I passed through the door and entered a terrifyingly large space.
I looked up to see a large, transparent, domed ceiling with hundreds of millions of stars twinkling through it.
My line of sight was drawn to the beauty of the starry sky.
I looked back down at the floor, which was reflective like a mirror, before taking a breath and going forward.
I reached the center of the room.
“So, you’ve made it, child. It’s time to make a decision.”
The Heavenly Dragon was there.
He was not in the shape of the child that he usually took, but his proper dragon form… Wrapped in a terrifying aura of gravitas.
His wings weren’t so enormous compared to the starry sky, but it still felt like they were wide enough to wrap up everything in sight.
…I couldn’t feel my feet.
Without realizing it, my legs were already moving on their own, taking me closer to the Heavenly Dragon.
I felt a strange sensation like my body was off somewhere far away.
…Am I forgetting something…? Oh, that’s right! I need to get home, uhm, back to my friends.
I tried to focus my hazy thoughts and just concentrated on my objective.
If I didn’t strive now, I feared this place would swallow me up.
I reached out my hand as if to touch something sneaking up on me, but my hand just cut through the empty air.
…Was someone supposed to be there for me to touch?
The Heavenly Dragon squinted a little and lowered his long neck to look at me.
“Don’t get drunk. This place has that effect on the human body. Let me try to fix it.”
As he said that, the Heavenly Dragon let out a puff of air that wrapped around me– Immediately I was able to take a breath.
…Ah, that’s right! I came here so I could get home… To everyone I know.
I gathered my thoughts a little and looked up at the Heavenly Dragon.
“The effects seem to have subsided. Now let me ask, what have you come for that you stand in front of me now?“
I felt goosebumps on my skin.
I felt like a lost sheep.
The determination that I had just felt was now faltering again… Huh?
Who was it again…?
My thoughts were lost and scattered in all directions. Even the things I understood before were starting to grow fuzzier.
I wanted to say that I yearned to go home, but the words were caught in my throat and didn’t come out.
I struggled, clenching my teeth, trying my hardest to squeeze out my request.
“I came… To make a choice. My choice.”
My voice was low and shaky as it came out but still echoed through the room.
I was about to continue and tell him my desire to go home, but the Heavenly Dragon raised his hand to stop me.
“So, scaleless one… Allow me to show you ‘the path of choices’”
“It is on after that you can make your choice,” he said, spreading his wings slowly.
The stars sparkled brilliantly against the inside of his wings, the harsh light dazzling my eyes.
In my line of sight, off in the distance, was Sara-chan.
This was in the garden of Sara-chan’s home on the day I first met her.
With her black eyes, inorganic like a doll’s, Sara-chan opened her mouth and said, “I’m going to destroy this country.”
…If I recall correctly, I answered her, “Would that be fun for you?”
But my mouth moved on its own, saying, “You’re scary,” as I trembled.
Immediately, Sara-chan’s black eyes deepened and darkened. She said nothing, nor revealed anything, in her expression. She turned her back and walked away– Wait, come back, I was wrong!
I reached out, but it was the bony arm of someone else.
Sara-chan leaned back in her chair, bored, in a dimly lit room illuminated by the flicker of her candlelight.
A large number of people lay on the ground by her feet, piled up high.
Their eyes were wide open and dark. I couldn’t move nor avert their eyes from the sight, filled with the smell of blood.
Sara-chan sipped her wine emotionlessly, not caring about the blood covering her cheeks.
I heard noisy footsteps, the door to the room flinging open violently… It was His Highness, the Crown Prince.
His face was distorted by hatred, utterly lacking in the confidence and personality… I had known him to be the exact opposite.
He was swayed like he had seen a ghost as he approached her, saying, “…Give me back this country,” as he swung the sword gripped tightly by his hands.
He was aiming for Sara-chan’s neck– Watch out, Sara-chan!
However, Sara-chan did not even attempt to avoid him and just stared with her disinterested eyes.
At the last moment, she spoke in a soft voice, her statement not directed at anyone in particular.
“This wasn’t very fun after all.”
I blinked again…
I saw Solan-kun at the center of a space somewhere, distorted by too much magical power.
This was the Training Ground where I came to learn magic when Solan-kun lost control of his power.
…I remembered headbutting Solan-kun while saying, “Don’t be so clingy to Irene-sama.”
But I was much too afraid of Solan-kun’s magical power, the empty look in his eyes boring into mine, so I stepped back without saying anything.
Solan-kung stayed there, not looking at me, just muttering “Irene” desperately. My vision went white– What just happened? Was Solan-kun okay?
My eyes adjusted to the glare and saw the whole area coated in pure white snow.
There was just one distinct point, a dirty lump. A white head that had turned gray was shaking.
…It was Solan-kun.
In front of him, the Chief Magician was red in the face as he shouted, “Solan! Come back!”
It seems like he had come to save him.
His hair, clothes, and breath were all ruffled and ragged, his rough voice filled with love for Solan-kun.
…But Solan-kun was reaching down to touch the ground… It was like nothing existed around him…
The stump of his arm was charred black, and it sagged down slowly.
Without a glance at anyone else, Solan-kun embraced Irene-sama with his remaining arm.
I took a few steps through the snow to get a better look, careful as to not touch anything.
Solan-kun, at the limits of his physical strength, collapsed and stroked Irene-sama, who was silent and still as if asleep, on the cheeks, his fingers trembling.
“You’re all mine now, Irene.”
“Countess Rururia Dalton!”
The high-strung voice of the Crown Prince echoed beneath the glittering chandelier.
This was the venue for the graduation party.
…I was called here to testify about Irene-sama’s innocence.
I had hesitated to step forward, humbled by the power of the Royal Family, bowing my head to avoid everyone’s gaze as I answered, “Yes.”
When I said that Irene-sama had…
My answer was met with silence in the Great Hall.
When I raised my frightful face-up, I saw Irene-sama in front of me, closing her eyes as if resigned to losing her life.
In the next moment, people started trying to catch Irene-sama, everyone trying to save her trampled over each other– I found myself in the middle of the angry crowd.
The lively and bright Royal Capital burned down, the sky turning gray because of the smoke illuminated by the fires of war.
Beyond the screaming crowd, there stood a gallows in the square that wasn’t supposed to be there.
The platform trembled as if it would collapse under the people’s enthusiastic footsteps.
Up above, Solan-kun, the School Director, the Duke of Dilaver… And all the people that were Irene-sama’s supporters, had been beheaded.
Now Irene-sama was being dragged on to the same platform.
Irene-sama bent down without anyone prompting her to, sticking her head out– Get out of there, Irene-sama! Get out of there!
Irene-sama was usually a cry baby, but now her eyes were dry, lethargically putting her hands together to pray.
Surrounded by the roaring crowd’s manic voices, Irene-sama muttered inaudibly.
“I can’t live.”
“Kill him!” I heard my voice shout hatefully.
When I saw that man… I just couldn’t stand him, making my voice spill out.
Blue eyes looked at me imploringly, asking if it was really alright, and I responded angrily– “This is natural! This is justice.”
When I finished screaming, I was terrified by the harshness of my own words.
As I tried to take back what I said… In front of me, the Knight Commander, was nodding like this was all normal… He nodded.
He turned his back without hesitation… I couldn’t reach him as I stretched out my arm.
Within a collapsing cave, the Fallen Hero and Io, the Spirit of Death, fought the Knight Commander, all of them being smeared with blood.
Someone’s roaring voice echoed, and suddenly, I was carried away by the Chief Magician, reaching out my arm fruitlessly… The sight of the fight growing further and further away– My vision was covered by black and red smoke.
The eye could see dead people and demons, and I could hear high-pitched metallic sounds, growls, and screams.
The Knight Commander was expressionless, blood-soaked, crazy, and beast-like.
The blood covering him had no time to dry as he slashed left and right, delivering killing blows to everything that touched his sword, dodging attacks all around as he dealt stabs and kicks…
Unbelievably, the onslaught of demons around him stopped advancing, and the area grew quiet.
Not a single person nor demon moved.
It was like the whole world had died.
The Knight Commander was not his usual self as he slowly looked up to meet my eyes– He was no longer the Knight Commander I knew.