22 – [ Memory Gambit – II ]
A small clearing with a pond and a few scattered boulders nearby. I returned to the same forest clearing I used the first time I rescued Aria. With the young elf princess in my arms, I cleared a small area near the pond’s edge with my mana and placed her down on a mat woven from shadows.
Aria grimaced as I let her go, but her expression eased upon settling into the mat.
To ensure her comfort, I patched up her wounds the best I could and transferred distilled mana into her body to speed up her natural recovery ability.
Aria’s breathing slowed down before settling into a natural pattern.
After I was sure that she would be fine, I sat on one of the boulders and let out a long sigh.
Aria Sylvania. The youngest elf princess, the ‘Pure Wind of Change’. Our meeting, was it coincidence or preordained? And if the latter, should I care?
Information Concealment persisted in the background, hiding the clearing and everything in it from outsiders. No one would arrive to disturb us, divine or otherwise.
Because of that, I could finally sort out my thoughts. More specifically, I could sort out who ‘I’ was.
In the beginning, my refusal to give my name to the Goddess resulted in Information Concealment and my title of The Nameless. At the time, I thought nothing of it, a simple price to pay in exchange for a useful ability. But now I realized the ramifications of what I lost in exchange.
“The original name is discarded and one’s true nature becomes indistinct… that includes my desires and ambition, doesn’t it?”
My words vanished the moment they left my lips, crushed by Information Concealment to hide my presence.
I frowned. Why did I even agree to get transported into this world? Even with Absolute Memory, I couldn’t remember.
Was I a noble person who would have jumped at the chance to save Aria?
Was I a vile person who would have taken advantage of her gratitude?
All I knew was that in the beginning I sought power. Overwhelming power. Enough power to crush any foe before me.
I failed to save Aria, so I gained the power that could save her. Yet, in the next breath, I tossed her aside in pursuit of more power. Chasing it with complete abandon, I even forgot that slaying the Wrathful Sin Dragon would draw the attention of the Goddess and did so anyway, leading to the arrival of a Brave possessing a Cheat that could erase someone’s entire existence.
There was a contradiction. An anomaly. Something… wasn’t right.
Power. Why did I need it?
The Goddess? Did I fear the Goddess? Was that why? But she couldn’t control me and she would only intervene if I started boring her.
Fear…? Fear. Fear? Did I fear losing control of myself? Did I fear losing Aria? Did I fear dying? But I couldn’t die. I couldn’t lose control of myself.
I-I-I… what was my purpose here? Why did I agree? Why did I accept?
“Mm…?” Aria stirred and gingerly shifted herself to sit up. Her dazed green eyes slowly scanned her surroundings before settling on my position.
Impossible. My Information Concealment should be perfect… ah. The title. Even shrouded from the eyes of the Goddess, it seemed that Aria could recognize me through my usage of Information Concealment itself due to her familiarity with me.
Aria shook her head. She stared at me and then frowned. “This… is strange. A spirit? A nameless spirit? Were you the one who saved me?”
I didn’t respond.
“No response. Am I imagining things…? But then, who healed me?” Aria frowned and rubbed her left arm. Brushing against the dark patch I used to close her wound, she paused. “This mana…”
My stomach lurched.
My body moved by itself, and I ran away.
I didn’t make it far. Before I had gone more than a hundred feet, my legs gave out beneath me.
My heart raced, my head hurt, and my very core felt cold.
“Why… did I run away?”
I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it.
Information Concealment continued to run, hiding my very existence from the world.
I began to suspect Information Concealment hid it from myself as well.
Emotions that I hadn’t felt, rationale that didn’t make sense.
I grabbed my skull and squeezed, trying to clasp my fraying thread of sanity.
It didn’t help. If I could just figure out what changed-
I quickly cleared the forest ground near me and then placed down a bedding of dark mana. I pulled out the corpse of my past self from where I kept it in the shadows and then laid it out.
Blood and viscera splattered as loose fragments of bone flew through the air.
I ignored them and knelt to the ground, placing a hand on the corpse’s chest. “Analyze!”
Combat Potential: ERROR
Summary: A nameless spirit’s body. Whether a villain or hero, a saint or devil, it is impossible to ascertain. The cause of death was a surge of chaotic energy after a fatal slash across the upper torso that cut deep into the body.
ERROR. An oddity has been de-detected wi-within the body. The r-r-record of the so-soul is corrupted. ERROR.
I took my hand off the corpse’s chest.
A headache. A knife in my brain, stabbing it in the center and wrenching downwards. My mind was splitting in half.
It didn’t help.
It didn’t help.
It didn’t help.
Why did I run away from Aria?
Why did I leave Aria behind after I saved her?
Why did I seek power?
I needed an answer.
I clutched my forehead and tried to stand up.
The world tilted on its axis.
I staggered and collapsed against a tree. My right hand flailed around, trying to find purchase to push myself back up.
A stick. I grabbed it and used it to steady myself. For some reason, it felt warm to the touch. That was enough to calm my racing mind just a notch, enough to think.
Why was I here and what did I want to do?
I had power. I had all the time in the world. Everything was at my fingertips.
A pained scream cut through the dark forest. Female, extremely familiar.
My stomach lurched, my heart raced, my head ached.
I moved. Swaying left and right, I made my way towards the scream.
A howl echoed in forest, one soon joined by a dozen others. Fenrir Wolves.
Save her/Abandon her.
Be a hero/be a villain.
Seek power to protect/Seek power to destroy.
You wanted to come here to save people/You wanted to come here to be free of people.
The dark forest blurred past me as I honed in on the source of the scream.
A splitting headache.
I clutched my head with my left hand while I held onto that stick in my right hand.
A pack of wolves surrounded a young elf maiden in a forest clearing. Her left arm dripped with blood, and her green tunic was ripped apart, revealing bite marks on her side. With her right hand, Aria tried to hold her wound shut. Her green eyes frantically scanned the forest, seeking a way out.
I had to save her/let her die.
I stepped forward.
A Fenrir Wolf spun around and bared its fangs. It growled and then charged, lunging through the air towards me.
I swung the stick in my right hand.
Blood sprayed and two halves of a wolf landed on the ground beside me.
My body swayed and my vision distorted.
Aria’s eyes grew wide and she turned in my direction. “You? The nameless spirit from before?”
I forcibly straightened myself and took another step forward.
I had to save Aria/leave that useless girl behind.
The wolves stopped circling Aria and then turned towards me. Slowly, they stepped to the side as the largest of them stepped forward. The Fenrir Wolf that advanced loomed a good six heads over me, over twice my height. It was the Alpha, the leader of the pack.
I had to stop it/kill it.
My mana surged.
The Alpha Fenrir Wolf lunged towards me and bared its massive maw.
I lowered my left hand and reached out.
The other Fenrir Wolves leapt at me from different angles, coordinating their attack with the Alpha.
I clenched my left hand.
Gore splattered to the ground, staining it crimson.
The remaining Fenrir Wolves struck.
“No!” Aria screamed.
I winced and clutched my head with my left hand.
A Fenrir Wolf lunged and snapped its jaw shut around my neck.
Pain. I couldn’t breathe.
And then I could.
Wind howled and the remaining Fenrir Wolves were killed.
Aria panted, her left arm outstretched. Faint tendrils of wind still spiraled at her fingertips, stained crimson with her blood. Her gaze shifted towards me and she smiled. Then, like a puppet with severed strings, she collapsed.
I grabbed her before she could fall to the ground.
I had to save her/kill her and take her powers.
A splitting headache.
The reason why I arrived in this world.
Why I existed.
My mind raced, my heart throbbed.
Be selfless/be selfish.
You need her/you don’t need her.
Protect her/abandon her.
Save her/kill her.
I stared at Aria and-