An Identity Beyond Self
The more he looked at Ariadne, the more her actions seemed like an enigma to someone like him. Simon was unable to believe that such pure and selfless actions could be taken by others.
"Kindness is a virtue~" She spoke with a smile.
"You made that up." There's no way 'Kindness' could be a virtue. All it does is take the things that should be your own and gives them to someone else. Whether it's charity or forgiveness, both are things that he would only do if they were beneficial.
"It still works perfectly, right?" Though it didn't seem like the hanged nymph understood his perspective, or maybe she did but didn't want to acknowledge something sounding so selfish.
However, the old geezer still denied it: "Wrong!"
"You make it sound like being 'kind' to strangers is a good thing, even though that's entirely wrong."
"It helped YOU out." She snorted a bit grumpily. It wasn't as if everyone were ungrateful to those who had been kind to them in the past. If so, then there was no way 'Heroes' of the past would've existed.
People who laid down their lives for a nation, those who fought for the equality of a minority, etc.
Even if kindness doesn't help out oneself, there are times when people benefitted from being given it.
"And my point is..." He pointed at the 'Utterly Pure' maiden: "...i-it doesn't help the person giving it."
"Won't you show appreciation?"
"Any decent human being would." She smiled at his words, but squinted when he continued: "Only a 'decent man' would. I'm no compassionate saint nor am I someone grateful for unwanted kindness."
"I'm sure you're decent enough."
"What gave you that idea?" She frowned at this seemingly 'innocent' inquiry coming from nowhere.
It took a few seconds before she smiled again.
"That's fine. I only helped you for my own sake. If you accept it, then that's enough for me." These heartfelt words were followed by a dazzling expression filled with only pure compassion.
It disgusted the old man...
"People like you don't survive for long."
"You're like an angel." His praise made her giggle softly. She covered her mouth elegantly then said:
"That wasn't a compliment."
"Then what was it? An insult I don't understand because I'm an ignorant 'Little Angel' to you...?"
He hesitated before replying with pauses in-between each sentence, emphasising his point:
"Angels are fantastical and favoured by all.
They are well-liked because they only give and bless others, rather than seek to harm them.
However, becoming someone who only 'gives' will one day make it so you have nothing for yourself.
In reality, an 'Angel' would eventually die in real-life just as Heroes would when sacrificing their safety.
They aren't fit for 'The Game Of Life'..." He finished with the realistic mindset of someone experienced in this 'game' he talked about. Life was a series of twists and turns much less satisfying than a game.
"...It's a good thing I'm imaginary then, isn't it?" Her words brought him back to the fact this was a dream, not reality. Perhaps it was fine someone who wasn't real could act like such an entity.
"You can be a 'good' the world doesn't deserve or an 'evil' that will satisfy no one other than yourself."
"...Why such an extreme?" He spoke in deep thought while glancing at the Minotaur's figure.
It's humongous shadow engulfed them…
Why was there always a wall between good and evil like this? It didn't make sense to him.
"Because you aren't an 'animal' like my brother."
"Even animals have compassion."
"Really...?" Ariadne's expression changed. Her gaze became more stern and full of prejudice.
"Animals... Do they know morals?"
"...No." Simon hesitated but still replied to her.
"Then they aren't compassionate. Just instinctual."
"But that isn't the point. You've been avoiding the subject with talk of 'good' and 'bad', when what you should be focusing on is doing what's 'right' for you." The nymph didn't let him distract her.
"…" The withered 'Hero' bit his lip hard.
"You have to do what must be done."
"You want me to fight 'that thing' sober?" He looked at her with eyes showing a lack of spirit.
The old man couldn't understand her actions.
"Yes." Ariadne didn't hide anything.
"As a Goddess of Wine, why can't you be more understanding? I can't do that. I just can't do it...!"
"You have to try. You've done it many times before as well. Just think... Remember your past valour." It was these words and the circumstances he was in that started to trigger his traumatic past in the Other World… when he first fought 'Monsters'.
He remembered how no amount of rationalisation could help him after his 'first kill'. He was way too smart for that. A genius who could see the truth of the world's absurdity much easier than others.
There were rarely ever any vicious animals in the Other World, and most Beasts and Monsters had enough intelligence to be considered 'Humans'. As a pacifist who had no prejudice, his mind had always been unable to adapt to killing others.
That's why... he severed his own emotions!
He wanted to fulfil his role responsibility even if it was thrusted upon him. That's why he became a killing machine for the duration of the journey to defeat the Beast Lord. However, introspection after coming back to Earth drove him to despair...!
"H-haha... Hehe, hahahaha! 'Valour'?!" He made a mocking smile after hearing that narcissistic and foolish comment. It could only be accepted by an idiot who was quickly swayed by other's beliefs.
He remembered it clearly. While in high school, he had been brought forward as a Hero after being summoned by 'Royalty'. The immature him of the time accepted the responsibility that came with the title. Having 'valour' in the face of fear didn't help.
What did he get after saving everyone?
All those times he suffered to save the foreign world were for naught. All the adversity and hurdles he overcame didn't do anything for him. It turned him into a laughable 'volunteer' who wasn't rewarded for anything. Truly, a useful little 'Hero'...
Simon's eyes sharpened as he continued: "I was crazy to turn into a killing machine just to save a world that had nothing to do with me. My hands have become so bloody...!" Tears started falling from his face: "Just give me some wine already!!"
He slammed his fist into the table, breaking the peaceful atmosphere with his malicious glare.
"I can't give you that."
"Because wine is bad for your mental health."
"Then let me out of this place...!"
"You're tethered to this dreamworld now. The only way to escape now is by slaying the demon that's keeping you from leaving." Ariadne's words made him look at the statue. He realised the man-bull was smiling slyly when she gave its actions away.
The old geezer grabbed his head in frustration. The 'poison' that he had locked in his heart started spilling out. All the hatred and resentment he had bottled up over the years started to manifest.
"...Am I not allowed salvation?" His eyes were empty while speaking with a voice clear of warmth.
"I won't condemn it." She immediately answered him, trying to become someone to support him.
However, he wasn't to be fooled by her. There was a redness in his eyes as he pointed at the statue.
"Then kill it for me." Simon spoke while dark eyes.
"I know you're strong enough to kill it."
"But I can't do that."
"What's stopping your hand...?!"
"Absolute Good can't hurt others."
"And yet you can force me to kill...!?"
"This is YOUR trial, not mine." Ariadne seemed unconcerned with his well-being, purely impartial.
"...I won't slay it." He spoke to her firmly, which made the beautiful girl shake her head in response.
"Do you still want to silently die? Commit the biggest sin: Suicide? If so, then you must complete this task." Her words only started to become more irritating to hear. She started to pressure him.
"Not anymore... I've missed the best opportunity for it. Now my instincts are getting in the way..."
"Is that the truth?"
"Believe whatever you want."
"But you'll still fight him..."
"I don't want to." The man rolled his eyes. There was a softness in his eyes as he sincerely spoke:
"I hate... fighting people." He wasn't budging whatsoever out of his fear of being hurt badly.
Now, the only thing he wanted was to escape this dream and return to his rightful place on Earth.
And since the hanged nymph wasn't helping him get drunk, he got up and tried to force himself into an intoxicated state using Ginga Scream again. His body started to sway, but nothing was happening.
"What...?!" He exclaimed after stopping, since this was the first time that anything stopped him from getting drunk. The old drunkard was already on edge after being outside his comfort zone for so long, but this incident was the nail in the coffin.
His face once twisted. He found that there was wine on the table, which he immediately drowned down his throat without a second thought. The problem started to happen when the same effects as before started to influence his sobered mind.
"..." Ariadne also started to feel strange after finding that he seemed to be experiencing withdrawal symptoms, almost as if he was started to become more temperamental as time went on.
"Give me some wine."
"J-j-just do it already! No excuses! I know you're a Goddess of Wine, I remember! So just give me it!"
"I can only manifest wine that heals injuries. It can't get you drunk. If you want to leave, then go kill him." She pointed at the Minotaur, which was when Simon started to seriously consider changing his mind. He just wanted a sip of wine that had...
His breathing turned heavy before unconsciously walking towards it with resentment in his eyes, as if the person who was taking away 'everything' from the geezer was the Minotaur rather than Ariadne.
The eyes of this broken man didn't seem normal as he got close enough to warrant the bull attacking him. He punched out to try killing it, but was immediately pulled back after it returned a strike and almost destroyed his most his body's bones.
His mentality started to deteriorate, but Ariadne didn't seem bothered by his current state. That was what Hero's always did. They overcame their predicament and their flaws to defeat monsters.
Finally, he took her white sword with him while trying to stab the Minotaur... but it was useless.
She quickly 'ejected' him each time he lost...
The old man started to go senile. He started to become unable to remember a lot of things after staying sober for too long. Distant memories he never thought he'd remember started popping up.
There was a time in his youth when he was unable to stand those jealous of his intelligence and lashed out, beating up his bullies. Remembering that time back then, he became more unsettled.
Simon forgot all about the times he was summoned to the Other World along with his purpose for being here. The only thing he could remember was that his 'grandson' was outside, and that someone was stopping him from getting out of here.
The hanged nymph stared to realise that the Kill Switch within him was starting to consciously awaken. That alter ego gave him all the bloodthirsty intentions it had been saving until this day.
There was a smile curving on Simon's face the more he desperately fought the Minotaur for only one sip of real wine.
His eyes started to darken psychotically.
It got to the point that Ariadne had to sit the old hippie down again to check if he was feeling okay.
Each fight lasted more than ten seconds...
"I-I don't want to fight." He started crying with full seriousness. There was no way it was physically possible to beat the Minotaur, and the injuries he had gotten still hurt even after getting healed.
"You must. You're still a Hero."
"I'm not a Hero anymore!" He roared with crazed eyes. He had left the Other World for a reason.
"I left everything behind. I erased my own memories so I wouldn't have to go back there!"
"That doesn't change anything." Her cold words silenced him. She the spoke words he never wanted to hear and continued with frigidness: "By abandoning that world, you just became a coward who couldn't even withstand your own role."
He started to lift his head slowly, then stayed silent as she finally revealed her disgust towards him.
Ariadne's words were like hammers: "You are just a coward, similar to the Hero I once fell for."
After she spoke this, he was unable to stop himself from slowly losing it in anger upon hearing her words. It was unfair to him...! He knew it wasn't his fault! That's how he came to the conclusion:
"You... are... bullying... me. You are, aren't you?" A redness appeared in his eyes as he wasn't able to remember what happened next. All he remembered that everything was dyed red in that moment.
No more drumming heartbeat…
Not even a sense of pain or pleasure…
Only his eyes being blinded by rage…
When he woke up, he looked around to see that the nymph's life was no more. The body of someone he had recently gotten familiar with hung from the tree she always leaned on. On the other side was the Minotaur, who was dead but without injuries.
"H-hehe~" He started to smile as all the annoying obstacles were gone and started to dance joyfully.
He was feeling ecstatic. His insanity felt like the drunkenness he had been looking for all this time.
The bodies of the two 'foreigners' in his dreamworld started to vanish. The world started to turn as he did so. It was like he was on the inside of a spinning football as the corpses of Ariadne and the Minotaur started to blend together into one.
The only thing that seemed exempt from this was his Kill Switch, that watched him turn from afar.
It sighed and closed its eyes of this event...
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