༺ The Second Ordeal ༻
“Ferloche! Wake up!”
I’d been shaking her for a while, but there was no sign of her waking up.
Because of that, I began sweating nervously, but hearing the rough breathing of the other children lying close by, I muttered with a worried expression.
“Um… Should I move the students first?”
“You stay still! I’ll move them myself!”
Irina, who was next to me, hurriedly settled me down against the wall and started lifting the fainted children.
“…Talk to me, Ferloche. What the hell is going on?”
After staring at her for a moment, I turned my gaze to Ferloche again and asked a question in a hushed voice.
However, what came back was not a response, but simply the sound of her breathing.
“It’s strange… it looks like she’s asleep…”
I checked with the ❰Hero’s Power❱ to see if she was lacking life force, but that wasn’t the case. So why was Ferloche in such a deep slumber?
‘By the way, I’m certain that there’s something strange about her.’
Unable to make any further judgments due to my lack of medical knowledge, I redirected my thoughts to the message she had left.
Looking at the words ‘remember’ written on the last page of the diary, it’s clear that she intentionally left the message ‘Half—Demon God’.
If so, how on earth was Ferloche able to leave such a message?
‘It’s strange. I don’t know about the past, but she’s… a total idiot right now, isn’t she?’
For a while, I assumed that all of her actions were fabricated, but there were too many natural elements associated with her actions, so I assumed she wasn’t pretending and moved on.
‘Besides, with my experience of having to put on a persona for so long, there’s no way that I wouldn’t see through other people’s acting. So, surely there must be other reasons.’
While I was ruminating over and over again, suddenly, a similar situation to the current one crossed my mind.
‘Come to think of it… At the orphanage, Ferloche once mentioned the ‘Demon God.’
At this point, it seems certain.
Ferloche certainly knows something about the ‘Demon God’.
However, she only reveals it unconsciously.
Since there’s not much information yet, I can only infer this much, but I feel like I might have stumbled upon a clue leading to the secrets of this world.
After rummaging through the diary left by Ferloche for a bit, I got up after realizing that I had nothing more to find.
“Frey. I thought I told you to stay still.”
Then Irina, who had already taken several of the children outside, returned to the basement and began scolding me.
“You’re hurt too, Irina.”
I replied briefly and left the basement while holding Ferloche.
As I trudged out of the mansion while emitting stellar mana, I heard a faint moan near my feet.
“What, did they not die?”
I looked around to see if there were any students who had not yet been rescued, but only the captain of the assassination squad was lying on the floor, groaning.
“You… who the hell are you…”
As I looked down at him, I asked a question in a haggard voice.
“Tell me who gave you the orders.”
As I trampled on his finger and interrogated him in response, he started to gurgle and choke, as if his blood were boiling.
The assassin suddenly started spewing blood and then dropped dead. Judging from that, it looked like he had bitten the poison pill that he concealed in his mouth.
The assassins of the Moonlight Family only follow ‘orders’, neither their sense of justice nor their own sense of duty.
So, when they go on a mission, they become more violent and cruel than anyone else.
‘I don’t know what the backup plan was… but if it had been implemented, it would have been a disaster.’
Those who know the true face of the Moonlight Family, who have been killing for millennia, are limited to a few noble households: the Marquisates, the Three Ducal Families, and the Imperial Family.
Of course, there are other reasons they have ensured control over information, but the main reason is probably due to the Moonlight Family’s own rule of leaving no witnesses behind to spread the word about the assassinations.
They are a terrifyingly heartless family. However, surprisingly, until recently, they used to be quite righteous.
Over the years, they had trained to minimize unnecessary slaughter, and kill only those who are corrupt or a threat to the Empire.
Therefore, their rule of ‘witness annihilation’ hadn’t been active for a long time.
This is because the target was eliminated with overwhelming skill before any witnesses even appeared, and even if they were found out, they used their influence to deceive the public.
However, when the Imperial Family became corrupted, the entire organization became twisted.
This was because the Imperial Family’s support in concealing and retrieving information on behalf of the Moonlight Family was cut off, so there was a limit to the information the Moonlight Family could manipulate on their own.
Nevertheless, it was when the Moonlight Family was weathering the storm alone, the current ‘Secret Lord’ took control and started to enforce the ‘witness annihilation rule’, and eventually the assassins started running rampant.
All those who fought for their ideals and for justice were purged, and the assassins who worked for the success of the mission were also eliminated.
In the end, the current Moonlight Family became a private strike force of the ‘Secret Lord’, and all the assassins who were left either wanted to become bloodthirsty executives, or simply psychopaths only loyal to ‘orders’.
And the biggest problem is that this fanatical organization will mobilize for the self-interest and power of the ‘Secret Lord’.
However, at this point in time, there is a ‘Council of Elders’, which still holds some power, and they target corrupt people… for example, people like me.
However, in a few years, the Secret Lord, who would have taken control of even the elders by then, will use the family’s assassins to seize power for his dreams.
‘But that ends today.’
Serena’s direct entourage and the assassins she selected… as well as some of the remaining people with conscience are now fleeing with her.
So, if the operation given to the Demon King’s Army today succeeds…
As I left the gate while thinking about the Moonlight Family’s future, the children started running towards me urgently.
I quickly put Ferloche on the floor, and hurriedly stepped back into the smoke so my identity wouldn’t be revealed.
“Hey… who is that guy?”
“That black outfit, isn’t that what the people who attacked us were wearing?”
Suddenly, I heard murmurs from all around me. Thus, I concentrated stellar mana in my ears and listened to their conversation, and was able to hear quite the interesting exchange.
“No, he’s the one who saved us. We were hiding under the table earlier.”
“Yes… we were being chased by two assassins, and he stopped them and sent us to the exit.”
“He’s coughing up blood… he wasn’t doing that before… Is he fine?”
After confirming that no one had noticed my identity, I sighed in relief and walked back inside.
“Huh… heh heh…”
“…Irina, are you alright?”
“Ah, I’m still fine… if it’s only this much…”
Eventually, I found Irina trudging while carrying two children. I smiled and asked.
“Aren’t you exercising properly?”
“Ah, no… This is… it’s not hard at all…”
“…You. Go out. I’ll take care of this place.”
I burst into laughter as I looked at Irina, who was sweating profusely as she answered, when someone spoke to me from behind.
“It’s dangerous here, so you…”
“I can use defensive magic, so there’s no problem. I’m stronger than Irina, too.”
Startled, I turned back and tried to get Arianne to leave, but she was resolute.
“You seem seriously injured, and you need medical attention. Get out of here.”
“I don’t need it. A wound like this…”
As Arianne said, my wounds are serious, but carrying the children one by one is doable. So…
“Get treatment. If you don’t, you will die.”
Arianne, who stopped me with her barrier, spoke with a worried look on her face, so I had no choice but to nod and leave the mansion.
“Excuse me, could you please tell us who you are?”
“Are your wounds fine?”
As I left the mansion and settled down in the yard, students began to flock around me one by one.
“Thank you for helping us.”
I looked at them and kept silent, but the students started bowing and thanking me.
But no matter how much I thought about it, I didn’t deserve to be thanked by them. After all, I was the reason they got involved in this situation in the first place.
With that in mind, I staggered up and trudged away.
Some students shouted from behind, but I didn’t stop.
After walking for a long time, I arrived at the playground where I used to sit down with Serena and count the stars. I sat on a swing and heaved a deep sigh.
“…The second ordeal is coming up, huh?”
While muttering and looking up at the starry night sky, I suddenly felt a presence behind me.
“Damn! You surprised me.”
Thanks to that jump scare, I shot up from the swing seat and found Irina standing behind me with a stiff expression on her face, so I smiled.
“Why did you come here?”
Irina hesitated for a moment, and then replied, carefully taking a seat next to me.
“…Clana and Isolet have arrived.”
“Clana is looking after the children… and Isolet is looking at the mansion… she looks quite angry.”
“Then the Imperial Knights will be here soon.”
Having said that, I sighed and started to swing back and forth.
“Don’t do anything. It’s too dangerous to try anything at this point.”
Irina hurriedly grabbed the swing and spoke in a worried voice.
I wondered why she was so worried, but after seeing the chains drenched in blood, it certainly seemed like I shouldn’t push myself.
“…Frey, when do you think the second ordeal will come?”
While I was thinking, Irina inquired in a trembling voice.
“Um… after this situation dies down.”
When I answered her with a composed expression on my face, Irina’s eyes began to tremble.
“Well, this ordeal isn’t really a big deal…”
I put a relaxed expression on my face in order to reassure her because she had been overly worried about the ordeal, but Irina raised her voice and cut me off.
“You’re going to suffer through a situation you never wanted to go through… this time even more painfully and slowly… How is that not a big deal?”
Her hands trembled as she spoke.
“It’s just a mere illusion. It isn’t reality, so there’s no problem.”
I took her hand and spoke gently, but Irina, who kept her head lowered, slowly raised her eyes and locked her gaze with mine.
“Frey, I have a favor to ask you.”
“Let me share the pain of your ordeal.”
Saying so, Irina grabbed my hand tightly.
“It’s my fault that you have to suffer through ordeals in the first place. So…”
“What are you talking about Irina? It’s not your fault.”
Eventually, when I finally cut Irina off, tears began to drip down from her eyes.
“I’m sorry… I’m really sorry…”
“Hey, why are you doing this…”
No matter how much dark mana she possessed in her body, Irina still had difficulty casting magic due to her mana exhausted state
Nevertheless, she did her best to protect the students today.
It wasn’t her fault that an assassin squad raided the mansion.
However, she seems to be trying to take too much responsibility for everything.
Is it because I told her to take good care of the children in the morning?
Or is it just because she has a good heart?
I’m not sure, but it seems like I should just try to comfort her.
“Irina, you really—”
“Frey, I have a confession to make.”
As I was pondering over that while gently patting Irina’s back, who had been sobbing with her face buried in my chest, abruptly stopped crying and muttered.
“…Yes, I must confess something to you.”
Irina raised her head and began speaking with a guilt-ridden face covered in tears.
“Honestly, I was too afraid to tell you. So… I haven’t been able to talk to you properly until now.”
“Yes. But after listening to my confession, you might despise me.”
After hearing her words, I was confused and tried to think of what Irina had done to me.
“Uh… Irina? Whatever you did to me, it must have been the right thing to do from your standpoint. Back then, I was truly a person who deserved to die. So there’s no need to feel guilty.”
Despite my words, Irina, who was biting her lower lip, said something with a pale, helpless face.
“…I’m the one who put the 12 o’clock curse on you.”
After finishing her words, Irina slipped away from my embrace and fearfully glanced into my eyes.
She was so cute that I burst into laughter unknowingly. Then Irina, who was watching me, began to look even more confused.
“I already know that. You thought I didn’t know?”
“W-What’s that supposed to mean…!?”
After hearing my words, Irina inquired again as her voice trembled with her bottled up emotions.
“You cursed me during the freshman welcoming party..”
Then, as a joke, I frowned slightly. Upon seeing my expression, Irina began to shake.
“F-Frey… I… that’s…”
“So, is that all you have to confess?”
As I stopped her with a calm expression while she continued to stutter. She looked dazed.
“On an average day, my life is constantly being threatened by numerous assassination attempts. Your curse is a single additional contribution to that count.”
“But! That curse is…!”
“Of course, it’s a curse with a 100% fatality rate. But I successfully stopped that curse, and thanks to you I’m still alive… ah!”
While I was pounding my chest, I let out a brief groan as I accidentally touched my wound.
“Y-You knew that I cast it…”
“Ahem, anyway… I’m still alive and well, and you’re in a mana exhausted state from the recoil, so let’s call it even.”
“Alright, let’s stop talking about it. Don’t feel guilty because of that anymore.”
As I continued to comfort Irina, I saw a familiar creature flying from afar. I then resolutely ended the conversation and stretched out my hand.
The white owl landed naturally on my hand. It then tilted its head and began staring at Irina, who was next to me.
“Oh, ouch! Ouch!”
“Let’s see… What kind of letter it is this time…”
I glanced at the white owl that started hunting Irina, then quietly turned my attention to the letter he brought me.
“…You must have been quite worried.”
It’s uncharacteristic for Serena to have such sloppy handwriting, and it’s even more clear that she was worried based on the fact that the letter isn’t even in an envelope.
“…Hey, give me a pen.”
“Stop bullying her and give me a pen.”
After looking at the letter with a subtle smile for a moment, I grabbed the owl, who had been constantly pecking Irina, and pulled the pen off its leg.
I wrote a reply on the back of the letter Serena had sent, and after thinking for a while, I scribbled a brief addition.
After writing that, I smiled briefly. I then handed the letter to the owl, who was sitting on my head while staring intently at the letter.
Then, with a satisfied expression on its face, the owl patted my head with its wings as if it could read the contents, then picked up the letter and flew away into the sky.
At that moment, a system window appeared in front of my eyes.
Apparently, the letter I had just written was the trigger that ended this stage.
“Frey? What’s wrong?”
“…It seems like the second ordeal is going to start.”
Hearing my words, Irina began to look terrified. I patted her shoulder and said gently.
“It’s fine, I’ve been saying this over and over… It’s not reality anyway. We’ve already succeeded in preventing it, but it’s just a brief vision of what could have happened. A ‘what-if’ situation.”
“Frey! I’ll come too…!”
Irina hurriedly shouted and stretched out her hand to me, as if she was intent on ignoring my words from the start…
“…It has begun.”
Irina withdrew her outstretched hand, as her open mouth slowly closed.
And from that moment on, everything began to rewind.
The owl that had flown far into the sky turned back, sat on my head, and attacked Irina again.
After a while, Irina, who was biting her lips, got up from her seat and walked backwards.
And, suddenly, I also got up and started to walk backwards towards the mansion in the distance.
As I kept walking backwards, coughing and staggering all the way, I experienced the bizarre feeling of the blood that I had coughed up earlier returning to my body again. All of a sudden, I was back in the yard of the mansion.
“Did the rewinding process become faster?”
And from that moment on, everything started spinning.
I could see students bowing to me, but before I could see anything more, I was already back in the cellar.
As I was looking at the unconscious Ferloche, the leader of the assassination squad that I killed earlier suddenly appeared.
As I kept going back to the past, I realized that the images that had been continuously rewinding finally stopped.
– Therefore, this operation is canceled. And, from now on, the backup plan will be initiated.
“Is this where the second ordeal starts?”
Eventually, as the voice on the radio, which had been cut off in the original timeline, spoke without interruption, I hardened my expression and scanned my surroundings.
– From now on, we will set this mansion on fire.
Then, when I heard the voice again from the radio, I frowned and clicked my tongue.
‘I did the right thing, killing them all.’
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