A world of white.
From somewhere distant, I heard a sound.
It was the sound of fighting.
I looked around to search for the source of the sound. However, no matter how much I looked, everything around me remained white. The world of white stretches out into the horizon. I strained my eyes to try and look into the distance but it was just an endless white. Like I was staring into the void itself.
A white void of space.
As if the world itself was unstained and pure.
Yet at the same time, it was empty.
There was no sign of anyone or anything.
There was only the sound of fighting.
I suddenly noticed a presence behind me. It shouldn’t be possible. I couldn't sense it up until it was this close. If this were an enemy, it could cause me my life. But when I looked around earlier, there was no one there. I was the only one in here or so I thought.
I looked around my back in panic.
There was no one there.
Was it my imagination?
The moment I turned around, the sound I heard stopped abruptly.
A brief silence.
Suddenly, a familiar voice shouted. It echoed through the world of white and through my mind like a warning.
Two voices resonated within my mind. Then, the world of white drastically vanished. My eyes shot open and I was suddenly pulled back to reality.
It was then that I realized I was pushed along by Alyss-san. I could hear the sound of metal heavily hitting the ground behind us. The force shook and gouged out the ground as it returned back to its wielder. We barely managed to dodge the attack.
“I don’t know what happened to you, but we need to get as far away as possible from that thing!” Alyss-san said.
It couldn’t be worse.
Apparently, I was in a daze. If it weren’t for Alyss-san, I would’ve been crushed by now.
The black minotaurus glared at us with intimidating eyes. It swung its podao from its back towards us with tremendous force. When it was about to reach me and Alyss-san, Rion-san ran up in front of us and blocked the podao with his sword.
“Tsk, it’s heavy!” said Rion-san in frustration. It was the first time I’ve seen him like that.
Lisa-san then shouted. “Get away from there, you two!”
We hurriedly stood up and took our distance. Rion-san was still holding up the black minotaurus’ attack. At this rate, if this goes on any longer, he will be crushed from the difference in strength.
“Aghhhh!” Lisa-san ran towards the black minotaurus with her sword in fervor. She slashed her sword horizontally from above and struck at the monster’s hand. Though it didn’t cut its arms completely, the black minotaurus roared in pain and made a step back. Rion-san took this opportunity to distance himself as well.
“It’s stronger than I expected. We won’t be able to defeat that thing easily.” said Rion-san.
“First the unusual amount of goblins and now this monster... you really can’t tell what will happen in this forest.” Lisa-san grimaced as she braced herself for another round.
The black minotaurus roared as if it was furious. It threatened to shake the entirety of the forest.
It all came back to me now.
It was the same black minotaurus back then. But obviously, that couldn't be possible. That was 300 years ago. It was the same monster but at the same time, it was not the one I encountered back then.
Back then, I was able to kill that monster.
Though so much time had passed since then, I can tell that this was the same type of monster as the one I fought back then. That was my assumption. Despite that, there’s a possibility that the monster might’ve changed due to the passage of time. Like how it attacks.
The worst case scenario is that this might be stronger than what I’ve fought before. If that’s the case, then it would be difficult for the others to fight that monster.
I tried to stand but my footing was unsteady. I looked down to my hands and noticed that I was shaking.
Huh? What is this?
I couldn’t understand at first but immediately came to realize.
Am I… scared?
I looked back at the black minotaurus, currently swinging its podao to Lisa-san in an attempt to crush her. Lisa-san quickly moved to her side to avoid the attack and at the same time, swung her sword towards the black minotaurus. There wasn’t enough force in the swing as it only managed to scratch the black minotaurus' skin.
Seemingly annoyed, the black minotaurus swung its arm and shoved away Lisa-san with force. Lisa-san was sent flying into the air until she slammed her back against a tree.
Lisa-san coughed blood in pain.
“Lisa!” Rion-san shouted as he lunged at the black minotaurus with his sword in a hurry. However, his impatience proved to be a mistake as the black minotaurus tightened itself and swung its giant podao vertically towards Rion-san.
Its weapon covers a large area so it was difficult for Rion-san to dodge. Since he sent himself running straight towards the minotaurus, he couldn’t make a move to avoid the attack. Just before he thought that he would be crushed by the force, Raiz stepped in between the podao and Rion-san.
He managed to stop the attack with his sword. Although his expression was in pain due to stopping a powerful attack, he shouted. “Alyss-san!”
In an instant, ice shards rapidly and continuously hit the black minotaurus causing it to pull back. When it tried to gain its distance, its feet were frozen in place. The black minotaurus stared at its feet dumbfoundedly almost as if it had no idea why it couldn't move its feet.
“I’m right here, you monster!”
Raiz jumped into the air and let himself fall towards the black minotaurus. He was covered in essence then suddenly, his sword was covered in light. He was muttering something as he prepared to make a strike.
The black minotaurus ignored its frozen legs, and swung its podao towards Raiz. Before it did, Alyss-san made ice shards and directed it towards the black-monster, interrupting it. The monster bellowed in annoyance.
Raiz finished his chant, and soon, an electric current engulfed the blade of his sword. He moved his sword from his side and slashed it vertically towards the black minotaurus at a high speed.
The sound of lightning roared as Raiz’s sword sliced the black minotaurus’ skin. Blood began flowing from the wound.
The black minotaurus let out a high-pitched cry at the pain from the attack that it took. But then, the black minotaurus raised its head upward. Despite the wound on its neck, it swung its podao towards Raiz who just landed.
“!!” Raiz hurriedly raised his sword in an attempt to block it but instead, he was sent flying away from the force of the attack.
“...Guh!” he hit the ground rolling and collided with a tree, forcibly stopping his momentum. Because of that, Raiz was in pain due to the force his body took and it looked like he wouldn't be able to move much sooner.
I heard Alyss-san in front of me muttering something as she raised her sword. If I hadn’t seen this before, I would be surprised by now.
Cold fog appeared out of nowhere and emanated through the forest. The scent of flowers entered my nostrils. Soon, a field of flowers sprouted out from the ground as it spread out its beautiful yet deadly petals.
No matter how much I’ve seen, the spectacle was so beautiful and... scary. But this time, I wasn’t the target of those flowers.
The black minotaurus looked around dumbfoundedly, wondering what would happen next. As it was about to lunge itself, Alyss-san didn’t give it the time.
“【Magic Arts: Thousand Frost】!!”
The countless petals in the air started turning into ice shards and without a second, it started to move at an unimaginable speed toward its target—the black minotaurus.
The black minotaurus tried to swing its podao towards the ice shard but then used it as a shield in an attempt to protect itself. Although it did protect itself from the ice shards, there were just so many. While it was able to block some ice shards, there were some that managed to reach and pierce the black minotaurus’ rigid skin.
A cloud of mist formed around the black minotaurus due to the cold from those ice attacks. Soon, the mist was thick enough that it entirely covered the monster.
Alyss-san lowered her sword and sighed.
It seemed that the exhaustion from all that fighting had finally catched up with her. She instinctively bent her knees.
All my senses through my body shot back.
She was dumbfounded at first but soon realized the reason for my panic.
The black minotaurus let out a deafening roar so loud that it made a wind force strong enough that it could almost blow away our body if we let our guards down just a little.
“What?!” Alyss-san panicked. She didn’t fathom the thought that the monster who's supposedly taken a lot of damage, if not killed, still had so much strength left in it.
Suddenly, the black minotaurus emerged from the mist and swung its podao with tremendous force and blew away all the mist around it. The wind it produced even reached us.
I couldn’t help but click my tongue.
What am I doing?! I grimaced in thought.
All this time, I was just standing here, watching. My body was still shaking. Even though it was now a different body, a different person. The memories were still there. It remembers all of them.
Faces of the ones I called friends from a distant memory flashed through my mind. I recalled the expressions they had in their last moments.
What am I doing?!
During that time, I couldn’t do anything but watch. I still remember it clearly. At that time, I fought. I fought thinking that If I defeated the monster which attacked my friends back then, it would save them.
But reality was cruel.
I was too late.
All I could do was sit there and watch as she died in my arms.
I’m a coward. I’m still that same boy who couldn’t do anything back then…
I was never a hero.
I was weak.
Am I going to repeat that same mistake? The same way? Again?
I never had power back then. Not until after I lost everything I cared about.
A voice of a woman rang within my mind.
But it was then cut off . The black minotaurus rushed towards Alyss-san with speed unbefitting to its size.
Alyss-san braced herself.
I have to stand up, I thought. Someone would die because of me if I didn’t. I wouldn’t want to go through that again!
Perhaps it was because I gained a new identity that my will was stronger than it was before. If I didn’t have these memories as Katou Yuuto, then there’s no doubt that I would've stayed frozen in place, repeating the same way I did back then.
I stood up unsteadily and went in front of Alyss-san. My hands were still shaking, but I knew it was okay. It’s proof that I still remember that feeling all throughout my body.
Alyss-san looked on in panic. “Watch out, Hiro-san!”
The black minotaurus swung its podao from above. It moved so quickly that it would be impossible for someone to either dodge it or block it. Especially when receiving that attack from below.
Regardless, I held my sword up in my hand and stopped the podao from descending and crushing my head.
Surprised at the unexpected sight, the black minotaurus gave a sudden jerk on its head.
I was given power. Even after I lost everything, I fought. And I would use that power again.
“This time, I won’t let anyone die!”
I pushed the podao back, above my head. The black minotaurus was taken aback by the strength it received from its weapon. I made a quick turn and kicked its body, sending it flying backwards into the air. It was an unbelievable strength.
Alyss-san widened her eyes in surprise.
A faint light formed on my arm.
Noticing that, I couldn’t help but grin a bit. Even after reincarnating, I still have that, huh?
Alyss-san noticed as well. “...What is that light?” she muttered.
It is a symbol.
A symbol of hope for humanity or so the goddess told me.
The hero is not born. It is forged.
Perhaps that fact wasn’t known throughout humanity. Maybe I was the only one who knew aside from the goddess who gave me power and purpose.
This was... the symbol of the hero.