Re:Interference Chapter 7: A Quiet Night

We march slowly through the woods, taking our leisure since the sleepless night that we spent. Around us, the scenery slowly changed, from small, sparse thickets of young trees to a proper meadow, with old, big trees pointing towards the sky.

<<So…what was your world like, Roshal?>> asks Retel.

I have already told them about my circumstances, but I did not share any proper detail about my past life with them.

<<Well, it was…really, really different. For starters, people do not possess level in my world. No magic or skills, either.>>

My reply takes them by surprise.

<<No…level? How…I mean, what if monsters, or worse, demons came>> Levia shouts.

Her concern makes me smile. Of course, they think monsters and even demons to be the norm.

<<None of those things exist from where I came from. Sure, there are dangerous animals…but they really don’t pose a big threat to humans>> I reply.

The two of them continue asking me questions about my previous life, and I happily share the rough details.

<<So…this “technology” you spoke of…is it some kind of advanced alchemy?>> asks Heod. He was silent for most of my explanation, but his interest sparked as I started talking about computers and other marvels of my world.

<<Well…yes, it can be considered as such. I remember from my studies…most of the very first scientists in the ancient past called were alchemists or philosophers…although they did not have any kind of supernatural power, they discovered things using their intelligence and trial-and-error methods. Some of their mathematical theories were still used even during my time>>.

Heod seems satisfied by my answer.

<<When we have some time, I want you to tell me all the details that you can remember about your world’s science>> he says with a resolute expression.

I smile at him and nod…but old man, you should not expect much knowledge from me, since I never really understood any complicated science theory and just learned the basic things at school.

<<I wanted to ask you…how fare the beast-kin in your world? Are they…treated equally as humans, or…>> Levia’s voice is a bit uncertain.

<<…or are they discriminated, like here?>>

I sigh, thinking about the proper words to use.

<<You see…my world is vastly different from this one. No magic, no skills or monsters. And…we…humans, are the only race there>>

The group stopped. Retel looks down, while Levia brings her hand to her mouth, her eyes widening with sudden surprise and sadness.

Perhaps…did they misunderstand?

<<So…they were wiped out>> Heod mutters.

Not you too, old man!

<<No no no-I quickly try to explain- it’s not like they got exterminated or something like that…they simply…never existed in my world. Only humans>>

Still, it does not seem my words give them any comfort. More than that, the simple thought of a world were only human exist seem to give them a lot to think about.

<<Well, a world like that would be a paradise for those of the Holy Kingdom. Enough about this for now…let’s have lunch and a less serious conversation, shall we? Tell me, Roshal…what about the food there?>>Heod breaks the mood, suggesting us to stop.

Judging from the sun’s position, although it is barely visible from under the trees, it should be around noon.

And so, camping on the soft soil under the old pine trees, I recalled and shared the joys of my world’s food.

Well, Heod’s food tastes delicious, and I am not a picky eater, so I don’t think that reproducing my world’s recipes will be something I will focus on. I’m not some kind of Japanese light novel’s main character.

Still, it was pleasant to share my memories with the group. Although the mood got a bit heavy when we spoke before, now we’re back to the carefree conversations that started the day.

We rest there for some time after lunch, since no immediate threats are around. Well…to be fair…there seems to be nothing around us, as far as my skill can see. Only the trees. No birds, no small animals. I didn’t notice it immediately, since I was immersed in my conversation, but…it surely feels weird.

<<See anything?>> says Heod, approaching me.

<<Nothing…no monsters, no animals…it’s weird>>

Heod nods, as he sits besides me.

<<Look, right there. Do you see that group of tall trees? That’s the Old Meadow. And we are right into its outskirts. Wildlife doesn’t approach that place, and neither do monsters>>

He’s pointing towards a group of trees, slightly in the distance. They seem way taller than the other around us, and have a darker color.

<<The village is right after the Old Meadow. Straight ahead, almost three hours away by walking distance. But…we will not enter there. Instead, we will circle around, walking in that direction>>.

Heod stares towards the distant trees.

<<But, we could go through the meadow and save some time, right?>> asks Levia.

Heod shakes his head.

<<No. It’s best to avoid that place. You see, among the old trees, Dryads make their nests. They are fierce beings, very territorial, and attack anything that violates their grounds. That’s why there are no monsters here in the Meadow’s outskirts. They dare not to approach that place, not even coming close to the outskirts. If we stay here, and keep circling the meadow without venturing inside, we will avoid monsters without angering the Dryads, and have a safer, albeit longer, way to the village>>

Heod says so with a serious look on his face.

<<So…is it ok to rest here? No chance of sudden attacks from the Dryads?>> asks Retel , a bit concerned.

<<Yes…in all my years, I have not even heard about Dryads leaving their meadows. So, we will be safe here. Let’s rest here for today, and we will resume marching on at dawn.>>

Please, don’t say something like this…it’s after such sentences that everything goes in a bad way.

Instead, the day goes on without anything unpleasant.

At night-time, Retel volunteers for the first turn of guard duty, boasting that he can see during the night almost as if the sun is shining. Well, whatever. As long as he does a proper job.

Wrapping myself up in my sleep bag, I immediately fall asleep.

[Navi: Welcome to the Dream Interface! Congratulations for your recent Level Up! Here, you will be able to allocate your hard earned STAT points and SKILL however you desire! Would you like to start?]

I see myself, almost like an out of body experience…no, this is definitely one of those things.

My body floats in a dark, empty place.

The only other thing here is Navi’s voice.

Sighing deeply, I say “yes” to her question.

[Navi: Wonderful! Let’s start. Here you can see your current Statistics, a representation of several aspects of you physical prowess and magical power.]

A panel now floats in front of my body. Written on it, I see 5 categories, each one followed by a pitiful number: 1.

<<Right…they were this lame from the start, huh?>> I mutter.

[Navi: Here, these abbreviations correspond to several aspects: STR stands for strength, a measure of muscular power and resistance. Boosting this stat will increase attack power and defense. Next, we ave AGI, short for agility. Upgrading this stat will lead to quicker movements and faster reflexes. INT stands for intelligence, increasing this stats will improve detection abilities and amplify the effect of spells and magic resistances (it will not make you smarter, however). ACC is accuracy, and, as it sounds, it influences the precision of each action and the possibility of landing critical hits. Next, but not last, we have LCK…a mysterious stat, with no effect on standard actions. Or is it? Choose wisely!]

Navi’s explanation is a bit long, but it showed me some useful info. This decision should not be made lightly, since I need to properly think about my strong points and boost them. Or should I put some points into things that I currently lack? Ahhh! This is the thing that I always got wrong in games! I always end up making mixed characters, with well rounded stats but without any proper strong points.

Should I become a strong warrior? Or boost my agility and become a ninja?

Well, I have five points at my disposal here. It seems health and mana, although they are shown in my info, are not directly related to these five stats, and instead grow by a fixed amount with each level up.

Since I do not have access to magic, this time I will not put any points into INT stat. That leaves me with five points to distribute into four stats.

Well, raw damage and defense are always good, so I put one point into STR. Next, one point each to ACC and AGI. Faster movements and attacks, and more precision.

Looks like I’ m building a quality build…the difficulty in this world is also similar to that game, it seems. I wonder if some Giant Dads roam this world…

Chuckling about myself, I return my attention to the task at hand.

I ‘m left with two points. My eyes wander to the LCK stat. The description was a bit unclear, but…it’s tempting.

Finally, I give in. Two points to LCK. I hope it’s worth it.

[Navi: STAT allocation complete. Confirm?]

I nod my head.

[Navi: Next, SKILL point allocation! This can be used to level up one of the existing skills, or to acquire a new one from the SKILL TREE! Would you like to proceed?]

Again, I say yes to my immaterial companion.

Immediately, the dark space around my body illuminates. Tree-like branches are expanding from my body, shining with different colors. On each branch, several spheres can be seen.

It’s…huge! There could be more than thousands of those!

By the looks of it, it seems each sphere represents a skill. I can move to every part of the SKILL TREE in an instant.

I immediately find the skills that I possess.

They are the closest to my body, each embedded in the proper branch.

Each branch seems to represent a category.

The “crafting” and “cooking” skills, for example, lie on the “common life” branch, while Inquisitive Eye stands on the “recon” branch. There are several other branches, with titles like “combat”, “language” and so on.

My best bet here would be to use it on one of the skills I rely upon, like Black Fluid or Inquisitive Eye.

As I search for those, an unexpected sound booms in the air.

[Navi: Danger! D&nG%! UNK2o\N iNt€rf]

Not this shit again!

The skill tree crumbles with a sound of broken glass.

<<What is happening now?!>> I shout at the black, empty space.

A familiar sound surrounds me.

His laughter.

From the darkness, the Laughing Man emerges.

<<You, again?>> I shout towards my old acquaintance.

<<Long time no see, boy from another world.>> he says.

What the hell…

<<Why…what do you want from me?>>

The man shrugs his shoulders.

<<Well, sorry for this sudden intrusion. But I could not bear myself to let you do some stupid mistake, here>> he said with a concerned look.

<<What are you talking about?>>

He sighs, deeply.

<<It seems I owe you some explanations, then. Well, since HE doesn’t like to talk, the task falls on my shoulders>>

The scenery around us changes and becomes a pleasant grass field, with the sky burning in the colors of sunset.

<<Here, boy. Sit with me and let me tell you a story>>

Without properly realizing what is going on, I comply with the Laughing Man’s request.

<<Once upon a time, the GODS made the Universe. It was all laughs and fun, until some of them decided to step up things. And so, each GOD, in their own part of the cosmos, chose some planet and started playing with them. Slowly, they created life, and watched it grow and evolve. Just for fun>>

In the sky, stars and planet unfold as the Laughing Man explains his story.

<<And life grew, more and more complex as time went by. Eventually, the creatures started to show some interesting things…a spark of comprehension about the world and the laws that governed it…in short words, intelligent beings began to evolve>>

Images of humans and other creatures were now around us. Vast empires, armies clashing and monuments reaching up to the sky itself.

<<Of course, each GOD reacted in a different way to this. Some were pleased, and cherished their creations…gifting magic and granting prayers to their little pets. Others were indifferent, and left the worlds they created. Your world was one of the ones abandoned, for example. And…some of the GODS, who did not participate in any kind of creation, grew jealous of the others. They began to covet for the attention, for the worship their brothers received from their respective creations.

And so, the jealous GODS moved to the abandoned worlds, claiming them for themselves. At first. But then, they wanted more praise, more worshipers, and began to turn their interest towards other worlds ruled by their brothers>>

He makes a dramatic pause, as the images in the sky shift into a black, starless night.

<<And that takes us to our situation here. Your world, abandoned by the original creator, became another GOD’s possession. But the new GOD there was not satisfied with only one world…he wanted more. And so, he devised a little strategy. By sending souls from his new world, he aims to slowly spread his name in the other worlds, by making his followers perform miracles and such. It would be nice, if only the world he set his eyes on were not already “ruled” by their respective creators.>>

So, that’s how it is…some sort of turf war between omnipotent beings.

<<But…why me? I mean, I did not even believe in any kind of god in my previous life>>

The man laughs.

<<Well, it does not matter. I think he prefers to choose some huge losers and trick them with empty promises, like power or fame, or whatever the hell the chosen person desires. In exchange, they MUST obey the GOD’s commands once they reincarnate in the new world.>>

His expression turns serious.

<<And there’s the catch. From the moment that the reincarnated person uses his power for the first time, they lose their ego, and become simple puppets for the GOD to use however he wants. People calls them “Heroes”, but they are just glorified puppets, pawns used to build a nation based on his power. There is one of such nations here in this world. Can you guess which one?>>

Of course, there can be only one answer…

<<Aldora>> I mutter.

<<Correct, my young friend. To build a nation in his image, the “foreign GOD“persecutes the people that possess blessing from the original GOD of this place, namely magicians and skill-holders. Also…there were no humans in this world, originally. They were sent here as a first attempt of “colonization”. But that failed, as the humans sent here accepted magic and skills, thus becoming “subjects” of this world’s GOD. And so, the foreign GOD resorted to other means. He sent monsters, to kill and spread dread among this world’s inhabitants. And he sent his Heroes, to mislead this world’s population into worshiping him>>

It’s a bit difficult to accept what he is saying, but…if he’s right…I should have been one of those so-called Heroes…

<<So, what you are saying is… I was about to become a Hero, sent from this “foreign GOD” to reinforce the Holy Empire. But, this world’s own GOD interfered and freed me. Am I right?>>

My head hurts from all this nonsense talk.

<<Not quite right. The GOD of this world is young, and cannot oppose the foreign one, who is older and more powerful. It was another one who found you, who found me…you see, some of the GODS without creations only tried to snatch them from their brethren. But others, wise and powerful, grew fond of their brother’s creations and swore to protect them. One of them is my master, the one who granted power to us both>>

Wonderful, a game of chess between three gods. Lucky me.

<<Well. Even if I accept what you are saying. Why are you here, now? I mean, you interfered with my level up, it kinda seems against your GOD’s interest>>

My question leaves him puzzled for a bit. He then breaks into a wide smile.

<<Oh no, boy. You see…this process, works by the power of this world’s original GOD. Level, stats, magic and skills…even your Dream Navigator. But, as I said before…this world’s GOD is weak. And so, his power can easily be tampered with by other GODS. In your case, the “foreign GOD” who was about to make you a Hero managed to modify your Dream Navigator before my GOD could intervene. If you had used that single skill point, he would have won you back. And so, before you could complete the process, my GOD made me intervene>>

I swear, if I hear the word “GOD” one more time…

<<Well, enough with the exposition. To summarize, we saved your ass. And, the big guy will make a gift to you>>

<<Oh, how thoughtful of him. But tell me, couldn’t he do it immediately? Or send you sooner, and give me a proper explanation right at the start?>> I say with a fed up tone.

<<But…it’s more fun this way. And also…he wanted to see how you would react to this world, to put a bit of pressure on you. In short words, he wanted to make a “little test “to your worth. And you passed…barely, but you did. So, congratulations!>> says the Laughing Man while clapping his hands.

<<Wow…so, risking my life from the get go, struggling inside a foul smelling swamp ridden with monsters…finding myself right into a slaughter-fest that YOU perpetrated, was just a “little test” from this fucking GOD you speak about?Are you kidding me?>> I jump to my feet, grabbing the man’s collar as I shout right into his face.

His expression turns sour, and he pushes me away.

He rises, darkness swirling around as his face twists in anger.

<<Down, puppy…do not try to bark at the big, bad wolf>> his voice sounds like thunder.

<<Do you think your treatment was unfair? Think about it…you were to be a pawn of his enemy, a worthless, spineless person that got nothing right on his life. HE saved you from slavery under powers far bigger than what your feeble mind can imagine…HE gave you the means to fight, and a new occasion to actually accomplish something with your worthless existence. HE acted this way while HE could just erase you without any kind of effort. Measure your words wisely, when you speak about HIM>>.

Quick as it came, the anger fades from his face. It left me trembling, as I felt the fury of his power.

<<He did all that, to measure your worth. If, by chance, you would have been as incompetent as in your previous life,you would simply be dead. The enemy would have lost his pawn either way. But, if somehow you turned out to be someone with the will and smarts, or even the plain luck, to survive and even grow during that time, it would prove your worth. And since you did, the enemy lost his pawn, and WE gained one. As simple as it sounds. So, little boy. Enough with this talk, already. Accept his gift>>

He extend his hand towards me. Still shaken, I am conflicted about what to do. He could be lying to me…and yet, something deep inside me feels like he’s telling the truth.

<<Ah! Fuck it!>> I shout as I grab his hand.

<<Good boy>> he says with a wide smile.

My head hurts, like it’s being split right in two…I feel something being torn from me. It’s painful, more than everything I have ever experienced. More than death.

I see light leaving my body. It’s pretty, sparkling in thousands of colors…but I feel a ominous sensation from it.

The lights dissolve, imploding with a loud, crackling sound.

I fall to my knees, gasping for air as I hold my chest.

Shadows flow towards me, condensing into vein-looking things that creep up on my arms and legs, entering MY veins, staining them black.

The blackness rises, up on my arms, to my chest, my neck, and finally my head.

It ends, and a familiar voice resounds in my head.

[Navi: Hello, Roshal! This is your new, improved Dream Navigator, offered by the almighty Azatoth! I’ll be in your care from now on!]

What is that ominous sounding name?

<<A…Azatoth?>> I mutter.

<<Oh, that’s just one of the names he likes to use. I think he picked it up from a story in your world, if I properly recall>>.

<<What…what has he done to me?>> I ask while trembling.

<<Well…he gave you a gift. He loves drama, you see…and he is especially fond of conflicting characters. So, in order to oppose Heroes, he made you into their polar opposite. Of course, it’s still too early for you to claim that title, and right now you’re much, much weaker than the weakest hero…but still, as a proof of good will by his side, he gave you his mark and blessing. Well, you can see for yourself>>

He invites me so.

Abiding to his words, I activate the Status Window from the new Navi.

As I see what is written there, I burst out laughing.

My level, name and stats…and even the skills are all the same as before. There is only one, tiny line added to the Status Menu under my name.

It reads “Title”.

And, as my freshly gained titled, three words are listed.

Candidate Demon Lord.

I burst out in laughter again. This is too much! And what the hell means “Candidate”? Am I a devil in training? Do I need to make an internship before I become a proper one? Will I get a paycheck raise?

<<What the hell…seriously? Demon Lord?>> I say while crying from laughter.

<<Candidate- says the Laughing Man, pointing his finger upwards- you still need to grow a lot before becoming a proper Demon Lord. Well, the title in itself does not mean anything, it’s not like we will require you to open Hell’s gates or destroy all humans. Just killing one Hero or two will be enough, and you can do whatever the hell you want in the meantime>>

His voice sounds a bit patronizing, though.

<<Yes but…still, Demon Lord? Could you not choose something less evil sounding? What could be worse than that?>> I retort.

A sad smile pops up on the Laughing Man’s face.

<<Well, you could become like me. Roam the world with insanity as your companion>> he says.

Patting my shoulder, he starts smiling again.

<<Now, Roshal. It’s time to wake up, or your new friends will die>>

As he says so, I immediately wake up.

The night still paints the sky with blackness and stars, and the fading campfire near us only emits a dim, weak light.

A thick fog is all around, shifting the world into gray shadows.

<<What is going on?>> I mutter, slowly rising to my feet.

Besides me, Levia and Heod are still asleep.

Retel however, is missing. He should have been on guard duty tonight, maybe he left to relieve himself?

But something does not look right here…I grab a torch from my inventory, lighting it on the waning campfire’s coals, and activate my detection skill. It…doesn’t work? What the hell?

[Navi: All skill functions besides Black Fluid are integrated in the New Me! Isn’t it wonderful, Master?]

What is this development here!
<<Yes, whatever! Hurry up and let me see!>>

As I say so, a sound rings in my head. Now I can properly see, even with the darkness and mist around us. More importantly, the skill seems to not deactivate like before.

In the distance, I spot Retel

<<Damn! Levia! Heod! Wake up, quickly!>> I shout.

Retel is standing in front of something. Shapes move in the mist around us, and a chilling sound starts resounding in the air.

Like a child’s cry.

<<Huh? What? Are we under attack? Is breakfast ready?>> Levia ‘s voice is still sleepy.

Heod springs up, with a concerned look on his tired face.

<<Roshal, what is happening?>>

<<We are under attack. Levia, ready your arrow and fire, right where I tell you.>> I whisper.

She nods, shaking off her sleepiness. Her little hands grab the bow lying besides her, and she notches and arrow, aiming right where I point my finger.

Retel is still approaching the thing. Although their shapes should be hidden by the mist, I can see them clearly with my skill.

In front of my friend, a child-like silhouette is sitting on the ground, sobbing with a child-like voice,cradling its own knees.

Like a child lost in the woods.

<<Levia, now!>> I mutter.

Following my command, the arrow flies inside the mist.

Retel screams in surprise. He falls on his back, and starts tumbling away from the creature before managing to get up and run towards us.

<<Retel! What is happening?>> Levia’s voice is full of concern.

He’s uninjured, luckily enough.

As the arrow hit the mark, the mist dissolves.

Now, all four of us are staring at the little thing.

It really looks like a child. Easy to mistake for one in the dark, even more when the mist is around.

The arrow sticking out of the small head makes for a ghastly view.

I can see Levia reaching her hands to her mouth.

<<Oh my god…what have I done>> she mutters, her voice already broken.

The child slowly turns his head towards us.

As the moonlight illuminates our surroundings, we can clearly see the face staring back at us.

Empty eyes, and a smile that is too big for a human face. The child’s mouth gapes even further, revealing a set of long, thorn-like teeth dripping with saliva.

<<That is no child, Levia>> Heod remarks while trembling.

The thing abruptly turns its neck to the side, making a loud, cracking sound as the little head turns upside down. The same thing it does to shoulders and arms, and now it starts moving towards us.

It reminds me of how a little girl descended some stairs in a iconic horror movie…

Instead, that thing is not a little girl. Not even a human.

[Navi: Detected-Dryad lvl 8-Suggested Extreme Caution]

Weren’t those things supposed to just stay inside their home?

Whatever…we need to defend ourselves, right now.

I grab Retel’s arm, shaking it to make him regain his composure.

<<We need to be focused here, or it will end badly>> I shout to him.

He shakes his head, and look at me with a resolute expression.

As we are talking, I hear the Dryad’s shriek. A bone-chilling sound…

Roots burst out from under our feet, entangling me and Retel. As I look towards Levia and Heod, I see that they met the same fate.

We are trapped.

Struggling with all my might, I cannot resist the crushing strength that these roots possess. As they bind and strangle, I fall to my knees.

The Dryad is coming closer to us.

From the monster’s mouth comes a weird, clicking noise…I don’t know why, but it seems I can almost…understand it.

<<Help…me…Stop…this…Pain>>

Is it some kind of mental attack?

[Navi: Negative- The Dryad is only communicating via telepathy]

Huh? It looks like I’ m the only one who can understand it.

I try to shout to it, but it does not react to my words. It only repeats the same sentence, over and over.

Something is weird in the way the Dryad moves. And, it could have easily killed at least one of us, but…it did not do it.

Why? It’s almost like…the Dryad is struggling against something. I have a bad feeling about this…

I focus my attention on the Dryad. It looks like…something is tied around the child-like body, thin threads of golden light that flicker, pulsing…the threads extends toward the Meadows.

Is it being…controlled?

[Navi: Enemy Dryad- Status: Mana Possession]

So…it is being controlled.

Perhaps the Dryad never wanted to hurt us, but instead is being forced to do so. For now, it’s resisting…but how much will it hold?

Right as I think so, the Dryad shrieks again. A painful cry, full of sorrow. The thread of light around it now are fully visible, and the monsters starts rushing towards Levia.

I need to do something.

Mustering all my will, I use Black Fluid. I need to quickly cut the roots that restrain me and my companions.

As I manifest the skill…

[Navi: Combat Assist- Form control Assist. Would you like to activate?]

Of course, yes! This is a critical moment!

A sound rings in my head.

Black Fluid twirls around me, changing into claw-like blades and shredding the roots to pieces.

I am free now, but the Dryad is almost on Levia. It jumps towards her, raising its clawed arm to slash at the beast-girl.

Desperate, I focus all my will into a single shot from Black Fluid.

Hopefully I will hit the thing before it attacks.

Levia’s scream resounds in the air. The Dryad stabs her thorn-like claws in her belly, gushing out blood from my companion’s body.

My attack connects at the same time, hitting the Dryad’s flank and shredding the thing’s body as it expands blades of Black fluid.

<<Levia!>> I shout, running towards her small figure, hoping that it’s not too late.

Meanwhile, the Dryad collapses to the ground.

The wound I gave her is shallow, but my attack somehow destroyed the golden threads, freeing the Dryad from whatever was controlling her.

<<Thank you>>

A faint whisper in my mind. The roots binding my companions are now retreating inside the ground, and the other two are rushing to our side.

I grab Levia before her body hits the soil.

The wound is bad…

My hands tremble, as I mutter incoherent words.

It cannot be…

Retel shouts, and he jumps towards the Dryad with his spear in hands. He stabs, again and again, shouting all his fury as he tries to hit the monster.

The thing stops his assault, blocking the spear with a single hand.

She…smiles at Retel. Not the terrifying expression she gave us before, but a kind, generous smile.

Green light is wrapping around the Dryad, and her figure warps, changes.

Her monstrous features are gone, and now a beautiful young woman stands between us.

<<Thank you, o kind stranger, for freeing me>>

She extends her hand towards Levia.

Green light ripples from her fingers, wrapping on the wounded beast-girl’s body.

Levia gasps in pain, but her face relaxes.

I can see the wound on her belly recede, as the gaping skin slowly becomes whole again.

The girl open her eyes again, as I hold her in my arms.

Retel jumps to us, crying.

<< I’m sorry for the pain I inflicted you, little ones>>the Dryad’s voice is now calm, almost soothing in her kind tone.

I check her again, to ascertain if the mind control is properly gone. As Navi confirms so, I try to speak with the Dryad.

<<You were…being controlled. By whom? And why attack us?>> I try to ask gently, but my voice still holds anger.

I truly thought to have lost my friend here.

<< I do not know so. It came into our home, and poisoned me and my sisters. To what ends, I do not know. He compelled me to come here, to taint myself into killing without reason. I tried to resist, as much as I could. But, in the end, I ended up spilling innocent blood>>

She says as she strokes Levia’s hair.

Retel still looks at her with hateful eyes, while Heod has a sorrowful expression.

He clears his throat.

<<This is bad…if something able to overpower and control the Dryads is behind this…i fear for the village. Tell me, oh Maiden of the Woods…how many of your sister did fall into this stranger’s hands?>>

A moment of silence follows Heod’s question, as the Dryad lifts her head with her eyes closed. Almost as if she’s listening to something.

<< Many fought, and some fell to never rise again…few fled, and lay weak outside of our ancient home. I and six others were prey to his madness. And yes, I feel them move towards the human’s nest>>

Heod strikes his fist to a nearby tree.

<<Dammit!>> he shouts.

What to do now…it seems that the news about the village being attacked left the group in disarray. Although they were mistreated by the inhabitants, it’s still their home. Of course they would feel like this.

<<Please…we need to do something>>

Levia’s voice carries sorrow, but her eyes show determination.

I shake my head.

<<I know that you lived there. I understand, it’s your home…but…think about it. What could we do? If someone capable enough to defeat, and even control the Dryads is our opponent…it will be our loss, no matter how hard we try>>.

My words are harsh, I know. But, it’s the truth. We barely managed to wound a single Dryad, and almost lost Levia here. Against six of them, and the mysterious person controlling them, we have no hope.

<<Still…I…we…cannot just sit idly here, dammit!>>

This time Retel gives voice to his desire to rush to the village.

Heod stays silent. He surely understands how it would be suicide to go there. Still, I can feel his unrest.

The same sensation I felt during the attack on the fort. To be unable to do anything.

<<I am against it. You understand this would be suicide right? >>

I catch myself shouting at them. I admire their resolution, but I don’t want them to lose their life.

<<Then go away. I will go there>>

Levia’s reply leaves me speechless.

Retel too is silent, but I can see it in his eyes. He will go, no matter what I say or do to stop him.

<<No…I will not let you throw away your life like this!>>

Why…why must they behave so stubbornly like this.

We bicker more, and more. I even pull out my weapon and point it towards Retel

<<I’ll hurt you if you don’t stop>> I shout to him, trying to sound as menacing as I can.

But my hand trembles.

<<Do it. No matter what, I will go there. It’s my home! Even if there are some people who treated me badly, mocked and bullied me…there are still people that I cherish! I do not want to be the one that walks away, knowing that they are in pain. And so, strike if you will. Hurt me. But I will go there, crawling and bleeding>>

Retel’s eyes burn with determination.

I let my weapon fall and hit his face with my fist.

Retel simply takes the hit, without even flinching.

A small stream of blood flows from his nose.

He turns his back on me, and leaves with Levia toward the woods.

Heod calls their name with a desperate voice.

But the two don’t turn their back, and disappear among the threes.

<<What are you doing here? Stop them, I beg you!>>

The old man grabs my collar, as he cries bitter tears.

His broken voice is painful to hear, but I cannot bring myself to chase them.

I just look away, like the coward I am.

I stay there clutching my fist in anger.

Enraged, I hit a nearby tree, again, and again, until my hand hurts.

Falling on my knees, I just stay there. Letting time slip by as my friends rush into the night towards a certain death.

Even Heod gives up on me, and he sits in desperation, cradling his head.

I feel a light touch on my shoulder. As I look behind me, the Dryad smiles at me.

<<Have you calmed down, little one? Anger will not help your friends>>

Her gentle voice feels more painful than harsh words.

<<I cannot help them either way>>.

She slaps me.

As I hold my cheek in surprise, she takes my hand into hers.

<<Leave doubt behind, little one. You hold a great power into you, I can feel it. Be confident about yourself, about them. The only way to see a miracle, is by making it happen by your own hands>>

Her words only make me feel more miserable. Am I really leaving them alone, facing certain death? I swore to myself to never behave like this again, letting others die as I hide cowardly. And yet here I am, acting selfishly in self preservation.

Taking a deep breath, I rise.

Clutching her hand, I mutter a simple sentence.

<<Look after the old man>>.

As the Dryad nods with a smile, I rush towards the trees.

Run. Only this thought occupies my mind, as I spend every energy in me to run, faster than I ever had.

How stupid of me, to just stay there.

We could have thought of something, perhaps build a plan.

Properly prepared and together, we would have stood a chance.

Instead, I let my fears hold me…I let my comrades go alone.

They are faster than me, so I will probably reach them after they enter the village, after they start fighting.

If we will survive this, I will be glad to spend my time apologizing to those two. I swear.

Please, if you are listening…Azatoth, God or whoever you are…let them be safe!

For the first time in my two lives, I prayed.

As I exit the woods, exhausted, a blazing fire is in front of me. Sounds of metal clashing rise from the destroyed village.

I rush inside, screaming my companion’s names.

Corpses of villagers are scattered in the road, crushed and maimed. Some of them are still tangles by roots that seem to pierce the deceased bodies.

I try to not puke while looking at this macabre show.

As I push on into the burning village, I come across a Dryad’s dead body.

In the distance, about fifty meters away from me, I can see a group of humans fight two Dryads.

I rush to their side, hoping that Retel and Levia are there.

The human are struggling against the Dryads, but thanks to that the monsters did not notice me as I approached them.

[Navi: Detected-Dryad lvl 6 (x2). Status-Full Mana Possession/ Unable to dispel. Advised elimination of target]

So, defeating them is the only option…

Using Black Fluid, I shot them down. Again and again. I bind them changing the shot’s shape as they connect, pinning them into the ground as I shot more and more.

The Dryads retaliate, and manage to hurt me with shallow wounds…perhaps these too are holding back, like the one in the forest?

Seeing the Dryads being attacked, the villagers rally and strike at them, defeating the Dryads together with me.

<<Thank you…>> a voice whispers into my mind.

<<Retel! Levia!>> I shout with all my breath.

Frantically, I ask each villager if they saw the two beast-kin.

<<They were fighting those things…around the main square>>one of the villagers point into the direction with his finger.

I can see something moving in the shadows.

[Navi: Found them ♪ Right ahead!]

Navi’s cheerful voice reassures me. It seems they are injured, but still alive.

I recover my Black Fluid and rush to their side, not even caring about my wounds.

The small square is covered in debris, and here and there the bodies of fallen villagers lie upon their blood.

In the center, Retel is fending a Dryad’s attack. His spear lies embedded in the Dryad’s shoulder, and he’s using his pole-arm to block the incoming blows. Levia is behind him, injured on her leg. She is straining herself using her skill to heal herself and Retel

I shot the Dryad, changing the Black Fluid to tentacle form as the first shot connects. The tentacles block the Dryad’s movements, and Retel uses this opportunity to decapitate the monster.

He looks at me.

I expected anger, his furious words thrown at me for letting them go like this, without supporting their decision.

<<I knew you would come>> he simply says with a smug smile.

Don’t make me cry here…

<<Sorry…I acted like a coward, before>> I say to them.

<<Oh, what a heart warming reunion>>

The sudden voice leaves us speechless. Sitting on the roof of a nearby house, a small child, no more than ten years old, is watching the scene.

His pure-white,curly unkempt hair covers his eyes, and a wry smile is painted on his face, warping his beautiful features into an arrogant expression befitting an adult more than a child.

Wearing a light blue tunic, he sits there, dangling his leg from the roof.

As I turn toward him, his figure disappears.

<<Hello, Apostle of The False God>>.

In a split second, he is now behind me. A sudden feeling of danger grasps my thoughts, and I jump away from him.

The boy laughs.

[Navi: Resisted-Full Mana Possession]

What? So, is this boy the one causing this mayhem?

As I focus on him, my eyes widen in surprise.

[Navi: Detected- Damien (Human) lvl 75]

It was not his level that surprised me, but the title shown beside his name.

Hero.

This is too soon…fighting an enemy like a Hero, right from the start?

Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain in my shoulder. An arrow, shot from behind, pierced my flesh.

As I turn to the shot’s direction…

<<Roshal>> Levia’s voice is broken, as she stands with her hands still gripping the bow. A crown of golden treads circles her head, and tears run from her eyes.

<<No>> I mutter as she notches another arrow.

<<What…what is happening to us? Please, make it stop, it hurts!>> Retel shouts as he struggles against his own body.

The same light is wrapped around his head.

[Navi: Retel lvl2- Levia lvl4- Status: Full Mana Possession]

Another arrow flies from Levia’s bow.

The boy…Damian laughs. He kicks me, sending me flying. Landing on my back, I shout in pain.

<<Pathetic…and to think that you would be a threats to us. Seriously, what is that demented False God of yours thinking? Has he gone senile, sending weak guys like you to do his bidding?>> the boy says while shaking his head patronizingly.

<<Hell, it’s not even fun to fight you! But, I still need to take you out here. So, since killing you with my hands sounds so boring, I will make a little play instead.>>

Pointing at my friends, he starts moving his fingers in the air. In response, Retel and Levia begin to dance, following the movement of his fingers.

They cry in pain with every movement they are forced to do.

<<I will use these two to kill you. They are your friends, right? It will be nice to watch them hurt you with their own hands…or will you fight back, and kill your friends?>>

His childish laugh resounds in the air.

<<Now, dance, little puppets>> he says with malice in his voice.

Retel rushes towards me, his pole-arm ready to strike. I barely manage to avoid the blow, only to be hurt by Levia’s arrow.

Retel jumps back at me, and I barely manage to parry his blow by pulling out a spear from my inventory.

He pushes me back, making me fall on my knees as he relentlessly trusts his weapon to hit me.

And with each strike, his voice…

<<Please, make it stop! Forgive me, Roshal>> again and again.

This is beyond sadism. This is pure madness…

Damian seems entertained by what he sees. Clapping his hands, he cheers for my companions as they try to kill me.

The battle goes on, as I desperately try to evade the attacks.

Still, it’s not like I am able to retaliate here…

Only using my weapon to defend myself, I am being cornered.

The wounds on my leg and shoulders are in constant pain, and I barely can move enough to avoid or repel Retel’s attack.

But, the most terrible thing is their plea…as they maintain their consciousness, unable to stop their hand as Damien’s spell forces them to hurt me.

<<Booriing! Come on! Don’t just evade! Use your powers! Kill them! They’re only beast-kin, you know? It’s not like they’re humans!>> the child Hero complains with a fed up tone.

<<Fuck you!>> I shout in anger.

I swear to kill him, no matter what it takes.

The boy laughs, mockingly.

Distracted by him, I receive a kick from Retel.

This is bad…I will die if I do not something about this situation.

I cannot use Black Fluid in a lethal way…but perhaps I could restrain the two of them?

Resolved, I activate the skill with Navi’s support.

Using the Navigator to assist me in shaping the Fluid, I form several ropes as I try to entangle Retel with them. He manages to cut free from the skill, initially, but I manage to keep him still in the end.

<<Oh, restraining them? Boring…Go for the kill, please?>>

Damned brat…

I shot Black Fluid at him, but the attack simply bounces off him.

He starts laughing, amused.

<<Come on! Throw me some more of those things! You will never manage to pierce my defense! No one can!>>

I attack him once more. This time, he does not even move to defend himself.

The child laughs again.

<<See? My God granted me an invincible skin…no attack can hurt me, not even leave a scratch>>

Ignoring him, I focus on keeping Retel tangled as I try to reach Levia.

I am at my limit here…

She is fast, however. I’ve been using Black Fluid to defend myself from her arrows while I dealt with Retel…luckily, the remodeled Navi can even assist me by automatically moving my skill to intercept incoming attacks.

This mode takes a huge toll on me, as I feel more and more tired every second.

I need to end this quickly.

Still, Levia evades every single attack I unleash at her.

Closing in on me, she abandons the bow and simply attacks with fists and kicks.

Good. Scattering Black fluid around, I avoid and parry her blows.

Each punch is so heavy, and she manages to hurt me with her nails.

As we fight, I jump away from her and activate the scattered Black Fluid.

The tentacles wrap around her slender figure, attacking from multiple directions all around her. She struggles, but in the end I manage to pin her to the ground.

<<I’m sorry >> I mutter, as I end up using too much strength to restrain her, breaking her arm in the process.

The Hero’s childish voice resounds in the air.

<<What a huge disappointment you are. Not even a drop of blood? Are you serious?>> the boy shouts to me.

I shot Black fluid at him, again and again. Every time he just swats the attack on the side, using a single hand.

I try to restrain him with the same technique I used on Retel and Levia, but he simply breaks the restraints, without even putting any effort in doing so.

Think…I need to think…every attack just bounces on his skin, and I cannot use something like magic since I do not possess any.

It’s like his body is impervious to injury…or is he?

If you cannot strike from outside…

A reckless, hopeless, and probably really stupid plan pops into my mind.

I attack him once again. This time, the shot I fire explodes into a black smoke right in front of Damian’s face.

He takes a deep sigh.

<<Even your attacks are pathetic >>.

As he says so, he points his finger at me.

A burning sensation explodes in my guts. From his finger, a golden laser-like light is fired, piercing my stomach and leaving me bleeding.

I cough out blood, as a second, and third attack pierce both my arms and my chest.

It’s almost as if he’s toying with me…no, he definitely is.

His mocking laughter…I will make him choke on it.

Damian comes closer and kicks my face.

From his blow, I tumble backwards, ending up sprawling with my back on the ground.

My vision is starting to fade…

Still, I need to do resist.

The Hero is now on me, pinning my chest down with his foot, pushing me to the ground as he grovels in delight.

<<Well, enough with the fun. It’s my win, Fake God’s apostle>>.

His triumphant expression fades…as he sees my smile.

<<What are you smiling for? Have you lost your mind, facing death?>> he mutters, perplexed.

<<It’s…your…loss…fucking brat!>> with my last breath, I spit out those words, and activate Black Fluid for the last time.

My skill’s original form was a black mist. Since the skill I hold now is an upgraded version of that original one, I should be able to revert it back to the mist form, right?

On that thought alone I based this stupid, reckless and hopeless strategy.

I tested it on him with my first shot. As he repelled it, I quickly transformed the Black Fluid projectile into thin mist, exerting myself to make it as scarce as I could.

Of course, this action required difficult calculations and extreme control and precision, and only thanks to the assist by the new Navi I could manage to do so.

Basically, I turned my Black Fluid into gas.

It worked, and the boy did not seem to notice the gas-form skill in the air around him.

Without noticing, he stood into the gas, and he breathed it.

That means…Black Fluid is now into his lungs.

And, as I activate it again…

The sound he makes is revolting, choking on his own blood.

I repeat the activation, again and again, as the Black Fluid inside his lungs reverts to liquid form and explodes into spear-shaped protrusions, piercing his body from within.

His face twists in pain…good.

It seems his skin really cannot be pierced…but his insides are just like those of any other human being. Soft, defenseless…vulnerable.

<<How…this, this is not possible>> the Hero mutters as his voice breaks into bubbling sounds.

The child collapses into the ground.

It is not the end, however.

Golden light swirls around him…and it explodes, bursting into a flame like aura, raging all around him.

He coughs, and spits out the Black Fluid from his body.

It seems all damage on him has been healed.

<<You low-life…how did you DARE hurt this body gifted to my by the GOD himself!>>

Enraged, the boy jumps high into the sky.

<<Now, perish!>>

His shout echoes all around, as he lifts his arm and gathers energy into his hand.

A golden sphere pulses in his grasp, for one moment before he launches it towards the ground.

With my last effort, I wrap my companions with my skill.

Maybe it will not be enough, but it is the only thing I can do to protect them.

After that, the world faded into light.

[Navi: Warning! Critical conditions! Warning!]

Just…shut up…let me fade away.

Voices are around me, they seem to call my name.

I hear a faint sound in the distance…is it a siren? An ambulance?

I slowly open my eyes again.

<<Sir? Are you ok? Sir?>>

The voices are distant, confused.

I try to speak, but nothing comes out of my mouth. I feel the hard texture of asphalt with my hands…the air smell like burnt rubber.

What is going on? A woman cries and sobs, she says she’s sorry, that I popped out in front of her at the last second.

I try to move my legs but they don’t budge. Panic rises and takes hold.

Move…move… I am stuck, locked into my own body.

I can feel myself being lifted by strong hands. Unknown persons strip my clothes, pierce my skin with needles…I feel the world bleeding out from me.

And my name is being called…but, what is my name? I don’t recall it. And that damn smell doesn’t leave my nose, it’s unpleasant.

A light shines before my eyes, and someone puts some kind of mask upon my mouth. I feel the air, pure, rushing into my lungs.

Breathing feels heavy, so heavy and painful.

<<Roshal>> mutters a female voice, but no woman is around me, only two men busy doing something, rubbing two things together and pushing them on my chest…it looks so silly.

The female voice again…who is this Roshal she is calling.

Just leave me be…I want to fade into the light.

Now I am alone, floating into a dark space. It…feels so wrong. A golden light shines in front of me, but I see something moving inside it, something so unpleasant that it makes me want to puke.

It speaks, he tells me an absurd promise, but I know he lies…I feel it in my chest.

I try to flee, but moving is hard into this space. And the thing is closing in, spewing lies and insults.

I extend my hand and hope that someone grabs it…

It is all a dream, memories mixed up by my own mind. This is not real, as I am dead and fading away. How silly of me to think such things, of other worlds and magic and Gods.

There is no such thing. I just need to fade away.

And I almost do so. Only a feeling keeps me here, and makes me turn towards the light. It is that voice, calling that name that only few moments ago I did not recognize. There are other voices with hers, calling me, begging me to wake up.

I did already experience something like this. The first time I died. Only, there were no voices to call me then, and I faded from the world, alone.

But here, the voices call me back. I am not faded away, yet.

I am still here.

I shout to them, again and again. They cannot hear me, it seems, but that does not stop me.

And so, I struggle…I run towards the voice, and as I do so, they grow stronger, they become REAL again.

I become real, as my memory becomes clearer with every step.

The illusion breaks, like shattered glass, and I am whole again.

One last trick from my old friend, it seems. But I will not let myself to be fooled so easily. This time, I open my eyes again, my real eyes.

As the world takes shapes again, a familiar face is in front of me.

Her expression is twisted, as tears run from her eyes into her beautiful cheeks.

She shouts, and someone else comes rushing. They shout my name, and cry, but their voice sounds happy.

They mutter my name, and then they shout it.

Levia hugs me with all her might, while Retel stands besides her, holding my hand as he tries to do a tough face, failing miserably.

Hell, I only met them few days ago, and yet they show more affection to me than the people from my previous life that I knew for years.

I try to move, but my body refuses so.

[Navi: Critical Damage, impossible to move- Permanent Damaged absent- Healing Magic applied-estimated recovery time: 1 week]

Even Navi’s voice is soothing to me.

It seems that, in the end, we managed to survive this predicament.

We are still in the ruined village.

The Hero, Damian, disappeared right after his attack. He probably thought to have killed us for sure.

Well, we will probably have to fight him again.

After the explosion, we were blown away. I managed to protect Retel and Levia with my skill, absorbing a bit of damage and thus saving their life.

When the explosion subsided, they searched for me into the debris.

It was thanks to the Dryads that I am still alive. After my attack on Damian, the shock of him being hurt broke his spell, releasing the Dryads and my companions from his control.

As the Hero fled, they rushed to our side, saving my life with their healing magic.

Still, why the hell did the Hero appear here…it’s like trouble follows every step I take in this world.

And his attack…what was his purpose here?

Too many things are still unknown to me. The only thing I know is that, as I am now, I am pitifully weak compared to them.

Even with the wounds that I inflicted him, he did not die and healed almost immediately.

Overwhelming power…so that’s the existence called “Hero”.

To beat them, to survive, I only have one thing to do. Become stronger than them.

This time, I used an underhanded tactic, but the next time a cheap trick like that will not be enough.

I need to become stronger, and fast.

With those thoughts in mind, I fell asleep once again.

The next week went by, with me being unable to even lift a finger. Still, I have been nursed by Levia and old Heod….the poor girl even cooked for me.

According to Heod, he rushed here as soon as he heard the explosion in the village. When he found me, collapsed on the ground, he thought the worst had happened.

He stood there as the Dryads used their magic, walking restless like a parent outside of his child’s hospital room.

During my recovery, he mixed his potions with my food.

<<With this, you will get up again in no time>> he said with his usual smile. But I could see the concern behind those words.

He too realized that me, Levia and Heod are safe by pure and sheer luck.

He even told me, in a moment where we were alone in the room. It’s sad to see a man his age cry in frustration, but I understand what he felt, seeing us in this sorry state.

<<Never do something like that again>> I heard him scold Retel and Levia.

Still, it could end much, much worse than this.

We could have been dead, the three of us. Instead, we ended up with only some scars to remind us of what happened.

As my injuries are now healed, I share my resolution with the group.

I tell them everything…besides the Demon Lord thing…that feels a little embarrassing.

Still, they made their will to follow me pretty clear. Even after knowing how strong will the enemy be. Not only monsters, but also Heroes will be on my, on our path. Even knowing so, they decided to come with me, to get stronger with me.

Still, as the day dawns, we leave the village behind, heading out into the road again.

Chapter 3: Run, boy.

“Demon Lord”. An absurd existance, subversion of natural laws and evil incarnate. If this was a game, it would be the last boss.

Instead, it is right in front of me, right at the beginning of my life in this new world.

<<De…de…Demon…Lord>>.

My broken voice is weak and stuttering.

<<What nonsense are you uttering boy?>>

Says Aalverg with an inquisitive tone.

The Minister however seems surprised. His expression changes rapidly, and an unpleasant sile is now painted on his face.

He laugh, a chilling sound.

<<Well, well, well…seems that someone here has a good pair of eyes>>. His shrill voice drips malice.

Friedrick looks at me with terror in his eyes.

<<Ah, my Hero. You should see your own face now…truly exhylarating!>>

The Minister mocks Friedrick while laughing.

<<Impossible. Stop this act, Minister>> says Friedrick in a menacing voice. His hand grips the sword hanging from his belt.

<<Now, now…please, your Majesty. Order your dog to stand down>>.

As the Minister says so, the King points his finger towards Friedrick and shouts his order.

<<Stand down>>.

The Hero falls on his knee, forced to lower his head.

<<Kuh…I cannot move>> he says.

<<What his the meaning of this?>> shouts Aalverg.

In response, the King plunges a sword in his belly.

The sound coming from the old man is revolting, and the smell of blood makes my stomach clench.

<<Aalverg!>> shouts the Hero, still immobilized on the floor.

The priest falls, a red stain on his white dress.

<<Aah, less crowd in this room>>.

Laughter follows his remark, while the Minister…no, the Demon Lord comes closer to Friedrick and me.

<<A simple spellbind, my dear Hero. I cannot bind you, so…I bound your king to my will. And, as you know, his orders are a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e to you>>.

Laughter, again.

<<Curse you>> retorts Friedrick with fury burning in his eyes.

<<Oh, I have plenty of those. From Gods and Man. Still, mere words cannot change your predicament>>.

He violently kicks the Hero. Sounds of broken bone, and Friedrick coughs blood.

<<Now…what about you, my little mystery.>>

Demon Lord comes closer . I cannot move, paralyzed by fear.

His hands touch my face, a cold, unpleasant feeling. He forces me to look him in his eyes. And his eyes change. Pitch black wells of darkness.

<<Yes…Indeed. You have a nice pair of eyes>> he mutters. His voice is now deep, chilling.

I scream with all my might. Defenseless, powerless, terrorized.

<<Scream all you want. This-he says, raising his arms to the ceiling as to show the room- is the Small Council room. Completely and utterly soundproof, for important and secret state meeting. And what a cheerful meeting we have!>>

His laughter, again. I feel like it will forever haunt my dreams. Although, deep inside, I know that there will be no more dreams for me.

<<Ah…look at you. Like a lost baby in a world that you do not understand. Perhaps you thought about living a carefree life here, like in those stories where the Hero kills the bad guys, and everyone lives happily ever after?>>.

He emphasizes the last words. A cruel expression on his face.

<<Instead…you find yourself standing in a nightmare. Amusing right?>>

His smile disgusts me. I look away, trying to see if Friedrick can somehow act. He is still on his knees, struggling to get up. His face is flustered by anger, as he looks unable to act.

<<Oh, your friend cannot do anything. You see…the Hero cannot disobey royal orders. He is the king’s pawn, an obedient puppy. As for the King…well, he no longer has freedom of thought>>.

The King’s gaze is empty, staring at the void. The demon is controlling him, no doubt about that.

<<How…how is this possible…to think that you, cursed being…>> Friedrick’s voice sounds pitiful.

<<Well…it was simple-the Demon Lord interrupts him, with leisure- I am simply too strong. The city barrier, your blessing, they mean nothing against my spells. Of course, it would be a completely different story if your level was three or four times higher>> he tells while shrugging his shoulders.

<<For us to be deceived like this…>> bitter tears flow on Friedrick’s cheeks, an his voice is now dull.

<<Oh well…it would have ended the same way nonetheless. A pitiful, weak hero, not capable of seeing through my tricks. Oh, the times that I just wanted to stab you, or kill your friends right when you wold not expect it…but I endured, waiting until the King was completely under my spell. I was about to act, anyway…but your new friend, here, gave me some…inspiration>>

He claps his hands, smiling gleefully.

<<Why kill you all myself, when I can just play with you, you know? So, I have a new, wonderful idea…I will make our summoned friend kill the King in front of the whole parliament, while my demons wreak havoc during the commotion. Of course, I myself will kill all the Hero’s companions, cannot leave them be. And, as a silver lining, with his last breath…the King will order the Hero to hunt down his assassin. Isn’t that delightful?>>

<<You…bastard!>> Friedrick shouts over the Demon’s shrill laughter.

<<How rude…you hurt my feeling like this. Now…let’s get this party started!>> the Demon claps his hands.

He starts chanting words of unknown meaning.

Shadow gathers around him, swirling darkness in a frightening dance.

He casts his hand towards me, uttering a final command word. Streams of shadow now engulf me, all I can see is pitch black emptiness.

A sound rings in my head, followed by a monotonous voice:

[Magic Effect-Dark Empowerment: 1000% Attack, Strength , Dex buff, Gained Piercing Attack, Dark attribute]

[Dark Empowerment Successfully Absorbed! New Magic on Level UP!!]

[Skill Effect- Demon Lord’s Gaze: Null Self, Exp Drain, under *Demon Lord’s Control until released*]

[Failed to Resist Demon Lord’s Gaze: Requirement not Met]

[Failed to Absorb Demon Lord’s Gaze: Requirement not Met]

<<Now, my friend…kill the King>>.

I move towards the Demon lord, which is now handing me a small, black dagger. I feel like moving under water, slowly…I try to resist, but it is futile. I grip the dagger. My hands tremble, as I move towards the king. Closer. I feel my hand pushing the dagger in his stomach. The blade slips in his flesh, without making a sound. A small stream of blood flows from the King’s mouth. I pull off the dagger with bloodstained hands.

Friedrick screams.

<<Marvelous!-says the Demon Lord in a loud voice- now, my King…give the order>>

<<By…my last breath, by the Power of Gods, Hero Friedrick, hear my command! Hunt down this assassin, relentlessly! Holy Order!>>.

The King’s voice is weak, ranting. He manages to finish his sentence before collapsing on the ground. The same monotonous voice from before whispers to me:

[Defeated King Ulver Tertius!!! Acquire Exp Points: Failed due to Spell Effect ]

[Title: King Slayer Awarded!!]

<<Now, boy…RUN!>> screams the Demon Lord.

Still under his control, I flee from the room, barging the door open and leaving bloody footprints behind me.

The voice inside my head notifies me that Demon Lord’ Gaze is no longer active on me. A loud voice booms behind me. It is him, shouting at the top of his lungs!

<<Murder! The king is dead! Stop the assassin!>> he shouts, his face twisted in sorrow. What a great actor he is!

<<What is the meaning of this?>> asks Vera, coming out from a small room in the corridor. Her expression twists as she looks at me.

<<It…cannot be…>> she mutters.

I look at my bloody hands. This is not going to end well for me. Panicked, I run. I am fast, too fast. The enhancement from Demon Lord’s spell is still active. Unable to effectively used my power-up condition I end up against a wall, breaking it.

I find myself in a large hall, full of people. The remaining party members of the Hero are all inside the room.

<<Stop Him! He assassinated the King!>> the Minister…no the Demon Lord’s voice still reaches me, while dumbfounded people are gazing towards me. Sahj and Cirtus leap on guard.

<<Ohi…what the hell is going on?>> screams Sahj while gripping a short blade.

A loud bang sounds in the air. I turn towards the noise. Friedrick is slowly walking towards me, hi sword in hand. He is enveloped by a raging golden aura. In an instant he is right in front of me, swinging his swords towards my neck.

Everything in me screams “Danger”. I fall back, clumsily avoiding the sudden slash of his blade. Still, the sword grazes my chest, leaving a shallow, although painful, wound.

<<Friedrick!>> Princess Caere’s voice echoes in the air. The Hero does not falter, he readies himself for another strike. He screams at the top of his lungs.

<<Murderer! I will avenge the King!>>his voice roars, and panic begins to spread. His followers look at us, still taken back by the sudden turn of events.

I try to reason with him, with them…but my voices does not reach them.

Friedrick’s status now displays Berserk effect. This is bad, really bad.

Meanwhile, the Minister enters the room. Guards are following him, and he is limping, pointing his hand towards me.

<<Kill him!>> he screams. His forehead is bleeding, and he looks like a victim of a violent assault. Again, what a great actor he is!

<<Please, this is a misunderstanding!>> I plea…although I realize that I must not be much convincing, being smeared in blood and holding a murder weapon.

Loud tremors shake the floor, while shadows gather on the sides of the room.

<<What is going on?>> panicked shouts from confused voices.

The masses of shadow crack with a sharp noise, and something emerges from them.

Demons. Six of them.

[High Demon lvl 100] says their Status. One of them covers the exit, while the others start wreaking havoc in the room

<<Demons?Here? Impossible!>> shouts Sahj, launching himself towards one of them.

The Hero’s companions engage in battle against them.

<< High Demons-shouts the Minister, terror on his face- he summoned them…>> he points at me.

I am trembling, as the Hero readies his sword again. No escape routes, while around me carnage spreads. People die, left and right.

The Hero attacks, and I manage to barely evade his attacks. However, I am not unscathed, as the Holy Sword in his hands graves my flesh.

Blood loss starts to affect me, while the ominous, impending feeling of death creeps on my thoughts. I don’t have the strength to fight back, or guard Friedrick ‘s attacks. Certus’s scream catches my attention, as a High Demon rips off his left arm.

He falls, gasping in his own blood. Vera rushes to him, falling prey to another Demon’s claws. Sahj desperately tries to guard Juni and the Princess.He is covered in blood, staggering under the demon’s relentless assault.

The guards flow into the room, some of them rushing to me with bloodshot eyes and sword in hand, while others throw themselves against the Demons.

Sahj falls, fainting due to his numerous wounds. Juni launches the Princess away, shielding her with her remaining power. The Princess is flung away, and she shouts the Hero’s name with a teary voice.

I fall to my knees, holding with my hand the gaping wound in my stomach.

Friedrick comes closer for the kill. I feel like letting all go, this short and cursed venture in a mad world. But something clicks inside of me.

I don’t want to die again, to feel that pain. With all my strength I stand up, staggering and with a blurred vision. Clenching my fist, I run away, avoiding the Hero’s slash.

I run with all my might, stepping on corpses to reach the exit guarded by the towering devil.

I jump, avoiding him, plunging to the wall that breaks after the impact. Empty air is below me, as I fall towards the ground and crash inside a small balcony. My arm broke during the impact, still I crawl towards the balcony’s end.

A grand waterfall is below, my only possibility.

I still have the enhanced status effect from before, so maybe, maybe…I can jump into the flowing water  and escape, somehow.

Behind me is certain death, anyway.

I feel like fainting, however I steel my will, and get up. Slowly, slowly I approach the railings, gazing into the crashing waters below.

<<Stop right there!>> a woman’s voice beckons me. Princess Caere jumps at me from behind, plunging a small dagger in my back.

She kicks me, making me fall away from the handrail. Her  dagger points  at me, streams of tears flow on her angry face, as she stands between me and the handrail.

<<Why! You…murderer!My father, my friends…>> her broken voice is a pain to hear.

I get up, clawing the ground and coughing up blood. I extend my hand towards her. Perhaps…I can explain to her, the absurdity of this situation…even save her, take her away from this mad carnage.

A presence is now behind us. I turn my head to find Friedrick running at high speed towards me, his blade raised.

I was so close. Panic holds my mind, my thought are blurred, and only one concept pulses in my mind.

Survive. No matter the cost. I look at Caere, who is now distracted by the Hero’s arrival. I jump towards her, and grip her, pointing the dagger to her throat. Maybe this will make him hesitate.

One moment, I just need one moment to flee from this predicament.

<<Stop,or I’ll kill her>> I shout, holding the princess hostage.

It works. Friedrick stops his movement and lowers the blade. His face is a mask of conflicted emotions, deformed by anger and stained by tears.

His mouth is foaming.

<<S..sorry…I…I…CanNoT DiSoObEYY!!>> He screams in a broken voice. He lifts his sword and jump towards us, thrusting with all his might.

The Holy sword pierces Caere and me. The princess cries, while the Hero stands before us, still gripping the sword.

The blue light fades from him, as the last order from the King is now accomplished. He does not mutter a sound.

I can almost see his mind break, and I feel the unpleasant gaze of the Demon Lord on us. He is watching, smiling gleefully from the hole that I made in the wall to escape. Friedrick turns around towards him, fury burning in his soul. But he freezes himself.

A High Demon is behind the Minister, holding Juni in his large hands. The Minister snaps his fingers, and the Demon starts squeezing.

Juni’s scream is bone-chilling.

<<Juni!!>> wails Friedrick.

She smiles. Waving at him, with her last breath she mutters a spell. A huge fire explosion destroys the Castle’s upper floor.

<<Clever girl>> says a thunderous voice from the flame.

A dark silhouette emerges, clad in a mantle of shadows.

The Demon Lord’s true form, unscathed.

He points his finger towards us.

<<Now, die>> he mutters.

A dark flash follows, and then nothingness.

Chapter 2: Evaluation

I follow Aalverg and Friedrick.

We walk in a long, narrow corridor, furnished with rich tapestry and statues that resemble marble.

Sunlight shines from large windows embedded in the left wall.

Outside, I can see a big garden surrounded by sturdy ramparts.

<<So…is this a castle?>> I ask.

<<Indeed-answers Aalverg- this is the Royal Castle of Wevry Kingdom>>

A real castle,huh…now that I think about it, they did mention a king.

I continue to ask them several questions while walking behind them, taking glances at the marvelous works of art exposed in the corridor.

I learn that the castle is located in Oceir City, the capital town of Wevry Kingdom.

Built on the side of a small mountain ridge, Wevry Mountains, it is a typical medieval town, encompassed by rampart walls.

I take a mental note to tour around the small city.

<<Well, boy. Step inside. We prepared fresh clothes and a bath, make yourself presentable>>.

Aalverg stops before a small wooden door and beckons me to enter. As I look to my clothes, I realize they are in tatters.

The two men part from me, instructing to wait inside the room until they send someone to fetch me. I bid them farewell with a smile, and I enter the room.

It is a small, windowless room warmed by a small fireplace, while wall mounted torches illuminate the surrounding.

Inside, a wooden tub filled with steaming water lies on the crude stone that composes the floor. A small chair is set near the tub, and clothes are laid upon the chair.

Mounted to the wall, I find a small bronze mirror .

The reflection is very different from my world’s mirrors, it seems more opaque and less detailed.

However, it serves its purpose. I remain dumbfounded when I look at my reflection.

My clothes are in tatters, full of dust and dark stains of dried blood.

They still have wheel-marks from the lethal accident that led to my death.

The most shocking part is my appearance. I recognize my face, black hair and brown eyes that stare back at me. But…somehow I look younger.

My teenager face is looking back at me with a surprised expression. My cherished beard is gone. Well, it looks like I become young again. Somehow.

I undress myself and enter the lukewarm water inside the tub.

There is a small piece of rough soap, so it seems that this world has at least some kind of hygiene notions. Although this is a Royal castle, so I probably shouldn’t expect that commoners have this kind of luxury.

After bathing, I put on the new clothes. A plain looking pair of pants and a blue, long sleeved shirt. Of course, they look straight from medieval ages.

Someone knocks on the wooden door.

<<I’m coming>> I answer, approaching the door.

A brown haired woman opens the door, bowing her head slightly to greet me. A maid servant, it seems.

She’s 40 years old, according to the info displayed. Selbina is her name, and she is the chief made of this castle’s hall. It looks like there are also “normal jobs” beside RPG looking ones like “Hero”.

Selbina tells me to follow her, and I comply. Two armed guards are stationed outside the door. They are  cautions about me.

We proceed in silence, the two armed men still escorting us. Their level is high, 32 and 35, their job Crown Soldiers. Well, straight back to fantasy things.

Together, we walk along a wide corridor, adorned with splendid armors and weapons resting on wooden stands. Some of them show reflection of strange colors.

<<What are those?>> I ask.

<<Those are national treasures, weapons of heroes past>> answers Selbina in a polite, albeit cold tone. The two man remain silent. Still, I follow them, fascinated by the peerless manufacture of these instrument of war.

At the end of the corridor, we proceed to an open circular room basked in daylight. The stone wall here is crude, void of decorations. Friedrick is waiting there, with two women and a huge, muscular man with…tiger ears?

His race is Tiger-folk, a human sub-species. The Tiger-folk look at me, his arms crossed on his chest and a smug expression on his lips.

<<Tch. So this is the “unknown”, huh?>> he says while raising his eyebrow. Now that I am closer, I can see that his eyes are really tiger-like, with a narrow, slit pupil and an intense yellow color.

His name is Sahj, level 56 and “Guardian” job. Several skills and abilities are listed, while the most notable title is “Hero’s Follower”.

The two girls also have the same title, although their level is lower. One of them is called Vera, a lvl 49 healer, and Juni, a lvl 44 Fire Magician.

They are normal human, and…they are gorgeous.

Vera’s blond hair sways as she smiles at me, her slender figure concealed by priest-like fluttering robes.

The Fire Magician has a voluptuous body, with generous patches of skin showing from her dark, long dress. Her curly black hair reaches her shoulders, and her beautiful blue eyes made my heart flutter when our eyes met.

I smile to them, forcing myself to maintain eye contact instead of looking at the magician’ s huge chest.

I fail, miserably.

Perhaps she notices , as her smile becomes somewhat…naughty.

The Hero claps his hands and formally introduces them to me, explaining my situation the best he can.

<<Hmpf, he looks wimpy>> says Sahj, leaving the room.

<<Oh, don’t mind him…he’s a really good guy when you get to know him better>> says Vera while gesturing with her hand.

<<Oh don’t’ worry>>I reply while laughing.

<<Well…we are still missing a person>> says Fredrick.

<<Oh, that child is always late>> says Juni.

Loud steps are resounding in the corridor ahead, and two small figures are running towards us. One of them trips, and lands on her face right in front of Friedrick.

<<Are you ok, Princess?>> says Friedrick while lifting the girl from the floor. Somehow I have the impression of roses blooming behind them…

The Princess’ s face is flustered for a moment, but she quickly recovers her composure. Meanwhile the other person running after her reaches us. He is a teenager…oh wait, I guess we have the same age in this world…

His status identifies him as a Hero’s Follower, named Cirtus…and he’s a Prince of this kingdom.

I stand still for a moment, then I bow with a clumsy gesture. Well, I don’t exactly know medieval court etiquette.

<<Prince and Princess of the Wevry Kingdom, I…salute you>> I say with a stuttering voice…it seems my shyness came back with my teenager body. What a shame.

<<Although I cannot formally introduce myself, as I don’t know my name>>.

They seem perplexed, especially the young prince.

<<Ohi, you can see it?>> he asks, while being wary.

<<Yes…>> I realize that his title should be a concealed one…way to go, diplomatic incident awaits me.

<<Oh, so it is true>>.

Princess’s voice sounds like an angel. I lift my head and look at her. She is the true embodiment of pure beauty. Her name is Caere, and she is…the Hero’s Beloved? Well, good one Friedrick! Or so I think, with a slight feeling of envy.

The Hero takes a step forward…maybe he realized that I am staring too much at the princess…I hope this situation does not devolve in a stupid setting like a honor fight against the Hero.

I am relieved when he proceeds to inform his companion about my situation, For a moment, I saw myself cleaved by the sword he carries.

<<So, my Hero, you want me to use my Blessing on him, right?>> asks Caere.

<<Yes, even my Holy Sight could not discern anything about him. Maybe your help can give us some more information, before we bring him to the King>>.

<<Friedrick…you know that my Blessing can be…dangerous on people>> says Caere. She turns towards me.

<<Are you ok with that?>> she asks with a worried look in her eyes…ahh…Princess…I feel myself falling for you.

I nod with a smile.

<<Well…I will start now>> she says. Her clumsy appearance before is now completely gone.

She starts chanting, her eyes closed and her hands in a praying gesture. White light wisps are flowing from her figure and dancing around her head.

A light halo is forming around her face, and now she looks like a proper angel.

She opens her eyes, now completely white and brimming with light.

<<Goddess’s sight>> she mutters.

I feel a burning sensation, and my head hurts. A lot. Blood starts running from my nose.

Still the Hero beckons me to endure.

Caere ‘s voice now resounds in the air, brimming with force.

<<Reveal what is hidden!>> she commands.

I feel something breaking, and I am flung on the other side of the room. The princess collapses, while Friedrick rushes to her side to aid her.

<<Princess!>>

The shout from Hero’s followers echoes in the castle.

<<I am fine…I am fine…please, check him>> she mutters to her companions.

I slowly rise to my feet, still hurting all over myself. What happened?

<<Incredible…stronger that Goddess’s sight…>> the Hero whispers to himself.

<<I…I’ve never seen something like this-says the Princess- I managed to see, his level,stats and abilities…but when I tried to reveal his name, something…broke>>.

Her cute face looks flustered.

So…still nameless,huh?

Although, I feel that something is different now. I look at my hands, and it is there. Before I could not see my own status, no matter how hard I tried. However, now it appears before me…and it is…

Lame.

Race: Human

Age:17 (34)

Job :—

Title:—

Lv: 1

Stats:

HP- 1

MP -1

STR-1

DEX- 1

INT -1

FAITH-1

Resistance :

Mind 100%

SKILLS

**: Unknown effect

lvl 0/??

Blessing:

**: Conceal All/ Reveal All/Unknown/Unknown

lvl 0/??

NAME: Reshak (concealed)

<<Hey! Are you ok? You have been looking at your hands for two minutes straight…>> asks Cirtus while patting my shoulder.

<<Huh? Ah, yes, sorry…I was…distracted>> I reply with a shaky voice.

<<Is there something wrong?>>

<<No…Yes…I don’t know really. It’s just…before I was unable to see my status, and now I can>>.

Everyone seems puzzled by my remark.

<<Only…Heroes can see their status outside of Level-up>> mutters Juni.

<<But…he does not possess “Hero” title. Otherwise I would have known>> replies Friedrick.

<<How can you be sure-retorts the Princess, her voice stuttering- even…even my Blessing could not see>>.

<<That’s exactly the point, Caere. Heroes cannot conceal their title. It is meant as a beacon of hope, or so the God who sent me here said>>.

The Princess seems a bit reassured by Friedrick’s reply.

<<That aside…your status concealment should be some kind of rare, powerful Blessing. Maybe Caere’ s power had some kind of effect on you, letting you have some degree of control over the Blessing>> he asks while coming towards me.

<<That…that might be the case>>.

He put his hand on my shoulder, as to encourage me.

<<So…did you see your name?>> he asks.

<<Yes…my name is listed as Reshak. Although…I still can’t remember my name before all this. My real name>>. I shake my head while saying so.

Their reaction is different from what I had expected. The Hero’s grip on my shoulder strengthens, and I see a glint of fear in his eyes. The others are looking at me with gaping mouths.

<<Can you repeat?>> asks the Hero with a worried look on his face.

<<I don’t remember my real name>> I reply.

<<No, not that-he interrupts-your name. Your new name. Say it again…please>>.

<<Reshak>>.

A sour expression now tints Friedrick’s face. Everyone averts his gaze, while Princess Caera whispers something with a worried look towards me.

<<Listen…listen very well-says the Hero while pointing his finger towards me- If you want to live, never, ever mention that name again. Especially with officers or nobles.>>

<<What? Why? >>I retort…don’t tell me that it is some sort of prophecy thing.

Princess Caera takes a deep breath.

<<It is said in a sacred prophecy…Reshak from a broken circle will end this kingdom. Of course, this is the short summary-version…but you get the sense>>.

Well…apparently this is some kind of prophecy crap. I laugh inside my head at this absurd development. So…I die, get transported in another world, a f’in fantasy-RPG magic land, where my name pops up in the foretold downfall of the kingdom.

Please, spare me this crap!

<<So…you understand. Keep your name a secret, use an alias, please. People should not be able to see your real name, but keep in mind that someone might have skills or Blessing able to discern truth and lies, so they might know that your name is fake>> says the Prince in a low voice.

<<I…understand>>.

I take a deep breath to calm me down. Still…a prophecy. It seems so dumb. I will need to think about a new name, for public use.

<<Well…you will also need papers, as you formally don’t exist in this world. This is troublesome>>

Vera’s voice is kind, like she’s speaking to a troubled child. Her words make me think a bit more about my situation.

I don’t exist in this world. No identity, so to speak. No family, friends, place to live. I cannot expect to stay in this royal palace, of course.

And I do not possess money, or anything, for the matter. I did not fully think about this, not until now, still in awe about the sudden turn of events…I went from dead to dead broke in a new world. Lucky me.

<<Now now…we will think about this later. The most pressing matter is meeting His Highness>>

Cirtus claps his hands, claiming the group’s attention.

<<His Highness?>> I ask, timid.

<<Yes, the King himself. By now High Priest Aalverg must have reported the matter about your unexpected summon here. He will surely demand to see you, soon. So, beware to not slip your real name to him. Ever. Your life depends upon this>> replied Cirtus with a serious expression.

<<It should be fine if only the King is there…if the Minister is also present, it will be troublesome.>> continued Vera.

I look at her with a puzzled expression.

<<You see…that man has a really, really nasty Blessing. It hurts people who lie to him>> she said.

Great. The person that I would like to see the most in this kind of setting.

<<So…I need to tell a lie, but I cannot lie.>> I say while I shake my head between my hands. I want to scream from frustration.

As we speak about what to do, a small boy with elegant clothes comes running towards us. He clears his throat to gain our attention, and he speaks in a loud voice:

<<By Order of His Majesty Ulver Tertius, the Hero and his new attendant will be summoned to His Majesty’s presence, and must abide immediately>>.

The small page bows towards the Hero. I suppose that the “new attendant” must be me. A strange way to define me, although it sounds better than “that guy mysteriously summoned here”.

I steel my breath and proceed to follow the royal page along Friedrick. Tension still lingers in my mind, and I sincerely hope to avoid encountering this Minister they spoke about.

Meanwhile the Hero gives me a small lecture about etiquette and manners in a meeting with the king. From his words, it seems that this King Ulver is a strong, arrogant ruler, tied to tradition and appearance.

He strongly despise commoners, although his rule is decent. He does not oppress the population.

<<Not too much, anyway>> says Friedrick with a bitter smile.

<<The most important thing about him is that he is deeply religious. He has blind faith on the Church’s doctrine, and unfortunately for you, my friend, the prophecy IS part of the Church’s doctrine. So…he will probably execute you on the spot if he knows your name>>.

Friedrick’s tone became hushed and serious.

<<Of course, he already knows that you’ve been summoned here and that the Circle has been broken…so if that name pops up in this scenario…he will act.>>

Friedrick’s words gave me chills. I might really lose my head. Two deaths in this short amount of time might be a bit too much for my taste.

<<I will keep that in mind>>.

We enter a small room, where High Priest Aalverg stands beside a bearded man seated in a crude wooden throne.

The man gives off a strong aura, his gaze is piercing me, making me tremble. He is the King of this country, Ulver Tertius.

A bunch of other titles and information pops up on my view. One catches my attention: “The Merciless”. I gulp my saliva.

Aalverg whispers something in his ears, and the King nods with a heavy expression on his face. He stands up, and orders the page to leave.

The doors are closed behind us, and I bow to the King’s presence. Friedrick bows beside me.

<<Do not get up until he says so>> he whispers to me.

I can hear Uver’s heavy footsteps while he comes closer to us. Slow, heavy footsteps that echo in the small room. Now he stands right in front of me. My breathing is heavy.

<<So, you are the “summoned mystery”>> he says, in a harsh, deep voice.

<<Stand up, the King commands so>>.

Slowly, I raise myself.

<<State your name, boy>> he beckons.

<<Yes, your Majesty. My name is…>>

My words choke inside my throat, and a deep, sharp pain creeps inside my mind. I fall to the floor, writhing in agony.

<<Now, now…trying to lie to the King, are we?>> a sinister voice, followed by a high pitched laughter comes from the shadows.

<<Damn…the Minister’s here>> Friedrick mutters while clenching his fist.

A man clad in a red robe comes forward from the shadows behind the throne.

He is pale, with long, almost white hair reaching to his back. In his slender hands he holds a metal wand, taller than himself.

I am at loss for words. Trembling, I look again at his figure, while panic seizes me. Before I thought that being found out was the worst case scenario, but what I see now is far beyond the worst expectations.

Again, I look the information shown by my Blessing, about the man that stands beside the king.

His level is unbelievably high. A huge list of skills and abilities with sinister sounding names. And his title, marked as concealed, however clear and in plain view for me.

“Demon Lord”.

Chapter 1: A Strange turn of Events

I woke up with an unfamiliar sensation in my face.

As I open my eyes, I find myself lying on a stone floor.

I raise myself, jolting from the pain that runs all over my body.

Unfamiliar voices are around me. Still drowsy, I take a look towards the voice.

Angry faces gaze at me, pointing their swords and shouting in unknown language.

What? Swords? I fumble my hands in front of my face, raising them and pointing the palm towards the armed men.

Even if they speak another language, this should be a universal gesture…

<<I give up, don’t hurt me please>> .

I say so while smiling with all my might.

Still, shining swords are pointed toward my face.

One man smiles, and lowers his blade.

He says something to his comrades, or subordinates, and they lower their weapons. He comes towards me, smiling.

His figure looks like a medieval knight, like a picture of “a knight in shining armor”. Blonde hair, strong blue eyes.

He kneels beside me, smiling.

<<Don’t worry, they won’t hurt you>> he says in a German accent.

<<Can you stand up?>> he asks, with a look of sympathy in his eyes.

<<Y…Yes. Thank you for your concern>> I reply. I stand up, resisting the lingering pain on my limbs.

My clothes feel baggy somehow.

Now that I think about it, it seems that my hands are smaller than they used to be…I brush aside that thought. It must be a sensation due to fatigue.

<<Good. It seems you’re fine. It took me two days to recover from the pain!>> the Blonde Knight says with a wide smile. He seems delighted by my condition.

A violent pain pulses in my head. I sway, and manage to stand still by gripping to the Knight’s arm. My vision feels blurry for a few seconds, and then something flashes in my mind.

Everything that i look shows hallucination, like text boxes from old school RPG games.

Inside those boxes I can see the name of what I’m looking at, and some information about the object.

It looks like some kind of Augmented reality, but the information is too much, it’s overflowing. I try to close my eyes.

<<Huh, easy, easy boy…don’t force yourself. Try to shut down the information, it should work>>.

I follow Blonde Knight ‘s advice…not. How the heck am I supposed to do so? I shout to myself.

Like it would be so easy to do so! What is this, a joke? You are asking the impossible, man! How will thinking of shutting down the information ease this pain huh?

Oh…apparently…it worked. Just-like-that. If this was a japanese cartoon I would drop down sideway on the floor.

I look around. Surely the expression on my face must be very stupid right now.

Some of the soldiers are still wary towards me, but most of them are amused by the situation.

My vision is now better, and the information from the A/R thing is now manageable.

It seems to show different kind of information when I stare at someone. Name, Age, Race, Job, Titles, Abilities Statistics, Level…what is this, some kind of RPG?

<<Wow>>

<<Pretty amusing, right? Although it’s a bit shocking the first time>>

I reply with a laugh to the amused Blonde Knight.

The A/R about him shows some hilarious things…this must be a joke, right?

—-

Name:Friedrick

Age: 22

Race: Human

Job: Hero (Summoned)

Title: Summoned One, Hero, Sword of The Crown, Slave of the Order

Abilities: ***

Statistics:***

Level: 50

I laugh to myself. Still, I must not be rude, even if this thing shows some silly information.

<<Yes, pretty shocking indeed. Thank you for your guidance, Friedrick.>> I reply to him with a smile.

<<Oh?>>

The look on his face changes.

<<You can see my name? My real name… quite a feat, my mysterious friend>>

<<Shouldn’t I?>>

<<Well…no. I mean, it’s fine with common people, they don’t have the same protections like me…but it should be impossible for anyone, beside His Majesty, to see my Summary Stats>>

Friedrick seems dumbfounded by this remark.

Meanwhile the other men around are speaking to the Hero in their strange language.

He replies to them, while pointing at me. The soldiers and the women leave the room, while only Friedrick and an old man with fluttering robes remain. The old man advances towards me, still wary.

<<Hello>> I greet him, although it seems that he cannot understand me.

I can see his Information. He is a lv 67 High Priest (Summoner) named Aalverg.

His stats show several numbers divided in categories like Faith, HP, Mp, Intelligence… I am still dumbfounded by these A/R hallucinations.

Aalverg tries to talk to me, and he shakes his head to the side when I don’t reply. He looks at Friedrick, who nods to the priest, and he starts to mutter to himself. Is he…praying?

He is looking at the ceiling while doing strange gestures with his hands, and he abruptly turns his gaze towards me. This is scary.

White, shining particles are buzzing around him.

He points his finger to me and he utters a strange word with a loud voice.

The lights leave him and begin to circle around me, going faster every passing second.

And then, with a loud sound, the lights pierce me.

I panic and scream, and I frantically check my torso with my hands.

I feel relieved when I find no injury.

<<Are you ok?>> the voice comes from Aalverg.

Huh? I can understand him now.

A message pops up in my sight:

[Magic-Lost in Translation: It is now possible to understand Wevry Kingdom Language]

So…magic.

<<Hey boy! Do you understand me?>> Aalverg raises his tone while shaking his hand in front of me.

<<Y…yes>>. I am still shaken by these events. Magic. Is this a game?

<<Good. Tell me…what is your name? Who sent you here?>>

I open my mouth to answer but i realize that… I don’t remember.

The look on Friedrick and Aalverg’ s faces shows surprise. Even I am shocked by this.

I clearly remember who I am, my life in my Original World.

My family, even the way I met my end.

However, my name eludes me, as the events after my death that led me here.

I explain them so, receiving perplexed looks in exchange.

<<Hero…can you see his Status?>>

<<Hmm…I am afraid not. It must be some kind of divine blessing, or a skill…although I assure you that he is not dangerous>>

Somehow, the priest seem reassured by Hero’s remark.

<<Well, my nameless friend…it seems we owe you some explanations>>said Aalverg to me, smiling amicably.

And so, he told me about the kingdom and the dark menace upon its inhabitants: the Demon Lord.

An absurd existence, capable of total destruction if left unchecked. To counter this dark menace, ancient priests offered prayers to the Gods, and in return they received the means to fight against the Demon Lord.

A Summoning Prayer, some kind of powerful magic capable of summoning valiant souls from another world and grant them the power to win against Demon.

By using the Summoning Circle and Prayer, they can summon one and only one Hero to this world during times of crisis.

I listen to the explanation, although I am still perplexed by these events.

<<Wait, did you say only one Hero?>> I ask them.

<<Yes…after the summon, the Summoning Circle runs out of magic power and becomes sealed for one hundred years. It is a last resort, to use only if clear signs of Demon Lord’s revival appear>> answers Aalverg.

<<However- he continues- this time it’s different>>

Friedrick nods in silence.

<<They summoned me two years ago, to train and become proficient as a Hero before Demon Lord’s awakening>> he says to me.

<<The magic inside the Summoning Circle was emptied, however, after two years from my summoning, it re-activated himself and brought you here>>

<<So…am I also a Hero?>>

Aalverg looks at me with a serious expression.

<<We do not know. We cannot see your Status, so we have no information. Every Summoned Hero always held the “Hero” (Summoned) title well visible in his Status>>

<<Although- continues Friedrick- it is possible that some Skill or Divine Blessing bestowed to you may be interfering with our senses>>

<<Is that so…but, you said that I am not a danger to this country…right?>>

Friedrick smiles and shakes hs head.

<<Yes-he answers- one of my Divine Blessings is called Holy Sight. It allows me to discern danger and evil intention, no matter how well hidden they are. It’s an absurd ability that never failed, and it shows no reaction towards you…so rest assured>>

<<It seems really useful>>

<<Yes, it is. Although it was really difficult to control the first time I got here and it caused me some inconvenience>>

Friedrick clapped his hands together.

<<Well, enough with explanations for now. We cannot know more about your mysterious summon if we stay here chatting>>

Aalverg nods with vigor.

<<So, follow us. We will take you to someone who may shed some light on this dilemma>>.

Prologue: A White Pulse

<<Who…what are you?>> said the man, gazing on the pulsing white sphere suspended in a pitch black darkness.

In response, a torrent of images and words flooded the man’s mind.

Strange views of unknown worlds, bizarre screams and noises.

Other, more familiar scenes and words.

Images of prayer and despair, life and death.

Thousands of names, uttered in voices both thundering and whispered.

Many he did not understand.

Others were known to him.

Names of gods and demons from all over the world, uttered as if they were the same concept.

The very idea of divinity, in both positive and negative connotation.

In short, a real GOD.

The man was in awe.

During his life, he refused the concept of divinity. And yet, GOD’s light shined in front of him.

The man was trembling. He wanted to ask several questions, to receive answers to lifelong doubts.

He wanted to know the meaning of existence, his role…his purpose in the world.

Trembling, he uttered those questions.

And the GOD did not answer.

Time went on. Hours, or years perhaps.

The man did not know, nor the GOD intended to give him an answer.

The man resolved himself to ask another question to GOD.

With a hushed voice, he muttered.

<<Why am I here?>>

Countless images formed in the dark space.

Like television screens, each reproducing the same scene.

They showed the man’s death.

A tear ran on the man’s cheek.

<<So…this is the afterlife>> he muttered to himself.

Another stream of words thundered inside the man’s mind.

<<REBIRTH…OLD WORDL…NEW WORLD…GIFT curse…CHOICE…NOW>>.

The last word transmitted by the GOD reverberated inside the man’s thoughts.

He took a deep breath, and he chose.

<<SO IT WILL BE>> declared the GOD in his thousands voices.

A blinding light enveloped the dark space, and the man was thrown in a swirling stream of light.

The pain was unbearable, as his form, his very soul, was being thorn apart and remade anew.

And, in the distance, the man could hear a faint sound of laughter.

The boy ran, his heavy footsteps echoed loudly in the empty corridor.

He ran towards the priest’s room, barging inside.

Loud sounds from the alarm bell resounded in the air.

<<What? What kind of manners are these, boy?>> said the Priest.

<<Sorry, Master!>> said the boy, his face red and his breath still in disarray.

<<This is an emergency!>>

The Master’s face lost all color while hearing the boy’s explanation.

They left the room, together, running towards the Circle’s room.

The Priest and the boy plunged inside the open door. An eerie light was overflowing from the room.

<<Im…Impossible>> muttered the Priest.

The symbols carved on the marble floor were shining, and an ominous wind was blowing from the windowless room.

Meanwhile, ten soldiers entered the room.

<<Quick, surround the circle!>> shouted the priest, still dumbfounded by the view in front of him.

The Circle was activating itself.

<<Boy! Go, call him! Now!>> said the Priest towards his young attendant.

<<Yes, Master>> answered the boy while trembling.

<<What in the world…>> the priest muttered to himself.

<<Do not fear, my men! Steel your heart and prepare to battle!>>

A blonde man with a gallant figure and unyielding eyes entered the room, encouraging the soldiers with his thundering voice.

Behind him two women followed in his steps.

The boy who brought them there went to the priest’s side.

<<Master, the Hero’s here!>> he said with a smile on his lips.

<<You did well, my pupil. Now, let’s pray for the best>> said the old priest.

Meanwhile, the overflowing light was dancing and swirling on the carved circle.

Strange symbols lit up, while lightning sparks flew in the air.

The priest started chanting, his large robes swaying in the wind.

The Hero stood with his hand near the pommel of his sword, ready to act.

A faint sound hummed in the air.

<<It’s coming…I cannot restrain the Circle!>> shouted the Priest, sweating profusely from his forehead.

Blinding light erupted from the Circle, followed by a loud cracking noise.

The soldier were blown off their feet, only the Hero and Priest were left standing in the room.

The light subsided, the wind stopped.

A dark haired boy was lying inside the broken Circle.