, turning it into a sea of flames. The rubble from collapsed buildings kept blocking my path, but I didn't have time to care about them. I could only keep running.

Finally, finally I saw our home. "...gh!"

When I saw it, my legs froze, my breath stopped.

Vera's house was already partially destroyed.

I was scared.

The moment I saw it, I was so scared. But even as scared as I was, I couldn't let my legs stop moving. If I stopped here, everything would be just the same as that day.

I crossed over the wreckage in the street and entered what was left of Vera's house.

"Veraaaa!"

If she just wasn't here, that was fine. If she'd already found somewhere safe to hide, then that was perfect. But, if she was here, in that worst, most awful scenario...

"Vera! Are you here?!"

I kept yelling for her, over and over, searching desperately. And then, under a piece of a crumbling wall, I saw a wheelchair. I immediately rushed to it and pulled it out of the way--and there she was. "Vera!"

I called out, but there was no response. My blood ran cold, and I checked her breathing. But luckily, she'd only fainted--she was still alive. But as relief washed over me, I heard that awful monster's roars. I glanced behind me, and it was bearing down on us. It'd be here soon.

There was only so much I could do to run away with Vera on my back. So in that case--

I had to carry her in my arms. I had to take her to somewhere that was still in one piece so she could rest.

"Just hold on. This time, I'll be the one to save you." I whispered that to her, and then ran straight at the monster. I had to somehow get back to safety in the direction it was coming from. The idea had come to me in the spur of the moment, but it was the only one I had--and so, reckless and stupid as I knew it was, I headed towards the monster.

I picked up a rock and threw it at the monster. "Your opponent is right here! Come on, get over here!"

I don't know if it was my voice that did it or the rock, but the monster looked down at me. "Are you hoping to die soon?"

Its voice could've shaken the planet on its axis, and my whole body went cold from fear. But I still clenched a fist as tightly as I could. If my resolve broke now, then I'd never be able to save anyone.

But then, something I never could have expected happened.

"Huh? Hey, ain't that Krieger?"

That was a different voice than the monster's. A voice I'd heard before now. In fact, I'd heard it just this morning.

Someone stepped from behind the monster, clearly in no rush. Another silhouette I knew. The silhouette of my friend.

"Rick, what are you... You need to run away right now!"

"Huh? Run?"

"Yes! Right now!"

"Why?"

"What do you mean, why? Our house got destroyed, Vera's fainted, and that huge monster is right over you--"

Rick cut me off, clearly not caring what I had to say. "No, no, see. Why would I run when this guy's my Buddy?"

I couldn't understand. My brain just couldn't process it. This monster was...Rick's Buddy?

"Wh...what are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about I did today! See, I went back to the forest where that incident happened! See, back then, this guy had gotten hurt really badly too! He'd sealed himself up in a card so he could heal, and he was just waiting for a human to find him and unseal him to be their Buddy!"

Rick was talking about it so happily, but it was clearly different from what had actually happened, right? The Rick that I knew, whose bluntness came from kindness, was nowhere to be found.

"So, that's why I became his Buddy and helped him come back! So in exchange, he lends me his power!"

"Rick, are you...are you listening to yourself...?"

"Huh? I said this guy's lending me his power now, and--"

"He's the one who attacked us that day! And more importantly, he's the one destroying our city right now!"

"That's just 'cause he's so strong, so don't worry about it!"

"That's no excuse at all!"

"...Hey, Krieger. Remember what that guy said that day?"

"Huh?"

"That you needed power to save your friends."

So Rick had also heard what that person had said after he'd saved us.

"...Of course I remember."

"See, the thing is, Krieger... That day, I wanted to save you and Vera too. You're my friends, after all. But I was so scared I couldn't move at all." Just like I had been. "It hurt so bitterly to not be able to do anything for you. So I memorized that pain so I'd never, ever forget it." Just like I had. "I didn't have the power to save my friends." Just like I hadn't.

That was why I'd wanted to change myself.

"I always blamed myself for not being strong enough or brave enough to save you like Vera did. Having to see her legs like that every single morning was just a reminder of how pathetically weak I was!" Rick's voice just rose higher and higher. As if he was trying to condemn his own weakness. As if he were trying to vomit out his ugliness. "I don't want to face how weak I am anymore. I just want to be strong. I just want power. When I heard his voice, I was saved! Finally, real power was in my reach! And that's why. That's why I decided to prove how strong I was by crushing this town!"

"As you should, oh Buddy of mine. To make something new, you have to destroy the old. That's just the way of the new world we're going to make."

"Yeah. We're going to crush everything, just to prove how strong we are! Hey Krieger, you should join us too! Let's make a world where our miserable memories don't have to exist anymore!"

Rick sounded so happy, as if he were genuinely enjoying himself from the bottom of his heart. Listening to him, it felt like something deep in myself had been pushed out of place.

I completely forgot all about how scared I'd been as anger welled up in my heart. "...that's not strength. That's not what power is."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm saying you're wrong!"

"And just what's wrong here? Look around you! There's no one here to stop us from doing what we want! We're the strongest!"

"Rick, what you're saying is crazy!"

"There's nothing crazy about it! The strong trample the weak! It's just the natural order of things!"

"Doing something like that would just show how weak I am!"

Something in Rick's expression changed. He took a breath and how he'd been acting changed sharply--even his speech, his voice so low it was barely coming out.

"Hey, Krieger, Buddyfight me."

"What?"

"A Buddyfight. My new dragon army is going to beat up your heroes. And then you'll finally recognize how strong I am, won't you?"

"...I get it."

"Good, good!"

Rick pulled his deck out, and the monster at his side asked him a question. "You sure you wanna do this? You could always just erase him here."

"Knock it off! I'm gonna take him down in a Buddyfight!"

"...Whatever you say."

Rick activated the Fight System. It unfolded with a backdrop of the burning town. A V Board appeared by our hands, and Rick and I Luminized our decks.

"With the power to save the world, I will become a hero! Luminize! Saviour Heroes!"

"Ignite everything, devour everything, all as proof of my power! Luminize! Evil Dragons!"

"Buddyfight! Raise the Flag!"

I flipped over my Flag.

"Legend World!"

At the same time, Rick flipped over his.

"Darkness Dragon World!"

And so, our fight began.

"I'm going first, Krieger! Draw, charge and draw! I pay two life and call Source of Demonic Dragon, Zahhak to the center! And thanks to his effect, I get to add this guy to my hand!"

 【Rick life: 10→8】

Rick held that single card in his hand. That card was the monster of fate, Rick's Buddy.

"I pay two gauge, put Zahhak into his soul, and I Buddy Call to the center Evil Deity Karma Demonic Dragon, Aga Manafh!"

 【Rick life: 8→9】

A terrible symbol of the disaster that happened that day, the huge, frightening monster took its place on the stage.

"My name is Aga Manafh. The new world I will create doesn't need vermin like you, so I will burn you down to nothing."

"I also set Death Gauge Timer! With its effect I add to my gauge, and Aga Manafh attacks the fighter!"

"Guooooooo!!!!!"

Aga Manafh launched a fireball with one of its arms, and landed a direct hit.

"Uwaaaaa!"

 【Krieger life: 10→7】

"With that, my turn is over."

"Ughh... Next up is me. 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 called a monster. "I pay one gauge and call Dragon Extermination Knight, Siegfried to the right!"

The knight made his appearance at my side. Siegfried, with his dragon-slaying effect, was my favorite card. As long as I had his effect, then...!

"With his effect, when he enters the field... Well, you know how it works! Aga Manafh is destroyed!"

"He revives with Soulguard!"

Aga Manafh stayed on the field, but this meant its soul was now at zero. The next attack was all I needed! "I start my attack!"

"That's what I've been waiting for! Aga Manafh's effect activates, and I get to destroy a monster on the field! Disappear, Siegfried!"

Aga Manafh opened the mouth on its stomach and breathed flames on Siegfried, and when the flames died, he too had been burned down to absolutely nothing.

"But, I can still attack with--"

"Cast! I pay one gauge and destroy Death Gauge Timer for Gale Impulse! I destroy Balmung!" A shockwave rippled out from Rick's spell card, and Balmung crumbled in my hands.

"No..."

"Krieger! Everything on your field vanished!"

My dragon-slaying hero Siegfried, my dragon-slaying sword Balmung... I didn't know what I was going to do without them.

"...I end my turn."

"My turn! Draw, charge and draw! I call Misbegotten Child of a Demonic Dragon, Tchimno to the left!" This time a tiny dragon appeared on his field, wearing a piece of black eggshell on its head. "And I cast! One gauge for Ultimate Buddy! This card goes into Aga Manafh's soul, and he gets an additional 5000 to his attack! Now, who should attack first... Tchimno, attack the fighter!"

Tchimno's headbutt was a direct hit.

"Gh..."

 【Krieger life: 7→5】

"Aga Manafh, attack the fighter!"

"Guuoooooo!!!!!"

"Uwah!!"

 【Krieger life: 5→2】

"Aga Manafh, double attack!"

"Drown in flames, child of man!"

No, this couldn't happen. I couldn't let things end like that! "Cast! Bloody Holy Grail! The attack is nullified!"

The magic chalice I'd brought forth took Aga Manafh's attack in my place.

"Tch, that's my turn."

It had been just barely, but I'd managed to survive.

"My...turn."

"You should just give it up already. There's no way you can stand up to my Aga Manafh's power! Just come be at my side already!"

Just as he said, things looked absolutely hopeless. I looked down at the cards in my hand. But, of course, I didn't have any that could destroy Aga Manafh. Thinking over the entirety of my deck, I didn't have anything I could use here."

Rick was...definitely powerful. He was so, so much more powerful than I ever could be. But no, that wasn't right. That wasn't what that person had talked about.

"If you want to help your friend, you need power. Enough power to show what you believe in. Even if...those beliefs are different from your friend's."

I thought back to his words.

Yes. I wanted to save Vera. And at the same time, I wanted to save Rick. Rick, who had carried the curse of being weak ever since that day. If Rick was going down the wrong path, then I had to lead him down the one that I believed in. And Rick's path was definitely not the right one. So I had to show him.

"What I want is the power to protect my friends!"

"I shall give you my power."

The next moment, light radiated out before my eyes.Before I could figure out what was going on, a knight clad entirely in silver armor appeared before me.

"Who...are you?"

"My name is Siegfried."

"Siegfried?! But...you're not the Siegfried that I know."

"I am one of the Messiah Arms. I am simply...the concept of the strength of a brave knight who saves the world from the evil dragon. And as such, I both am Siegfried, and I am not Siegfried at all."

"Have you...come to save me?"

"Do you want me to save you?"

"Not quite... But I don't know if I'm even qualified to be a hero."

"We of the Messiah Arms appear only before those who are qualified, in an appearance they wish to see. I am simply an embodiment of Siegfried's power, if you choose to wield it."

"...Then please, let me use your power. My friend's life is in danger. My friend is going down the wrong path. I need to save both of them, so please, fight alongside me, Siegfried!"

"Young one who carries the name of a warrior, Krieger... I will be at your side."

Suddenly, I was back on the fighting stage before I'd even noticed.

"Wh--what was that light just now?!" Rick was shouting at me angrily. But speaking of, what what just happened just a dream or an illusion, or something like that?

"Draw. Charge and draw." There was an odd conviction in my heart as I drew my cards. And now in my hand was the power I'd been searching for. "Rick. The power you wield isn't real."

"Hah! No matter what you say now, in the end it's just the words of the defeated!"

"No, I'm going to win. I'm going to win, and I'm going to save you and Vera!"

I raised the card I had drawn into the air. "I pay one gauge and Buddy Call Projection Shell "Sigfried" to the right!"

"My power is yours. Please, take my blade, and strike down your foes."

 【Krieger life: 2→3】

That knight, the one in the silver armor, appeared before me. It hadn't been a dream or an illusion at all. That power...was right by my side. "With his effect, I add Hero Arms "Balmung" to my hand and equip it!"

 【Krieger life: 3→2】

"Siegfried and Balmung?! What are you talking about? I don't know those cards!"

"You're right, these aren't heroes. This the power to save someone, the power to protect someone--the Messiah Arms!"

"What?!"

"I'm not done yet! There's still more to this strength!"

I lifted the other card I'd drawn into the air. This was the Messiah Arms' true power. The power to justly save the world The power to protect my world.

"Siegfried! Balmung! Be as one, for the sake of salvation! I pay two gauge to equip Messiah Arms, Siegsaber!!!!!!!!!!!"

The sword in my hand and the knight on my field and even I myself were merged into one, then. Siegfried's power was recreated as my own, and my new form embodied that perfectly. The silver sword in my hands felt as if it were an extension of my body, a symbol of my will.

"That power...! It's greater than ours?!"

"What?!"

"Let's go, Rick!" I kicked off the ground.

I moved faster than I thought was physically possible. Siegfried's power wasn't just in this sword, but it was in me, too. With another step I leapt into the air, high above Aga Manafh. I saw those arms it had, its four arms that it had attacked us with, and I cut them off.

"Impossible! There's no way this could-- There's no way--"

"When Siegsaber attacks, I can nullify all effects of a dragon monster and send it to the drop zone. This is it, Rick!"

"Gyaaaagh!"

I brought down Siegsaber on Aga Manafh, and cut it clean in half with a single stroke.

"Ah... My...my power..." As if to be sure Aga Manafh had truly been destroyed, Rick reached a hand out towards where it had stood, falling to his knees.

"Double attack!" Siegsaber flashed in a straight line, cutting through both Tchimno and Rick.

 【Rick life: 9→4】

"When Siegsaber has Balmung in its soul, I can pay one life to restand it!"

 【Krieger life: 2→1】

Siegsaber could attack again now. This would be the final blow.

I stood before Rick, looking down at him.

"Rick. That day, the bravery we so admired in Vera wasn't used to hurt someone. It was to save them."

I tapped the side of Rick's face with the flat of the blade.

 【Rick life: 4→0】

◇     ◇     ◇

"You know, you don't need to come every day."

That day when I visited Vera in her hospital room, she said that to me.

Luckily she hadn't sustained any major wounds, and she'd be able to leave in just a few more days.

"I mean, it's fine, it's not like I really have anywhere else to go.

"You should really try a bit harder to get along with your classmates."

"I--I'm just going at my own pace!"

"Well, it's not like Rick can come visit me, so I guess it's fine."

"Mm. When he finally does, we're going to have to make fun of him."

"Absolutely. That way he'll be too ashamed to ever do something like that again."

Rick had been taken away by the Buddy Police for questioning. From what it sounded like, Aga Manafh had somehow possessed him, so they hadn't decided on a sentence yet because of the circumstances.

After a few moments of silence, Vera started talking again.

"...Hey, Krieger. Can I ask you something?"

At those words, my heart leapt in my chest, pounding wildly. "Uh, um, what is it?"

"You know, you've always been so bad at hiding things. You come and visit me every day, and even the timing of your visits..."

"Uh-- I--I mean--"

She'd hit the mark with distressing accuracy. As always, I just wasn't a match against her. "Well, the truth is--"

A few days after the incident Rick had caused, I'd received a letter. It was from someone from Japan, named Kei Jinguuji. He'd written to me to invite me to an elite Buddyfighting school called World Buddy Academia after hearing about what I'd done during that incident. When I'd read that letter, I'd just gotten excited. I'd be able to compete with some of the strongest players all over the world using my beloved Buddyfighting. I was certain I'd never get a chance like this again.

But at the same time, I couldn't just leave Vera all alone in Germany. Rick wasn't with us, so I was sure that if I left her, her daily life would become that much harder on her. My mind had been so conflicted that I just hadn't known what to say to her about it, and that was why I'd been stopping by every day.

"...So that's what it was, huh?" After I finished my explanation, Vera nodded her head. And she said her next words bluntly. "You should go to Japan."

"Huh?!"

"You don't need to keep worrying about me so much! I'm already used to living with a wheelchair, and unlike you, I actually have a lot of friends."

"But it's my fault that your legs--"

"It wasn't your fault, Krieger. Besides, you love Buddyfight more than anything, right?"

"Well...I guess."

"So then you should go. If I was the reason you had to give up on something you love, that'd make me sad, you know."

So she said, but I was still a bit uncertain. It was always possible that she was just pretending to be strong. She saw how much I was hesitating, and offered a suggestion.

"Here, how about this, Krieger? Promise that even once you've gone to Japan, once you graduate, you'll come back here to be with me and Rick again. Okay?"

Vera was surely going to be lonely without us at her side. We'd always been together, and now we were moving apart--there was no way she wasn't going to be lonely. But despite that, she was still thinking of me and encouraging me to move forward. "...Thank you."

I couldn't let Vera keep encouraging me like this. I couldn't let myself get spoiled by her kindness. That was what I thought. After all, I had my own strength now.

"Got it. I'll go to Japan."

"Good. Stay safe, Krieger."

And then, the two of us had a Buddyfight right there in her hospital room.

Win or lose, it was so much fun.

The day drew to a close and as dusk fell I gathered up my cards to leave, but Vera called for me, as if she'd just realized something. "Hey, Krieger?”

"Huh, what is--"

As I turned my head to her, she pressed her lips to my cheek.

"That was my first kiss. When you come back, I expect repayment in full."

"!!!!!!!!!"

Seeing her happily smiling face, I was so embarrassed I just grabbed my bag and ran out the door.

I'm going to Japan.

And I'm definitely going to come back home.

When I do, I'll try to be courageous enough to pay her back.

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