Chapter 0:

How Did I Get Here?

The Last Rae of Hope

I wish I could have laughed. Perhaps it was the increasing lack of oxygen to my brain, or maybe it was my somewhat cynical humor, but I found the gap between my post-high school life predictions and what I found myself doing now as a recent college graduate hilariously different.

But you know, I bet almost everyone feels that way when they enter the workforce as a full-fledged adult. Especially when the publishing company you start working for fails to provide the proper training and tools to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment. In fact, I think they’ve ignored almost every OSHA standard. But I digress.

The ethereal twilight around us turned to midnight as I lost my peripheral vision. The icy hand of encroaching death had already numbed the lower parts of my body, but my head and neck still burned with a sharp, searing pain.

Demon King Olethros, The Dark Serpent, Second of Evil, was living up to his last title in earnest, acting like a giant number two. Oh, Nora would have loved that snarky insight if she were here, but alas, he had separated us earlier during our epic confrontation. I was suspended in midair by his death grip around my neck, along with the numerous tendrils of nightmare he commanded from the emblazoned magic circle on the marble floor below us. The runes of unholy power that formed his power source flared anew as he called upon them, dispersing ‌just some of the darkness that had started claiming me. My sword, the Will of Euphridia, had already fallen somewhere into the abyss below, and there was no way my hands could reach it now.

“I warned you not to come here! I told you to stay away!” He shouted directly into my face as his hand twisted, forcing me to gaze into his evil emerald eyes as inky black animus leaked from their sides. He was right, of course. But this didn’t really justify killing me, did it? I’ve already died six times, maybe, but just because I’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean I had to do it the same way again.

“Tell me what you know about the Goddess’s plans, and I’ll make it quick!” How did he expect me to respond when he was crushing my windpipe like that?

I spluttered something unintelligible, unable to manage my oral secretions. He relaxed his sharp claws around my throat only slightly, and I gasped for air. Perhaps I was only prolonging the inevitable by continuing to breathe. I had thought that if I could just have a crucial conversation with him, we could have come to a mutual understanding. I mean, I get it. Conflicts at work are inevitable, but they don’t have to escalate beyond the point of reason. Oh, sweet sarcasm, my faithful companion. Thank you for helping me maintain my sanity through my last moments.

You’re doing this all wrong. You know you are well past the point of de-escalation. Raelana’s voice echoed in my mind, signifying she didn’t understand what I was thinking.

I know my plan failed. I should just give–

Improvise. Plans are subject to change‌.

And just what am I–

Allow me.

“Your father would have been oh so proud of what you’ve become, Phorutos! Raelana Demonslayer, Knight Captain of the Holy Order of Gold, Chosen one of the Goddess, 6th Appointed Hero of Legend, and the previous Wielder of the Faith and Will of Euphridia, shouted defiantly through my lips. Phorutos? That wasn’t any name for him that I knew of. But he had definitely heard it before.

His face contorted in abject horror and fury as he bellowed, hurling me towards the ground in a fresh fit of unbridled rage. The cold, blood slick floor welcomed me as lost kin with a hard and muffled thump as I hit it. The tendrils bound to my hands and legs pulled and retracted back into the magic circle, barring me from standing back up.

You just made him even angrier! What exactly did you call him?!

His true name means ‘trash’. You will thank me later. Watch.

“I am nothing like he ever was!” He shrieked insanely. “How dare you call me that! I will make you suffer for-” he fell suddenly silent as a cloud of darkness erupted from his body, forcing him into irrational animus overload. His form began to writhe and convulse behind smoky shadows even as he shot himself blindly towards me. But now that I could breathe properly, away from his influence, I could concentrate on the essential things, like focusing my will to break free from the now weakened shadowy bindings that held me in place.

Choose. How will you end this? With your sword or…

Shimmering in the darkness ahead of me, the sword was the safe bet. It was forged by the Goddess herself for just this sort of occasion. I didn’t have much strength left, either. But I knew he wasn’t acting like his authentic self. And I would eventually regret not taking a chance on him. If I wanted to make things right and get the good ending, I would need his help. But I resolved to hold him accountable for his detestable behavior later.

I… want to try something different this time.

Very well. I will continue to help you for as long as I am able.

What? Which one are you now? I see, so… You want to know how I got here in the first place? Well… okay, but I’m a bit busy right now, and it’ll take a little while to explain. When I have time, we can start by talking about back when I was in high school. All sorts of absurd stories begin there...

Professor Mythos
Ryuji Yamada