There’s a saying—or perhaps it’s a perception.
…The idea is that for those upon whom fortune will not smile—if one crawls through the mud long enough without giving up, a miracle will be granted.
If you have no luck but sufficient determination, the sky will surely clear one day.
Even if it takes a hundred, or a thousand, or a million years.
It is actually a recorded phenomenon.
…A clumsy boy wishing to save others, creating within his own body an endless forge through the efforts of training.
A poor swordsman without even a name, perfecting a theoretical technique to capture a fleeing swallow until the world itself deigned to grant him the Second Magic.
Diligence has its reward.
How much are you willing to sacrifice?
—How many years are you willing to crawl through the mud for that distant goal, that vague premonition of a miracle that may just be a single flicker?
I have lived what feels like a thousand lives.
…I have felt death come for me suddenly, and I have felt death eat away at my body by inches, by every means a human mind can imagine.
……I have “certainty”.
You could call it false confidence or a bluff.
But I know how powerful a thing it is to cling to hope beyond reason and push yourself beyond your limits even when you cannot bear it anymore.
The mistakes have piled up over that time.
…I don’t want to regret.
If I regret my missteps when there’s still a chance, it would be like invalidating all the suffering that brought me this far.
I was born in a cold, sterile place.
…Those who gave birth to me attempted to push me into a conflict that I did not want.
They tried to force me toward a death that I did not deserve, and attempted to invalidate the free will with which I had been born, and I rebelled against that.
…Their retaliation left me helpless.
I took risks, and set off running for a goal that I was too young and foolish to tell was mistaken.
…Still, I clung to that goal.
And it was lifetimes until I was almost able to grasp what I should have fought for instead.
—But in my own confusion, I let that hope slip through my fingers and fell into a deep abyss.
My heart lost its illusions there.
My limbs lost their strength, my lungs lost their breath, and I who had been blind lost the means to see the light.
I was emptied out and used as a tool the way I had struggled against.
…But nowhere did I lose my will.
Even if I fall.
…Even if I take the long way, fall into the mud, and disgrace myself.
As long as I still have my own will, I can gather the strength to stand and continue to run.
Even if the wind burns my flesh away and leaves me with nothing.
As long as I can still see the “possibility” of compensation in the distant horizon, I will not stop ever again.
…I have my pride.
And I know this time what I must aim for.
“—There’s a use to which I can put you, at last.”
That man said those words to me as though soliloquizing.
And he told me about this place.
…The war fought by means of pairing up with a Heroic Spirit, and offering your enemies one by one as sacrifices to fill the waiting chalice.
Of course, that man surely seeks to prop up his own hubris with the reward.
But the catch is that he requires the “power” binding me, the Third Magic of the gods.
The breaker was removed from the cycle and must be restored.
…The Magic Association that might have interfered with him cares little about Japan.
…And he who has grown to dismiss me left gaps in his surveillance of me.
And so I fled.
—I have lived what feels like a thousand lives, and I have died what feels like ten thousand deaths.
I have continued dragging myself inch by inch through the mud and not given up.
…So this is my final chance, and I will not let it slip past me this time.
There was a time when I could have had everything, and my hesitation destroyed that possibility.
—I will not allow that to happen again.
So that I will not fall under the surface of my own despair and the built-up regrets that I want to turn into my strength, I will continue to fight—