༺ The End of the Ordeal ༻
A few days before Clana’s venture to Frey’s tombstone, a lone girl wrapped in a thick coat could be seen making her way down a street covered in a blanket of snow.
“I feel cold.”
The girl instinctively tensed her body and frowned at the bitter winds that would later torment Clana in a similar fashion.
“…Oh, that’s right… it’s all gone now.”
When the Hero perished, the miraculous flashes of light that always used to accompany her suddenly faded away as if it were all a lie.
Hit once again by the frosty winds, the girl clenched her teeth and continued marching forward.
“Hey… is anyone here?”
After walking nonstop for a while, the girl could soon see a light shining in the distance and peeked her head inside once she had arrived.
“Oh, a little girl?”
Hearing the voice of a little girl, a woman came looking outside of the tavern and found the child staring back at her with a grim expression.
“…What are you doing over there?”
Following the lady inside the dilapidated tavern, the girl began looking over the menu board while fiddling with the last of the gold coins remaining within her pocket that the Hero had given to her several years ago. However, the girl got distracted when she noticed the lady barkeep doing something behind the counter in a hurry in the corner of her eye.
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m in the middle of packing up my things.”
“You’re abandoning this country as well?”
After hearing the small girl’s complicated question, the bartender heaved a deep sigh.
“Of course I’m abandoning it. Not only is the hero dead, the Demon King’s army is on the way… If you want to stay here despite that, you’ll end up dying an early death.”
After quietly nodding her head at the bitter truth, the girl began staring at a broken photo behind the counter.
“Could you be curious about that photo, perhaps?”
“It’s a family photo.”
Staring sadly at the ruined picture, the woman quietly began explaining its story.
“…It was only a year ago when the owner received word that her husband and son had died. In a fit of despair, she ended up hurling their precious family album at the wall and cracked it..”
The girl quietly lowered her head when she saw the woman being so calm despite telling such a depressing story.
“…You’re a kind one, to sincerely grieve for someone you’ve just met.”
After stroking the little girl’s hair to show her gratitude, the woman quickly picked up her luggage and stopped for a moment to speak before she left.
“If you need anything from the store, you don’t have to worry about taking it if you want to.”
“I’m already leaving the Empire today either way, so it’s fine.”
Having finished what she wanted to say, the woman finally opened the door and began to leave, but was interrupted by the girl pointing at the picture.
“Don’t you want to take that with you?”
The woman flinched for a moment, then looked down and replied with a bitter smile.
“When I leave the Empire today, I don’t want to bring those sorrowful memories along with me.”
With that, the woman left the tavern and began slowly trudging along the snowy path all alone.
After watching her back shrink in the distance for a while, the girl carefully took a piece of bread from the shelf and tried to take a bite.
The bread had been frozen solid.
Thanks to that, she cradled her aching jaw for a while and tried to warm herself up in the bar, but she quickly left as soon as she began to feel some warmth return to her body.
– Scrunch, scrunch
Thus, after trudging along in silence for a while she had finally arrived at her destination: Frey’s birthplace.
“That day, you clearly told me…”
“… That soon, the whole world would be praising the Hero.”
Yet, the world never did such a thing.
It only ever sympathized with his noble deeds and felt pity for his terrible fate, soon forgetting all about him once it was engulfed in sorrow.
The girl, after motionlessly staring at Frey’s tombstone for what felt like an eternity, quietly took the golden ring from her left ring finger and whispered into the cold air.
After placing the sparkling ring under the hero’s tombstone with a final farewell, Glare quickly ran away with a single tear dripping down her face.
It was the moment when an unknown variable that had the possibility to change everything, a variable that even Frey was unable to see because even the system was unaware of its existence, had completely vanished for good.
“…Sigh, it’s finally over.”
As Clana disappeared, darkness soon engulfed me.
At the same time, the number floating in front of me changed to a 0.
I frowned and tried to close the system window, but it refused to get closed.
‘Damn this useless system.’
After shaking my head in frustration and swearing at the system that refused to leave me alone, I sighed and laid down on the ground.
“I wish I had my cat doll with me right now…”
Whenever I became mentally exhausted, I always had the cat doll that used to lick me by my side.
At first, it was a cat doll with an arrogant expression on its face and refused to even let me touch its stomach, but things changed after we got to know each other.
When I wake up feeling stressed, it would be right next to me, carefully licking my face and meowing.
If I ever happened to have a nightmare, it would give me a soft kitty punch to wake me up.
Sometimes it would even bury itself into my clothes with a meow, stretch, and then go to sleep.
If I looked depressed, it would lie down on its belly and give me a look of anticipation.
It greatly helped my mental recovery, so now the kitty and I have an inseparable relationship.
‘If possible, I wanted to play with the kitty alongside Kania.’
Kania, who received such a cute gift from her sister, must be quite fond of the toy.
But when I think about grown-ups playing with dolls, it’s a little bit weird, and lately, Kania, once she falls asleep, hardly ever wakes up.
Of course, when I tried to wake her up, the kitty would bite my ankle , so I couldn’t make too many attempts to wake her up.
“…Yes, this is how it should be.”
Because of this insane ordeal, I spent several months in this world.
Of course, the time that passes in ordeals and the time in reality are different, so when you normally wake up, several months wouldn’t have passed … but experiencing this world in a soul state for countless months was a disgusting experience.
‘…Well, should I be happy that it ended in just a few months?’
There was a gap of several years from the junction where I died to the time when Clana was preparing for her last stand.
And as I traversed that time, I went about easing the burden of the hearts of those who were dear to me.
The second ordeal of the system was to directly witness and experience the end of the world, and at the same time, save the Heroines who were crushed by the ending.
Because of this, I searched for the Heroines by visiting different parts of the Empire… and even the western and eastern continents.
On that day, Kania’s black magic ran rampant to the point where she no longer needed life force from me. Serena’s sacrifice managed to stop her rampage partially, but from that day on, she lived only in sorrow, and that was how I found Kania, who was living in solitude.
I went to find Irina, who lost her past ego, her pride, and even lost her personality.
I went to see Ferloche, where she had accumulated a massive amount of guilt for not saving me and had gone to the brink of corruption.
I went to see Isolet, who had quit teaching at the academy and was getting drunk every day while spending time looking at the sword and the letter I had given her.
Aside from them, Lulu, who continued to fail in her suicide attempts due to her stigma, Alice, who became half-mad, and Arianne, who lived with guilt while caring for Irina.
And even among them, the meeting with Aria and Serena in my soul state… even if it was an ordeal…
“…Calm down. This didn’t really happen.”
After all, this was just an ordeal that the system showed me.
It only shows a possible future, but after this ordeal, I will return to a world that still has the potential to give everyone a happy ending.
The darkness that surrounded me suddenly began to fade.
As I was looking around to see what was going on, my surroundings suddenly started to change.
I was frowning when I saw the anomaly, but suddenly a huge crowd entered my field of vision.
“It’s the Demon King’s Army…”
The Demon King’s army, which I saw in the previous timeline, which made me tremble just by looking at it, was marching forward.
– Clang, clank!!!
A fierce battle was taking place in front of the Demon King’s army, which continued to advance.
“If we lose, there will be no hope! Stop that damn bitch…”
The unnamed man of the eastern continent, who radiated intense aura from his body while was charging at the Demon King’s Army, was cleaved in half in an instant.
The Demon King, who had dealt with the captain of the alliance that had gathered from all continents to stop the Demon King, killed him with only a flick of her finger, and began to yawn with a bored expression on her face.
“I wanted an exhilarating fight, but I think that won’t be possible.”
While speaking, the Demon King flicked her finger as if giving a command, and a terrible scream echoed.
Even the Demon King’s army remained silent at the brutal scene of carnage created by blood and intestines flying around, mixing and clumping together coupled with bones and flesh exploding from all directions.
“……Is that one of your special skills?”
“A special skill? I was just playing around with my fingers.”
The Demon King, who answered Dmir Khan’s question with a calm expression, said with a smile.
“If I use my special skills here, our entire army behind us will be annihilated. Do you want me to use it?”
When an appalled Dmir Khan quickly responded, the Demon King began to laugh, as if his reaction was funny.
“I was joking.”
“Yes, that makes sense. Even if the Demon King is all power-…”
“If you use the full extent of your powers and escape with your spatial magic, it won’t result in total annihilation.”
After speaking, the Demon King waved her fingers since her arm was beginning to ache, and thus, the terrifying chorus of agonizing screams paused for a moment.
“…You are incredible, Your Majesty. Really.”
When Dmir Khan, who was blankly watching the horrific scene unfolding before his eyes, spoke with a trembling voice, the Demon King replied with a gloomy expression on his face.
“I wanted an exhilarating battle. Not this kind of lukewarm fight.”
Having said that, the Demon King yawned once again, and soon began to speak in a hushed tone.
“If it was Frey, we could have had a pretty fun duel.”
“Is that so…?”
“That’s right. When I saw him, his strength was beyond my imagination.”
“To what extent… Do you mean?”
“Probably, aside from me, he would have been the strongest on the entire continent.”
Having spoken, the Demon King muttered in an annoyed voice.
“If… if there were no restrictions.”
‘…Wh-What is this bastard talking about?’
And as I strained my ears to listen to their conversation, I was bewildered by her unexpected words.
‘She has seen me before…?’
She just said that my strength was beyond imagination. Moreover, he even went so far as to say that I would have been the strongest person on the entire continent, aside from herself.
She said that with certainty without a hint of doubt… And when she said ‘when I saw him’, it means that she has met me before.
‘But… how can that be?’
As far as I know, the Demon King can’t escape from the ‘Demon King’s Castle’ unless the rite of breaking the ‘Sacrificial Magic Circle’ succeeds and the seal is released.
Therefore, through the ‘Main Quest’, it is necessary to prevent the Demon King from breaking free of the Demon King’s Castle by blocking the activation of the ‘Sacrificial Magic Circle’ and awakening the ❰Hero’s Armament❱ and attacking the Demon King Castle is the main strategy of the ‘Path of False Evil.’
However, how could the Demon King have seen me?
My face could have been shown by the second person in a photo when I was a member of the Demon King’s army, but if she knew about my strength in detail, it becomes quite the different matter altogether.
‘No way… Did she already succeed in freeing herself from the magic circle and escaping?’
For a moment, I thought about the possibility that the Demon King had already escaped, but then I shook my head.
Because if she had already broken the seal, she would have already destroyed the entire continent.
All of the Main Heroines, including myself, wouldn’t be able to win even if we attacked together in our perfect condition, so there’s no way she would have broken the seal and just stayed still.
‘…By the way, the moment I died, the Demon King declared war.’
But, based on all the available evidence… She seems to have escaped.
Because otherwise, there would be no way that she, who should be imprisoned in the Demon King’s Castle, would immediately notice my death and declare war.
‘Damn… My head hurts already.’
I questioned why the scene where the Demon King ended the world was shown to me as a reward , I guess that’s why.
Because it taught me quite a lot of new facts about the Demon King.
‘Not only that…’
When I was in a soul state, there were times when I could see the world from a third person point of view.
From Kania to Irina, and from Aria to Isolet.
It was quite messy, for a bit, but my point of view moving back and forth regularly was focused on Serena for a long time after she appeared.
And, even more surprising than that… Every time the viewpoint changed, I was able to feel the person’s thoughts and feelings to some extent.
Of course, the thoughts and feelings important to anyone were all crushed together and could not be felt well.
However… there was one line that could be understood clearly from among those crushed thoughts and feelings.
‘… No matter how much I think about it, what Ferloche said at that time was [The Demon God will soon awaken], right?’
The system seems to hate giving me helpful information, but thanks to the ‘Half–Demon God’ password that Ferloche left in her diary, I was able to gain some insight from this ordeal.
Thanks to this, I feel like I’ve gotten the better of the system for a change, which felt quite refreshing.
As I was thinking about it, the system displayed a brief message with a beep.
It’s not just been a day or two that the system has been useless, but I think this may have crossed the line.
Even though it was just the ‘first’ reward, it was such a short conversation.
Seriously, just like the First Hero said, the system is a joke…
At the same time, something started to shine in the arms of the Demon King.
“Demon King? What is that?”
“This is… a scroll I bought a long time ago.”
While Dmir Khan looked confused, the Demon King seemed to wear an intrigued expression.
“Why did you hold onto such a thing?”
“It was the first scroll I couldn’t understand, so I was intrigued.”
“Y-You just couldn’t understand that old piece of junk?”
While Dmir Khan frowned at those words and inquired, the Demon King began to speak in an excited tone.
“Oh, it’s finally making sense. No matter how much I tried to make it work for the past few years, it wouldn’t.”
And from that point, I started to feel off.
‘…Why isn’t the ordeal ending?’
Clearly, the system declared that the Second Ordeal is ending. But why is the ordeal still not over?
While I was immersed in such thoughts, a red system window suddenly appeared in front of my eyes.
– Spark! Crash!
And only then, I was able to notice that I couldn’t see the Demon King anymore for some reason.
‘Why didn’t I notice this?’
Come to think of it, when I met the Demon King in the previous timeline, and even when I did her bidding like a dog, I couldn’t recognize the Demon King’s appearance.
I’m not sure, but maybe there was some kind of cognitive impairment magic on her appearance?
If so, why did I suddenly realize now?
– Spark!! Shine!!
As I was thinking, suddenly, a twinkling flash of light began to emanate from the scroll.
And at that moment, I saw.
The ruby-colored eyes of the demon king that were looking down at the scroll with an intrigued expression.
But in the next moment, a red system window appeared in front of my eyes and as everything in my field of vision faded to black.
“…What is that?”
The last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was a blackened sun.
As I slowly opened my eyes, I saw a familiar ceiling.
‘…Long time no see.’
Apparently, I was lying in my room in the Starlight Mansion
I looked at my clean room with no toxic gas or fire, and then I felt a sense of awe and looked to the side with a stern expression on my face.
– Pop! Pop!!
And at that moment, something exploded.
I was trembling in surprise when someone offered me a cake.
“…What are you guys doing?”
I was staring blankly at a cake decorated with a cat pattern, and when I saw Kania and Irina holding firecrackers while wearing birthday hats, I inquired with a puzzled expression on my face.
“Today is Young Master’s birthday.”
Then Irina looked me in the eye and stuttered, while Kania spoke with a subtle smile.
“Happy birthday, Young Master.”
The day the『Second Ordeal』ended was a week after the attack on the Starlight Mansion.
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