༺ Crossroads (1) ༻
The Dream Demon’s hallucination was broken.
Waking up in his bed in the lodging, Vera stared blankly at the ceiling, trying to compose himself.
There was still a tremor in his fingertips.
It was the sensation of stabbing her heart with his own hands.
Vera closed his eyes tightly for a moment and took a long deep breath to steady himself, then he got up and stepped out of the door.
He staggered to the next building, then went in and stopped in front of a certain room.
Staring at the firmly closed door, Vera slowly raised his hand and knocked on the door.
“Are you there, Saint?”
– Please enter.
A dazed voice came from the inside.
Vera slowly turned the doorknob and went inside, then looked at Renee who was sitting on the bed.
She looked like she had just woken up.
He could tell by her frizzy white hair, blank expression, and blue eyes that were out of focus.
Vera looked at her for a moment, and soon approached her with a loud voice and asked.
“…You weren’t hurt, were you?”
“No. How is it outside right now?”
“The sun just started rising. I don’t think it’s been that long since the grimoire activated.”
“That’s a relief.”
“It really is.”
Vera nodded and gazed outside the window.
Under the sky that was slowly turning blue, students in their pajamas were popping out one by one from the academy dormitory’s main entrance and were looking around.
They all looked dazed.
Vera spoked as he looked at them.
“…We can end it off as a funny little event.”
It was a weird night where everyone had a memorable dream, and thankfully it seemed that everyone was able to move past it.
Renee lightly nodded at Vera’s words, then slowly reached out her hand and overlapped her hands over the back of Vera’s hand.
“…Are you okay, Vera?”
It was about what Vera did at the end of the hallucination.
She wondered if he was hurt by it and if he was forced to look after her while his heart was still hurting.
Vera’s eyes swayed for a moment at her sincere question, then answered with a small smile.
“I’m alright. Thank you for your consideration.”
He took Renee’s hand as he answered.
He was filled with gratitude.
He was grateful to Renee for being there for him in that moment so he could move on from his past.
A few hours later, after confirming each other’s safety, the two separated again and got ready. They sat down on a terrace in a secluded part of the Academy and processed what had just happened.
“For now, at least we know our next destination.”
Vera nodded and continued.
“Yes, we’ll have to go look for Maleus and search for that ‘crown’ or something.”
These were the words of Renee from the first round, just before the hallucination broke.
Look for Maleus and receive the ‘crown’.
It was an item that temporarily resurrected Vera from the dead in his past life, and at the same time, it was also a clue about the previous round that was shrouded in mystery.
Renee’s expression sank.
“At the eastern end, in the Cradle of the Dead.”
She let out a sigh.
“Am I on a pilgrimage or on a tour to see the ancient species?”
She said with a smirk.
Even as she spoke, she thought that it was a very plausible metaphor.
Terdan, Aedrin, Orgus, also the Alaysia clone that she saw in the Empire, and now ‘Maleus, the King of Rotten Flesh’ in the Cradle of the Dead.
That made it five. And at this rate, they might end up meeting all nine of them.
“Has anyone ever gone to the Cradle of the Dead and come back alive?”
“…It’s not unheard of, but from what I’ve remembered in history, those who returned suffered slowly and died.”
Vera spoke with a troubled look on his face.
“…There must be a way since she told us to go.”
He spoke lifelessly.
As his thoughts continued, his fingertips unconsciously tapped the table.
Vera thought about it for a while before he finally came up with an answer.
“I think we should gather information first. It shouldn’t be that hard since we’re at the Academy, anyways.”
“Yeah, thank goodness. Next is…”
Renee didn’t finish her words, then she added.
“…In the end, the Demon King is also an ancient species. That’s how we should look at it, right?”
The traces of the Demon King that followed their path.
She was talking about it.
Vera replied to Renee with a nod.
“That’s a valid way to look at it. Considering the behavior of the other ancient species in the past, the Demon King also prevailed as an ancient species.”
Fortunately, they were able to sort out the identity of the Demon King through the process of elimination.
Ardain, the Eternal Sacrifice.
The first of the Lord’s creatures, and at the same time, the one who will remain until the end.
An ancient species shrouded in mystery with as little information as Orgus.
It must be the Demon King.
“It’s one mountain after another.”
“There must be a way. I’m sure she didn’t just regress me without any countermeasures.”
“…What a wicked woman.”
Renee frowned as she muttered those words.
It sent a shiver down Vera’s spine.
He was reminded of something when he saw her like that.
– Let’s stab her quickly and get out of here.
At the last moment of hallucination, Renee’s appearance, who was talking with her legs crossed as if trying to deal with a nuisance, kept playing in Vera’s head.
‘…How did it end up like this?’
He was thinking that she was becoming more and more violent.
As he thought about it, Vera wondered.
‘Maybe this is my influence?’
He then shook his head to shake off the thought.
It was true that he was a violent person, but he had been careful around Renee, so it couldn’t have been his fault.
Vera tried hard to justify himself.
…Like most people, Vera was someone who could not restrain himself under a strict standard.
“Oh myyyy…! Welcome!”
In a private laboratory in the faculty building.
In the midst of the room, which was so messy that it showed the owner’s tendency to pile up things and not clean, Miller greeted the two of them in the most awkward way possible.
He had unwashed and greasy red curly hair, and a patch on his face that was either dirt or freckles.
And his eyes darted up and down Vera’s face with a fiery intensity.
Vera greeted him with a frown.
“I hope you slept well last night.”
“Yeah, I did…”
He answered with a cold sweat, like he was being stabbed.
Everyone in the room knew where that attitude came from.
Naturally, he was anxious that the others would find out about Grimoire’s rampage.
As someone who aspired to be the Head Professor at the Academy, it would be bad for the administration to find out that his mismanagement had caused the Grimoire to explode.
Vera stifled a sigh that was about to burst out, and continued.
“…I wanted to ask you something. That’s why I came here.”
“Huh? Ah! Ask me anything! Of course! I will very kindly ‘explain’ everything in detail!”
There was an obvious anxiousness in Miller’s face as he spoke, and a handful of suspicion.
Naturally, it was suspicion about Vera, who reacted with the grimoire’s blood.
Unaware of the series of events related to Renee in the first lapse, Miller thought.
The mere application of blood caused the grimoire to react the way it did.
In other words, the grimoire had been originally prepared for Vera from the very start.
A grimoire was typically prepared for someone who had just become an adult, well over a hundred years after the extinction of the Dream Demon.
Wasn’t this too suspicious?
As he continued to think, his suspicions started to turn into curiosity.
Maybe that man is at the center of some grand plan?
Miller’s heart pounded.
It was the kind of excitement that comes with facing the unknown as a scholar studying sorcery that had been around since the beginning of time.
Of course, Vera’s face frowned even more since he didn’t know what his intentions were.
‘I have to finish this quickly and get out of here.’
The thought started to fill his head.
So, Vera asked.
“Is it possible to alter someone’s memory or perception using sorcery?”
It was one of the things he and Renee were curious about.
He could not fully trust his own memories at the moment. As he thought about how to find out, he remembered Miller, who he had seen in the hallucination, and so he came here to ask him.
Miller might know something.
The only one who sought to help the other Renee when she hid herself from the world, and someone who had a connection with the ‘crown’.
If there was anyone who could have contributed to the alteration of his memories, it would be him.
“…Right? There are many spells that could do that, even with sorcery alone.”
He answered straightforwardly.
Vera and Renee shuddered at the same time.
Their expressions brightened slightly.
Renee, who had been quiet up until that point, turned to Miller and asked in a brighter tone.
“Then, do you happen to know of a way to get back one’s altered memories?”
She asked in an urgent tone, thinking that things might work out easier than they expected.
Miller pondered at her question for a moment and soon gave a small nod.
“It is possible, but…”
He scratched his head as he spoke, looking a bit troubled.
“Isn’t that how it is? It’s much harder to fix something than to break it, right? The same goes for memories. When it’s all tangled up, you can just rip it off and knead it… In order to fix it, you have to retrace it and put it back together piece by piece.”
Renee’s breath came out filled with regret.
Miller added, feeling a bit awkward.
“But why do you ask?”
He was asking for their reason.
Vera thought for a moment.
‘Should I tell him the truth?’
‘…The fewer people who know the truth about the regression and what happened to the Saint in the first round, the better.’
The truths were better left hidden for now as they didn’t know what variables it would lead to.
But if they didn’t tell him anything, they wouldn’t get anywhere.
Vera continued pondering and started piecing together what he was about to say.
Mix in some truth, but hide the most important parts.
“I think there’s a problem with my memories.”
“It felt like looking at the hallucinations in the grimoire. Hallucinations are supposed to be based on memories, but strangely, I kept seeing things that I didn’t recognize.”
Miller’s eyes widened at his words.
‘There really must be something going on?’
It was because there must be some ‘great plans regarding Vera’.
Miller quickly replied with a face full of excitement and surprise.
“If that’s the case, then let me help you!”
“Me! I know how to do that! I will fix your memory! Count me in!”
He was jumping up and down like a child with a new toy in front of him.
Vera flinched at the sight, then continued to ask.
“…How are you going to do that?”
There was a wide smile on Miller’s lips.
“I’m going to give you dementia.”
Renee’s face turned blank.
“Ah, it’s just a metaphor. The idea is to use hypnosis to temporarily erase Sir Vera’s current memories to bring out the past. Then, you cross-check it with reality, find the incorrect parts of your memory, and piece it together one by one.”
His words did not make sense to the two of them.
So, their faces started to look cloudy, and upon seeing that, Miller added an explanation.
“Ah, I mean, it’s that! I will use sorcery to bring out Sir Vera’s past in the form of a personality! We observe the behavior of the past Vera and see where it differs from what you remember!”
He gave a more detailed explanation.
At that, Vera’s expression cracked.
He finally understood what the sorcerer meant.
He was going to hypnotize Vera and bring out the personality of his past life.
That was what Miller was saying.