Chapter 63:

Liberation #4

What Clichés has this World Wrought? [ Volume One: Another World ]


“This is just creepy.” In the face of something once considered normal, even standard, or common sense, after so long without it, even the faces of family become strange. This was what Akiro felt when his salvaged leather boots rang against the floor tiles, the same kind only made through modern earth means. Wherever they were summoned to was very different from earth, so why would something akin from earth be here?

“I’m just overthinking this…” Akiro said as he grimaced uncomfortably at the ground, “No, I can’t even lie to myself anymore. This is not…fuck.”

The paint of the room was pristine, barely touched by dust and seemed well-kept, but the cold bite of the air was an answer enough. No one had been in this place for years. How could that be possible? The door was not even locked.

Akiro looked at the unreadable language that was carved into the tiles’s metal slots, carved letters from a language even his eyes couldn’t understand. It was either ancient, or incredibly alien, and what was worse was that it looked exactly like something from a power plant. What was this place??

“No one can enter this room, even if they tried, so why…” The hero just frowned, “Why are you reacting, Tsukiko?” Akiro looked at the orb in his hand and felt a stab of sadness inside his body, guilt.

[ Kagiwara Tsukiko / Soul Orb ] [ Magic Tool: skill orb ] [ Type: Dark Magic: Undead Domination ]

“I see… You were holding back, weren’t you?” The assassin looked at the item and understood what it was, on a fundamental level. “This was your true skill, but you hid it until the very end. I have a guess as to why, and I won’t judge you.”

Clang! Clang! Clang!

The dark metal beams rang underneath his feet, the crevices of his boots gripping against the plates of metal tiles. The room was not larger than the throne room they were summoned in, but it was a league in its own in security and durability. It was cylindrical in shape, with the path Akiro was walking wrapping around in a spiral to get to the middle, and in the center of it all was a glowing magic sigil surrounded by eight human-sized tubes.

The assassin stared hard at the room, even his eyes not spotting a single trap where anything could hide. Akiro slacked his grip on the katana, tossing it over the edge in a controlled fashion.

Whing! The blade whirred as it spun on the way down, and it stood perpendicular to the ground when it landed. A sound of metal being pierced echoed into the room. Pang!

The tip was two inches from the surface and the landing of Akiro embedded it further into the ground. “No traps, no signs of life either– What is this…” He questioned as he jumped from the handle of the weapon.

Akiro approached one of the eight tubes that surrounded the octagram of a magic circle, the inside of which was bubbling with a green-blue glowing fluid. He looked closely at the center of the room, a large globe was spinning in the center, suspended by nothing but magical forces.

Akiro slowly walked in tandem with the spinning globe, trying to take in the entire picture, “I-It’s a globe…o-of this planet!” He blinked, his mind racing to recall the map they were shown nearly half a year ago. “H-How— this country is either smaller than I thought or the world is bigger than what I thought it was. Scavia and Earlshide are about china and russia’s size respectively–fuck– and on this map, they’re hardly the size of Australia.”

“We’re not even the only country here, there’s four. One directly above Scavia and Earlshide, and one directly to Scavia’s east, separated by a fucking long mountain range.” The hero’s eyes widened in awe, his pupils set on the faded lines that went beyond the known human territories– and potentially endless blue sea that surrounded the continent-sized peninsula, or some sort of green-land beyond the empire’s borders. “Not only that, but the only thing on this map is the human territories we know…”

“Since it’s a globe, I assume that this is a planet. Hmm… I wonder, how long would it take for us to circumnavigate this.” Akiro found himself grinning with appreciation, before he shook his head and turned away back to the tubes. “I’m getting ahead of myself here. I need to get back on track.”

A fire was sparked in his chest, but he quelled it for the time being. He had more pressing matters aside from all of this, wrongs than needed correction. Akiro shoved everything useful to him into his inventory and stared at the tubs surrounding the magic sigil. “The moment of truth–”

Shing! Akiro stood on the center of the magic circle and flashed a few inches of the blade, before spinning clockwise to complete two full revolutions. The blade’s path soared with the white afterimage of the steel and at the end of the movement, it was sheathed back into its scabbard.

Crack! The cuts on the tubes burst out from the pressure built up inside them, for the cuts were just deep enough for the integrity to hold for just one more second. Psshhh! The green liquid poured out from the bases of the cylinders, pouring slowly through the cut slits, and they’re containers left Akiro with the truth.

“I see… so this was the anchor that connects both our worlds.” He said solemnly. His eyes drifted to the chests of the mummified human corpses, their skin wrinkled and oversaturated by the preservative solution, their uniforms too fragile to keep shape. The sight was disturbing to Akiro, because eight of the eight corpses had the same tag on their school uniforms.

Sengoku middle school…” Akiro grimaced, “So this is where you all went, this is where the pillar of fire took you, and you were used.” The sound of the news reporter echoed in his mind, a shelved memory that had fallen from its rightful place. ‘A ten-man squad of firefighters, and Class 20XX-20XX– are they victims of an act of god, or catastrophic coincidence?”

“There are twenty-four students in each class, and since there are eight here…sixteen are left unaccounted for.” Akiro thought the amount of people inside the cylinders suddenly made sense. “Eight for each country– the perfect amount to complete this, an interdimensional tractor beam of some kind.

“I once heard a rumor back in the castle, when I passed by one of the Imperial Scholars. They mentioned something about ‘uniting’ so that they can finally end strife on the human race, under the Earls Hide Banner. I was too disinterested to think much of it, especially since we were prohibited entry into any royal library or archive, but they said that the throne room in which the King was overlooking, was called the vertex.

“They were setting us up from the beginning. They limited our access to information and caused us to be overly reliant on our handlers, who did nothing but train us under their watchful eye. We got played– brainwashed.” the assassin turned away in disappointment. Akiro placed his hands on the floor just a few inches away from the magic circle. “We were too blind to see it. They needed super soldiers to do their bidding, tools to unite the three countries and take control of the three interdimensional anchors of each– not an elite force to stop the demon king.”

Crack! The ground began to break apart, frost and chunks of ice beginning to split the metal apart through microscopic gaps on the surface, with the intent to deform– to destroy the circle. “Chances are, they were skeptical about the existence of demons, and they used ‘ancient’ texts to coerce us into obeying them. They controlled us like puppets, until their plans went wrong when there was a demon underneath the Dungeon Tower. Well, the prophecy was indeed not entirely hearsay from the generations before them and so they’re scrambling to regain control over the situation.”

“And by the looks of it all, our meeting with Sume and Otome in that adventurer’s guild was planned. Why else would they know about [Appraisal] when the only times its existence was mentioned was during our summoning in the royal palace? It was because they also had a tool like that. They were traps from the start.”

“Akiro Hiroto must be killed. We have no choice.” Sume grit out with annoyance, “How many times are you going to plead his case with me, sister?”

“That is not why I came–” Otome’s shoulders jolted with the venom of her sister's words. “Sister, I was not asking you to forgive him of his crimes, neither forget them, all I’m asking is a way in which we can capture him– find any cure, o-o-or procedure—”

Enough!” Sume slammed her fist down at the wooden office table, cracking it straight down the middle, “I am tired of this! Leave me at once! Your boyfriend might be breaking because we’re sentencing his own brother to death, so instead of pestering me about a verdict not so easily changed, I suggest you comfort him– with your body if you must.”

Otome blinked, her eyes moist with water. “Oh sister, what has become of you…” She shook her head and stood up. Those were not the words Sume would have said in the past, and the monarch in front of her was not the one she knew, but it looked as if this was her true face. The sister she had known all her life was gone, or she was never there to begin with.

Otome sobbed softly as she opened the door of the room. “Well, I guess I alone can comfort my mother in her final moments. Father passed away just minutes ago, but I still can't blame Sume. She’s been under a heavy amount of stress.”

Otome pushed the heavy doors into the royal bedchamber, passing maids that just finished moving the corpse of her father. She stared at King Stephen with sad eyes, tears falling down her face. What has become of this family? The culprit was obvious enough, but doubts have begun to gnaw her mind.

Akiro was always quiet but never a monster. Yes, they needed to change in order to assimilate with the foreign world they were summoned to, and the two sisters needed to make a long-lasting impression on them. She had been thinking about it for almost a year. Her parents made it sound like she was just doing a fun thing, but Sume never thought of it that way, it was almost obligatory, like a hidden mission.

She thinks of all the laughs she had spent with Ayama and Akiro in the short time they journey together. Although she didn’t mean it, she used them, and now that she has come to love Ayama, the guilt is eating her alive.

“Mother, tell me honestly…” She asks weakly at the barely-conscious woman. She couldn’t even look at her, not because of the curse eating away at her life, but at the things she was tricked into doing. “Why? Why?--

She couldn't even mouth the question, the large bump of pain, grief, and guilt inside her throat making it impossible to form coherent words. Instead, unlike channeling her energy into being sympathetic as she always did, she allowed herself to indulge in one emotion that she always hated.

Otome frowned, angry, her fists balling into fists. “Tell me everything, tell me everything, now…” She managed to seethe through grit teeth, “While you have the chance, because maybe the God's would let you live.”

The words sounded empty, even to her, because even her training to be a priest under the church was her mother’s suggestion. How much of her life has been predetermined? She needed answers, because she couldn’t face Ayama otherwise. “I wonder… did you ever feel guilty for what you did to me, to Sume, to us?”

The half-corpse of a monarch opened her mouth, tears falling down her wrinkling face, “Yes,” She managed to hoarsely answer back, “I did feel guilty. There was not a day that goes by… that I didn’t feel like a monster.”

Otome let the tears flow from her own eyes, a sense of closure encircling her heart and lifted the weights off the shoulders. “R-Really?” She asked, “I-Is that true, mother?”

“Come to me, my sweet child,” Queen Kaguya managed to say, “I don’t have much time left.”

She said those words, but in truth, she just did not want to perish with that much guilt. In a way, they were more alike than they ever noticed. Kaguya poured out everything she had on her mind, speaking softly in a whisper, unaware that her curse was slowly being lifted with each truthful word. Likewise, both women felt at peace, the burdens of their mind alleviated in the moment of tranquility.

Knock, Knock!

“Yes?” Sume groaned exasperatedly, “Come in.” Her eyes frown at the servant in front of her. “What is it?”

“Your Highness, the King– Your father passed away in his sleep.” The butler bowed, “I just came to remind you, my queen, because perhaps you have forgotten. The princess did come by, yes?”

“So that’s what Otome came for,” Sume sighed, somewhat disgruntled. “Perhaps I was too harsh on her.” She arose from her seat and reached for her sword, strapping it to her side.

“I shall go, where are they?”

“The Royal Bedchambers, my queen. I shall lead the way.”

Queen Sume got up from her chair and began to walk with the butler, entering the royal Bedchambers to see Queen Kaguya at full health and Otome unamused. The butler waited outside without a word and Sume felt the heavy air inside the room.

The new queen had an instinctive guess as to why there was so much hostility inside the room, and a part of her hoped it was not true. Her mother may be alive, but she is the current ruler of Scavia. She had rules she had to abide by. “Mother… you did not–”

“Yes,” Queen Kaguya replied, “I did. Otome knows the whole truth. She deserved to know.”

“You failed, your duty as queen.” Sume spat, drawing her sword. “You are pronounced guilty, mother, for High Treason against the crown.”

Otome gasped, jumping up and stepped in front of her sister, “Sister! Don’t do this! You don’t have to go so far–”

Silence, mother has coddled you all your life, I wouldn’t be surprised if you revealed state secrets too to your lover!” Otome flinched in fear, but Sume did not stop there. “In fact, I should execute you both, but since you still have use, only mother will be put to death.”

Otome gasped, her lungs ready to yell out a great plea for help, but Sume was able to knock her unconscious, using the spine of her katana instead of the edge when she drew it. Pow!

“My child–”

“Don’t say that!” Sume growled, pointing the sword tip at the bedridden queen. “You are nineteen years too late to call me that.” Shing!

Queen Kaguya spat blood, a sword deeply lodged into her throat, the blade piercing even the headboard she was leaning up against. Still, even with bloodied gurgling, she apologized, the words leaving her lips just as she passed away. “...I’m sorry… for being a terrible mother.”

Bam! The doors of the room burst open, the butler heaving, his eyes scanning the room quickly, unable to properly diagnose what just transpired. “Your Highness! What h-h-happened….”

“Cremate the late king and Queen, declare it a highly contagious disease. Quarantine Otome in the medical bay and assign three platoons of the Castle Guards to her.” The butler blinked, still comprehending the command. He spoke to raise his opinion, but was cut by a sharp glare and another command, “Now.”