We watched in shock as King Oswald fell backwards from Saki’s fatal blow. Blood speckled the ground from the piercing attack that had stabbed through the king’s vital point.
Katsys, who had just escaped from that area via portal, turned towards him and wailed, having seen the brother that protected her collapse with a clunk. Her arms nearly gave out as she dropped Chrys to the ground before jumping back through to rescue him.
Fortunately, she had moved to a safer location, with Eryn and Cornelius already approaching them. They stood in front of the unconscious girl by the portal as that was the only thing that kept them from joining the brash princess.
Despite the looming figure of Saki in front of her, Katsys didn’t hesitate to run to her fallen sibling and invoke healing magic in an attempt to save his life. She knew it was foolish to do such a thing, but she couldn’t let him die even after all that had happened. In her heart, she always adored the little brother who she grew up with, despite him getting a bit full of himself. His selfless action that shielded her had only brought up moments of their younger days, where he had promised to be a great king to protect her.
Tears streamed down her face as a warm glow in front of her hands futilely tried to restore some life to the fallen king, whose eyes had already lost its light. No matter how hard she tried, his health points refused to increase.
“You can’t! Oswald! Please!”
Saki stared at the two siblings, a blank expression on her face, as if she hesitated to continue her rampage. Before she could act any further, several of us had jumped in between them.
A fist coated in thick mana approached from her left, whereas a sword, also layered in mana, came from the right. Reflexively, Saki brought her arms up, stopping the two attacks dead. The miasma coated around her had become so dense that not even mana-enhanced weaponry could penetrate.
With her arms locked in position, her front was open. At that point, I charged forward, knife in hand. With a swing of the arm, it moved closer and closer, aiming for the lines that traced across Saki’s body. Through the miasma, I could see the purple glow of mana peeking through her bare skin. Lines along her face, lines wrapping around her neck, her arms, her legs.
Like she was made of glass that had been dropped and cracked, the lines teased my vision, asking me to add the final touch to shatter her. My only solace was that her armor had covered the rest, instead having distinctly different lines of its own. Unlike those on her body, they did not pulsate like the beat of one’s life flowed from them.
Suddenly, my hand wavered. It slowed down to a crawl and stopped gently against her neck. The other two veteran fighters turned towards me with an upraised brow, but I paid them no mind. My eyes were locked solely on Saki’s. Her vacant stare seemed out-of-place compared to how she was acting before. No longer did her gaze exude an aura of malice from being corrupted. Her anger from before had mysteriously evaporated for no reason.
I couldn’t help but hold myself back from attacking her as I realized that our positions could’ve been reversed just as easily. If I didn’t have those that cared for me in this world, would I have fallen just as easily? If Chrys hadn’t sung her song in time, would I have been at the other end of my companions’ blades?
I wasn’t ready to give up on Saki. And I had my doubts that she had been a willing participant in the Chancellor’s schemes.
My left hand clenched a fist and drove it into her stomach, sending my mana as a shockwave straight into her core.
A lone girl sat in the darkness, hugging her knees to hide a face that was messy with tears. Though no one was around to see her current state, the only comfort she could find was to drown out the emptiness that she had been left with by the contact of her own skin against her cheeks.
After Saki’s memories had been fully restored, the realization of what she had done, of all the wrongs that she had committed, had driven her into despair.
The dear friend she made died because of her. The fleeting feeling of justice that had consumed her was nothing more than gruesome retaliation, actions taken too far. While it may have been the sensible thing for her to do at the time, it no less shook Rika’s view of her. Taking an already tense situation which culminated in the death of three boys, Saki’s actions would overwhelm any normal girl placed on edge. She could no longer blame her for backing away from her horrifying state.
If she had only been wiser and turned away at that point, then perhaps, Rika wouldn’t have backed herself into a hole and fallen to her doom. Perhaps, they would’ve gone their separate ways afterward. She would’ve been fine even if Rika never forgave her. At least, she would still be alive.
But instead, they had both perished, and Saki had been summoned to another world, only to be taken advantage of again. What a sick twist of karma that she had accrued.
Why was she even reborn in the first place? Had she been given another chance to right her wrongs, only to fail once again? No, the screams of people as she brutally slaughtered them through the Chancellor’s command echoed in her mind. Maybe it was Kami-sama’s way of punishing her, a glimpse of hell for the actions of her past life.
If that were the case, then why give her hope as well? Why delude her into thinking that she could, by chance, have a pleasant life? Why torture her with a glimmer of a bright future only to dash it all with the horror of her true self.
Enough was enough. She was tired of it all.
Saki could feel the darkness prick at her body, scraping at her skin and eroding her extremities bit by bit. A deafening silence was around her as the only noise came from her own whimpers. Slowly, she was growing numb to everything but the moisture streaming from her eyes.
Suddenly, a tremendous rumble shook the entire area, causing Saki to tumble and roll. She flailed as her sense of up and down had been lost for a moment.
The voice grew louder as another tremor jolted her from where she had landed. By now, Saki looked toward the pitch-black sky, wondering what was coming for her.
This time, she could clearly see a pulse of light breaking through the darkness above her, as the screams got even louder. She recognized that voice. It came from another otherworlder that had been sent to the same world as she had.
“Dammit… wake the … up!”
“I ain’t… done… with you!”
Saki laid there staring up at the sky, no longer resisting as the shockwaves shook the ground around her. Her sight was solely fixated on the flashes of light that illuminated the sky briefly. Each one seemed to shine with an intensity even more than the one before.
“Tell… more… about Japan!”
“I came up… washoku dishes… you in mind!”
“Come on! You’re the only otaku friend I have a chance to geek out with here!”
Saki’s eyes widened. The man known as Claude Evers had been a strange person ever since she met him. Also having been summoned from a world like hers, they had shared common interests from their previous worlds. Frankly, she had been caught off guard at first by how nonchalantly he spouted quirky lines like they belonged in some anime, with some of them even in broken Japanese, but that had opened up a sense of comfort in divulging her thoughts.
It wasn’t long before they had formed a small connection, a simple strand that tied them together as fellow Electi and otaku. Though she was slightly ashamed to admit it, that had caused her to start questioning more about her role in this world. That had sowed the seeds of doubt when she started facing off against him and his Master at the Chancellor’s command.
Like her, he was facing his own set of hardships, having been accused of murder and treason. But blinded by the Chancellor’s control, Saki was unable to lend a hand to those that were close to her. Instead, she could only watch as things played out in a gruesome manner all over again, many caused by her own hand.
Yet, why did it sound like he was reaching out to her, even when she had given up on the world? How could he come back after so long and spout silly phrases of encouragement like nothing had happened? But still, they were phrases meant only for her. Ones only she could understand.
The black sky started to thin out as her thoughts dwelled on it. Saki swallowed back the glimmer of hope that was threatening to spring up again.
‘Even if he reached out to me, wouldn’t he just suffer once again? Wouldn’t it just end in tragedy like it did for Rika?’ Saki fought back her tears as she pulled her hand back to the ground in resistance. She didn’t want to be lulled back into a sense of security.
“Tragedy is only called as such once it happens,” a new voice flowed into her ear all of a sudden.
Saki’s eyes popped open, as the sounds behind those gentle words echoed fondly in her memory. Slowly, she turned her head to the side and saw a faint outline of the girl she once knew.
“Ri… ka?” Saki’s voice was barely above a whisper, the individual notes almost stuck in her throat.
“The many ‘ifs’, the many ‘buts’, the many possibilities that one encounters – why worry so much about them. It hurts my head to think too hard. I just like what I like. Do what I feel like doing. Aren’t you the same?” The faint outline of Rika seemed to smile at her as she said this.
“But.. but… I killed you… I became a monster.”
“I was scared. Anyone would be. But what I was scared most was what I had driven you to become. I couldn’t face that. I’m sorry.” With a bow in apology, Rika begged her for forgiveness.
“But Rika, I-“
Saki’s lips were silenced with a single finger pressed upon them. Rika shook her head.
“Rather than dwell anymore on this, don’t you have someone calling out to you? Stop thinking so hard about it and just do it! You’re too blockheaded to go for anything but the direct approach. Take a chance. What is there to lose? After all, you gave me one.”
A flash of annoyance appeared on Saki’s brow. She glared at her once friend before lifting herself off the ground. Rika was right, she was a bit headstrong when it came to things, but at least, her feelings had always been true.
If her life was going to be hell, then why not grasp every bit of solace that she could find along the way? Holding back on the things she liked wasn’t at all like her. She would regret it once she made the next mistake. But for now…
Saki looked around at the darkness that still enveloped her. It had clearly thinned out but needed a bit more help. Willing it to appear, her trusty mallet materialized in her hands. She lifted her weapon high into the air, pausing briefly to recall something.
“What was that thing Claude said once about foreigners brute forcing their way in ignorance?… Oh right… GAIJIN SMAAAAAAASH!!!”
Yelling out those words as she brought her mallet down with her entire might, the impact echoed all around, blasting the darkness away from Saki. Soon, the space around her crumbled, and she could feel herself fading from the prison that she had shut herself within.
Awakening in a stir, Saki took a deep breath as her surroundings came into focus. She could feel the grass underneath her, and the rays of the sun blinded her vision briefly. Turning to the side, she tasted a bit of iron in her mouth, causing her to cough out a small amount of red liquid into her hand. Her body felt bruised and battered, but for the first time in a while, the painful sensations coursing through her made it seem like she was alive once again.
A form walked up and knelt beside her. Looking up, Saki saw the face of Claude, the chef Electi. He, too, looked worse for the wear. A grimace of pain marred his face as he looked down at her in exhaustion. Both of his hands were bloody and torn up, as red liquid seeped from them and dripped onto the ground. The pieces seemed to click as Saki deduced how things had led up to this point.
Finally managing to shift his face into a grin, Claude confirmed her thoughts.
“Knocked the miasma outta you, I guess.”