...Forgetting or being forgotten, which one is more miserable?
Even if he pondered intently on this question, it would be meaningless, yet he can't stop himself from thinking about it. It has been pointed out to Julius by others that he overthinks things too much, but it was a habit deeply rooted in his heart.
This is a habit that gives others a headache. However, while he had thought that he might have gotten over this habit, he was still somewhat grateful that it was not the case.
Even though he himself knows that he is in an extremely unhealthy state, but sure enough...
Anastasia: [...Natsuki-kun, do you recognize any of these children?]
Anastasia stood in the middle of the room and asked after taking an all-round look in the room.
The woman in a kimono asked the black-haired teen, Natsuki Subaru, who was also looking around in the clean and white room. He rested his chin and muttered in a low voice after thinking for a bit.
Subaru: [...No, sorry. Looking around this time, I didn't see a familiar face.]
Anastasia: [Oh? This child looks like a dogman, not even him?]
Subaru: [I don't remember how everyone looks, but I don't think every demihuman is involved with Anastasia-san ....probably.]
Anastasia: [...Hmm, that so? Thank you very much.]
Subaru scratched his cheek unconfidently, and Anastasia thanked him. However, this phrase of thanks made Subaru's expression grow even more tangled.
It is natural for him to be confused. After all, there was nothing gained at all right now.
However, persisting like this will definitely yield positive results. …Just like how he was saved by Subaru's memory.
Julius held his breath in deep concentration and looked around the room like Anastasia and Subaru.
This is a ward of a treatment hospital, housing a large number of wounded patients. There were only narrow gaps between the beds, and it was no exaggeration to say that the whole room was completely filled with people. However, the patients did not voice discontent. ...No, it wasn't just complaints that weren’t audible.
Compared with the numerous patients on the hospital beds, the whole room is eerily quiet, so quiet that it made other people’s ears feel uncomfortable.
This is not because the patients were sleeping late into the night. The sun was already shining outside their window, and it's nearing the end of the day.
However, the patients in the hospital bed are indeed still asleep.
They were asleep, unable to wake up. This difficult to understand state is due to...
???: [“Sleeping Beauty” caused by the Authority of “Gluttony”...]
Anastasia: [This is a sickness that has been discovered all over the world for many years... I never expected the true cause to be the Witch Cult’s doing. Even with the truth out there, it's hard to tie it with good news.]
Hearing that unintentional murmur, Anastasia sighed without hiding her resentment.
As she said, the patients in this ward... No, most of the patients accommodated in the entire hospital are victims of the Authority of “Gluttony”.
The “Name” belonging to them was taken away by “Gluttony”. Moreover, the person whose name got taken away would fall into a deep sleep, and would not be able to regain consciousness, nor would they be able to wake up.
Whether it was calling out loud to them, or reaching out to shake their bodies, they showed no signs of opening their eyes. The disaster that has come to them is not only that.
Anastasia: [The people whose “Names” were stolen are forgotten by those around them... This feels extremely cruel, just thinking about it... Even I have forgotten, absolutely terrifying.]
Anastasia: [Ah, I'm sorry, Julius-san. I didn't mean to sound... malicious?]
Julius: [...It's okay, I understand.]
Anastasia turned around and frowned as she apologized, and Julius shook his head slightly. The moment of hesitation was not because of the pain of his wound, but because he took notice of what she called him.
The last time he was addressed respectfully like an outsider by her was when she first met him.
And this slightly alienated call, as what she said just now, did not contain any malicious intent. Julius knew that in his heart that she was being considerate of him.
However, the helpless reality slammed coldly before his eyes.
Julius: [But, we are not completely helpless. ...His existence is ironclad proof.]
Julius said to Anastasia, who was still being apologetic and pointed at the teenager standing next to her.
Natsuki Subaru... The only person who is not affected by the Authority of “Gluttony”, is standing on a unique vantage point. Only he remembers the people who were plundered by the Authority of “Gluttony”.
Therefore, the two of them accompanied him like this, looking around for the people in Priestella who have become “Nameless”. In order for the pitiful victims forgotten by everyone and who remain in constant sleep, to not be left behind.
Anastasia: [Although it has caused a lot of trouble to Natsuki-kun, I hope you can understand. No one can do this other than Natsuki-kun...]
Subaru: [I don’t find this troublesome at all. There must be people around with the opportunity to be reunited with their family... If only I had seen more people earlier.]
Julius: [No one expected it to turn out like this. You have done your best, and there is no need to feel regret about it.]
Subaru: [...If you were in my position, would you let it go if you heard that?]
Subaru did not accept this empty platitude and stared at Julius with his black eyes. This gaze made Julius take a short breath, then he slumped his shoulders and sighed.
Julius: [Indeed, this is something I didn’t think about. If I was in your position, I wouldn't be able to relax.]
Subaru: [Then it's the same for me. Even if I know it's too late to regret it...]
Julius: [...I want to do as much as possible.]
In unison with Julius, Subaru nodded vigorously.
Julius truly understood the regret felt in Subaru's heart deeply. ...That is the sense of failure, one that he has to grit his teeth and swallow because of his weakness. As long as he was lamenting that this is beyond their ability, they could definitely feel the blood-stained distress felt in Subaru.
However, Julius didn't want to lick each other's wounds like this, so he did not state that deliberately...
Anastasia: [...Okay, let’s stop looking so gloomy. We should head to the next ward now.]
Unwilling to let the atmosphere become heavier, Anastasia clapped her hands and proposed the next step. Neither Julius nor Subaru had any reason to oppose her, and they obeyed her obediently.
Just when the three people walked out of the silent ward.
???: [...Excuse me! Please give way!]
A young healer dressed in white panicked, leading the men carrying stretchers behind him, and approaching the group standing in the corridor.
Half a day after repelling the Witch Cult, reports of wounded and “Sleeping Beauty” continued to appear throughout the city. Especially for those with “Sleeping Beauty”, there is no way for them to call out for help, and as long as people nearby didn’t notice, there is no way to easily find them.
Even though the hospital is reaching max capacity, there is still a steady stream of new victims being found.
The person on the stretcher seems to be a newly found victim as well...
Subaru: [Joh..., wait!]
Subaru stepped aside to give way, but when he saw who was on the stretcher passing by, he cried out in surprise. He stopped the stretcher and stared at the person lying on it.
Julius and Anastasia stared at each other because of Subaru's shocked face.
Julius: [Subaru, have you seen him before?]
Asked by Julius, Subaru slowly raised his head. The emotions in his black eyes turned from surprise to anger, and from anger to sadness.
Julius was confused and could not understand the reason for the series of changes in Subaru’s face.
However, the answer was quickly spoken by Subaru himself.
The exact answer is...
Subaru: [This guy is, Joshua. Julius, he is your brother.]
...Forgetting or being forgotten, which one is more miserable?
Even if he pondered intently on this question, it would be meaningless, yet he still can't stop himself from comparing the two.
The pain of being forgotten, and the pain of not even knowing that you have forgotten, which one is more miserable?
Julius: [My disgrace, I forgot how strong you were...]
After being smacked in the head by Subaru, Julius smiled bitterly, ruminating the pain.
In fact, when he felt that he was saved, his heart was indeed deeply wounded. ...As if he was the most unluckiest person in the world. Even though he did not feel that he had positioned himself to be that way.
Julius: [What is the truth? If that's the case, how funny would I be... For you to be embarrassed by your elder brother making a fuss by your bed, I am truly sorry]
As Julius said that, he bowed his head to the sleeping face of the young man who was lying quietly on the hospital bed... To his younger brother who he had no real attachment for.
Joshua Juukulius. This seemed to be the name of Julius’ younger brother. To be honest, this fact caused severe damage to Julius' spirit.
Julius was robbed of his “name” by the Authority of “Gluttony”. Although he kept his consciousness, his existence was completely forgotten by those around him. But his memories of those were not and he still has the consciousness of others.
Moreover, the forgotten party was his brother, which was beyond his imagination.
This was too shocking, and Julius's heart was exhausted and sentimentally criticized...
Ricardo: [...What's wrong, got scolded by the little bro?]
Julius: [...It's you, Ricardo.]
When Julius laughed at himself, it was Ricardo, the gigantic dogman who accosted him.
He walked silently into the ward and sat side by side with Julius, who was sitting next to his brother's bed. Then, shrugging his nose...
Ricardo: [So that’s how it is. He smells like you. It seems that you two are indeed brothers.]
Julius: [You can smell it?]
Ricardo: [My nose is not so convenient that I can make a reliable judgment out of thin air. But because you two smell alike, I can only judge that you both have the same blood and ate the same things growing up.]
Julius: [No, being able to get such an answer is already good enough....Thank you.]
Ricardo's words caused Julius to accumulate a certain sense of camaraderie in his heart.
In Julius, as well as his brother who can't wake up, they had an invisible connection as brothers. Julius wanted to collect these broken shards of glass and convince himself that there was a definite bond between the two.
Ricardo: [This is not a problem that can be solved by collecting pieces to change the quality.]
Julius: [...You saw right through me. You treat me...]
Ricardo: [I’ve forgotten you. Since for me, this is the first time we’ve met, please take care of me in the future. I was also your age when I met Anastasia, though I’ve grown to adulthood since then. I can tell you’re one of us even though I have no memory of you.]
As Ricardo said so, he stretched out his wide palm and placed it on Julius' head.
Julius couldn't react for a moment, just like that, letting his firm palm rub his head roughly for a bit.
Julius: [...Ricardo, this is?]
Ricardo: [Your head is just about the right height, and your expression is just right for me to do this. In my opinion, the young lady and you are similar brats.]
Julius: [That way of saying it is a bit extreme.]
Ricardo's rough words made Julius smile wryly, but he didn't think about waving his hand away.
His head being touched in this way, Julius glanced lightly at Ricardo's other arm, which was not on his head... That right arm was empty below the elbow.
Because his right arm lacked a portion, Ricardo looked asymmetrical. It was the moment when only Julius himself witnessed the severed arm. ...This is an injury he suffered to protect Julius.
Even this sad fact was unnaturally blurred in his memory.
Ricardo: [Stupid boy. Why are you wearing such a face because of something that doesn't matter? Can't you think more positively? Even I forgot about my right arm being related to you. Isn't it lucky?]
Julius: [That would be closer to irresponsibility than positive thinking, right?]
Ricardo: [Really? My arm is my own problem, right? If you want to talk about irresponsibility, in the end, if you think that you were responsible for my arm, then wouldn't I be the one that's irresponsible?]
Julius originally intended to tell him that his logic was too extreme, but then it was completely justifiably refuted.
Ricardo smiled boldly at the wide eyed Julius...
Ricardo: [Ghahaha! How about it? This is how an adult fights, scary right?]
Julius: [...You really haven't changed at all. Even if you lost your arm, even if you don't remember me, you’re still the same.]
Ricardo: [When people live a long time, naturally they can think like this. The same is true for you. Although it may be a little difficult, it is not good to always be immersed in troubles. After all, Ana-san is entrusted to you.]
Ricardo sharpened his sharp fangs and his eyes were full of seriousness. Bathing in the demihuman's smileless gaze at close range, Julius nodded vigorously.
Ricardo said this because he knew that Julius was heading to the Pleiades Watchtower with her. It was a journey to borrow the wisdom from the “Sage” in order to save a large number of victims in the city.
The Iron Fang is full of seriously wounded members, they are unable to follow their master, Anastasia, on this dangerous journey.
Ricardo: [I will never forget the entrustment I just made. You mustn't forget it as well.]
Julius looked straight back into Ricardo's eyes and exhaled.
Perhaps this is the first time he has talked with Ricardo seriously and face to face like this. He was always calm and was convinced that he could protect Anastasia.
Now, he has to delegate this responsibility to others. Entrusted to a stranger of a knight who does not exist in his memory.
He must also respond to this sincere wish. ...As long as he is still called the “Greatest Knight”.
Julius: [Your trust, I sincerely accept it. Although it is not very pleasant to say comparatively, but...]
Ricardo: [Take care of your brother? We will stay in this city, so you can rest assured.]
Julius: [Hmm, you truly are reliable.]
Even if he didn't say finish his sentence, the other party can understand the meaning and give a response. Julius savoured this happiness and took out a notebook from his arms.
Ricardo: [...? What is that?]
Julius: [I intend to take notes on the things I have experienced and the words I have talked with... After being stuck in such a situation, I’ve realized for the first time how noble those passing times were.]
Julius answered Ricardo while writing words on the white paper.
It sounds ironic because he has been forgotten, and does not wish to forget any more things. However, if one just stares at the negative side of things, then it's just like standing still.
He will no longer choose to stop moving, He will no longer suffer from deep distress, He will no longer lament himself. ...As early as more than ten years ago, He decided on that.
Julius: [So, well, this is a kind of promise keeping notebook that belongs specifically to me.]
Ricardo: [Aye, this is not a joke?! Seeing you like this, makes me feel like I can relax.]
Seeing the corners of Julius' mouth raise slightly, with firmness in his words, Ricardo also smiled and rubbed the hand that hadn't been removed from his head again. Julius let his hair be tossed around by the big hand and lifted the quill in his hand.
He must write down his thoughts of this moment as an unforgettable experience, so that he will not forget it again.