| The goddess without a name taken over by the black fog stood against Rudel and Aleist in that rotting temple. As Rudel tried to pull his sword, Aleist pulled his first and walked out up front. Because of the possessed goddess, the temple was in shambles, and the obstacles such as benches had practically disappeared.
It was easy to move around, but they were still within a room. There was only one entrance, and they'd face considerable trouble on a retreat. As the two didn't know what sort of attacks this goddess had, while Aleist had stepped out in front of Rudel, he was unable to step back.
"Are you the same as that bird we saw before? Not that is has anything to do with it. I can't stay a coward forever!"
Aleist clad the sword in his right hand in flames. What's more, at such a high output, the temperature within the temple leapt up all at once. Judging he would be a hindrance, Rudel leapt back to watch over Aleist and the possessed Goddess.
'Using a magic sword? What an artless man. How idiotic it is, to think I went through so much trouble for this man. But my objective is Rudel's murder, and that is irrelevant to the will of the world! I'll kill you and then Rudel!!!'
"Don't make light of me!"
Aleist rapidly approached the goddess floating in the air. He tried lowering his magic sword at her, but the goddess caught the blade in her left hand. Perhaps intrigued by Aleist's face of surprise, the goddess gave a full grin. Letting her feet touch the ground, she used powers unthinkable from her appearance to throw Aleist and his sword aside.
Rudel circled around to catch Aleist, only to notice there weren't any traces of a burn on the goddess' left hand.
"Aleist, that one is dangerous. Even after taking on magic flames barehanded, she got out without any burn."
"... Even so, I can't step down."
At Rudel's cautionary words, he looked at the goddess in surprise, and sure enough, she was completely uninjured. Even so, Aleist stood, and tried facing her alone.
'You still cannot understand? Comprehend the fact that someone of your level has no chances of victory. I have no interest in your life... so abandon Rudel and leave.'
The Goddess slowly sauntered towards Aleist. But Aleist took a deep breath as he regripped his sword and took a stance.
'Even if she's just a system, this body is that of a goddess'. Do you truly understand that?'
"And what of it!?"
Aleist invoked magic on his left hand as he swung the sword in his right. His sword was blocked by the goddess but his left hand's magic was hammered right into her body.
'It's futile. Magic has no effect on this body. This body was one manifested of magic, and I merely added a physical form. So I can even do something like this.'
The goddess gathered magic in her left hand in the same way Aleist had. But the scale greatly exceeded his. As an inferno gathered around her left, its intensity set the temple's interior ablaze.
"So magic damage is nulled. And that's why you thought nothing as you took that previous attack? In that case, you're nothing special at all... that one was special magic. It's a special magic that lets me break your defenses temporarily for a second attack."
Surprised as he was at the goddess' magic, he put up a stiff smile as a bluff as he explained. It was a special attack useable by the existences called magic knights. For the next turn alone, it would destroy a null-magic barrier. It was a magic only possible within the interface of a game.
'And what of it? Do you think you can take down this body with but a single attack? That is a problem I need not even calculate. You fail to understand the difference in ability between us.'
"... That so?"
The goddess turned her left hand towards Aleist. Within all of that, he prayed that his plan would succeed as she awaited her attack. Sure enough, his own attacks wouldn't afford too much damage, but what about hers? And Aleist used a magic he rarely ever used in his playthroughs before his reincarnation.
As the magic was fired, Aleist cast a magic to reflect it. The reason he rarely used that magic was because the game rarely pit players against enemies of higher level. As romance was the main theme of the game, its combat was somewhat lax.
And there was another reason he didn't like using it.
'So you placed your bet on that magic with its low success rate? As I thought, you're just a kid who falls short of his own abilities.'
Whether Aleist's bet succeeded or failed, the goddess knew it wouldn't be a problem, as she waited to see its result. Before an absolute difference in ability, the goddess had some interest in how the world would move. Surely Aleist wouldn't die in a battle with her. No, perhaps she would be the one dying by some twist of fate. Such feelings of resignation ruled over the goddess.
She looked at Aleist with such sentiment. And Rudel also looked over the battle of the two, noticing the slight resignation in the goddess' expression.
As if the result had already been decided, Aleist's counter succeeded. That powerful magic turned its fangs towards the goddess, and she didn't even try to avoid.
"Did you see that!?"
Sent flying by her own magic, the goddess destroyed the altar as she collapsed into it. Face-down on the ground, she restored her burning body, and not to Rudel or even Aleist, she questioned the world.
'You'll do that much to get rid of me? When you're the one who birthed me, you'll even deny the very reason you gave me to live!? If I try to kill Rudel with absolute power, you'll put the existence called Aleist before him... am I really so unnecessary!!!?'
The black fog was no more than a stagehand birthed by the plot to move the story alone. An existence to move for Aleist's sake in the background and get in Rudel's way. The same entity had taken over the boar, the bird, and the goddess. The fact that was one a single existence had multiplied to so many was proof of how Rudel had altered fate.
The possessed goddess' white eyes turned to black as black tears began to lead out.
'So even the last of us that remains cannot fulfill our desire...'
"What are you talking about?"
Aleist's understanding couldn't' catch up to the goddess' cry. In that blazing temple, Rudel started walking towards the goddess. He pulled the sword he received from Basyle. The sword forged from the tusk of the first black beast he encountered. It was Rudel's sword born of that tusk melted down with iron.
A little long for a one-handed sword, with its ornaments kept to a minimum, it was a straight sword made with battle in mind. Feeling the mana that leaked from its blade, the goddess started laughing again.
'I see, so it's true! My loss was decided from the very beginning. That blade is a portion of my body, and a weapon even capable of harming this goddess' body. It does seem the world plans to keep you alive until that time is to come... now, kill me, Rudel!'
Without directing his sword, Rudel closed his eyes.
It happened a little before. As Rudel watched the battle between the two unfold, he was troubled.
He was watching over Aleist clash with the goddess when he noticed his new partner, his sword was shaking. Almost as if it were reacting to the goddess, no, to the black fog, it quivered.
(What's this? Something's happening.)
'My role may be over, but I cannot let my comrade face such an end... I'm in no position to ask you, but could you cooperate with me to the end? If you do, you shall be free from our... from my partition.'
He heard the deep voice of a man. What pieced together in his head was the form of the boar he had seen back in his years of fundamental education. That demon of ferocious, rampaging black bulk and white crest.
The last bit of will left in the tusk was trying to save the black fog, the offshoot of itself that had changed to such an extent.
'If you use me, you can harm that one's body. As you are now, you could defeat her with ease.'
(You won't save your comrade?)
'Saving would mean to free that one from her mission. As I've fulfilled mine own, all that remains is for me to disappear, but my partition's mission is to stop you. But you will not give up, will you? Then you must save my partition, my other half. Put an end to the mission she shall never complete.'
As Rudel was thinking hard, Aleist's gamble paid off, and the Goddess let out a cry as she flew through the air. Hers was the form of the defeated who couldn't win against fate no matter how hard they tried.
Rudel focused himself as he walked forward. Making his resolve, he pulled his blade and walked towards her.
Holding his sword up high, Rudel channeled his magic into it. And he thought.
(Will it really end with her defeat? The defeat of an existence who'll lose simply because it is fate? No... that's not something I can accept.)
Seeing Rudel, the goddess-turned-monster closed her eyes, convinced her final moments had come. But the last chime never struck. In exchange, she sensed something close to herself, causing her to hurriedly open her eyes. Nostalgically, she stared at her form before she separated with longing and sorrow.
"W-what's with these guys!? Rudel, just what did you do!?"
What Aleist saw in that burning temple were two monsters standing to Rudel's side. One of them he knew. Aleist noticed it was the bird from back then. But he had no memory of the other boar monster.
'Aaah, it's me. The me before I split anew.'
The goddess reached out her hand towards the approaching boar and bird monsters. While they differed in form, their black bodies and white symbols marked them out as comrades in arms.
'It's already the end, my other half. Our role is over.'
'Now return to the beyond. Once we are one, you won't be alone anymore.'
'Once I've come so far, you'll tell me to give up!? If we all band together, we can even defeat Rudel. We can fulfill our duty, can we not... and yet, and yet, why are even my own selves ignoring me to try and save him!?'
The goddess shed black tears, but as the boar and bird bodies grew close, she noticed. Those other halves were transient forms given shape by Rudel's mana...
'So in the end, I won't be able to fulfill my role.'
Reaching out her hands to embrace the ghastly boar and bird, the goddess tried to relinquish her consciousness. But there, Rudel called out.
"Are you fine with it ending, just like that? Leaving with you all the losers to fate?"
'We cannot win over the will of the world. You may have changed your destiny, but it is impossible for you to change your end.'
'You will surely understand someday. The world will definitely bring you to your fate in the way it desires.'
Rudel couldn't feel satisfied with the boar or the bird's answer. He'd run into walls a number of times. Each time, his efforts would grant his wishes, would someday get him recognized, he believed.
"Is my destiny determined? But even so, I want to become a dragoon! That's all I have! That all I... I'll surpass any destiny. It's for that sake that I've worked so hard to this point. If I give up, then that's the end."
Hearing those words, a dumbfounded Aleist's heart began to hurt. Rejoicing that he was able to reincarnate, he had come to the misunderstanding that he was strong. Yet the existence he had only ever seen as a stepping stone held such a will and had gone through so many troubles. He understood it now not in his head but his heart.
'How shameless. When it's because of you we were born and exist. But if you are to fight your fate... the world to your end, then I'll help you. I don't mind helping you out until your time has come.'
'What are you saying? Have you gone mad!?'
'Save that one? That doesn't sound like our mission.'
Hearing Rudel's words, the goddess made a proposal. On that unexpected proclamation, the boar and bird voiced their objections.
To the words of her other selves, she smiled and held up a hand to quiet them. All the goddess, the black fog knew was that Rudel was yet another like them attempting to fight against the setting of the world. A sensation that the enemy she was supposed to fight was fighting her same battle...
'Rudel, if you will continue to fight your fate, I will lend you a hand. However, if you are unable to oppose, simply swept up in fate's flow... the moment you give up, I'll kill you.'
"Do what you will. I'll definitely never give up."
'Do not forget those words. The world will get in your way, and you'll surely never find a dragon of your own. I'll help you through that trial. So forget not, the moment you give up is the moment you die.'
Rudel overreacted at the words that he wouldn't get a dragon, but at the words of the black fog surrounding the goddess, a smile accompanied Rudel's surprise. It was almost like the smile of a young boy.
'... What a simple one. Then I must be off...'
Once the black fog parted from the goddess, it spread over the temple's interior to steal the vision of those present. And once Rudel and Aleist could see again, the original blond goddess was stark-naked, collapsed on the ground. The temple was wrapped in flames on the verge of collapse.
You could praise it for holding out so long throughout the intensity of the battle between Aleist and the goddess, but Rudel and Aleist hoisted the goddess up had hurriedly raced to the exit.
At practically the same time as they leapt out, the temple collapsed. The impact caused her to open her eyes. Having attained a physical form from her semi-transparent state, the goddess lifted her stiff body. And she saw. The collapse of the temple erected to revere her...
"H-hey!!! What's all this then!!?"
Rudel and Aleist were kneeling before the former goddess. Perhaps the sun was already on its way up, as the area was gradually growing brighter.
"What do you think you've done, you blasphemers!? Give me back my temple, give it back!"
The two who kneeled before the naked, crying goddess boldly looked at her form. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they couldn't avert their eyes. With her being a former goddess and all, it's not as if you couldn't say her form wasn't divine. No, perhaps they were just excited looking at a woman's form, and it just looked like that.
"B-but, listen. The one who destroyed it was you."
Still locking eyes with the goddess' body, Aleist refuted. Rudel definitely did feel bad for her, but on top of being possessed, this candy-loving goddess held no dignity.
"And no one ever came to begin with, right? What's more, now that you've got a body of your own, it'll be difficult to make a living way out here."
"What's that? Is making excuses all you're good for, you blasphemers!? Even if I've gotten a body, I'm a being of... h-huh? Why am I naked!? What's more, you both saw me naked, you perverts!"
This time the goddess burst into tears at her body being seen, and Aleist handed over some of his preserved food rations. Taking it as if snatching it away, the goddess ate as she complained.
"Don't think this is enough to clear away my resentment. I'll haunt you until you atone for this."
What she said pretty much classified her as an evil spirit. On her tone and attitude, the two boys lost interest, stood and started on their way back.
"W-where are you going?"
"We're students so we have to go back to school. We've been in your care. I'll definitely rebuild your temple, so just wait here."
"I couldn't become a hero, and I don't think I have any more business here."
On those words, the goddess' faint heart shattered. Leftovers of her meal around her mouth, she leapt at Rudel's feet and held on.
"Don't leave me behind! I don't want to be alone in such a lonely place."
As the goddess clung and wept, Aleist sighed.
"Weren't you always here alone? And we're going to the academy, so we can't bring any pets."
"Who're you calling a pet!? Even like this, I'm a goddess. And we goddesses occasionally get together, so I'm not a loner! But with this body, I can't go to that place, so I really will be aloooonnnne."
"... What should we do, Aleist?"
"No, even if you ask me..."
"Don't abandon me! I'll do anything, so just don't abandon me!?"
The three at their wits' end spend a good deal more time thinking on the spot.
Returning to the academy, Rudel and Aleist ended up arriving much later than scheduled. It was because they were looking after the goddess who obtained a body in a nearby village. And having returned to the academy, the two of them introduced the goddess to the usual members.
"... And that's how it is, so we'll be looking after this goddess. Say hi."
Once Rudel finished explaining everything, the goddess in village girl clothes lowered her head. Once she raised it, she spoke with a smile.
"I'll be in your care!"
Everyone was too surprised to say a word. Rudel and Aleist had gone out saying they would become stronger, but once they came back, they were taking along a slightly-younger girl. Even those who hung around with them on a regular basis, Izumi, Luecke, and Eunius couldn't react.
(What should I do, there's no way I could've imagined something so out of the blue. I had thought perhaps he may come back with a dragon, but... for him to return with a goddess(?), could it be I'm lacking in imagination?)
Izumi was surprised Rudel had gone even beyond her expectations.
(That's why I was against Rudel and Aleist taking action together! Just look, I completely fail to comprehend the results of the oblivious pair working together!)
Luecke seemed fed up at the two who led along a girl claiming to be a goddess. Finally, Eunius thought.
(I should've gone too.)
And as that dubious air flowed by, Aleist muttered. Unable to read the mood, Aleist was unable to understand why everyone around was so confused. He had spoken of the events in the temple, but he had no idea that goddesses were something that normal people would never usually meet.
"Huh? What's up with everyone? You don't like the souvenirs we brought back?"
With the peculiar local ornaments Rudel and Aleist had chosen out in their hands, the three of them cried out.
"That's not the point!"
"Are you an idiot!?"
"They definitely are strange..."