8 – Event Flag
I woke up to a forest canopy covered by gray mist. For a moment, I simply stared at it, shocked by the turn of events. But I soon gathered my thoughts.
“…Tch. I spent too long, huh?”
The fall of the Ancient Forest and Alvheim. Aria’s lonely struggle and subsequent death. And then that person who could use an outrageous attack.
“I underestimated that goddess. Or should I say that I overestimated myself?”
Muttering those words, I stood up and brushed the dirt off my clothes.
In hindsight, it was obvious. That goddess sent me to this world because she thought it would be amusing. While parting with Aria and fighting that dragon would have been entertaining at first, it must have gotten boring. If anything, I would have become bored after watching that.
I knew that when I resolved myself to kill the Wrathful Sin Dragon no matter how long it took. Only, I didn’t expect that such a ridiculous ‘cheat’ character would appear.
An all too familiar roar drew me out of my thoughts. The Wrathful Sin Dragon was still alive in this time.
Time had returned to the beginning. Assuming that my power worked as intended, the goddess should have just dropped me off and would be watching with bated breath.
She believed that the only power I possessed was memory. And from her reaction to asking for that power, she didn’t understand the implications of my power either. No, if I read her personality properly, she would purposefully ignore it to watch how I used it.
Amusement. That was the reason she summoned people into this world. And from how she allowed the elves to be wiped out, she didn’t care if that amusement came from just or unjust causes.
A roar echoed again and the ground trembled. The Wrathful Sin Dragon was making its way towards me.
I walked over and picked up my faithful companion yet again. The familiar sensation of it in my right hand brought a smile to my face. “…Well then, old friend. Let’s put on a good show for the Goddess.”
Trees crashed to the ground and a dark miasma covered the air. At the same time, a towering creature leapt through the air towards me.
I stared at the Wrathful Sin Dragon and raised my left hand.
Its maw was opened, revealing rows of dagger-like fangs. At the same time, an orb of mana was gathering at the back of its throat. A fraction of a second later and an overwhelming dragon breath would erupt.
But before then-
-I clenched my left hand.
Time seemed to stop. The dark miasma in the air froze, along with the dragon emitting it. But then, as if gravity had just recalled its job, the dragon crashed into the ground, landing on its belly.
A small crater formed where it landed, sending up clumps of dirt.
I walked towards the Wrathful Sin Dragon.
In my first life, I ran away from it.
In my second, I died without resistance.
In countless others, I gained the power to wound it.
In my last, I killed it.
But in this one…
The Wrathful Sin Dragon glared at me with eyes of pure malice. Crimson orbs filled with a deep-seated hatred locked onto me.
I smiled and walked until I was close enough to feel its harsh breath against my skin. Another step and I would be stepping on its snout.
The dragon growled. Its entire body trembled as it tried to break free, but it was pointless.
I placed my left hand on its snout and stared straight into its crimson eyes. “You’re mine.”
Darkness and chaos gathered with an oppressive aura that didn’t lose out to the dragon’s.
For the first time in the countless that I had faced it, an expression other than rage showed in the dragon’s eyes: fear.
Unfortunately for the dragon, only I could undo my mistakes.
My mana surged, enveloping the dragon in Darkness and Chaos. And when it cleared-
Dragon’s Grasp and your overwhelming strength has dominated ******
-a beautiful woman with silver hair lay prostrated before me, completely naked save for a black choker around her pale neck.
A second passed. Then three. Then a minute. Finally, I let out a long sigh and said, “What’s your name?”
“…This lowly one will accept whatever name you give her.”
I sighed again and made a simple dress out of Dark mana before tossing it at her. “Put that on first.”
“As you wish, my Master.”
I closed my eyes and waited.
Well, I did want to put on a show for the goddess. This development would keep her entertained for a while. Still, to think that the monstrous Wrathful Sin Dragon was a beautiful woman… although Analysis gave me a summary of what happened, that Kimura person must have done something especially vile for her to turn into that monster.
“I have finished, my Master.”
I opened my eyes.
Like I thought, she was beautiful. But that dark dress coupled with the black choker and her pale features amplified the woman’s beauty to a breathtaking level.
If I would have been stopped by every man on the street with Aria as my companion, it wouldn’t be a surprise for me to get targeted by kings or emperors when seen with that woman, especially with her submissive attitude towards me.
Her eyes, a sapphire blue, stared into my own. But, whether a result from Dragon’s Grasp or the natural progression of being the Wrathful Sin Dragon for so many years, they seemed to be dull and lifeless.
“…Saphira. That will be your name from now on. Fi for short. Understood?”
The woman bowed her head. “Yes, my Master.”
“I assume that your abilities remain unchanged?”
“Yes, my Master. Even in this form, I possess the full might of a Divine Dragon, though it pales in comparison to your own strength.”
I nodded. If that was the case, then I didn’t have anything to worry about. Instead, it would make things easier in the long run.
“Good. Then… follow me. I’ll tell you more as we move.”
Aria bit her lips and refused to look back. The sound of horses and wagons drew near, but she couldn’t turn around. The moment she did, she would see them. She would see her family and kin, battered and abused. She would see the ones she left behind while she escaped. And when she did, she would falter.
Fear gripped her heart, but it didn’t freeze her. Instead, that fear made her move faster. The wind spirits gathered around her, lending their strength for just a little bit more speed. But it was still too slow.
“Give up, Elf! We’ve rounded up the rest of your kind! Even if you keep running, no reinforcements will come to help you!”
A cold voice cut through the silent forest. But in response…
“Tch. So this is what happened beforehand… how despicable.”
…calm words drifted through the air.
The sudden words caused Aria to stumble. But before she could even register that she had, someone caught her in their arms.
She should have screamed.
In that situation, such an event would only mean her end. Even if it wasn’t a soldier who caught her, she wouldn’t be much better off if it was anyone else.
She should have been shocked.
Moments prior, there was no one standing there. Not only that, but the whispers from the wind spirits told her that her eyes hadn’t deceived her: moments prior, that space had been empty.
She should have struggled to break free. But instead, held in those slim but somehow familiar arms, her tense heart relaxed.
Confused, she looked up to see who was holding her.
A young man with foreign features, possessing dark hair and dark eyes. Even so, he seemed strangely familiar. No, that wasn’t the right word. What she felt while staring at the man wasn’t familiarity, but rather nostalgia. As if meeting again after countless years, she felt relief, longing, sorrow, and happiness all at once.
Before Aria could sort through her emotions, the man had already released her, gently setting her back on her feet. After that, he stepped forward, standing in the way of the imperial soldiers.
Watching him, Aria only idly noticed that a woman with silver hair had appeared beside her.
I stared at the soldiers in front of me.
They were the same, although that commander was on a horse this time instead of over Aria. The wagon was still filled with elves, the soldiers still armed with platemail and long swords. The only difference appeared to be the timing of my encounter. This time, I arrived before Aria reached dire straits.
…But it was strange.
I had spent hours finding my way out of the Lost Woods the first time, leading me to barely reach Aria in time.
The second time, I had waited where she would eventually arrive and managed to save her that way.
In both of those lives, I had wasted time either in traveling or in waiting.
This time, I had immediately set off towards Alvheim after dominating the Wrathful Sin Dragon. With our speed, and from my memories of traveling there, Saphira and I should have arrived at Alvheim long before Aria reached the Lost Woods.
And yet, here she was, only a few minutes away from where we met the first time.
Something was wrong. But before I could dwell on it, the commander called out.
“You there. Brave. Why are you standing before us? Have new orders come from the capital?”
Hm? Ah, right. The first time he had mistaken me as one of the Braves as well. Was it the ‘summoned class’ scenario?
“Tch. Annoying things one after another… that person really likes her drama, huh?”
The commander was silent for a moment and then said, “…I see. So you’re not one of us.”
I scoffed. “Of course not. As if I could stand such disgusting acts… Hah. And here I am wasting time talking to corpses.”
Maybe spending the equivalent of a couple thousand years trying to kill an insane dragon with nothing but a stick wasn’t the best choice for my mental health…
Aria called out a warning. “Mister! Watch out!”
“Too late!” The commander shouted. He spurred his horse into a gallop and charged towards me, his sword raised into the sky. “Nullinvoyd, unleash your chaos!” With his words, the sword shone purple and then slashed out towards my neck.
“This shoddy blade again?”
-it was useless.
I grabbed the blade with my left hand and narrowed my eyes.
Although it was covered in chaos mana, the blade still wasn’t a match for my faithful companion that had been tempered alongside me in thousands of battles against the Wrathful Sin Dragon. Furthermore, that blade was already a piece of scrap metal the first time I put my hands on it. Now, after defeating the Wrathful Sin Dragon, it was nothing more than dust in the wind.
Steel dust scattered into the air. Suddenly losing his blade, the commander staggered. His war horse couldn’t stop its momentum and continued forward. The beast was taller than I was and well-muscled, almost a weapon in itself when charging.
An ordinary person would have been crushed.
I simply shifted my raised left hand and grabbed the horse’s skull.
I couldn’t see the commander’s expression beneath his full helmet, but there was no mistaking the shock in his voice.
As if time itself was stopped, the horse froze. It brayed and tried to move beneath my left hand, but if the Wrathful Sin Dragon was unable to escape my grasp, the fate of a simple beast of labor was inevitable.
I shook my head and stared at the commander. “Even this is lacking. Hah, let me show you a real weapon.”
The commander flinched and tried to dismount from his horse. At the same time, he shouted out. “Run! This person is-“
An invisible line cut through the air and cut short the commander’s words.
The full helmet split apart, revealing the face of a middle-aged man with grizzled black hair. His green eyes were wide with shock. Then, his body split in two along with his horse, enveloped in shadows. Those shadows converged upon my faithful companion, dying it black.
I turned my gaze towards the remaining soldiers.
Horses brayed and armor clattered as they scrambled backwards.
“I-It’s the Demon Lord!” A soldier shouted. “The rumors are true!”
…Hold on. Demon Lord?
“Run! We have to inform the Emperor! Forget the elves!”
In my confusion, the soldiers turned their horses around and began galloping away at high speeds. If nothing happened, they would escape. That would result in the elves being saved, but in the future…
I sighed. “Saphira. Clean up here. I’ll be back.”
“Yes, my Master.”
With that confirmation, I chased after the soldiers.
Aria stared at the departing form of the man who saved them, still shocked by the quick turn of events. A single slash had felled the one that slayed both her father and his knights. Not only that, but the commander’s cursed blade had no effect on the man.
“Miss Aria.” A cool voice called out from the side.
Aria blinked and then towards it. At that time, she remembered that there had been someone who arrived with the man.
Silver hair, azure eyes, and pure white skin with a beautiful appearance.
Seeing her and realizing that she was that man’s companion caused Aria’s heart to stir, unknown emotions welling up with it.
Either unaware or uncaring of Aria’s conflict, the woman said, “Let us go free your kin.”
It took a moment for the words to register, but when they did, Aria nodded. She turned towards the wagon and let out a slow breath, steeling herself.
Silence, with nothing but the sound of footsteps as Aria and the woman approached the wagon. It should have been eerie, but somehow it was comforting.
There were a dozen elves in the wagon. Glancing at them, it was impossible to not see familiar faces. Her friends, her elder sisters… the ones that Aria had left behind.
Standing before each other again, Aria didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, she didn’t need to. The silver-haired woman that came with the strangely familiar man stepped forward to help the captured elves. Using magic to shatter their shackles and casting a spell to heal their bodies, the woman provided relief to the traumatized elves.
Aria simply watched, shifting awkwardly by the side and unable to meet the gazes of the freed elves.
One by one, the woman led the elves out of the wagon. All of them had tattered clothes and most of them looked dazed, unable to do so much as follow the woman. But when the last exited, while her gaze was initially blank, upon seeing Aria her dull eyes sharpened.
A cold voice, dripping with contempt.
Aria’s breath caught in her throat and she averted her eyes.
“Don’t you dare look away, sister.”
Guilt gripped Aria’s heart when she heard those words and she towards the speaker.
It was a beautiful elf woman that possessed flowing long hair the shade of honey. Her eyes, once a pure green, were now dark like blackened jade. As for her face, it wasn’t dissimilar to Aria’s own. Yet, whereas Aria possessed a beauty that would stir desires of protection and adoration, the elf woman’s beauty was refined and stirred desires of possession and obsession. A flower compared to a jewel.
She was Titania, the first princess of Alvheim.
She was also Aria’s eldest sister.
Faced with Titania’s sharp gaze, Aria stammered. “E-eldest sister, I-“
“Was it not enough to desert your sisters and save your own life?” Titania stepped forward reaching towards her side. Grasping at nothing, her arm stiffened before settling on her side. Instead, she scoffed. “You even have the nerve to run back here with outsiders.”
Aria flinched and took a step backward. “N-No, eldest sister. This is-“
“Oh. My mistake. It must have been the goddess’s providence. We can’t have her darling child suffer such an ignoble fate, can we?”
“Of course not! Leave that to her elder sisters and friends. Let them lay down their lives for the World Tree. Let them pledge their bodies to the forest and have them defiled by those filthy apes. And then just let her conveniently return after sisters young and old have been plucked and scattered, treated as nothing more than dolls.”
Aria couldn’t say anything. How could she?
It was true. All of it was true.
She ran away. After seeing her father’s death, she ran. Letting her sisters fight to protect their home, she ran away. She ran, ran, and ran. Not caring about the ones left behind, she just sought blindly to protect herself. She shut her eyes to the tragedy surrounding her, acknowledging them only to avoid suffering a similar fate.
“Eldest sister… Tani, I… I…!”
Tears welled up in Aria’s eyes.
“Shut up.” Titania stepped forward. “You don’t deserve to cry. Tears… do you know how many have been shed by our sisters? Do you know how often they’ve… I’ve cried out only to be cursed and silenced with-“ Titania’s refined face distorted before she turned her gaze back to Aria. “You were a blight to the royal line the moment you were born!”
Aria wrapped her arms around herself and took a step back. But Titania stepped forward, not letting her escape.
“First mother, then father, and now our home! That golden hair is no blessing! Instead, it has been nothing but a curse! As it is now, I should…“
Mana gathered at Titania’s fingertips. An invisible blade, forged from wind. It was a spell that could cut through the hides of a Black Steel Boar. Gritting her teeth so hard that they cracked and staring at Aria with pure hatred, Titania swung her hands and released the attack.
Aria froze, unable to react to the sudden killing intent.
Wind howled and the air screeched. Yet, before it reached Aria, the wind dissipated.
Titania scowled. “Of course. The child blessed by the wind. In that case-“ Mana gathered again at the eldest elf princess’s fingertips. This time, crystalline spears formed, radiating a chilly aura.
“N-no.” Aria took a step back. “Tani-“
“DON’T. Call me that. Don’t. Just… die. Die and take your curse with you. Die so that we can live. Just… die for me!”
The spears shot forward at a blinding speed.
Aria couldn’t react. No. Seeing the lifeless eyes of her fellow elves, seeing the pure hatred from the sister that she had idolized throughout her life, she refused to react. This… if this is what my eldest sister wants. If this is what I’ve earned, then-
Aria closed her eyes and spread her arms, accepting her fate.
Shadows came to life and pulled Aria away. At the same time, she found herself in a firm embrace. Looking up, she saw a strangely nostalgic face.
The person’s eyes flitted towards Aria for a brief moment before turning towards Titania. It was a casual glance. Yet, with it, nature itself shuddered, all the mana in the surroundings stirred into discord. “I’m afraid that Aria is under my protection. Unlike you. So… care to give me a reason why I should keep you alive?”
Just what on Earth was going on?
I left for less than five minutes to interrogate the imperial soldiers only to return and find Aria not only accepting her death, but doing so at the hands of her own kind.
It was apparently bad enough to have Aria burying her face in my chest. Me, who was not only a human, but a complete stranger to her at the time.
…Was this a flag? It was a flag. Somewhere, somehow, that goddess was enjoying this.
But that goddess aside, what was happening?
The one that attacked Aria was an elf woman. Beautiful but sharp, like broken glass.
Even with the oppression of my chaos-imbued mana, her dark green eyes glared at me. However, it seemed that she was rational enough to realize hostility was fruitless. With a reluctant look, she lowered her hands and bowed her head. “I apologize for my misconduct, Benefactor. Recent times have been… trying, on me and my sisters.”
“Enough to attempt to murder one of your kind?”
The elf woman’s face distorted. “Don’t-!” She forcefully cut off her words and took a long breath. “…That girl is not one of us. No matter how she might appear, she is no elf.”
I highly doubted that. Still, I decided to go along with the elf woman’s words. “…I see. Then, your name is?”
The elf woman brushed her hair, long threads the color of honey, smiled, and said, “Titania Sylvania, eldest princess of Alvheim.”
So she was Aria’s eldest sister. In spite of that, she had decided to kill Aria off. Was it because of anger? Envy? Retribution?
In the end, the reason didn’t matter, only the fact that she had acted.
And where was Saphira in all of this?
As if sensing my thoughts, the silver-haired woman approached me and knelt at my side. “My Master. I have released the bonds on the elves and cleansed their bodies as you desired.”
…Ah. That would be why. Her ego was still damaged from her time as a Wrathful Sin Dragon. She must have taken my orders to clean up as to literally clean up the elves instead of settling their affairs and sending them on their way.
That would probably be a problem later on… but it wasn’t serious enough to fix at the moment so I let it be.
Instead, I gave Saphira a nod to acknowledge her efforts and turned my attention back to Aria’s older sister. At the same time, I used Analysis to gain a better handle on the situation.
Name: Titania Sylvania
Age: 498 years old
Combat potential: A
Primary skill: Ice-Wind Blade
Primary titles: Defiled Maiden, Vengeful Blade, Eldest Princess
Summary: The eldest princess of Alvheim. Hailed as a genius combatant, skilled at both magic and the sword. Developed a unique ability that pioneered the path of swordsmanship for elves that maximizes their natural affinity towards mana.
Falling in the invasion of Alvheim, she was captured and defiled. Her pride as a princess and warrior have been continually shattered and her mind broken beneath pleasure and pain. In the depths of despair, her thoughts were only of her youngest sister that was still just a baby in elf years. Yet, great trauma has twisted those thoughts into malice.
You should probably get rid of her if you don’t want things to get unpleasant, you know?
…That last sentence was alarming, but I ignored it for the time being in favor of the rest of the summary.
Love twisted into hate. It was understandable, but unfortunate. Neither side was necessarily in the wrong. If anything, the blame laid on that careless goddess.
“Once again, I thank you for saving us, Benefactor,” Titania said. “However, this is where we part. I advise you do the same. It will not be long until the Emperor’s army of Braves arrives in this forest to seek out any final stragglers.”
With a deep bow and a final glance at Aria, Titania walked back towards the rescued elves. Like chicks drawn to a mother hen, they swiftly followed behind her, and then the group of elves vanished into the forest.
I watched them leave without saying another word.
I could have stopped them. I should have. Although small, the group of elves was sizable enough to serve as a stepping stone towards creating a faction in this world. But in the end…
My eyes shifted towards the elf in my arms. Was it due to stress or fatigue? Like the second time I saved her, Aria had fallen asleep.
Weak, young, and extraordinarily beautiful. Those were the words I said to her as my rationale for leaving her behind back then. They were the truth, but also a hidden lie. But regardless, I was strong enough now where it didn’t matter.
Whether her family, the imperial soldiers, or even the countless Braves summoned by that goddess. This time, I would protect her properly.
“My Master.” A beautiful yet lifeless voice called out from beside me. “Should I eliminate them for their slight?” Saphira’s gaze honed in on the departing elves, her blue eyes flickering with crimson. “Such inferior beings acting so haughty in my Master’s presence. I should-“
“Calm down, Saphira.”
Almost immediately, the crimson light vanished and the silver-haired woman bowed before me. “Forgive me, my Master.”
…I had a headache. Was the influence from her time as the Wrathful Sin Dragon greater than I thought? Or was this the result of Dragon’s Grasp? Either way, her actions and personality seemed far too zealous.
“Just… go hunt something for us to eat.”
“I have received your orders, my Master. It will not take long.” Saphira raised her body and turned around. Specifically, she turned towards the direction where Titania and the elves vanished.
Seeing that, I quickly said, “Specifically Black Steel Boars. I won’t accept anything else.”
Saphira hesitated for a moment and then said, “…Understood.” With that, she was gone.
Did she really understand? If I hadn’t spoken in time, wouldn’t it have been elven meat on the menu instead of animal?
I sighed. “That dragon’s devoted but a bit unreliable. Nothing like you, eh, faithful companion?”
My faithful companion (stick) didn’t respond. However, it seemed to thrum with energy after I spoke.
…It might be a good idea to take a break from time leaping for a while.