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By Kohigashi Nora
"Are you unharmed!? Holy maiden!?"
Felling the giant dragon, the hero approaches me.
Within the dim cave illuminated only by the light of his torch, the hero breaks the restraints on my arms and legs, affording me freedom.
I try to stand, but I can't get any power in. I had been bound for three whole days; my whole body felt numb. My stamina and spirit were at their limit.
I thought it was hopeless. I felt I would die here. I was sure the monster had gifted me a death most cruel.
In the midst of my limit, the hero came to save me.
"You mustn't push yourself, holy maiden. Your life is the support of every life in the country."
The hero used his whole body to accept my collapsed form.
I bury my face n his chest. I feel my whole body grow hot as if it's breathing fire.
The man I secretly admired. Such a man had saved my life. When I thought it was hopeless, that I had no tomorrow, he reached out his hand.
It felt like my feelings would explode.
Perhaps to endure it… or to convey those feelings, by the time I noticed it, I had wrapped an arm around the hero's back, strongly, strongly, embracing him.
"… Holy maiden."
He reached a hand to my hip once more, holding me tight.
We stayed just like that a while.
A quiet time leisurely flowed by.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
Or so was the dream I saw.
"… What an idiotic dream."
I open my half-asleep eyes.
Unkempt hair, the room a right mess.
No vestiges of the long, silver hair I just saw in a dream, my arbitrary hair that arbitrarily grew was beset by bedhead.
I crudely wash my face, brush my teeth, and scarf down one banana. Changing into my Holy Maiden uniform that wasn't even hung on a hanger, I left the room.
"Ah, Holy Maiden! Good morning!"
"Holy Maiden! Good work out there!"
I am the Holy Maiden.
A special woman who wields a divine power recognized by the church and state. In the battles against the dark forces, my existence is a valuable war asset.
Right, I am the holy maiden.
Not every happening of the dream was a complete lie. I am the holy maiden who's offered this body to the battle against darkness. My silver hair sways as I protect this world from the threat of the demons.
The hero really exists. Gallant, sturdy, the hopes of the world personified.
The people, the countries, the lands, the systems are completely identical.
The difference between my dreams and reality wasn't particularly large.
There was only one… make that two large divergences.
Two differences large enough to turn the world within me on its head.
"Holy maiden! We've received an order from the general! As discussed, your unit is to enact the recapture of the western castle!"
"…… Now look here, I'll say it again and again, but normally, you're not supposed to order a single unit to take down a castle…"
"M-my apologies! If the Holy Maiden deems it too difficult, I'll talk it over with the top brass!"
"…… I don't really mind. I just have to do it, right?"
Hmm, I leak a sigh from my nose.
It's just the usual. Same old, same old.
"… By the way, where is Bøyg… the hero's unit fighting today?"
"Yes ma'am! The hero's unit is at work conquering the wetlands to the west! The sword saint's unit and the witch's unit are also scheduled to assist in the assault on those lands!"
"Hah… sounds fun…"
"When we divide our forces equally, it can't help but come to this!"
What a pain, I thought as I jumped onto my horse and plodded my way forward.
Trudging step by step, I slowly set my horse walking towards the enemy castle.
"Fwahahahaha! So you've made it! Holy Maiden! But I knew you were coming here!"
"So you're my opponent. You'd better not call me underhanded just because I use a trap or two."
"If the Demon King's big four put their powers together…"
"Holy maiden, you'll soon find yourself in a casket."
As I begrudgingly advanced on the castle, four important-looking blokes made an appearance.
What's with them? This lot?
"D… Demon King's big four!? Why are they in a place like this!?"
"What's more, all four of them together!?"
"It's hopeless… there's no way we have a chance of victory…"
Some began to tremble, some even bursting into tears. The soldiers of my unit seemed crazy scared of these Demon King something somethings, already giving up their hope of surviving this encounter.
"Let's go! These spires shall be your grave marker! Holy Maiden!"
"Holy maiden punch."
One of those something four died.
He ate my holy maiden punch and died. My punch had caused one to cease breathe in a single blow. His spout his entrails as he died.
"What foolishness is this!?"
"That man was the strongest among the Demon King's big cour!"
"Holy maiden kick."
"Holy maiden elbow."
"Holy maiden beam."
By each of my blows, one of the Demon King's big four perished. Their bodies dispersing from my attacks, they died all too easily.
Their blood stained the high-class demon-made carpet.
It's not like I had no feelings of pity.
But as I stared fixatedly at the demon blood stuck to my hands, I often think.
'Are you unharmed!? Holy Maiden!?'
The hero from my dream's words echo through my ears.
That me had her life saved by the hero. While she frailly quivered, captured by the dark forces, the hero saved her from the hands of evil, as if leaping straight out of a child's fairy tale.
The me from my dreams was held in the hero's arms, as if it was all a dream. While that was a strange expression to use, the reality within my dream was filled with a nicely dreamy and vibrant love.
"Hah… how idiotic……"
There were two large points where this world differed from the world in my dreams.
They were small differences.
But they had brought with them changes large enough to shake the world. No one knows what results those changes might bring.
But all I can say for certain, is that to me, they were differences big enough to turn my world on its head.
They were differences big enough to alter every single thing about me.
Meaning, more than the me of my dreams,
… I was exceptionally stronger.
Also, an unwoman… meaning I'm an unpopular woman…
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"Bøyg! Bøyg…! Please don't die…!"
The Holy Maiden raised a bitter cry as she wept.
In her arms was the body of the hero, and that body had become tattered after being subject to dark magic. Panting out her thin breath, the holy maiden barely managed to secure his life in place with the healing magic she used out of desperation.
"Fwaha, fwahahahaha! The hero is already done for! I never thought he would be able to defeat me, but if I use my last breath to take his, I'll save some face in the other world!"
There was yet another soul collapsed on the floor, whose flame of life was on the brink of going out.
One corner of the Demon King's big four.
Bearing a wound from the hero's blade too deep for salvation, he stained the carpet spread over the floor in his own blood. His final laugh echoed through the vast hall.
The party of the hero and holy maiden, on that day, had set out to recover the western castle taken by the demons. Cutting down the enemies within the castle, they had favorably battled their way through, but in the final room, that man awaited.
One of the Demon King's big four, Bohnd the Nightmare.
Despair lay waiting around the corner.
At first, Bohnd of the big four's overwhelming power didn't even permit the hero's approach. His magic and martial arts were first-class, clearly showing off the difference between the Demon King's legion and humanity.
The Demon King was intently searching out and finding powers the likes of which the human realm had no means of opposing.
But the hero was no ordinary human.
The hero grew through battle, his powers matured and refined with each clash of blades.
Even as wounds were carved into his body, the sword he swung out of desperation grew sharper with each and every swipe. Every time the Demon King's big four shaved their life away, the hero, no all his companions would grow.
And once that long, long battle was finally reaching its end, when the hero's sword finally found its place deep in the demon's chest, with the resolve to trade one life for another, the demon burned the hero's body in black flames.
"Bøyg…! Hero…! I… don't want… I don't want this…!"
The Holy Maiden clung tight as she wept into the hero's chest.
The loss of the hero was something that should never come to pass; to the country and to the world, it would be a grave loss indeed.
But to the Holy Maiden, the fate of the world was of trivial insignificance.
She was about to lose the one she thought of so dearly. That reality brought tears to her eyes, as a purified sorrow untainted by self-interest leaked from her breath.
The black flames sublimated into miasma, coiling about his body. Even now when he was on the brink of death, it was easy to imagine the dark forces were still eating into his body.
There was no way to tear away the darkness. No means to save the hero.
But even so, she could only pray for a miracle.
"…… If only I had more power…"
The Holy Maiden spat a gloomy voice.
"If I was stronger, perhaps it wouldn't have come to this…"
What crossed her heart was a meaningless regret.
When the Holy Maiden had never neglected her daily training, she could only be disillusioned by her own lack of strength. Thoughts that had no meaning in thinking spun round and round her chest.
Her heart had sunk.
"… It'll… be al… right, Lady Ina…?"
At that moment, a faint voice entered her ears.
The hero held in her chest weakly called out her name.
"…!? Bøyg! Bøyg!? Have you regained consciousness!? Get a grip! You must keep ahold of yourself! Please don't die…!"
Hearing the hero's faint voice, the Holy Maiden put power into her arms wrapped around him.
"I'm not… going to die… Lady Ina… today morning… I made a promise…… that I would eat… the dinner… you made…"
"So it's alright… I'm not going to die… before your eyes…"
Even as he said that, his breath was weakening bit by bit, the dark miasma still circulating through his body shrinking the flame of his life.
He was already beyond the point of salvation. That was something the Holy Maiden, the hero's comrades, and even the hero putting up a strong front himself understood. The bead of the pulse of life was going out.
The Holy Maiden grieved, it felt as if her chest would burst; she knew there was nothing she could do,
… So she gently locked lips with the hero.
Shedding some tears all the way.
At that moment, light welled from his body. The dark miasma surrounding him swallowed and overwritten by a strong and gentle light. Perhaps because of the kiss, the Holy Maiden's power of purification entered the hero, cleansing away the vile force.
"Eh? Eh…? What? What just happened…?"
The one more flustered than any was the Holy Maiden herself.
Regardless of the fact she was the one who created the present situation, she had no clue as to what had gone on. Meaning, she had not the slightest idea why such a thing was occurring.
"… Is this a hidden power of the Holy Maiden…"
"An untainted power to wash away all evil…"
Everyone around gradually grasped the situation.
By her kiss, the Holy Maiden had let her own power flow into the hero, directly tending to his wounds and driving off the evil power.
The Holy Maiden alone failed to comprehend, her eyes spinning as her confusion continued.
The hero looked at the Holy Maiden.
His thin breath that even still sounded as if it might go out was beginning to calm. His turbulent conscience was gradually becoming distinct.
Raising his body, this time the Hero gave the Holy Maiden a kiss.
With a gentle smile unthinkable a man who had just been on the brink of death, he called over.
The Holy Maiden's chaos, embarrassment, delight, and heat she couldn't do anything about mixed in her heart like a muddy stream, and raising a small voice she swooned and relinquished her consciousness.
In the battle for that castle, the curtain closed on a grand finale.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"Are you an idiooooooot!?"
It was a refreshing morning, the weather so fair it raised one's spirits just basking in it… and yet I was assaulted by an awakening so gloomy none of that meant the slightest to me.
I saw another stupid dream.
I, the holy maiden, kissed the hero and saved him?
Are you stupid? Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.
It was such a trite, hackneyed, worn out, overdone, messed up scenario, just what do you think you're doing in this day and age?
"Hah… this dream again…"
I felt deplored at myself as I covered my face in my small hands.
The hell is this? Am I sexually frustrated?
I often see similar dreams.
Dreams of falling in love with the hero, overcoming a battle to save the world at his side.
Troublingly, these dreams overlapped with reality in too many points: the people that appeared, the countries, the culture, the setting were almost all identical.
But there were some large differences.
… The me in reality is much stronger than the dream me, and I'm an unwoman.
Right, I'm too strong.
In the dreams the hero and I put our powers together like a married couple, but the real me is different. To start with, I've never teamed up with the hero in my life.
The reason being I'm too strong.
With efficiency in mind, my unit is never sent on joint missions with any other teams.
In the first place, it's because I was too strong that I lost any opportunity to be with him.
A year ago, there was a time where I was abducted by a dragon of the demon tribe. The dream me half-gave up on life, her way darkening with sadness until the hero finally saved her.
That was the main event that deepened her bond with the hero.
Then what about the real me?
I was definitely abducted, for what it's worth.
But I undid the restraints with my own strength, punching the demon dragon to death with my own fists.
I escaped with my own power!
Without the leisure to be coddled by anyone, I put all my strength into those magic chains and pulled at them until they shattered, believing in my own strength as I fought!
I went on a rampage, challenged the dragon to one on one, got through with my fists, and kicked all the mobs that came at me like a tidal wave into the distance!
There was no reason to hold back! In a battle of life or death, I came out on top! There was no resignation or rescue! I used my own strength to overcome my own battle!
And passing through death and carnage, I loudly declared my superiority.
By the time the hero came to save me, it was already too late. The dragon's base was already under my rule.
There was no space for any heart-tugging happenings with the hero.
When I desperately worked so hard…
Tried so hard…
Why is the dream girl making even better memories!?
What is the meaning of this!? Why is that one getting a good man in her hands, and making some hot 'n flirty memories with him!?
When I'm the one who endeavored on my own and triumphed over the predicament, why is it the dream that didn't overcome anything who gets a lover and spends her days in fulfillment!?
Precisely because of my strength, the real me keeps being sent off to harsh battlefields, the enemy demons have their eye on me, I don't have a boyfriend, there isn't a single good thing about having high combat abilities.
Just beat them!
Slay those Demon King big four in one blow!
Mercilessly scatter them for the crows!
Ah! Seriously, what is this! This difference!?
That girl isn't particularly strong, yet she gets all the good memories; meanwhile, I've contributed so much to the battle against the dark forces, yet I'm the same unwoman as ever!
By the way, unwoman refers to an unpopular woman.
It doesn't just mean not having a boyfriend, it often points to a lady at fault with more than enough of a reason to be unpopular.
Like being unrefined, or not being able to do housework, or not dressing up, or having a twisted personality, it points to that sort of woman.
And not the dream me.
The dream me is popular. She's got a great personality, her appearance is in order, and she's good at cooking. Her capacity of a woman is perfect, and in that regard, if me and me fought, I wouldn't have the slightest chance of victory.
Right, she's even good at cooking.
Before the battle of the western castle, the dream me promised to cook for the hero.
She really is a competent woman, gives a real popular feel.
I want to eat your hand-cooked meal? To hell with that! Are you an idiot? Try telling me the difference between a beef bowl takeout and a hand-cooked meal!
Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm biased. I don't know the first thing when it comes to cooking.
No way I could make anything, idiot. Cooking, you see, it's practically pointless if you don't have anyone who'll eat it for you.
Eat it myself? It's fun at first, but you get sick of it in no time, you know?
Too much labor for something you have to do three times per day, and once you get accustomed to cooking your own meals, the loneliness and awkwardness start coming back. Of course you'd lose your motivations, idiot.
Awkwardness? Why would you feel awkward when you're alone?
To anyone who says that, go see a shrink. Being able to sense an awkward and terrible air when no one's around is the mark of a full-fledged unwoman.
What's with this difference.
For me to feel this depressed, the untidiness of my room must be to blame.
But cleaning it up is a pain.
Can't I get a boyfriend to clean up for me…
No, is it because I'm this crude I don't have one to begin with?
I want a boyfriend who'll spoil me.
I'm not asking for much.
Just has to be good looking and clever with a promising future and good looking and rich and tall and good looking with a good personality and good looking. Then I'll have no complaints.
… Damn, I feel empty.
For now, today's plan is to go tease one of the executives under the Demon King's direct command.
Of course, largely on my own.
My subordinates' job is to clean up the surrounding small fries. I'm always alone against the boss class fighters. Even when the hero works with his comrades to fight.
I let out a sigh as I pass my arms through the sleeves of the unhung uniform discarded on the floor before leaving the room.
Of course, the dream me wears a carefully maintained, pretty Holy Maiden outfit without a single crease.
I keep getting reminded of every difference between us.
I left for work and murdered the demon army executive with one blow.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"It's a beautiful night."
"Yeah, the moon is beautiful."
An extravagant castle where a noble lived, in a corner of a room, the Holy Maiden and hero shared a bottle of wine. Going out to the room balcony, they lowered themselves into chairs set with intricate detail as they sipped at that high-grade product.
But the reason the stars looked so pretty wasn't because of the money put into the furnishings or drink. Simply to have a loved one by their side. With that alone, the stars looked several times more beautiful than when looked up at alone.
"These smoked meats are tasty. They go well with the beautiful stars and good wine."
"Ah, no… they're nothing too special…"
"Oh…? Could it be you're the one who made them, Lady Ina?"
"Yes. Though they can't help but fall short of such high-grade wine…"
"No… I wouldn't say that…"
The hero said as he let a mouth of wine down his throat and stuffed his cheeks with the snacks his girlfriend had made. Forget falling short of the wine, he could only think they drew out its depth.
"… It's almost the final battle."
"That's right, the fight against the Demon King approaches…"
Their two bodies were stiff.
Passing through the boundaries of life and death time and again, they had shouldered despair as they achieved victory in their battles against the Demon King's big four, taking down numerous other formidable foes. Everyone's body and heart was already in tatters.
No matter how ragged they ran, they could only fight on. For the world, for the people of the country.
That was the mission of the hero and his men.
But even so, his body stiffened.
At the end of the end, the battle with the Demon King approached.
"There are times I find myself thinking…"
"Am I really a hero…"
The hero looked down as he folded his hands, letting out a heavy voice.
"… What do you mean?"
"A hero os someone who grants salvation to all. When mankind is tormented by evils it has no means to go against, the hero becomes their salvation and cuts down the darkness. No matter what fairytale, what legend you look at, that's what they should be…"
The hero laughed as he raised his head. A self-depreciating smile spread out.
"But I… I find myself asking for salvation myself."
"We've just barely made it through our battles up to now. There hasn't been a single battle that wasn't painful. Can I really win against the King of Demons? If I lose, what will become of the world? Am I really strong enough to shoulder this title of hero?
I'm scared, so scared I don't know what to do with myself."
Covered by the clouds, the stars fell out of sight.
"If there was someone else… some extremely strong person besides me, if that person could easily take down the Demon King… a part of my heart continues to seek out such nonsensical salvation."
The hero's body shook.
This form was one he would definitely never show before the troops. He would only share his troubles and pains with the comrades right by his side, what's more, this was the first time he ever showed such a weakened state.
The Holy Maiden stood from her seat, tightly embracing the hero.
"I'm sure… I'm sure if such a strong person existed, then they would surely be alone."
The Holy Maiden gently whispered to him.
"That person would surely resolve everything on their own, without relying on any, without knowing any comrades, they'd become a lonely human who could only look forward."
"If you were the strongest hero who could solve everything alone, I'm sure you wouldn't need me; I'm sure you'd be alone."
The Holy Maiden kissed the Hero.
"That's why I'm happy. That the hero is someone who can rely on me."
"We're all only human, we can only put our utmost effort, give it our best to move forward."
"… Yeah, you're… right. It's just as you say, Lady Ina."
Before he finished his own words, he strongly pulled her close, and slightly forcefully stole her lips.
The hero lifted up the Holy Maiden.
Reeling from the sensual shock to her mouth, the hazy Holy Maiden was led atop the bed. The hero used his tool of the trade, his strong power to push the Holy Maiden's body onto the bed without any room for refusal.
The girl had no space to resist, nor did she attempt to.
Her eyes simply melted at the intense kiss, her face dyed in red.
"You don't want to?"
"I swear. I'll be gentle."
The beast assailing her was stiff.
It wasn't as if he was simply leaving his body to his own desire. Mixing in rationality, mixing in courage and resolve with his instincts, he was exceptionally nervous as he tried to exchange vows with his lovers.
The one whose body was truly trembling was the hero.
The Holy Maiden shook her head, voicing the words of rejection.
The hero's heart skilled a beat. Could he have been refused? His nervousness reached its peak.
The Holy Maiden's face turned red as she gave the sort of bashful smile that would enchant any man.
"You don't have to be gentle… please make a mess of me…"
Before the Holy Maiden's sensual voice, the Hero lost his reigns.
The light of the moon spilling in from the window projected two overlapping figures on the wall of the room.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"U W A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A AA A A A A A AA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?"
A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?
A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aa a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?
A N GYA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A Aa a a a a aa a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?
I leap to my feet
The hell you doin'!?
What the hell are you people doing!?
The hell is she doing!?
"U WA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?"
I hold my head.
I can only hold my head.
Hot! My face his hot! My face can only be hot!
A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A It was so vivid!
V I V I D!
R I D I C U L O U S L Y V I V I D!
I groan as I make a bridge over the bed.
There's no meaning to it! There's no meaning, but I can't maintain my composure! Even I understand the strange one here is me! But for some reason, I just can't sit still!
D A M M I T!
I don't wanna say it! I don't want to say it, but that was cold! I don't want to say what part of it, but it was wet and cold!
What are you forcing down an unwoman's throat, you bastard!?
"Stop it… stop. It…?"
The chorus repeats in my head.
Round and round, round and round, the same thoughts spin around, and it felt like my head would burst from the centrifugal force of my brain.
Meaning… it's going to go baaang! My head!
A aaah… the heat…! The heat…!
My body…! It's not cooling down.
I'm flushed! You fookin' flushed me! You've flushed the body of someone who's lived ten-odd years as an unwoman, dammit! Made me dream a spectacle a Super Elite Perfect Ultimate Unwoman will never be able to experience in her entire life, turning me redder than a monkey in a bath!
It's all, all, all, all the dream's fault!
I felt just the worst.
Because I felt the worst, I rampaged like crazy.
Smashing down the walls of the final fort on the way to the Demon King's castle, 'The Tower of Darkness' as I paraded in, putting all my spirit and animalistic passions with no outlet into fist after fist as I hammered my blows into the demon army's final general. I put in twenty, thirty hits clad in my loser aura.
Taking on my outburst of anger, the demon army's final general exploded and dispersed, the 'Tower of Darkness' climbing into the air from the force o’ my fists.
One of my subordinates reported it to the higherups, but the top brass got angry saying they had no idea what was supposed to mean. The report was deemed incoherent, and that subordinate was sent off to counseling.
Leaving that subordinate to the side, I brought my feet to the army dining hall.
It was a plain food station made from simple modifications to a stolen enemy base, and a shoddy place consisting of short-term repairs carried out after the battle. Plywood was fastened over the broken portions, with tattered tables and chairs as if made from scrap wood arbitrarily lining the place.
The food they put out wasn't anything special. They just set out some grilled potatoes and a thin soup where they didn't have much to work with.
At first there were talks of, "Feeding the Holy Maiden a proper meal," but I declined.
Being treated specially and having only me eating good meals was terrible on my psyche. I got the feeling those around me were directing envious looks my way, and I could no longer tell whether the food tasted good or not.
Meaning I'm an unwoman!
I'm crazy conscious of everyone elses's eyes! Am I alright!? An I being hated!? Do they perhaps think I'm impertinent!?
Aaah! To be quite honest, I want to eat my meals where no one's watching.
Holing up in a bathroom stall, I want to eat alone in silence!
I don't want people to think the holy maiden is eating alone without any friends! I don't want them to know the holy maiden is a loner!
Though they all already know!
I noticed a long, long time ago how the surroundings were looking over me with warm eyes!
With this thought and that turning around my head, I noticed a shadow being cast on my own body. Someone was standing on the opposite side of the table.
I raised my head to look at that person. The dining hall was close to full, and yet the seat across from me just happened to be empty.
"Huh? Ina? It's been a while."
The one in front of me was Bøyg… the hero.
The person who nurtured love with me in a dream.
"I hope this seat's not taken."
Regardless of my fluster, the bastard before me sat across all carefree.
I ended up leaking a strange voice. Naturally so. Before all the surprise even factored in, I was an unwoman.
If I didn't get nervous in front of a man, I wouldn't be me.
"So how have you been lately, Ina?"
"Yeah, what've you been up to?"
How have I been?
How have I been… terrible! Idiot!
No way I could be fine! It's your damn fault! It's because you and the strange me come out in my dreams!
"…… You've kinda been averting your eyes from me for a while now?"
"……… You're imagining it."
Like hell I can look you in the eye!
Do you know what dreams I dreamt today!?
I saw a dream where you did some crazy things to me, you hear!
What are you going to do about this!?
When I had no intent to climb the stairway to adulthood to begin with, you goddamn realers chained me and dragged me up, my back banging against the corner of every step, so how do you think I feel!? Stupid!
Ah, god! Just go away already! Just because there's no other seat, that doesn't mean you have to sit across from me!
It's not like the two of us are even close enough to have a conversation, asshole!
We've only ever spoken a few times at best!
"I wanted to offer my thanks."
Bøyg suddenly said.
"… Thanks? … I haven't done anything for you to thank me for."
"I don't have any confidence that I can beat the Demon King."
The hero's face was serious.
"I really am glad you're here. With your power, even the Demon King would go down. It might be shameful for the hero to say it, but it's because you're here, that I can feel relieved from the depths of my heart."
"…… What is your objective in flattering me? I don't really have anything to give you."
"You're as twisted as ever."
Bøyg gave a small laugh.
"…… Come to think of it, you don't talk formally to me, do you?"
The dream Bøyg always spoke to me in a courteous tone. Even in private, he maintained the dignity of a hero as he spoke.
"Hmm? Ah? That so. Would you prefer me to speak formally, Holy Maiden? Then I have committed a most heinous discourtesy."
"… No, it doesn't really matter. That wasn't what I meant when I said it. Talk however you want to."
"Yeah? Thanks for that. No, how should I put it, you don't really give off a Holy Maiden sort of feeling, so when I speak formal… it just feels unnatural, you know. Oh, was that also a discourtesy?"
"… It doesn't matter. I'm aware of it."
I know people often say I'm not very holy maiden-ish, and I'm the one who knows best that I'm not holy maiden-ish at all.
Rather, when he speaks politely, it makes my body itch. Just be frank, frank please.
These formalities just don't suit me.
"…… Bøyg, is speaking casually your natural self?"
"Hm? No, I wonder. It's not like either of them feels off. When I'm talking with the sword saint, I speak respectfully, but it doesn't feel stiff at all."
So it's not like dream you is putting on airs.
"Then I'll be counting on you in the Demon King subjugation. It's shameful, but we won't be able to do it on our own."
Bøyg lowered his head.
It doesn't matter. I don't particularly think it's shameful.
I mean, the dream me was in love with you,
… And the real me had fallen as well.
It was seven, perhaps eight years ago.
I was recognized by the church as the 'Holy Maiden,' leaving my parent's embrace at a young age.
There were no friends in sight, the training was harsh, the monsters were scary. I would always hide my tears, gritting my teeth as I lived on.
While the Holy Maiden may be adored, she couldn't have anyone close. She was the valuable Holy Maiden, a solitary existence in the world, so it was only natural.
That's why the party was agonizing.
To greet and greet and greet and greet people I didn't know. Maintaining a forced smile, listening to their boring talks as if it was supposed to be fun, having myself lifted up by meaningless flattery, and saying oh, that's amazing on reflex when it was called for.
Who do they think I am? I'm an unwoman. I had already caught a glimpse of my own unwomanhood back then. I'm a coward. A coward. Like hell I can stay in this party!
And once all the lines of greetings were over, I made myself scarce in a corner of the hall, dazing out on my own.
Stifling my breath, I created a shell around me so I wouldn't have to talk with anyone.
At that time, a voice called over.
"Are you alright?"
It was the small Hero Bøyg.
Worrying for me, he had brought over lots of candy.
That's all there was to it. It all came down to such a small thing.
It was an absurd trifle of kindness, and it's not as if anything major happened. After that, we didn't have any significant conversation, and after leaving the sweets, he left my side.
That was all there was to it, but from that day forth, I couldn't take my eyes off of Bøyg.
The party went on, the dances began. I simply gazed at him dancing with someone else from afar.
I didn't invite him to dance. A coward can only look from a distance.
… But the dream me invited him to dance, and he took her by the hand.
I felt a little jealous.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"Will you hear out my dream, Lady Ina?"
The Holy Maiden curtly handled the hero's serious look.
They were in a room of a castle stolen by the enemy, and while the hero and Holy Maiden had each been afforded their own private room, at this point, they only ever used one room for the pair.
They were living together.
"I have something important to talk about."
"I can imagine what you're going to say. And I'm sure it's the happiest thing I can wish for as a woman…"
The Holy Maiden turned her reddened face from the hero. Her cheeks had turned the red of a ripe apple as she awkwardly tapered her mouth.
"But even so, even so, it cannot pass. You cannot give me those words here and now."
The Holy Maiden stood and approached the window.
Far, far away, she stared into the distance with a tragic expression.
"I mean, the battle with the Demon King will soon be upon us…"
The Hero was silenced.
A battle where there was no telling if everyone would get out safe was before them.
"It's an ill omen to make a promise before a difficult battle."
"… So you're the sort to believe in such superstition."
"I always loved the books and moving pictures…"
She wanted to avoid discussing hopes and dreams before the trial.
While her hopes were hot and glimmering, the battle would shave away and put cracks into them. The obstacle of death would shatter such a promise into pieces.
That's why she was afraid to put the warm future she hoped for to mouth.
The hero embraced the Holy Maiden looking up at the stars from behind.
The Holy Maiden's body twitched.
It wasn't rare for them to embrace one another. They had already done things more amazing than that time and again.
Even so, her pule hastened. A throbbing beat of nervous delight raced through her, and it was something the hero could feel as well. The two of them shared their heat.
"If it's no good to talk about the future…"
"Then here, then now…"
The hero's face approached the Holy Maiden's. The distance from eye to eye entered point blank, as each side noticed the passion imbued in the other's pupils.
Their lips approached. A few centimeters left. No, only millimeters to go…
The Holy Maiden closed her eyes.
In exchange, the hero opened his mouth.
"Here and now, I shall be teasing you
The hero tickled her bottom.
She brushed away his arm, blankly taking some distance. Her face was red with embarrassment, and swelling up her cheeks, she showed her displeasure with upturned eyes.
The moonlight leaking through the window illuminated the displeased girl's silver hair.
"Hahaha, you're angry."
"Yes I am! Anyone would be angry! It was all leading up to a romantic air, was it not!? Why did you tickle my bum!?"
In regards to the chuckling her, the Holy Maiden's voice was rough.
"But you don't feel so tense anymore, do you?"
Receiving those words, she probed into her own chest.
Sure enough, it felt lighter. Her heart was pained before the battle with the Demon King. And at this very moment, it had softened a bit.
… No, but what's this about tickling someone's bum?
What did her maiden heart have to say about that.
The hero laughed as he sat down on the sofa. As if she thought the very least she could do was express her displeasure, she let off a thud as she violently took a seat by his side.
"Won't you cheer up, Lady Ina."
"There, there. Good girl, good girl."
The hero gently stroked the Holy Maiden's head.
His hand gently swayed, so as not to disturb her silky hair.
"Lady Ina, you told me the other day."
"That not just as the hero, everyone needs to give it their all. Not just the power of one, we can fight together to overcome this battle."
"I was happy to hear those words. And I'm sure they're just right when we have no geniuses among us."
"I do think you count as a genius… but if we put our power together, I'm sure… I'm sure…"
"Please fight by my side, to the very end."
The Holy Maiden's smile was brilliant, but it was a smile as if to show the solid resolve underlying it. Seeing that face, the hero gave a satisfied nod.
He lowered his hand that was petting her head.
The hand shifted from her hair to her face, he stroked down her neck to her shoulder, and…
As his hand came down even lower, the holy maiden slapped it away.
Her displeased eyes focused on the hero.
The hero gave the mischievous smile of a child whose prank had been found out.
"You were about to touch my chest, weren't you."
"…… Who can say? I have no idea what you're talking about."
The Holy Maiden pouted.
"I understand. Bøyg is actually a lewd person, lately, I've come to understand all too well."
"No, that's not true, is it…?"
"It definitely is! On our nights together, do you understand just how ragged you run me!?"
"N-no… that's because you told me to make a mess of you and I couldn't help but…"
The Holy Maiden's face turned red and she cleared her throat once.
"W… well, i-it doesn't really matter if you're a lewd person or not… it's fine…… it's not like I hated it……"
The Holy Maiden's words gradually grew smaller, at the end becoming the hum of a mosquito.
"But! Even so! I have to draw the line somewhere! Until the battle with the Demon King is over, all impure acts are strictly prohibited!"
The Holy Maiden rudely turned her face away, the hero was taken aback.
Crestfallen, he hung his head. After the intense battles with the demons, his indecent exchanged with his beloved girlfriend had been a great relieve on his heart.
Simply, to be blunt, the Hero was a lewd person.
Feeling up the Holy Maiden's body was one of his great pleasures.
"… Is it really no good?"
"It's no good."
He dropped his shoulders. Seeing him like that, the Holy Maiden gave a light laugh.
Holding the Hero's shoulder, drawing her face closer, she gave the light touch of a kiss.
"A kiss doesn't count as an impure act."
At the soft sensation he just felt at his lips, the hero was dumbfounded. So this was what it meant to be lowered and raised; receiving a sudden reward, a childish expression floated over his face.
The Holy Maiden was making a mischievous, charming smile. She laughed as she observed the reactions of her beloved hero.
The hero embraced her shoulders, and once more, this time a more heated kiss…
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"DA A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a! FU U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U U! Fookin flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin'!"
I cried out.
I cried out from my soul.
I swung my fists as I cried out.
"Splendid! As expected! As expected of you! For I, the Demon King to be pushed back! As expected of the humankind's strongest hero! This is the thrill, this is what I've been fighting for!"
"S H U T T h E F O O K UPPPPPPPPPPPPPP! T H A T S H I T D O N ' T M A T T E R NOWWWWWWWW!"
Before my eyes was the final and strongest enemy, the Demon King.
As expected of the enemy leader, he was a cut or two above the rest. Even after receiving a few of my fists, he endured.
"Now come, Holy Maiden! Make me feel like I'm alive!"
"Like I care about thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttt! flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' some more! THAT BITTTTTTTTTTTCCCCCHHHHHHH! Quite getting all hot and sweatyyyy!"
I spat up sugar!
Showing an unwoman a dream like that is torture!
Ptttttttttttttttttttttewy! Hack, ptewy!
It was sweet! Way too sweet! The inside of my mouth's caked in sugar! It's bad on the soul for an unwoman like me!
What the hell was that!? What's with that sweetness!? Are you stupid!?
Stop it! Stop it! I can't hold on much longer! You're giving me food poisoning! Damn fool!
"I'm taking this anger out on… YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU! DEMON KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNG!"
The Demon King was a sandbag to take my frustration. As his body was needlessly durable, I put in all the weight of an unwoman, hammering my fists in again and again.
"So this is… this power is your love, your wish for peace!"
"Take another guess!"
It's just a personal grudge!
Right now, peace can eat shit!
All I want is peace for my own heart!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! This really is bad! Go to hell! All the couples in the world should go to hell! Are they all like that!? Are all the world's lovers like that!? I M P O S S I B L E! That's impossible!
Is that conduct that's exceeded sanity into the realm of madness really the love everyone in the world looks up to!?
A AH! The sugar! It's leaking from my mouth! I feel like I'm going to spit up sugar again!
The world's couples…
All the couples in the world can just…
"… PEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS S S S S S S S S S S S S S S H h h h h!"
The one who perished was the Demon King.
My barrage of rage took him down.
My anger against every couple in the world defeated the Demon King and brought in peace.
The world was at peace. Because of my hatred of every couple in it…
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"So this is… the Demon King's power…"
In a grand hall decorated with ornate ornaments, the hero and his comrades were forced to their knees. Before their eyes was the form of the Demon King standing composedly, his wounds all too light. It was the throne room of the Demon King's castle. Despite the fact that the portions the effects of the battle reached were broken and tattered, the wounds on the Demon King's own body were light.
"Ha ha ha! So it's already over! Brave heroes!"
On the other hand, the hero parties' bodies were ragged.
Wounds all over their bodies, stamina at reaching its limit, the hero's comrades planted their hands and knees onto the shattered floor tile.
"To think he was such a foe… it's completely different……!"
"He's strong… so this is the Demon King……!"
No one could move their body.
The hero and holy maiden and sword saint and witch crawled over the ground, the Demon King's grand laugh being all that resounded through the room. They weren't dead yet. Their consciousness hadn't cut off. They could still speak.
But even so, the hero party had no chance of victory.
They had lost to the Demon King.
"I must commend you heroes. While being mere humans, you grew strong, slaying every last remnant of my army and making it all the way to me."
"But that's as far as you go. You couldn't reach me. You couldn't achieve peace. You gave it a good shot. Now sleep."
The Demon King's footsteps sounded out as he slowly, slowly approached the collapsed heroes. He walked on to ley the final blow to these heroes of feeble breath.
Their lives were to be reaped.
Their hopes of peace would be reaped away.
The hero desperately tried to lift his body. But he couldn't stand. His body wouldn't listen to what he had to say.
He was aware his own death would mean despair for the world. An existence that should never lose by any means, that's what he was.
Even so, against the absolute existence of the Demon King, his life was to be trampled down.
He couldn't stand.
No matter what he did, he couldn't stand.
The Demon King approached.
Within all of that, a single shadow got to its feet.
Swaying its wound-ridden body as it put power into its limbs, slowly lifting itself up. Her orderly long hair disturbed by the battle, her blood-stained clothes ruffled and stained with blood and grime.
Using her staff as support, she desperately stood. Her eyes held no ambition, with a body so ragged she might fall with a poke, when there was surely nothing she would be able to do, she stood.
"Lady Ina… why are you…"
The one who stood with the Holy Maiden… Ina.
"Fwahahaha! So even before the hero, the Holy Maiden stands! And so!? What will you do!? What are you able to do!?"
The Demon King laughed. But without paying that any mind, the Holy Maiden turned towards the Hero and sent him a smile. It was a smile somewhat imbued with resignation.
"…… Lady Ina?"
"From here on, I will defeat the Demon King."
"…… Eh? But h…"
"So… this is goodbye."
But how would you do that? Before he could say that, the hero's sentence was cut off by her words of parting.
"W… what are you talking about…… Lady Ina……? There's no way you can beat him, with that beaten body…"
"Bøyg…… I always loved you. Even before that day you saved me from a dragon's bonds… from the day you gave candy to a lonely girl, I always loved you."
"When I was always looking at you from afar, I was overjoyed when the day came that I could become your power. Fight alongside you, supporting up one another, the days of being loved by you were nothing but happiness."
"What are you saying at a time like this…! Lady Ina!"
"Thank you, Bøyg……"
No matter how they were taken, those were words of parting.
The hero cried out. But as if to shake him off, the Holy Maiden turned her body away and faced the Demon King.
An immense magic gushed from her body. That strange magic he didn't know the source of enveloped her body, causing it to glimmer.
"Woman… that magic… you're using your lifeforce……"
"If I use the secret art… I will die. But I'll take you down with me, Demon King."
"Fwahahaha… this is getting interesting……"
"Stop it! You have to stop…! Ina!"
The magic of life gushing from her body converged. The Holy Maiden gathered her final power into her hands, with the intent to fire her final spell.
Releasing the magic of life was just as it sounded, no different than relinquishing one's life itself.
"This is… the end! Demon King!"
"I've heard out your resolve! Now come! Holy Maiden!"
The two resolves and the pained cries of comrades echoed through the room.
The room shook. No, the castle as a whole was shaking. Perhaps form the intense clash of the two magics, the oscillating air shook the space.
Resolve and magic, pained cries, thoughts, an evil heart and a heart of justice, any and all sort of intense resolve mingled in the room, clashed and shook the world.
The final battle, the final shot with the world on the line clashed.
That was a mistake.
The shaking space wasn't due to the Demon King, or even the Holy Maiden's magic.
There was an intervention.
There was a single ill-mannered human in existence who would interfere in a battle with the world on the line.
"What is this…?"
Cracks began forming in space itself.
As there was an invisible glass pane where there was supposed to be nothing at all, cracks spread to form a dividing line in reality.
At first, everyone thought the vibrations and tremors were the aftermath of the final battle. But that was a mistake.
Fingers began sprouting from the crevice in space.
Those unhealthy fingers that didn't look like that didn't do any decent exercise outside emerged from the other side, and by the sheer strength of the hands connected to them, the spacial crevice spread out.
"W… what's this…? What's happening?"
"On the other side… just who…"
"Who… could it be……?"
On the other side of space was a single young woman.
Unkept hair, half-asleep eyes, her uniform was ridden in wrinkles. Her appearance wasn't kept up, an air of cynicism drifting about her.
And yet, an enormous magic could be felt from that slovenly girl.
That prior shake in space wasn't the magic or life or the demon king's darkness, it was the sheer willpower of the girl who appeared from the other side.
"Y… you are……"
"I-it can't be……"
The girl looked extremely sloppy. But if you ignored the atmosphere around her, she was identical to the Holy Maiden Ina.
The mysterious girl sucked in a deep breath.
"BAAAASSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTAAAAAAAARRRRRRDDDDDDDDSSS! Always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirtin' and flirting the hell of itttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!"
At a single scream from the mysterious girl, the entire space tingled and shook.
"How am I supposed to sleep at night, dammit!"
The girl's body moved instantaneously, planting a punch into Holy Maiden Ina's stomach. At that single blow, the magic of life concentrated on both her hands melted down and returned to her body.
Holy Maiden Ina fell to her feet.
"You lot! You're a right bother!"
The girl who resembled Holy Maiden Ina cried out.
"Always flirtin and flirtin and flirtin the place up! Arbitrarily appearing in my dreams, flirting as if to show off the happiness I'll never get in my lifeeeee!
What's this!? What's wrong with you people!? You making fun of me!? You laughing, this is never happenin' for an unwoman like you, and taking me for a fool!?"
While the girl seemed angry at Ina, the Holy Maiden in question had no idea what was going on. She was angry at the hero as well, but naturally, the man was oblivious.
As if the tense air to that point had been a lie, a dazed air ruled the area. Excluding the enraged mysterious girl.
"Idiot! Idiot! What's more, on the verge of death from the likes of the Demon King? IF you die here, it'll get even harder to get a damn night's sleep! Is that so much to ask for!? Quit bringing trouble to my doorstep! Stupid!"
"W… who exactly… are you……?"
"It goes without saying I'm this woman who came from a parallel world! The victim who's been shown all your lascivious harlotry in my dreams! Stupid!"
The mysterious girl pointed at Holy Maiden Ina as she spoke. Parallel world… meaning she proclaimed herself the Ina of a different world.
"Could it be… you're the one from my dreams…"
Holy Maiden Ina softly muttered.
"Ha ha ha! Gallant warrior of another world! How truly intriguing! Now why don't you show me what you can do!"
"Good! You're noisy! I don't have the time to deal with you right now!
Holy Maiden LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRR!"
By the beam of light emitted from the mysterious girl's mouth, the Demon King disintegrated. And just like that, the beam proceeded to destroy a third of the castle. More than that, a beam spat out from a woman's wide-open mouth, no matter how you looked at it, was not a pretty sight.
And so peace returned to the world.
"In the first place, you two, you know! You're really lacking in any consideration for me! What's this!? You think happiness is something that gets shared with everyone!? You think a single person's happiness is tied to everyone else's!? You think love is the sort of thing that makes everyone happy!?
That's wrong! You're wrong! It's different for an unwoman!
When I see someone I don't know flirting up the town, it makes me nauseous inside! And then? When I see a man and woman holding hands as if love is all there is to the world, ptewy! Quit messin' with me, you bastards! In the end, you're just a bitch in heat reacting to your instinct to mate!
You get me!?"
The hero party had naturally gotten on their knees in apology.
"Yeah, yeah, I know! I'm biased! It's just my biaaas!
I know you haven't done anything wrong! However! If an unpopular woman like me doesn't see popular women that way, it's bad on my mental health! You can't get by if you don't apply some sophistry to your unpopular stress! It doesn't really matter, does it! An unpopular woman can't get by if she doesn't see it that way!
Rather, do you even know what an unwoman is!? It means an unpopular woman, that's what they're calling them these days! Did you know!?"
"As I thought! I knew it! We live in different worlds after all! Where a popular woman and an unpopular one live are… no! By the letter, we live in different worlds!
Have you ever thought about it!? About the unpopular women in the world!? Do you know what pain the unpopular women go through!? I'm sure you don't! There's no way you could!
And yet, you keep showing me how you flirt over'n over'n over'n over! Are you aware of it!? Are you even are you're being watched!? I'd doubt it! There's no way you are!"
The heroes seriously didn't know what was going on.
"In the first place! Why is it when I'm thiiiiiiiiiiis strong, and I've contributed to the world so much- hell I saved two of them- that I'm not popular at all, when someone as flimsy as you gets a boyfriend!? Do you think that's alright!?"
"Eh? Are you referring to me?"
"Of course I am! Me of another world! Everyone giving it all to take down the enemy, deepening their bonds, working hard together, deepening friendship, everyone grasping at a single victory together……
Are you stuppppppppppppppiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddd!?
I'm alone, by myself here! Always alone! So strong I'm alone! In victory and effort I'm always alone! With efficiency in mind, I'm alone! In friendship, I'm alone! What does that even mean! What's one-man teamwork supposed to be!? I don't get what I'm saying anymore!
Do you get me!? Do any of you get it!?"
"As I thought! There's no way you would bet it! Even I don't know what I'm saying after all!
But! But please understand! That's… that's…
… Such is how the unwoman lives her lllllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
A scream rose from her soul.
The Demon King had perished, the world had found peace, and yet what was she doing? The heroes hadn't the slightest idea.
"You two! Yeah, you! Holy maiden! Hero!"
"What got you two together was that, right!? That time she was kidnapped by a dragon and you saved her! Risked your life to save the damsel in distress! You think you're the protagonist and heroine of some adventure novel!? Of course you'd fall! Anyone would fall, anyone would feel the love! The love story where the Holy Maiden and Hero save one another's lives! How beautiful! Good for you!
But try saying the situation I found myself in! Do you get it!? Do you know what I did back then!?"
"I escaped on my own! I punched the damn dragon to death! Before the hero could come to save me, I beat the dragon army black and blue! That's right! Hero over there! Do you think that’s what'll make a love story!? Do you think a love story will break out of holy maiden with both hands caked in blood."
Isn't that right!
Of course it's right!
Because I was too strong, I lost my chance for romance!
It's because I'm too strong that I'm not populaaaaaaaar!"
The unwoman's soulful cry.
It was such an empty pitiful cry, it resounded through the peaceful sky.
But there was someone to chant an objection.
The hero denied the angry sham holy maiden's words.
"You're wrong, Lady Ina of another world. The reason I started to take to Lady Ina wasn't because I saved her in the fight with the dragon.
It was long before that… when she invited me to dance at a party at the palace."
The movements of the rough, raging sham Holy Maiden came to a halt. And as if she hadn't the slightest idea, she tilted her head with her resentful look still plastered over her face.
"I… in a dance party at the palace, Lady Ina asked if I would be her partner. To tell you the truth, that was when I started to be conscious of her… the girl who had just left her hometown, fearfully making scarce in a corner of the room invited me to dance with a reddened face…
The courage in the depths of her eyes… it captivated me."
"By the time I noticed it, my eyes had started to follow her. Was she doing alright? Is she still lonely? Has she found someone close who'll dance with her…
And the moment I heard she had been taken by a demonic dragon, I immediately took off, fast as I could.
From the depths of my heart, I wanted to save the girl who shared a dance with me……"
Holy Maiden Ina touched a hand to her reddened face. It seemed she was unaware of that fact, as she tried to conceal the embarrassment and delight of having been taken to so early.
Within all of that, the sham holy maiden opened her eyes wide to show her shock. As if the foundation she believed in was crumbling beneath her.
"… So the rescue drama in the dragon's nest had nothing to do with it……?"
"I won't say it had no influence, but there was something that got me before that."
"Then… then the real opportunity that got you together… was whether or not she called out at the dance party…?"
"At the very least, it was for me."
The sham holy maiden's eyes widened more.
She never invited the hero at the dance party. She lacked the courage to take the hero by the hand and dance.
The Holy maiden and hero danced, while the sham holy maiden had only watched from afar. The two of different worlds had that small difference in courage.
The sham holy maiden had believed.
Because she was too strong, she had lost the first opportunity. She thought that was the only big difference separating her from the she of this world.
But the cause had come before that.
"Umm! Excuse me! Other me!"
"I… I've seen you in my dreams……! I… I… have something I need to ask you……!"
The lovely Holy Maiden crossed her hands, got on her knees, and made a plea to the scraggly-haired self-proclaimed holy maiden.
"How can I become as strong as you!? The Demon King has perished, but I! We! For as long as we live, we want to protect whatever is in our reach!
I want to grow stronger to protect my precious people!"
Just as the unwoman holy maiden had seen dreams of her parallel self, the lovely Holy Maiden had been seeing dreams of her.
The unwoman maiden put a hand to her chin and thought.
"…… You have to become a coward."
"Become a coward. That's the secret to strength."
The sham holy maiden stared fixatedly into the Holy Maiden's eyes.
"You must become a coward. The way you are, you might not be able to win against a strong foe, you might be killed. You might be led to harsh battlefield only to find yourself in the jaws of death. You're still much too weak, you lack any power, you're timid, you're weak, think of what you're lacking.
What you need, what you're lacking, what you'll never be able to obtain… and then you'll have no choice but to put your life into your training…"
"Become… a coward…"
"You must fear, you must cower, thirst for strength, and thirst and thirst and thirst and thirst, practice and practice and practice and practice…… if you become a coward like that… you'll become like me."
The sham holy maiden looked up at the sky. She looked at the night sky through the hole she blew open in the Demon King's castle.
"Perhaps I was a coward so I became strong… and you were brave so you got a boyfriend……"
"I see… so that was the difference…"
Because she was a coward, the sham holy maiden had become stronger than any other. Her fear of death made her practice more than any. But because she was a coward, she never invited the hero at the party.
On the other hand, it was precisely because the noble Holy Maiden was brave, that she invited the hero, and was able to stand against powerful foes with her comrades. But her hand never reached the strength too far out of her grasp.
The two of different worlds held something completely different.
The sham holy maiden no longer had anything to say or ask.
So she turned her body away from them and started on her way towards the crack in space.
She was called to a stop. By the other her.
"Do your best!"
Her legs stopped in their tracks.
"Let's both do our best!"
The Holy Maiden made a fist with both hands, gripping them tightly as she said it.
The scraggly-haired young girl gave a light hum before disappearing behind the crevice in space.
Yet another world was at peace.
＊ ＊ ＊ ＊ ＊
"Say what what what what what!?"
I lifted my shoulders as I rudely paced.
Ah! How irritating! God, this is irritating me!
What's with that!? Why do I feel like I just lost!?
To hell with courage! For some reason, it's like we concluded we're where we are because she's brave and I'm a coward!
Hey, I beat the Demon King here! I freakin' saved the world! I saved two of them!
Power really is number one. You can't do anything without power. I am numbah one! I am zah best! Even if she's brave, even if she has a boyfriend, if she's not strong, she can't do a damn thing!
Daaammmiiit! I understand!
I'm crying sour grapes! I'm just being a sore loser! Damn! Dammit!
And from here on, without change, I'll be living the life of an unwoman! Screw you!
Isn't that fine!? An unwoman's life!? It's nice and easy alone. I'll have to politely refuse that sort of wretched life of spitting up sugar every day! Dammit!
It's just not for me! Not like it matters! I don't need a boyfriend or anything!
Who cares if I stay the same coward as ever!
'Let's both do our best!'
It's not like I think I lost.
It's not like I need a man. Right, I don't need a lover. I'm not envious at all.
I don't feel like I've lost to parallel world me at all, you hear.
And I opened the door.
On the other side, a vibrant party had been opened.
The commemorative ceremony for the Demon King's defeat, a large, grand festival to sing praise of the world's newfound peace. Extravagant food lined the halls, everyone wore a glamorous dress.
It was a world much too radiant for me.
It doesn't suit me.
The place isn't for me.
I should just go and sleep. I'll snore and sleep until morning comes.
Even so, I proceeded in a straight line to a certain someone.
It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I stay an unwoman.
I don't need courage or anything like that.
The notion spins through my head again and again.
Even so, step by step, I walk.
Towards that person.
I'm nervous. It doesn't really matter. If I want to run, I can just run away. I'm not that fixated on the man anyways.
It's not like I need something like courage.
I think as I arrive.
At the hero Bøyg. At the side of the hero having a friendly chat with his male friends.
…… At the person I love.
"W… w…… woul……."
"Hm? What's up? Ina?"
He calls out. I sweat. My pulse speeds up.
Just a little, please wait a bit more.
"Wo…… would………… would you like……………"
Bøyg smiled as he tilted his head.
No more. I want to run. I don't particularly want a man. I don't need him. I want to run away. It's fine to run, isn't it? It's fine for me to be an unwoman. That way's much easier.
I don't need any courage. I can just run away.
She was able to do it.
The other me could do it.
Then I'm sure I can also…………
"W… would you like to dance with me……?"
I took the first step forward.
It was small, easy and simple, but I took an important first step.
I had no way of telling what would come after.
My plate was full with what was happening now.
Because holding his hand and dancing was something that took all too much courage.
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