It was a summer day where the sun blazed down detestably.
A stray dragon destroyed a single village.
Two boys from the village, Earl and Neil, stood side by side in the heap of rubble that remained. However, what the two of them saw was quite different.
The younger brother, Neil, raised his head and stared towards the sky in the direction the dragon had left.
His older brother, Earl, turned his head down as he engraved the scene of the devastated village into his memory.
The hot sun soaked the two boys in sweat.
The usually noisy sound of insects was quiet that day.
The boys didn’t say a thing.
Only plain white clouds bustled through the bright blue sky.
Ten hours later, knights arrived from a nearby town after hearing about the attack by the dragon. However, they were unable to find any close family members or acquaintances of the two brothers from the rubble.
Eventually, the two of them were brought to an orphanage in a nearby town.
“I will become a knight.”
When Neil said so, the adults in the orphanage were moved to tears by his resolve. They praised his spirit and bravery for wanting to avenge his home, his family and his friends. Of course, they thought that those were just reckless words, but after seeing Neil’s effort, most of them changed their minds.
On the other hand, Earl would just play with building blocks in a corner of the orphanage all day long. Even when people around him asked, “Aren’t you also aiming to become a knight like your brother?”, he just simply shook his head.
The evaluation of the two brothers were divided into two extremes.
A brave, intelligent and hardworking younger brother.
A mediocre and gloomy older brother.
The light and dark were clearly defined. Perhaps the difference between the light and dark were so clear because they were both prominent in the orphanage. A younger brother who was always at the center of people, loved by boys and girls alike from the orphanage. An older brother who was always alone, playing with pieces of wood.
Praise and ridicule were sent to each.
The stronger the brilliance of his younger brother, the more pronounced his mediocrity became.
However, Earl didn’t care about the insults behind his back. He would always hear people say that he was as worthless as splinters of wood. At time, he would even laugh back, saying “That’s a good metaphor”.
Rather, it was Neil who would get angry. Every time, he would say “I can’t forgive them for making a fool out of my brother”. But not even Neil could understand what Earl was thinking.
Two seasons went by after they arrived at the orphanage.
As usual, Earl sat in a corner of the orphanage courtyard, moving pieces of wood and bent nails. The sky was cloudy and the courtyard was frosty. It was a very cold day.
It was a strange sight seeing a boy playing blocks with his small, bright red hands. One passing girl noticed that this ‘strangeness’ wasn’t something you could think of as mere play.
She was an older girl who also lived in the orphanage. It was rumored that she would soon be leaving the orphanage to work somewhere else.
The bright and hardworking girl called Mir stood behind Earl and asked him.
“Isn’t it cold here?”
“It’s cold, but when I’m inside, the other kids will get in the way.”
“You seem to like playing with blocks a lot.”
“I don’t particularly like it.”
“Well, but you’re always playing with them……”
“That’s right. Every day, farmers plow the fields and pull out weeds. Bakers get up early, doctors look after the sick and Neil trains to become a knight. But it’s not because they like the act of doing it itself.”
It was the first time Mir had seen Earl speak in such length. Earl had always just shook his head and reply with a word or two.
“Then are the blocks that Earl is stacking the same as them?”
“I think it’s similar.”
Earl replied, but his focus was on the wood and nails. When Mir looked at his hands, she found a small model house. Just as she was impressed by his work, Earl lifted the model and suddenly hurled it to the ground.
The model of the house shattered into pieces with a bang.
Mir was startled and shouted “What are you doing!”. However, Early just nodded softly and looked at the scattered pieces of wood. Then, he suddenly raised his face and looked at Mir.
Mir was surprised again. She never realised that Earl’s big, deep black eyes were so powerful. Earl was always looking down and running away to play with blocks.
But maybe that wasn’t the case, Mir thought.
Earl replied with the same burning eyes he held that summer.
“Neil wants to slay a dragon.”
In a very natural voice, he continued.
“I will defeat dragons.”
The next spring, Mir left to serve at a mansion in the city. At the same time, Neil entered into Knight Training School and Earl became an apprentice to a carpenter in the city.
When they left the orphanage, the two brothers had fewer chances to meet.
His younger brother, Neil, was exceptional at training school.
Spearmanship, swordsmanship, theoretical knowledge and riding on flying beasts were all skills required to slay a dragon.
Neil learned them all at an astonishing speed.
His talent had budded before he entered school. Neil had a strong motivation to grow and the training school had the facilities to raise him.
Above all, he was fortunate to have a good teacher. Neil was given a special curriculum after he was first seen by Khan, an old knight who had been reluctant to teach at the training school.
Khan’s teaching was ferocious and Neil often vomited blood.
To defeat and slay a dragon with the body of a human.
It was extremely tough training to enable such recklessness.
It was such a torturous thing that even adults would cry and run away.
However, Neil never complained. Whether he was covered in his own bloody vomit or his body broken, if it would make him stronger, he would not hesitate. Neil’s eyes were still staring into that summer sky.
The results of his training appeared in a very easy to understand form.
“Neil, this is out of my hands. Can you do it alone?”
Khan, the old knight, spoke as his face peered out from behind a hill. It was a bright meadow, far from the world of humans and into the ‘human frontier’.
At the end of Khan’s line of sight, a dragon was quenching its thirst at a river.
It had a large body, twice that of a bear, and had ghastly wings that would scatter storms.
It had two curled horns like a Ram and sharp fangs to tear its prey.
It was a Wheelheg Green Dragon.
Oddly enough, it was the same kind of dragon that had destroyed the brothers’ village.
Neil, in light leather armour and holding a long spear answered as he sat astride a winged beast.
“If your guidance has not been wrong.”
“Then give it a try” said Khan as he laughed in satisfaction.
Neil gave a signal with his heel and the winged beast rushed towards the dragon. The beast and dragon screamed to intimidate the other as they brushed past each other several times in the sky. Neil’s spear broke the dragon’s reverse scale and thrust deeply in. Neil then drew his sword and jumped onto it to deal the fatal blow.
It was in a spring meadow where the scent of flowers could be smelled.
Neil gazed at the dead dragon as he swung his sword to flick off the blood.
The sword he sheathed had no nicks, its white blade remained glossy and beautiful.
Thus, within a single year, Neil slew his first dragon.
“That trainee has done a great job.”
Rumors of Neil began to spread beyond the training school and into the public. For all those who lived around here, dragons were an abominable entity. Heros that could fight against them were long awaited. Of course, the rumors reached Earl.
Right now, young women that walked near his work site were talking about rumors of Neil, so he just listened to them.
“Are you listening, Earl?”
A senior carpenter, Jeep, who was two years older than Earl, knocked Earl’s head.
Earl was focused on other things even though he was teaching him. However, there was no kid that screamed at the small knock while apologising. Instead, Earl replied in a tired voice as he rubbed the place that had been hit.
“I’m listening. And I’ve told you again and again that your ideas won’t work.”
“And I’ve told you again and again. Stupid newbie, don’t think that your stupid design is superior to your seniors. Speak properly and shut up, you idiot.”
“So then, damn you–“
The quarrel between the two would follow in the same way for more than a decade.
The boss, who had come to arbitrate, was also at his wit’s end.
The boss, Jeep and all other carpenters knew well. Normally, when Earl was involved in the design of a building, he was straightforward, serious and would become as stubborn as a horse.
Although Earl’s learning speed was about the same as other people, he was useful because he would pay close attention to what he put out on site.
At any site he was at, injuries were unlikely to occur and omissions of arrangements or missed steps were completely eliminated.
So, even though he wasn’t easy to get along with, no one wanted to kick him out.
However, this stubbornness he occasionally showed was a hindrance to his colleagues.
He would stand still as if his feet were rooted to the ground and would stubbornly refuse to stop protesting. There was only one other person who could move Earl in that state.
That person popped their head over the partition that surrounded the work site. Noticing that, the boss patted his chest in relief. He then grunted.
“Earl, your young lady has come as usual”
Hearing that, Earl turned around.
Mir waved at him while carrying a shopping bag.
“Earl, were you arguing again?”
Mir said that as she handed over a packed lunch box she had made by borrowing the kitchen where she worked.
Earl replied with an ‘ah’ and ‘um’ as he received the lunchbox. He then took out some coins from his pocket to pay for it. Mir accepted it as usual.
The two of them left the worksite and sat in some shade by the roadside.
The boss had told him ‘Take a break for now’. On that note, the other carpenters who had been annoyed with Earl proceeded with the construction so that Earl would not be able to complain by the time he got back.
That was the way the carpenters treated Earl.
Even though she knew that Earl wasn’t listening, Mir continued to converse with him.
“You shouldn’t trouble your boss so much you know?”
“Oh, don’t leave the green soybeans. Eat everything properly.”
“If it’s delicious, can you say ‘It’s delicious, Mir’?”
“Have you heard the rumors about Neil?”
Earl nodded. There was a proud smile on his lips.
“I’m proud of my younger brother who has slain a dragon again.”
“Everyone is talking about it. The hero who protects us from dragons. It feels unreal that he lived under the same roof as us. Neil-kun, he’s become a person far from reach.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. He’s a distant figure. But for an absent minded (literally, it means high in the sky) person like you, it might not bother you that much.”
“Oh, if he’s high in the sky, then he’s definitely far away.
“That’s not good.”
When Mir pointed that out, Earl blinked his eyes as he turned his head. His style hadn’t changed since he had been in the orphanage. Mir smiled and looked up at the pale blue early spring sky. Quietly, she asked Earl, who was eating his lunch beside her.
“Is Earl going to defeat a dragon yet?”
“I see. But can you not go too far?”
“Ah, uh, yes?”
Earl raised his head to ask what she meant.
However, Mir was already walking back to the mansion.
A month after that, Mir’s workplace began to talk about the expanding the mansion. The mansion owner, who had heard about Earl from Mir’s stories, became interested in him.
In his third year as a carpenter, Earl was tasked with managing the design and construction of a building for the first time. Around the same time, Neil graduated from training school and officially became a knight.
Earl got more design work.
His work on the mansion had been appreciated. In addition, it was because his boss thought that it would be quicker for him to do his own work than to be annoyed by him in other construction work.
There wasn’t a single job where he could leave his name behind on.
Still, Earl managed the design and construction. He had no complaints. He built houses in silence and was often appreciated. There were also customers he was popular with and became drinking companions with. As usual, he had a lot of arguments with Jeep.
Earl loved these days of work.
It was a day when clouds covered the sky and the city was covered in snow.
Earl stopped work for that day due to safety reasons. He was afraid of an accident due to a fall. After a long period of work, Earl headed for a bar in the city to have an argument with Jeep. If he went there, he’d probably be able to meet up with Jeep, who would have stopped work as well, along the way.
However, the main street of the city was so busy that he wasn’t able to get to the bar.
Earl stood at the edge of the crowd and asked a parent and child, who was sitting on his parent’s shoulders.
“Is there some kind of festival today?”
“No, it’s big brother. He’s returned.”
Earl tilted his head slightly and the father carrying the child replied.
“It’s an expedition, to kill a dragon. All the people here have come to see the hero, Neil.”
Earl replied with a ‘hah’. After that, he did a short jump, but could only see the endless crowd. Earl scratched his head with a ‘hah’.
“He must be quite far away.”
He complained about his younger brother, who couldn’t be seen at all.
There was some noise at the edge of the crowd, but he didn’t understand what was going on.
Later that night.
As Earl was looking at an architectural model, just like when he had been in the orphanage, Neil sneaked in through the window. His thief-like mantle was soaked by the snow. He looked more like a thief than a real thief.
Earl handed a blanket and towel to Neil and boiled some water as he spoke.
“I never thought about designing that as an entrance.”
“I’m sorry. I was trying to be careful.”
“You’ve come back.”
“Yeah. I’m home.”
Neil and Earl were already back to their brotherly atmosphere.
Drinking hot tea and talking silly things, they reminisced about their home village. It had been a long time since then.
“You haven’t changed, older brother.”
Neil said as he pointed to the building model on the desk.
“Have you changed?”
“Right now, I can kill a dragon.”
“That’s right. You are my pride.”
“Thank you, brother……”
Neil swallowed his words. As he looked down at the model, he suddenly asked.
“Do you have any plans to become a knight?”
“If I wanted to, I would have gone to training school with you.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Earl felt his brother’s hesitation, which was why he prompted him.
“Did you come here for something?”
“What would a hero that could even slay a dragon hesitate about?”
“Well, that’s true. Brother, are you dating Mir?”
“What about Mir?”
“I met her in the middle of the parade. She was so beautiful. She’s been beautiful since back then.”
“I see. No, I’m not dating her.”
“Is that so. Then, I’ll see you later.”
Neil left through the window like a thief, the same way he came.
After seeing his brother melt into the darkness of night, Earl turned to look at his model. It was a model of a small church. It was the work that he had to stop earlier today.
The construction of the church was proceeding smoothly.
Earl had become completely attached to his on-site management and the carpenters under him continued to work without stopping. This time, his friends felt that he seemed to be in a hurry.
There were some issues, but there were never any big mistakes. Earl’s work held that sense of security.
And that sense of security was what people wanted from the building.
While he continued work on it, the seasons changed from winter to spring. Completion was imminent.
It was at that time that Mir stood before Earl’s rented house.
That day, it had been raining lightly since morning.
At dusk, after work, Earl found Mir standing in front of the door.
And he was confused.
It was partly because she was completely soaked, but also because she had an exhausted expression. If there had been anything she wanted, she would have gone to his work site. It was the first time she had waited for him at his house. It surprised Earl that she even knew where his house was.
“For now, let’s go inside.”
That was all Earl managed to say. Mir nodded.
Mir took off her wet clothes and wiped herself with a towel to change into Earl’s clothes. Meanwhile, Earl sat facing a wall with his arms crossed.
“How is your work?”
Earl turned around only to find her half dressed. He immediately turned back around while pressing his right hand to his head.
“The construction of the church is progressing well.”
“It’s all due to my efforts.”
“What do you mean?”
“Back then, the extension to the mansion you designed for the first time. It was because I spoke for you. That’s why it’s thanks to me.”
“That’s true, it was you who gave me my first opportunity.”
“The you right now owes me.”
“What’s the matter with you today, did something strange happen?”
Earl frowned as he faced the wall.
A wet head propped itself against Earl’s back.
“Neil proposed to me, he asked me to marry him when he returns from his next expedition.”
A thin arm wrapped around his wait, which had become well built due to Earl’s work in carpentry. Earl stood up with his arms folded as if he were tied up.
“Did you tell Neil that we weren’t dating?”
“And you said nothing after that?”
The soft body of a woman pressed hard against Earl.
But Earl stubbornly didn’t look back. He stood there like a stubborn horse. But maybe he didn’t know what to do. He had only even thought of constructing a building. That was what he had been doing for years. He didn’t know about anything else.
“When will you defeat a dragon?”
As Mir said that, she ran back out into the rain in her wet clothes.
Earl stood there with his arms crossed, as if he had roots on his legs. However, the only woman that could move him did not come back.
On the day Earl’s church was completed, Neil and his team left on an expedition.
The expedition was to sweep away the dragons and expand the territory of humanity, some people had said. Earl didn’t know if it was true. However, he knew that Mir, who was now the fiancee of Neil, the hero, had sent him off.
He had met with Neil the day before. Neil knew about the conversation between Mir and Earl. He had heard it from Mir.
To his brother, who was about to leave on an expedition, he had said the following words.
“You are my pride.”
Neil, on the other hand, responded with cold eyes.
“I despise you, my gloomy, mediocre and cowardly brother.”
The hero who slew dragons was cold towards the cowardly man who did not chase after a crying woman but let her run to another man. Earl laughed that he had no choice. But the only thing he could not permit was when Neil said, “You should just play with your stupid blocks for the rest of your life”.
For the first time in his life, Earl hit his brother. But he could not beat him.
It was a summer day where the sun blazed down detestably.
The usually noisy sound of insects was quiet that day.
A big black shadow fell over the city.
It wasn’t the shadow of clouds.
It wasn’t a bird’s shadow either.
It was a strange shadow, but a shadow everyone knew.
It was an abhorrent creature.
It was the conqueror of the sky and the lord of a storm called destruction.
People called it a dragon.
There were dragons. Not just a single shadow.
They descended on a city without heroes.
When the dragons appeared, Mir was walking down the main street of the city.
And, in overwhelming fear, she crouched by the side of the road.
It was inevitable. The whole city was in chaos.
The biggest source of damage was from the storms the dragons created.
The storm winds their wings created caused glass to break and houses to collapse. Under these circumstances, many people were injured by flying shrapnel. That was the fear of dragons. It was much more dangerous that being directly bitten or trampled.
What the citizens needed was a defense against the storm. When the dragons were identified, knights would lead them to take refuge in open spaces. But this time, the knights were too occupied with dealing with the dragons and had no time to pay attention to the city.
Never before had multiple stray dragons appeared.
Everyone was in an unprecedented situation.
Because of that, the movements of citizens was out of control. They rushed around based on rumors, were trapped in collapsed buildings or crouched down like Mir. Everyone was moving their own way.
As they did that, the dragons moved deeper into the city. After that, it became impossible to escape to open areas.
The damage caused by the dragons was the largest that had ever happened.
Mir was trembling with fear. Until someone suddenly slapped her on the shoulder.
“Hey, Mir, Mir!”
She raised her head at the familiar voice. It was Earl. For a moment, Mir was lost for words. However, Earl didn’t care for Mir’s reaction as he hurriedly spoke.
“Mir, it’s dangerous to be in such a place. Go to the church across the street from here, and take these children with you.”
She only noticed them after being told by Earl. Earl had a child on either side of him. They may have been separated from their parents. While Mir was still trying to understand what she had been told, Earl forced the two children into her hands.
“You kids, follow this elder sister. That way, you’ll be safe.”
“Don’t say such irresponsible things!”
Mir shouted. Due to fear of the dragons, she was trembling to her core.
But Earl smiled. His eyes had the will to drive away this hopeless situation.
“I will take responsibility, I swear, you’ll be alright.”
His voice was full of confidence.
He couldn’t slay a dragon, and he couldn’t comfort a crying girl.
But in Earl’s eyes, he had a will that would never break.
His big black eyes shined as brightly as they had back then in the orphanage.
“Because I built it.”
Earl stated that without further explanation.
“I built it, so it will be fine.”
Then, with a sharp clap, he slapped Mir on her back.
“Run, Mir, I’ll guide more people to my building!”
And with that, Earl ran into the danger of the city where dragons roamed. Mir and the two children went to the church that Earl had built, as she was told. She ran.
When Mir arrived at the church, there were already dozens of children and elderly.
All of them said that they had been guided here by Earl and his carpenters. Everyone was all crouched together. Every time a dragon passed by, the building shook violently and rattled. The shaking was even greater compared to the surrounding buildings.
The elderly were anxious and began to say that they should move to a different buildign. Mir thought the same. And, after Mir found someone she knew, she asked.
“You are, Earl’s……”
Jeep was in the midst of appeasing some scared children. At Mir’s voice, he raised his face from the crying children.
“Is this church okay? It’s shaking more than the others……”
Jeep responded with a troubled expression, “If he says it’s okay, then it’s okay”. He continued.
“He said that the building disperses and relieves the force by shaking. In addition, he designed a place to intentionally break to reduce the force on the whole building.”
“Is that possible?”
I don’t know. But he saw it when he was a kid. A village collapsed by the storm of a dragon. Buildings that turned to piles of rubble. How did it collapse and how did it break? That was where his design started. He always said that he was going to construct a building that would not be destroyed by a dragon. So now, there’s no other choice but to believe in him. Well, rest assured, he did a good job.”
Jeep spoke with a wry smile.
After years of arguing and fighting, the man was still a friend of Earl’s that would place his life in Earl’s building. It was because it was Earl’s work that he would entrust his life to it.
That allowed Mir to make up her mind. She stopped those who were about to leave the church and nestled close to the scared children as she said.
“It’s okay, this building will defeat the dragons.”
Her words never betrayed her feelings.
Earl’s church endured until the expeditionary force that had been chasing the stray dragons returned and drove them away. Earl’s building had prevailed over the dragons.
But until the very end, Earl had never come back to the church.
By the time the hero, Neil, had swept away the dragons, the city was in ruins.
It was able to slay all the dragons, but the storms had destroyed every building in the city. Neil remembered that summer as he looked at the city and stood still.
Nobody had come back from the rubble that summer day. He thought that it would be the same as that day.
His fellow knights stood up similarly, muttering with regret.
“It’s awful, almost all the buildings in the city have been destroyed.”
Nei felt uncomfortable at those words.
In Neil’s village, not a single building was left after the dragon’s destruction. But his fellow knight had said ‘almost’.
In other words, not ‘all’.
There was a single building that remained without falling.
Neil raised his head.
In the same scene as that summer, there was something different. There was something left. Among the piles of rubble, a church still stood.
Neil gave instructions to his men and rode on his flying beast to check the building.
There were other survivors that weren’t there that summer. There were people who had survived, protected by someone’s building.
When Neil found his beloved fiancee, he hugged her in joy.
But when his fiancee had asked him, ‘Have you seen Earl?’, Neil was stunned. Earl was nowhere to be seen in the building that remained.
“As expected……of the hero……magnificently……you’ve killed all the dragons……”
Earl laughed as he said that to Neil.
Neil knelt to the ground and grabbed Earl’s hand under the rubble. Only the left side of Earl’s body was peeking out from under the rubble. The rest of his body was under the collapse building and couldn’t be seen. However, he was seriously injured from the way the unpleasant blood stains spread along the stone pavement.
“Older brother, such a thing as this.”
The dragon slaying hero lost his words as he took his older brother’s hand.
He couldn’t say anything. His face was distorted and he could only hold his hand while holding back his tears.
“What……is that face……hero……”
Earl laughed. He looked up at the blue sky and laughed as he asked his brother.
“Well, I can’t see it from here……my building……is it still there?”
“Yes, it’s there. It’s still there. Your building is fine.”
“Mir……did you see her……?”
“Yes, the church is wonderful. No one was injured.”
Earl closed his eyes in satisfaction.
With his eyes closed, Earl spoke to Neil in a calm voice, just like he was about to go to sleep.
“You are my pride.”
Neil, with tears in his eyes, clenched his brother’s hand.
“Thank you. Me too. My older brother is my pride.”
Earl laughed and then said nothing.
Only plain white clouds bustled through the bright blue sky.
A few years later, the city regained its activity. And, there were many solid buildings lined up, imitating Earl’s designs. Neil became a hero who left his name as a dragon slayer, but Earl’s name disappeared. However, buildings that reflected his ideas spread all over the world and saved many people from disaster.
It was a sunny autumn day where scattered clouds drifted.
A lame man was sitting in a garden chair as he looked up at a house. Next to him was a little girl. The girl, leaning against the armrest of the chair where the man sat, looked up at the house with him.
It was a shiny new house.
The lame man spoke to the little girl next to him.
“This house will definitely protect you, your children and even their children.”
The girl looked at the old carpenter and asked ‘why?’.
The lame man responded to the girl, his big black eyes engraved with a distant summer landscape that he had shown his wife back in the courtyard of an orphanage long ago.
“Because I built it.”