"And suddenly, you just know it's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings, even if you don't know what lies ahead."
━━━━━━━━┓ ✠ ┏━━━━━━━━
As I arrived at the fast-food chain, to my surprise, Celes is by the door, looking tired from helping many.
"Celes, you hungry? Join us" I asked casually. She nodded in agreement and opened the door for me and the little girl.
There is no one in the fast-food chain. No security guard and no worker. they probably must have scrammed. So I guess, it's all-you-can-eat buffet tonight. But, that goes on without saying... I'll still leave the money in the cashier. 'Payment is virtue'... my conservative grandmother says.
I then placed the little girl in a comfortable seat with what she ordered placed on the table and a little stone-cold ice cream. As for myself, I had a hamburger.
"Where did you get that child you lolicon?" Celes engaged, although it was a little too informal, which is rather new to me.
"Lolicon? You called me an otaku before and now it has evolved?"
"Relax. I'm just kidding. So?"
"I somehow found this girl alone. Her parents were in front-..."
"So you kidnapped her?"
"Oh... How unfortunate. So you're planning to keep her under your supervision?"
"Yes. Until I find a safer place for her. By the way, where's Deus?"
"In an emergency meeting with several others, discussing countermeasures."
"Way to call it countermeasures..."
"Childish isn't it? And... where might Lacrimosa be?"
Come to think of it, I forgot to check on her. But, I guess she's fine. There's nothing that that goddess can't handle, I probably should just let her be for the moment.
And hence, the perfect time to bombard her with questions appeared right before me...
"Hey Celes, I have something to ask you "
"I am tasked not to disclose any info to a non-ally, but as a returning favor for helping a girl, I'll answer it, go ahead."
"Appreciated... Who was that man?"
"If you're referring to that man who summoned Atlas... He is 'End'."
"Yes. And religious groups know him by a different name. The devil, Satan, Lucifer, Fallen Angel, They are the same entity."
"What? Someone as powerful as that... is in this game?"
"Unfortunately, yes. It can even make you question the balance and fairness. But, there's no helping it, he was granted permission to take part."
That explains why he was overwhelmingly overpowered. Summoning something like that, even before the game started. Not to mention the pressure I felt from his presence alone.
"I've been meaning to ask you this...What side are you on? You know... on the salvation or the damnation division." I asked.
"Oh. Of course, I'll be in favor of damnation. There's no use trying to hold on to a hope that is no more"
"Huh? Then why would you act like that End-guy is an enemy?"
"Wait... Are you actually thinking that the evils in the world always wanted their playground to end?"
"It's sacrosanct, so of course..."
"I can't blame you for that, but I also thought the same, but let me tell you this now. That concept of 'I'm-evil-I-will-lead-this-world-to-its-bitter-end' is nothing more but a stupid film-maker's idea, void of truth and reality." the rather philosophical Celes exclaimed.
I sort of caught up as to what she meant by that. Of course. Now that I think of it, what kind of evil would want the world to end when it's their only source of entertainment. They'll want it to continue existing in sin. For instance, imagine if the world became devoid of humans? Who would the demons tease? Who would Satan tempt? They'll be left with nothing but stones.
"So basically what you're saying is it's the opposite, right?"
"Check! To put it simply, those corrupt deities would want it to continue existing. And those deities who wish for the rule of the sins to end purely wishes for humanity to sever from the face of the earth. That's how simple it is." Celes further explained.
"Yeah. I get it." What surprises me though is the thought that corrupt deities really do exist. Moreover, a thought deemed the shock rather redundant...
If that's the case? What would become of this girl's future? I looked at her sleeping peacefully. No matter who wins on the end, it's still nothing but the void that awaits the world, Till then, to hope is a very trivial thing. But, despair is also juvenile. For now, observation is still the best answer.
Minutes have passed, there was so little to talk about, and Celes was just dozing off. I bet she's really tired from all of that helping, so I should let this be.
"If you have nothing more to ask, I'll be leaving. Thank you for the food Jaiden. Let's meet again." Celes, minutes-later from a state of trance said.
"Take care of the girl. It's possible she could serve as our daughter in the future."
"Nope. We will make our own."
Having said that, the Prima Donna left while wearing this pure smile. Come to think of it, I still have questions for her. How did she become Deus' Herrscher? Where is this ugly giant Atlas leading us to? Well, somehow anyway, it's gonna be unveiled soon enough.
Wait... what the hell was I saying back there? Make our own? It's embarrassing... It was as if we were legit there. While I continued to shake off the cringy thought, what I soon noticed was this cute fingers holding in my uniform. The little girl is awake.
"Hello there! Here are one fried chicken, french fries and ice cream as a dessert! Eat lots ok?"
"Thank you oni-Chama" Without, further adieu, the girl dove right into the foods presented in front. How should I describe this scene? Refreshing? It was somehow calming, seeing this girl eat just hours later after witnessing the death of her parents. while in my case, I was hospitalized for almost a week.
"So, what's your name?" I asked.
"Yes. What is it?"
"It is Shiro!"
"Shiro huh? What a beautiful name..."
As we were still knowing each other in the fast-food chain. A giant rift suddenly re-opened on the dark environment, suggesting that this Atlas had now arrived in its destination.
Shiro's eyes began to tear. It was as if, she was expecting another monster to appear in that giant hole.
"Don't worry, I'm here", I reassured her while gently patting her head as a sense of comfort.
Then it was not long that the entire island was left out from that dark place... It was becoming more evident that to where we arrived was very unearthly. The giant's gargoyle hands then placed us on a sea and got back on the rift where he belonged. But this time, the gargoyle's face was not scary. It was not flowing with blood or horrors. It was, just how Atlas was described in ancient literature as the one tasked to keep the balance of the world from the bottom, although a little smaller.
Somehow, I know that this world where he placed us is something different. It's atmosphere smelled far from usual.
"Shiro. Want to see something cool?" I asked the little girl as though I was quite curious as to where we are now. I want to see for myself if my hunch is correct. That this is not the same earth where we once lived our abnormal lives.
"Hai! oni-Chama!" she answered. Oni-chama huh... Cute.
"Well then, shall we go?"
I then grabbed her and again took my pen. I imagined the ink, so it could soar high above the sky.
We drifted through the air and saw several things afar that could have only existed in fairy tales. Shiro was quite enjoying it. She was scared at first, but she adapted to it very quickly. She even called me Aladdin oni-Chama for having a flying mat. Little did she know that it was mere ink controlled by my imagination.
If Shiro enjoyed it, I somehow had my doubts about this world that we have been transported into. While my vision is a little distorted due to the distance, I can still infer what lies ahead. The city is still at sea where Atlas decided to place us and instead of seeing the tall skyscrapers of Tokyo on the neighboring island, I can see this towering medieval-themed castles and empires of sorts. You could see what mythology called "Dragons" soaring higher up in the sky. It was thinner, bigger and featured a massive set of wings with each one unique from the others. Well then... The hypothesis that Deus contrived seemed to be true, backed up by what I am seeing now as shreds of evidence.
I then landed on the same main building's rooftop, and to my surprise, Lacrimosa is still there, taking her time watching the scenery.
"Where have you been all this time?"
"Just somewhere actually..."
"I wonder what somewhere could that place be. is it perhaps a kidnapping den?" Lacrimosa, seeing Shiro, said.
"What? Do places like that exist in this advanced city anyway? I got this girl from her house. Her name is Shiro."
I then introduced her to Lacrimosa. Although she was a bit reluctant and shy.
"Shiro, that is aunt Lacrimosa"
"Aunt? Excuse me, aunt?"
"Oh sorry. You're 997 years old right?"
"Well yeah, but does this face spell 'aunt' for you? Hayst, forget about that. By the way... Jaiden, this world..."
"What about it?"
"It's NÆthervale. The third realm."
"Yes. There are four realms. The first one belongs to the deities which govern the natural laws. Second is to humans and third belonged to...well a hybrid of creatures actually..."
"I kinda see that."
"Well, welcome to Naethervale! ", the goddess said, although it was with a bit half-assed expression.
"Anyways, I'm recharging back to my realm a little bit. You two go explore! I was somehow expecting that that retarded and fallen deity would transfer us to Tartarus but goodness that was not the case. At any rate, a deity named Hermes will soon explain to you the new mechanics of the game. Just give me the info later. For now, adieu..."
"Right" I replied.
I was rather refreshed, seeing that Lacrimosa returned to her former self. Well, here I am. In a vast new world, I know nothing off, with a little girl in my care and with a sense of quirk in my hands. Surely I can't chicken out now.
I know it's a little late to ask this, but what would the game masters do about these normal humans that got mixed up too well without their knowledge? I know how confused they might be. Yet, I also am quite acquainted with man's insatiable foolishness. They will soon attain answers to their questions.
As of now, the most important action is to be cautious while observing the current environment.
NÆthervale huh. I wonder what lives await for us here? Although I'm sure it will be nothing of many colors, but a monochromatic canvas of either scarlet blood and bluish grue.
No... I did not mean that in a dramatic sense... Well, maybe just a little.