༺ The Moon To The Stars ༻
“Lady Serena, we have arrived.”
We’ve finally arrived. To a place I never wanted to go. A place where I will finally find out the truth.
“Don’t follow me. I’ll go alone.”
“Then, your luggage…”
“No. Leave the luggage.”
The maid, who had faithfully followed me both in the previous timeline and in this life, tilted her head. Well, I think I would have acted similarly if someone told me to just leave their luggage in the carriage.
However, right now, these things are meaningless to me.
The maid, who was looking at me strangely, pointed to the rising smoke in the distance and spoke.
I left her behind and started trudging forward with heavy steps.
‘… This place has always been nostalgic.’
After walking towards the Starlight Mansion, I stopped for a moment and gazed upon the surrounding scenery.
‘Originally, I would come here to calm my mind…’
This was the only place where I made fond memories, which helped me survive my childhood filled with horrific abuse and training.
Me and Frey used to play hide-and-seek all the time around this trail to the mansion.
“Serena… where did you go…?”
“Fufu… who knows?”
While reminiscing, I momentarily closed my eyes. Then when I opened my eyes again, I discovered the young version of myself and Frey playing hide-and-seek.
“I can’t find you… come out…”
After a long time, while I was hiding on top of a tree, when little Frey couldn’t find me, he began whining.
“I don’t like men who give up quickly.”
Then the young me smiled and spoke in a friendly way. I couldn’t even see him, so why was I smiling? Looks like I was quite childish back then too.
However, young Frey was taken aback by my words and opened his mouth. His trembling eyes suggested he was quite anxious.
“I-I’ll definitely find you, so stay there, alright?”
“Yes, please find me. If you fail to find me today, I’ll disappear forever.”
Oh dear, it was too much fun.
“You can’t… Please don’t disappear… sob…”
Look, you made Frey cry for real. You should have jested in moderation…
“…Lady Serena? Aren’t you going to leave?”
The moment I heard the maid’s voice from behind, the young version of myself and Frey, who were playing in front of me, vanished into thin air.
It’s quite difficult to reproduce a memory. If you let your concentration slip for even a moment, the illusion shatters.
‘That tree is still there.’
Still, I was able to recall some fond memories. At that time, Frey couldn’t find me until nightfall.
Thanks to that, Frey was scolded heavily by his mother.
“…I’m sorry, Frey.”
I still felt guilty about that. But back then, I really couldn’t help it.
Of course, I also wanted to tease Frey and see his reaction, but I didn’t want to be discovered by him for as long as possible.
Because, the moment Frey finds me, the game would be over… and I would have to return home again.
Thus, repeating my terrible daily life.
While I was shivering from recalling those terrible memories, my owl flew toward me.
“You also found me. By any chance, do you have a letter…”
I smiled and reached out to my friend, who had been with me since I was little, but suddenly he started pecking at me.
“Don’t do that. It hurts.”
A child who has never disobeyed my orders, let alone rebelled, is pecking at me desperately. Because of him, my hand that was covering my face began to bleed.
Soon he lay on the ground as I hardened my expression and walked forward.
“…Go to the carriage and stay there.”
I looked at the owl sternly, then stepped over it and said so.
I couldn’t hear any more hoots, so it seemed like it returned to the carriage. Or was it still lying on the ground?
I could look back and see what he was up to, but I won’t.
If I looked back, I would definitely feel weak.
“The entrance… It’s the same as it used to be.”
Continuing to silently walk forward, I arrived at the gate of the Starlight mansion.
“…This is where I first met Frey.”
I still vividly remember my first visit to this place, guided by my father, the secret Lord of the Moonlight Family, and the former head of the family.
Perhaps Frey was hiding behind his mother while peeking out curiously because he was shy to see his fiancée for the first time.
Back then, I didn’t expect much from you.
Unlike you, who was innocent, I was immersed in the dark side of the Empire, and I knew the real purpose behind the engagement.
“Serena! Let’s play!”
“…I don’t know how to play.”
“Don’t say that! We can just play how you normally do!”
“Is that… so?”
At first, it was just pure jealousy.
Unlike me, who was submerged in darkness, I just despised Frey, who was pure and was blessed with happiness.
“It’s the paperwork of our duchy. I play while organizing this.”
“It’s an in-depth formula for a protective magic circle. I feel the most fun playing when I’m studying this.”
So, I hurt your innocent self.
God, what kid would ever play with something like that?
“Serena! Look! I’m done!”
But after a few months of meeting you, you started adapting to the bullying disguised in the facade of ‘playing house.’
No, you didn’t adapt, rather you overcame it. You weren’t at my level, but you certainly did well.
At that time, I thought you were a genius, just like me. And at the same time, I thought you were the only one who could understand me.
“W… What’s all this?”
“Ah, I got caught. Hehe…”
But one day, I stumbled upon an endless pile of papers when I happened to walk into your study room. I knew I wasn’t completely right.
“You… just why…”
“If I don’t know this… I can’t play with you, right?”
On the papers piled up, traces of practicing the difficult tasks I had given him were written and rewritten in abundance.
You memorized all that knowledge for months to play with me.
“… Back then, I should’ve distanced myself from you.”
While lost in such thoughts, I almost reached the mansion.
However, the closer I got, the closer I could feel the end approaching.
No matter how many letters I sent, your reply never arrived.
The owl desperately trying to stop me.
The sorrowful end I could picture in front of my eyes… just by looking at the rising smoke.
As I entered the yard of the Starlight mansion, various people came into view.
Half of the people had ashen faces, the other half were crying.
I stared at that scene for a moment, then stepped onto the yard where I played with Frey.
As soon as I entered the yard, someone with a pale expression noticed me and opened her mouth.
“I-I… I um…”
I wondered who it was for a moment, but turns out it was Alice. She was the spy of the secret Lord.
Seeing her with a pale blank face, I don’t think she fully understands the gravity of the situation yet.
In fact, it would be difficult for anyone to fully grasp the situation.
Ah, I see one person over there who has grasped the situation completely.
She was trying to scratch her arms with the sharper edge of a stone.
“It’s because of me… Because of me… Because of me…”
Upon closer inspection, it turns out that this is the person Frey spoke about in the letter, Lulu. He said that she is a poor soul who bears the stigma of misfortune.
And I could clearly see she seemed to think that all this happened because of her. Seeing the blood dripping from her arm, she must have been feeling quite guilty.
The commoners all have ashen faces and their heads bowed. Perhaps, if Frey had seen this, he would have been terrified and told them not to do it. I could picture it clearly in my mind.
Oh my, the more I think about Frey, the more I feel depressed. I guess I should step up my speed.
“The yard is filled with weeping people…”
But the faster I walked, the more depressed my heart became.
Professor Isolet hugging the letter and crying, Kania squirming while emanating dark mana with her head lowered, and Ferloche cursing the Sun God while radiating holy power.
Irina, who was smiling with lifeless eyes, and Arianne, who was crying while hugging her.
And there sat Third Imperial Princess Clana in the yard, while holding a letter with a melancholic expression.
‘…Really, what a mess.’
One of the things I hate the most is a messy situation.
So, I have to sort this out somehow.
“It should be here… It should be…”
With that thought in mind, I began to rummage through the envelopes lying on the ground.
It didn’t take long to find the letter that was left for me.
Because there was only one letter left in the envelope, and on the outside of the letter the following message was written.
I thought I would never let my emotions overwhelm my sense of reason unless Frey was in front of me.. However, I failed.
Tears began flowing from my eyes.
As I read the first sentence with tears in my eyes, I burst into laughter at Frey’s pointless joke.
Anyway, his habit of cracking jokes to get rid of the serious atmosphere was still there.
With that in mind, I began reading the following content and heaved a brief sigh.
Frey never hated this world. He even left behind all sorts of countermeasures for this unknown future.
‘…Even though it’s pointless.’
All the methods Frey left behind were lousy. At best, it was only an escape from reality, which would only prolong my own life for a while.
After reading these useless strategies for a long time, I smiled brightly when I saw the last sentence.
Because what those phrases indicated was in alignment with the final conclusion I arrived at.
As I was thinking, I unintentionally looked at the PostScript in the letter and muttered with a bitter smile.
It was the first time that someone had successfully saw through my plans. In the end, my fiancé was also a genius.
“I’m sorry, Frey…”
However, his intellect was still slightly lower than mine.
“.. 『Absolute Obedience Magic』 has already been lifted.”
Having said that, I turned my gaze to a place I had never paid much attention to.
Then Frey’s mangled corpse caught my eye.
As soon as I saw the corpse, the Princess began to twitch and shiver. It seems like she was responsible for this.
Besides, it seems that only Professor Isolet is the only who knows about this fact. Since Lady Ferloche was in a strange condition herself, she probably didn’t notice.
Oh, my teeth broke.
I was observing the situation calmly, but I must have been gnashing my teeth without realizing it.
Blood dripped down from my lips as pain arose from that spot. However, now wasn’t the time to worry about that.
We must end this messy situation as soon as possible.
“I’ll read the letter. Give it to me.”
With that thought in mind, I reached out to Aria.
Then Aria, whose eyes were swollen, handed me the letter while trembling.
“No, not that one… the letter with strange characters.”
After those words, Lady Aria took out the letter, which was tightly folded in her pocket, and handed it to me.
“…To my beloved sister. You have two choices.”
When I finally received the letter written in Korean, I began to read its contents slowly.
“Living the rest of your life as a fugitive or as a guardian.”
Traces of Frey’s intense internal struggle lingered in the letter he left for Aria.
“…Afraid that you might find the Prophecy, my father and I didn’t teach you these characters. However, now that things have turned out like this, I don’t think I have any other choice.”
It may not be visible to most people, but I could clearly see it. The traces of deep contemplation, as he stopped for a few minutes after writing each letter. Ruminating whether to leave this letter behind.
“…According to what our ancestor said, an 『Alternate Storyline』 for this game exists. In simple terms… just note that it is a hypothetical scenario which even I’m not sure whether or not it will work.”
However, in the end, he chose to leave this letter. It might have been painful too. The fact that someone else would have to take over his mantle and shoulder his destiny.
“Anyway, in that uncertain scenario… Where I die, you’re the only one in this world who can adorn the 『Hero’s Armament』 hidden in the cellar.”
Upon hearing those words, Aria stopped weeping and looked dazed.
“Of course… you don’t possess the 『Hero’s Power』 or the 『System』… So by the time you will be able to wear it, the entire continent might have already been destroyed.”
“However, if everyone from all over the continent unites… And if you embrace your role as a ‘ Guardian’ and give your utmost… Maybe the continent can still be salvaged.”
Having said that, I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. What followed this was very important information.
“Of course, if you choose that path.. the road ahead will still be quite arduous. Even if you don’t have to commit evil deeds like me… The chance of dying along the way is quite high. You will always be mentally fatigued, and at the end of the day, you will receive nothing in return.”
“And even if you succeed, that will only prevent total annihilation. It will take hundreds of years for the world to be rebuilt. Even everything I’ve said now is an uncertain future. It’s not a story from ‘Dark Tale Fantasy 2’, it’s an alternate storyline.”
By then, I could understand why Frey had written such a hopeless piece of content.
“Still, would you dare to choose that path?”
“…Remember. It’s not anyone’s will. It has to be your will. You have to decide for yourself.”
He wanted to give his sister a chance to choose.
Aria, who heard everything I said, embraced the letter and began to weep bitterly.
Yes, I think I was right… Now is the time to end everything.
I left sorrowfully weeping Aria and turned to the Princess, who was lying on the ground with a pale complexion.
“I was wrong… I was wrong…”
“Your Highness Clana.”
“I was wrong… ugh… I was wrong…”
Her golden eyes had now turned bloodshot red, and her elegantly adorned hair was in a complete mess.
Seeing her holding the crumpled letter so tightly to the point that her hands were bleeding, she must have already understood the truth from that letter.
“…There was no reason to damage his corpse like that.”
I tried not to speak harshly, but for some reason, my tongue couldn’t help but utter ruthless admonishments.
“You didn’t need to confirm the kill.”
Then Clana began to look at the faces of those around her with an appalled expression.
“…Whatever. There is no point in discussing this now, is there?”
Clana, who was in front of me, was the reason for Frey’s death and his body being in such a mutilated state.
However, she killed Frey because he stabbed her in the heart in the previous timeline. And she probably damaged Frey’s body because of his actions in his past life.
So it makes sense, but…
Suddenly, Clana grabbed her head and started to moan.
“Wh-What… this memory?”
At the same time, I heard a sound from behind. When I turned back slowly and noticed quite a few people grabbing their heads.
Everyone was suffering from pain except for the commoners, Kania, Irina, and me.
“Hey, what is this memory…”
I was staring at Clana in silence, while she started muttering in a daze.
“It can’t be… Th-Then to save me, Frey…”
“…Did you regain your memory?”
Only then did I understand what the situation was.
Since the subject of the edited memories has died, everyone’s memories have returned to their original state.
Except for Kania, Irina, and myself, who have already regained our memories.
While I was engrossed in such thoughts, the light in Clana’s eyes disappeared.
Her apperance looked akin to a lifeless doll. It was a bit creepy.
“Princess Clana. Calm down, Princess Clana.”
I shook Clana for a bit, but the Princess kept smiling with faint tears in her eyes.
Well, it seems she’s broken.
And it was the same for the people behind me.
They were already in a mentally unstable state, but were completely shattered when their minds were overwhelmed by Frey’s memories.
After watching the scene quietly for a while, I heaved a sigh and settled down next to the Princesss. I then opened my mouth.
The last thing I have to do to end everything.
“Look at Professor Isolet over there. She’s gently stroking her sword.”
“The person who had been in a daze until now is smiling creepily while stroking the sword that Frey gave her as a gift. Do you know what this means?”
As I spoke coldly, Clana, who had been broken, began to tremble.
“…Soon, she’s going to end her life with that same sword.”
Then, when I relentlessly spoke, fear rekindled in Clana’s dead eyes.
Apparently, this shock therapy was working well on her.
“Look at Kania over there. Her dark mana is about to swallow her up. Next to her is Ferloche, who is scratching the floor until her nails are all gone, and Irina, who has gone completely mad. “
“After Aria recalled the truth about her mother’s death, the light in her eyes seemed to have faded. Not only that, but her mana flow has reversed. If you leave her like that, it won’t be long…”
But I continued to torture her with guilt.
“In a situation like this, what must Your Highness, Clana, need to do?”
“I-I don’t know…”
“Why don’t you know? You’re the leader who leads everyone, the Imperial Princess of this Empire. If you don’t know, who is supposed to know?”
“I… I’m not qualified to be a leader…”
Then, Clana began to mutter with dimmed eyes.
“I just… I want to die. I want to die like this and disappear. So, so…”
To Clana… and to all those around her, I declared solemnly.
“If you all fall here, my plan is useless. So… get back up.”
Having said that, I took a vial out of my pocket and started talking.
“There is still hope. Hear the details from Lady Aria. She will make the decision.”
“Then I’ll tell you my final strategy.”
After saying that, I opened the cap of the vial I was holding and poured the liquid inside my mouth.
And as such, silence lingered for a while.
‘Frey, I’m sorry…’
In that silence, I quietly closed my eyes and fell into deep thought.
‘…But no matter how much I think about it, this is the only way.’
Recently, while reading a confidential document of the Moonlight family that I obtained secretly… a shocking memory came to my mind.
Only then did I understand why I fell in love with you so deeply. Why I was blindly in love with you. And why I couldn’t give up on you until the end.
I owe you a debt that I could never repay even if I dedicated my entire life to you.
You must have naturally thought you only had 10 years of lifespan left when you entered the academy.
But how does that make sense?
How did he know that it was ‘exactly 10 years’ in the first place, while he continued to share his life force with Kania?
The answer lies in his fabricated memory.
Yes, what you remember as your ‘first evil’… a memory related to my curse of 『Familial Subordination』.
Ah, it seems to be working slowly.
Have you always been coughing up blood like this? Oh dear, that must have been quite awful.
“Serena…? What did you… do?”
“Ha… ha ha…”
“…what is that magic circle that appeared on your body?”
After I settled down for a moment, Clana began looking at me in confusion.
“I drank poison. The magic circle is my curse.”
“Frey, who was blocking my curse, died, and so my weakened curse has activated again. In a few minutes, I’ll become the puppet of the ‘Secret Lord.’ So, I’m committing suicide.”
When I gave a quick explanation to Clana, her dazed expression till now distorted.
“Wh-What do you mean… Frey was blocking your curse? The Secret Lord? You… you’re going to commit suicide?”
“Yes…in order for my last strategy to succeed… I have no choice but to do this.”
“That… what does that mean!!”
Then Clana ran up to me with tears in her eyes.
“Do-Don’t die… Don’t die…”
“Are you going to die because of me too? Frey…died because of me … Now you too… because of me…”
“…Clana, and everyone else. Listen to me from now on.”
I stopped talking to panic-stricken Clana and began talking while barely holding on to my fading consciousness.
“Don’t let Frey’s death… and my sacrifice be in vain…”
“Oh no… Noo… Noooo…!”
There were a lot of things I wanted to say, but I don’t think I could go any further. It’s too hard.
“…Just one question, one last question.”
Oh god, a black cat asked me a question. Well, it can’t help it. After all, I did quite a few bad things to her.
“Why… why would you do that? What the hell is this hopeless world… even good for?”
She asked a pretty cute question. Because of that I couldn’t help but smile.
Ah, I think that would be my last words.
Oh no, what should I do?
The last thing I wanted to ask… was to be buried next to Frey…
Soon Serena, who had been coughing blood in Clana’s arms, became limp. Meanwhile, Clana, who had no idea what to do, began to spout out gibberish.
“It’s a lie, right? This… It has to be a ruse? Right…?”
Those who were silently watching Clana realized the depth of Serena’s last words.
“Serena… Serena… Uh…”
Clana, who had been speaking gibberish for a long time, soon buried her face in Serena’s bosom and began to mutter.
“I-I… I… I… killed Serena… and Frey… uh…”
“Your Highness, Princess Clana!! This is urgent news!! Time is of the essence!!”
Clana, who had been hugging Serena for a long time while shedding tears, suddenly trembled in astonishment when she heard her messenger in Frey’s yard.
“Y-You’re alright… I’m glad… H-Huh?”
Seeing her safe, the messenger breathed a sigh of relief, but after belatedly realizing the situation unfolding before his own eyes, he expression stiffened.
“…Uh, I don’t know what happened… but first and foremost, let me tell you the urgent news.”
The messenger, who had been staring blankly for a long time, soon remembered that it was an emergency and began delivering the urgent news in haste.
“His Majesty, the Emperor and Her Highness, the Empress, as well as the Crown Prince, First and Second Princesses have all passed away.”
When Clana inquired with her eyes wide open, the messenger responded with a firm expression on his face.
“Now, you are the Empress of this land.”
Everyone, including Clana, were taken aback by the shocking news, but the messenger continued speaking with an even grimmer expression on his face.
“And, the Demon King has declared war.”
Hearing those words, Clana and everyone froze.
And from that moment on, time suddenly began to accelerate.
The sun kept rising and setting as the moon came and went by. All the while, people were passing by at a fast pace.
“…it’s really the worst.”
The Ordeal was slowly coming to an end.
TL NOTE: We’ve made another illustration for this chapter using AI
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