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A Valkyrie descended to the human world of Midgard.
She had long blonde hair and white skin. She was tall for a woman, but had a much more slender frame than a man. It was a balance that could not be maintained by any soul born of a human mother. Her beauty was not the type that was meant to draw the opposite sex to her. Her beauty was wrapped in a chill like a flower offered up to a slaughtered foe.
Her appearance was that of a woman in her mid-twenties, but human aging did not apply to a Valkyrie. She had been fighting for much, much longer than that.
The armor she wore was green. However, that was just one aspect of the armor. It was magic armor that could freely change its properties to suit the situation. The aurora seen in the northern sky was actually the constantly changing light produced by a Valkyrie's armor.
She held what looked like a bluish-white spear in her right hand, but it was made up of the very lightning that fell from the sky. A swing of her weapon was enough to slaughter all who had made themselves enemies of the heavenly world of Asgard. They would be destroyed down to their souls and unable to even join the realm of the dead. That divine punishment was known as the Spear of Destroying Lightning and it held enough destructive power to warrant such a name.
“Is that all?”
She was surrounded by nothing but rubble.
The name of the maiden who glowed radiantly amid the blackened scenery was Waltraute.
She was tall but only when compared to a human woman. Even so, she stood triumphant above all those around her. She had crushed, wiped out, and burned away all those who had been taller or larger than her.
No one could imagine that a false temple gaudily decorated with gold and marble had stood there not long before. All that remained was black. Pitch black. The garish decorations had been torn down and all that was left had turned pure black as if to attest to their sins.
Those rebels who had joined with the giants to intentionally create monsters and then used the offspring as slaves had all been purged. They had committed three major sins. Loving those beyond their species was not one of them. It was joining with the giants for their own personal greed that had been one of those sins. The second had been using the offspring as tools. Even if they were half human, using anyone with a human soul as a tool was a sin. And the last was that they had offered up their young to join with the giants rather than doing it themselves. It had been judged that the ultimate punishment was required.
…Actually, Odin had only ordered Waltraute to sort out the souls of the youths who were likely to die in the disturbance and lead only those necessary to Valhalla, the great hall of the heavenly world. However, she had used a bit too much strength as she had a tendency to do.
Thanks to that, it had all ended before a large-scale tragedy could occur, and all of the owners of the souls she was supposed to guide had not survived.
There was a reason Valkyries did not stand at the top of everything even though they were the strongest when it came to pure power.
Without giving even a glance to the survivors who had their heads hanging down, Waltraute looked up into the sky and spoke to someone who was not present.
“Report. Situation 3469 is complete. …I suppose the ruler on the throne is angry again. But I suppose the queen of the realm of the dead is also gnashing her teeth at missing out on those impure souls. With that in mind, let’s just call this even.”
The humans living in Midgard would likely be unable to understand some of what the gods said. They purposefully tried to keep the humans from understanding more than they had to.
“Understood. So I have authorization to return. Tell Heimdallr to guide me along the route. Over.”
As she finished speaking, a single ray of light burst through the dark clouds above her head. It fell directly atop Waltraute. The next thing she knew, a giant white horse was standing next to her. Waltraute climbed atop the horse and her hair floated up unnaturally. Once that change in gravity reached the white horse’s giant body as well, Waltraute’s very existence would be temporarily split into pieces and she would leave the human world of Midgard while overcoming all forms of aerodynamic restrictions.
An error occurred in the return process.
A boy was weakly clinging onto Waltraute’s right leg as she sat atop the white horse.
“A survivor, hm?” said the Valkyrie with an emotionless look in her eyes. “Do you wish to head to Valhalla to experience the battles of the heavenly world? You need not be so hasty. If you continue to possess such a valiant and just soul, that time will surely come.”
The boy’s context-less comment was spoken with a hoarse voice.
He was looking at Waltraute’s golden hair that was reflecting the light shining down on her.
“Can I have some?”
Waltraute fell silent.
Valkyries had but one role to play for the humans of Midgard…or so it should have been. From experience, she knew there were irregular situations that would occasionally occur.
In other words…
Sometimes, a man would fall in love with a Valkyrie.
“I am sorry, but I cannot do that,” she replied with an icy voice.
The boy did not seem to understand the situation.
“We live in different worlds. The world tree Yggdrasil divides up the nine worlds. The divisions between worlds may only be crossed for the purposes of a battle. That is why I am here in Midgard now. Crossing those divisions for no reason would cause a battle in and of itself.”
“Ohh…” The boy’s mouth opened wide but it was unclear what exactly seemed to have impressed the boy. “So you can’t stay here?”
“I am not saying I cannot, but I see no rational reason to do so.”
“I can’t accept that. This isn’t the time to talk about things in that way.”
“Hm?” Waltraute looked slightly puzzled.
Waltraute did not understand the subtleties of human romance, so she chose the method her experience had taught her was the quickest option of dealing with such problems.
She grabbed the Spear of Destroying Lightning in her right hand.
She intentionally made it start noisily sending sparks flying every which way.
“Whatever the reason may be and whatever that person may say, a Valkyrie has the authority to deem anyone who stands in her way as evil. Be warned that anyone who blocks my path is destined to fall defeated before me.”
“Hm? Hmm? So if I beat you, you’ll do whatever I ask you?”
“Mh!? Wait a second!! What kind of roundabout thinking led you to that conclusion!? I was merely saying that anyone who got in my way would meet a bitter fate!!”
“I see… So I could marry you…”
“You’re just assuming you would win!! A-ahem. Soul born in the human world of Midgard, do you truly believe that frail glow of yours is enough to stand up to Waltraute, the fourth sister of the nine Valkyries?”
“Let’s fight!! Let’s fight!! Waltraute, tell me the rules of the fight!!”
“Dammit! I let my name slip out!?”
But Waltraute was not so cruel as to actually begin a competition of strength with that boy of Midgard as she would utterly demolish him.
(Oh, I know. I can give this human an utterly impossible challenge.)
That was the standard pattern for goddesses and princesses from all over the world both in ancient and modern times.
Waltraute cleared her throat and said, “My challenge to you is to scale the world tree Yggdrasil with your own strength. Once you arrive at the heavenly world of Asgard, I will accept your marriage proposal.”
(There is no way he can do it. Not even a Valkyrie like me could manage that. A soul born in the human world will likely be too overcome with awe upon seeing the world tree Yggdrasil to even touch it.)
“…What does ‘scale’ mean?”
“It means ‘climb’ and is usually used in the context of a mountain or a cliff!! I am telling you to climb up that giant tree with just those two hands of yours!!”
“Th-that’s right. How about that? Can’t do it, can you? Simply impossible, isn’t it? Give up here and join with a human woman like a proper human man. A neighborhood childhood friend can be a surprisingly excellent choice. And now, I will be going.”
“All you have to do is climb a tree and you get to marry a Valkyrie!? I-I have to go tell everyone!!”
“Wait!! This is not a custom of my race! This is a competition that is only valid between the two of us!! If a large number of humans begin trying to climb the world tree Yggdrasil, the head god Odin will mistake it for a rebellion!!”
“Then I’ll climb it! If I climb Yggdrasil, I get to marry you, right!? You’re the one that said it, Waltraute!!”
It seemed the boy truly intended to attempt the challenge, but Waltraute could not treat the challenge lightly as it was a competition with a winner and a loser.
The Valkyries were the members of the gods that dealt with battles and they were something like the strict guardians of competitions in the human world of Midgard.
Whose jurisdiction the world tree Yggdrasil fell under was a bit vague, but the competition was rooted in the human world of Midgard, so she had to be strict about it.
If the challenge was nothing more than something the boy had come up with, Waltraute could simply refuse to participate. However, Waltraute had been the one to suggest the challenge and the boy had accepted. That meant the competition had become official the second the boy had okayed it. Waltraute could not back out now.
“F-fine then. I will accept the competition. But a soul of Midgard will never be able to scale the world tree Yggdrasil.”
“I can do it.”
“The heavenly world of Asgard is literally above the clouds. If you run out of strength partway up and fall off, only death awaits you. Are you still willing?”
“I can do it.”
Even under Waltraute’s icy gaze that could cause heretics and even giants and dragons to tremble in fear, the human boy gave a defiant response.
(Those are the eyes of a warrior.)
But in the next instant, the boy gave a big grin, swung one arm around in a circle, and said, “Okay, I’ll climb up before you know it! Once I’m ready, I’ll head to Yggdrasil, so you wait at the goal point in Asgard!! That’s another rule!!”
“Wait,” said Waltraute suddenly from atop the white horse. “Why do you wish to marry me so much?”
“Hm?” The boy replied almost immediately. “Because you’re beautiful.”
“Waltraute, I will definitely climb up Yggdrasil, and we’ll get married when I do!!”
Once Waltraute returned to the heavenly world of Asgard, Heimdallr the watchman asked her a question.
“…Why didn’t you just refuse?”
A Valkyrie usually remained completely expressionless, but Waltraute’s cheeks reddened slightly and her eyes darted away when he asked that question.
“O-once the competition had been established, I could hardly just refuse him outright!!”
Heimdallr had been wondering why she had not simply returned to Asgard from the beginning, but before he could say anything further, Waltraute’s eyes darted away once more and she continued speaking.
“That’s…That’s right. It’s a competition, so I had no choice!! I am a strict guardian of competitions after all! Whatever it may entail, I must let it carry out to its conclusion once it has been established!!”
“Wait, don’t tell me you’re letting this go because he said you were beautiful and said he would marry you after he managed to climb u-…Eeee! Eeee!!””
“Could you explain to me what part of what I said led you to believe that? And could you give an explanation for why you are grinning like that?”
“I-is this invisible wall that is hard and as thick as concrete nothing but your aura of intimidation!? No, wait! I get it! I get it! Don’t bring out the Spear of Destroying Lightning! Wait, wait!!”
Heimdallr trembled in fear when faced with that grand destructive power that was being used to hide Waltraute’s embarrassment.
Whatever she may have said, her true feelings were clearly visible on her face.
Almost everyone was too frightened of her to try, but Waltraute was surprisingly weak to those who maintained a strong will while interacting with her.
On one end of the heavenly world of Asgard were the seven runways of Bifröst.
They may have been known as “runways”, but the process by which they were used was quite complex. The user’s “existence” was split into pieces, and they could then be freely sent to any of the 9 worlds while ignoring all aerodynamic restrictions. It was not a complete “teleportation”. Technically, the user was accelerated to 97% of the speed of light, but the size of the nine worlds meant it was more or less instantaneous.
The Valkyrie armor that was broken to pieces along with Waltraute would react and spread out. That process caused a giant aurora to fill the night sky when a Valkyrie was sent flying through the sky.
It was largely due to Bifröst and the Valkyries that the Æsir were able to display such tremendous power in the nine worlds. It took a slight amount of time to begin the process, but in exchange, a military force made up of the Valkyries and the spirits of the dead known as Einherjar that were under their control could be sent wherever they were needed. The earlier annihilation of the heretics should be enough to demonstrate how much of a threat that was.
Waltraute was now peering down to the human world of Midgard from the edge of Bifröst. Heimdallr the watchman was in charge of controlling Bifröst, so he was utterly fed up with the Valkyrie that was obstructing the path.
“Um, if you stay there, the 3rd runway can’t be used…”
“You have seven of them. The loss of one or two is no big deal.”
“Um, do you have any idea how many dozens of flights come through every hour? This is an issue of efficiency and distribution. You’re causing a traffic jam. Surely you know how blocking a seemingly empty lane can cause a huge backup on the highway. If you block the 3rd runway, the percentage of late flights will jump up to-…”
“What is your point?”
When she glared at him, Heimdallr shrunk down like he was preparing to close himself up in a small box.
While crouched down, Heimdallr said, “But was there really any reason to take that verbal promise seriously?”
“H-hmph! I do not think that boy from Midgard can climb the world tree Yggdrasil. But now that the competition has been established, I must see it through to the end as a Valkyrie. In the best case, he will make it to the base of the world tree and be too overwhelmed to do anything more. In the worst case, his awe upon seeing Yggdrasil will be too great and he will not even make it to the base.”
“…So in the ‘worst case’, the boy doesn’t even come for you?”
A glance that was as sharp as a spear that Heimdallr received in response to his unwanted comment caused his entire body to freeze in place. He realized he could not make his body any smaller than it already was.
Waltraute composed herself and said, “At any rate, I am only watching over this competition to its end. And that end will be the boy’s loss. If he does not show up, that counts as a loss. Once that happens, I will be freed from this nonsensical verbal promise of marriage.”
“It is true that the boy had the eyes of warrior when he announced he would climb the world tree. Those were the eyes of someone with a will strong enough to challenge a Valkyrie to a competition. But words are cheap. He is sure to lose his nerve when he sees the true recklessness of this challenge…Why are you interrupting me?”
“The boy has arrived.”
Waltraute frantically looked back over the edge of the 3rd runway and to the human world of Midgard.
“Impossible…Impossible!! Does that boy have no fear of death!?”
“‘That he would go this far for an unrefined, battle-crazy girl that wears armor year-round like me just sets my heart aflutt-…’ No, I was just kidding! Please! Please forgive me! I won’t make any more liberal translations of your thoughts, so please spare me from the lightning!!” As Heimdallr held his hands up to cover his head, he looked down toward the surface. “J-Jack Elvan was it? According to the data we have on him, he comes from the middle class on Midgard.”
But of course, the boy had not arrived in Asgard.
The base of Yggdrasil was in Midgard. The boy had made it to that giant tree.
He truly seemed intent on climbing up that tree.
Any normal human would have been too filled with awe at the site of Yggdrasil and with a general fear of heading to another world to even think about trying to climb the world tree. Nevertheless, that boy had burst through those limitations.
It was called a tree, but the trunk was as thick as a standard-sized city was wide, so it felt more like rock climbing. The complexly intertwined branches and hollows almost turned it into something like a labyrinth.
Waltraute used magic to enhance her already superhuman senses (not that she was human in the first place), so she just had to stare down with her eyes wide open to see every step the boy took.
At the base of the world tree, the boy said, “I have my handkerchief, some snacks for if I get hungry, and a water bottle. Okay, time to go.”
“He’s extremely lightly equipped!! Wait, he’s not even wearing boots! Those are sandals! At least prepare a lifeline…Ah, he started climbing! He really started climbing!! He started climbing up Yggdrasil in sandals! What do I do!?”
“…Th-there would be nothing wrong with you heading down to save him, right? You can just head down and grab him. I can open up one of Bifröst’s runways for you.”
“You fool!!!!” Waltraute’s iron fist sent Heimdallr’s giant form rolling across the runway like a pebble. “I am a heavenly being that rules over battles and I watch over all events with a winner and a loser!! I cannot interfere in a competition with clear rules!!”
Heimdallr let out a groan without even a shred of intelligence in it, but he was not listening to what Waltraute was saying. He had more important worries.
Meanwhile, something happened down at the surface.
Even though Asgard was literally above the clouds, the boy was sitting on a branch and reaching for his water bottle after only climbing about 10 meters.
“You weakling!!” shouted Waltraute.
“U-um, ten meters is pretty high up for a human,” commented Heimdallr.
“That is not the issue here! He said that he would climb Yggdrasil and marry me. Even if the reward is completely ridiculous, it is still a sacred competition with a Valkyrie. And yet…And yet…that bastard!! Only 10 meters!? That is an insult to the one whose fate hangs in the balance here, is it not!?”
“Um…So basically you’re upset about that being as far as his feelings for you went and you want him to try a little harder? …Gyaaahhh! I’m sorry!!”
Waltraute seemed to want to avoid using her overwhelming strength on Heimdallr himself (despite the punch from earlier), so she started destroying the runway of Bifröst. Heimdallr began apologizing with all his strength because Bifröst’s destruction would do serious social damage to him.
But then he noticed something.
He pointed down toward the surface and said, “Look at that. There’s something down there!”
Waltraute looked down and spotted a white cat approaching the boy who was resting on a branch of Yggdrasil.
For some reason the cat was able to speak the human language.
“Hey, there. What are you doing here? It’s dangerous being this high up. You’ll get hurt if you fall.”
“…That’s surprisingly good advice for a talking cat,” commented Heimdallr.
The boy responded by saying, “I’m climbing the world tree. Waltraute is waiting for me.”
“I-I am not waiting!!”
“But you aren’t trying to stop him either,” added Heimdallr.
“Of course not. This is a serious competition!!”
The cat then said, “But look up. Do you really think you can climb all the way up there?”
“I can,” replied the boy.
“How about you head down instead. If you go to Jötunheimr, you can find some magic water that will give you any knowledge you wish for.”
“But Waltraute isn’t there.”
“If you drink the water of knowledge, homework will never be a problem again.”
“Really, really. So give up on going somewhere as boring as Asgard and come with me to-…”
That was when Waltraute threw the Spear of Destroying Lightning.
With a tremendous noise, a bluish-white spear stabbed down in a straight line from heaven to earth. It passed directly in front of the boy and mercilessly struck the talking white cat down to the very depths of the surface.
The symbol of divine punishment.
While breathing erratically, Waltraute shouted down at the surface knowing full well her voice would not reach.
“Don’t interfere with a serious competition, you fool!! Do you want him to gain a body that cannot even reach the realm of the dead!?”
“Th-the kitty… The pretty kitty…!?” said Heimdallr.
“That was actually the Midgard Serpent!! When Útgarða-Loki tricked Thor, that giant snake aided in Útgarða-Loki’s illusions by transforming into a cat to leave Thor unprepared!! Look, the transformation is starting to come off. Creepy scales are starting to cover its body!! No competition can be fair with a monster like that involved!!”
“Oh, you’re right. It really is Jörmungandr,” said Heimdallr.
Waltraute folded her arms in front of her armor’s breastplate.
“Honestly. Even a beast powerful enough to stand on the same level as Thor is getting in the way… This is why you cannot take fate lightly. That boy need only think of the competition. Giving him that is proper manners as his opponent.”
“But the boy seems worried about the snake that fell to the surface. He’s climbing back down to check on it.”
“~ ~ ~!! Take. This. Competition. Seriously!!”
Waltraute started childishly stomping her feet in frustration, but she had only just declared that she would not directly interfere.
After looking after the cat that had fallen to the surface, the boy began climbing Yggdrasil once more. (Incidentally, the cat tried to warn the boy again, but this time out of actual devotion rather than as a trick. However, it was driven off by a number of Spears of Destroying Lightning. She insisted this was because she would be responsible if the boy ended up getting to know the snake in the middle of the challenge.)
“So you don’t want him looking at anyone but you?”
Heimdallr the watchman curled up under the crushing pressure of the piercing glare and immense aura of intimidation that were sent his way.
After the interlude with the cat, the boy continued to climb up the giant tree without obstruction. (Or rather, nothing was able to approach him while Waltraute had her frightening gaze on him.) As nothing was happening, Heimdallr started letting out yawn after yawn, but Waltraute’s gaze was as intent as ever.
“At this rate, he might actually make it all the way up.”
“Tch!! But if that happens, I have no choice! This was a serious competition!! I, Waltraute the fourth of the nine Valkyrie sisters, will of course perfectly carry out her duty as the loser! E-even if that means I must marry him!!”
“I see. I see.” Heimdallr had grown bored, so he carelessly let a comment slip out. “You keep going on about marriage, but what exactly do you plan to let that boy do once you marry him? Are you prepared to ask him the age old question of, ‘Would you like dinner, a bath, or the third option which you had damn well better choose’?”
“I-I am not going to lose, you fool!!”
“Of course, the acrobatics of the naked apron are basically a given with newlyweds.”
“Wh-what? What is this naked apron you speak of?”
“Well, you take it and you do this,” said Heimdallr as he explained it mostly with some vague gestures.
Without thinking, Waltruate brought down her fist and Heimdallr very nearly became one with the 3rd runway.
“H-how much of an idiot are you!? I simply cannot believe that you could have such perverted thoughts!!”
“G-gbh… But the passion of newlyweds often leads them to cross those perverted lines. They tend to calm down a bit after a year, though.”
“S-so my loss comes with that kind of penalty?”
“You’ll have to head into the bath to wash his back and feed him small fruits directly from your mouth. Oh, and youthful indiscretions put serving him food on your nude body just barely in the range of the acceptable. By the way, I prefer the dolce type with whipped cream and strawberries over the proper type that uses seafood.”
“Wait, wait, wait!! How can the word marriage have so many different chips piled up on top of it!?”
“But I thought you weren’t going to lose.”
“No matter how many chips are piled up, it doesn’t matter so long as you win, right?”
“Th-that is exactly right.”
While trembling, Waltraute folded her arms in front of her breastplate and struck an impressive pose. She then shouted from the bottom of her gut.
“N-none of it matters as long as I do not lose! I just have to win!! As a Valkyrie, a heavenly being that rules over battles, I am a master of competitions!! I do not even need to think about the possibility of losing!! Mutter, mutter…”
“But the job of a Valkyrie is to gather the souls of those who valiantly died in battle, so aren’t you actually more associated with the losing side of-…bgyaaahhh!! Don’t strike me on the end of my elbow like that! Ah, my arm’s gone numb!!”
As those residents of the heavenly world argued, something changed.
“Hmm. He seems to be having trouble.”
“Look how high he is. He is bound to get tired after climbing a tree this long. In fact, I think climbing up using pure physical strength and without any guidance from you would be impossible even for the human Siegfried in his heyday. I am a Valkyrie and I am not even sure if I could do it.”
“No, that isn’t what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?”
“Well…” Heimdallr pulled out a clear stone slate and called up a few pieces of data. “The world tree Yggdrasil does not actually divide up the nine worlds. And it holds up the heavens and the earth.”
“Um, do you know the relationship between altitude and atmospheric pressure? The higher you go, the less oxygen there is. Divine beings like us are fine, but I think a human child is in trouble if he does not have oxygen.”
Waltraute’s face gradually paled.
“So…what exactly…does that mean?”
“We know for a fact that boy is climbing Yggdrasil and approaching Asgard,” said Heimdallr as he looked at the data. “But the closer a human gets to the heavenly world, the closer he gets to death. I believe that boy will die if he does arrive…”
“Wait, wait, wait.”
Waltraute stopped Heimdallr with one hand.
If the boy lost, his hopes would be dashed, and if he won, he would die.
Waltraute insisted that she had no desire at all to marry the boy, but she could not stand for the competition to be unfair.
Basically, Valkyries were obsessed with competitions.
Brynhildr, the oldest sister, had once failed in a similar issue involving marriage. The human Siegfried had cheated on her (he had been given a potion to erase his memories, so he had not realized what he was doing), so she had plotted his death. When that plot had succeeded, she attempted to take her own life.
“I made sure to report this incident to Odin and received proper authorization for the competition. We cannot have him treating a child climbing the tree as a rebel after all. And that eyepatched god of war vouched for the fairness of the competition. The head god saw this as a fair competition, so why is something like this happening!?”
“Maybe this was the reason Odin gave you authorization.”
“That bearded old man does not hesitate to cause wars in the human world just to obtain some skilled souls of those killed in battle. Actually trying to climb Yggdrasil would require bravery on a ridiculous level and everything is going well so far. That god of war would want a soul like that very, very badly. In other words, he might have purposefully overlooked the flaw in the rules in order to have that boy die and join the Einherjar.”
His actual feelings were a bit more complicated.
In the great hall at the innermost portion of Valhalla, the one-eyed war god Odin sat on an extremely ostentatious throne. He exchanged a glance with his wife Frigg.
Odin looked about 40 and Frigg about 30, so they did not particularly look the part of the gods who had watched the entire history of the world. However, their appearance had no connection to their age because they had eaten the apples of immortality grown by the goddess Iðunn.
“I am opposed to this,” said Frigg. “Whatever your reasons may be, you are interfering with their efforts to acquire a family. Not to mention killing one of them.”
“You only think that because you are the goddess of marriage. And I think the way I do because I am the god of war and battle.”
“We cannot allow Waltraute to join with a human boy. Surely you know that intellectually even if you feel otherwise.”
“Are you referring to the fact that the Valkyries are a set of nine and that set is what controls the military force of Einherjar?”
“Even if they are nine individuals, their essences are connected. Waltraute alone is the same as the other eight. If she yields to a single human, that binds the other eight as well. The right to command the entire force of Einherjar will indirectly fall to that boy.”
“Yes, the Wagner Method. But is there any reason to go along with it? If you kick out Waltraute, you should still be able to maintain the Valkyrie system.”
“One role of the Valkyries is to provide a link between gods and men. They cannot be reorganized based simply on the circumstances of the gods. That is the entire point of the Wagner Method and why their form is that which is easiest to imagine for humans. …Surely you know why the Valkyries appear as beautiful women,” said Odin lightly as he sat atop his throne.
His throne was named Hliðskjálf and it gave any who sat in it the power to see across the entire world. Wagner was a very out of place name for that setting and time period, but he was able to use that throne to draw in information from “other places”.
“This is quite a problem,” said Odin despite not sounding troubled in the slightest. “We cannot have things turn out like that. Why do you think we have been gathering the souls of those who died in battle? It is all for the sake of the final war of Ragnarök. The evil spirits and giants are bad enough, so we do not need a third force joining in the fray.”
“And so you are going to take that boy’s life?”
“It is only a problem because it is a marriage between equals.” Odin gave a bitter smile to Frigg’s criticism. “But a Valkyrie has complete control over the souls of those who have died in battle. The opposite cannot be. Once that boy has died and become an Einherjar, Waltraute will have control over him. Once that happens, he cannot control Waltraute. Nor can he gain control over the Einherjar forces. Once that happens, we can happily celebrate their marriage.”
He took the idea of human life so lightly because he was the god of war.
He was not a god that protected those participating in a war; he was a god who preserved the state of war itself.
To those who got wrapped up in the war, he may have seemed like a wandering disaster (with a will of its own).
Frigg on the other hand was a goddess who helped humans join together and create new life, so she could only sigh. People often had difficulty understanding how the goddess of all types of marriage could end up married to someone as horrible as him.
But with the way the head god was, it would have been difficult for the world to continue on without a productive goddess like her by his side.
“At any rate, that boy must die no matter what you think.”
“I do not wish for that boy to fall in battle. If he does, their relationship will no longer fall into the category of marriage,” said Frigg. “Also, even if that a boy loses his life here, there is no guarantee that he will be picked up as an Einherjar, is there?”
“That is not my responsibility.” Odin shrugged. “I control those humans who have valiant souls. If he does not meet that requirement, then I have no duty to protect him. I am not about to steal a soul that has fallen into the realm of the dead.”
“I see.” Frigg sighed. “While that child may look gentle, a lot of violent emotions are hidden within. Do not blame me for what happens if this plot of yours is discovered.”
“Ha ha. What can a single angry human do?”
“That is not who I meant.” Frigg looked over toward the entrance of the great hall. “I was referring to Waltraute.”
In the next instant, a great trembling shook Valhalla.
At first, Odin thought a large explosion had occurred within. It sounded like the gods had started fighting to the death.
But he was wrong.
The tremendous vibrations continued and grew closer as they did. This was not the sound of a fight. Finally, Odin realized what it was.
“Footsteps…?” Sweat dripped down the ridges of the head god’s nose. “Mere footsteps are giving off this much resolve? Wait, I never gave Waltraute this much output!!”
“Anger over your interference with the competition is just a front. A maiden’s rage can grow without limit when something gets in the way of her love. But I suppose a god of war would not know anything about that.”
“Kh. In other words, that boy carelessly crossing between the nine worlds has caused a distortion in the very concept of battles!? How much did the three Norn goddesses of destiny know about this? Is this going to hasten the final war of Ragnarök!?”
“Sigh. You war-obsessed idiot…”
The doors of the entrance burst open. The thunder god Thor, who held the #2 spot when it came to power, came tumbling into the great hall.
“E-eee!! Father!! Father!!”
“What is it, Thor? Your face looks beat up and your hair is all frizzy!”
“I-I lost in a battle of thunder… My entire identity as the thunder god has been denied, so what am I to do now!?”
The area on the other side of the open doors was pitch black.
The killer intent emitted by sapient beings was supposed to be invisible, yet Odin clearly saw an illusion before his eyes.
It was obvious who was emitting it.
The darkness and thickness of the shadow showed the approach of the danger.
As he leaned against the wall on one side of the great hall, Loki gave a thin smile and said, “…Hm. The world destroyed by a single love. Not bad.”
“When the hell did you get here!? And don’t think you can become the star if you keep making those Chuunibyou-esque comments, you lover of temporary pleasures!!”
Odin had fallen into a complete panic, so he started yelling at someone completely unrelated to the danger at hand. Seeing that, Frigg brought one hand to her cheek and sighed yet again.
She had to wonder why all the men in the heavenly world knew so little about the subtleties of romance and never did anything for women.
She silently thought they could learn a thing or two from that boy, but actually said, “At least try to calm her down. This is a little too soon for you to be heading into the twilight, don’t you think?”
Ignorant of the issues involved for those adults (or rather, gods), the boy continued grabbing at the rough bark of the world tree Yggdrasil on his way to Asgard.
However, his breathing grew erratic.
His face grew pale.
He entered an altitude sickness-like state, but it would not end there. As he continued on, there would be even less oxygen and the atmospheric pressure would fall. As the air grew thinner, the temperature dropped due to the loss of the atmosphere’s insulation. A cold wind reminiscent of midwinter blew through the area around the boy.
It would not have been surprising had he stopped there.
But if he lost consciousness, he would end up falling down to the surface from that high altitude.
As the boy continued grabbing the bark despite the blood oozing from his fingertips, two ravens flew up to him.
They spoke simultaneously.
“Hi there! I’m Muninn!!”
“We were forced to run over and give you a message!!”
“We were forced to run over and give you a message!!”
The boy who had not been at all fazed by the talking cat replied, “But you flew.”
“He played the straight man! Now we know you’re not too far gone to do that!!”
“Anyway…ahem. We have a message from Waltraute. Are you ready?”
“…Hm. I really shouldn’t get any help from her while climbing Yggdrasil.”
“This is important information about that very competition. And we don’t really need your permission, so we’ll just tell you. Here goes!”
The boy looked displeased, but the ravens’ voices changed.
They now spoke with the voice of that Valkyrie he had met. Muninn and Huginn stood on the boy’s left and right shoulders so the boy could listen to the voice as if he was hearing it via headphones.
“Can you hear me, boy? I now know more or less what that bearded old man is planning. For a human, it seems there is little difference between approaching the heavenly world of Asgard and approaching death. Odin purposefully overlooked that fact to bring you into the army of Einherjar.”
“If you do not wish to die, climb down from Yggdrasil now. That is what I wish for as well. Surely the marriage you have imagined is not one that occurs after your own death. And I did not set up this challenge for it to have such a ridiculous result.”
The boy fell silent for a bit.
He remained perfectly still while clinging to the bark.
The two ravens tilted their heads as they looked at his face from the side.
Finally, the boy raised his head and said, “You must be enemy characters sent here to mislead me!!”
Meanwhile, Waltraute tore at her golden hair with both hands as she shot Spears of Destroying Lightning every which way into the sky. This surprised the female driver of the chariot of the sun so much that a solar eclipse very nearly occurred.
She had brushed aside her stubborn posturing and bent her competition-crazy beliefs in order to help that boy, and yet he had rejected it.
“Oooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! How could this happeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnn!?”
“…And after he showed no doubts about that cat that suddenly started talking.”
For his unnecessary comment, Waltraute grabbed Heimdallr with one hand and swung him around.
Seeing that, Frigg cut in, “Can’t you say you have recognized his great efforts and go save him?”
“I-I…I simply can’t do that, Lady Frigg! Doing so would make the competition invalid preventing it from ever being concluded! No conclusion would mean putting it off forever and…no, wait, wait! I would essentially be forfeiting the match myself which would mean…vahhh vahhh!!”
“…Hmm. I see you think more like Odin when it comes to this kind of thing. (Of course, you could resolve everything by proposing to him yourself.)”
Waltraute was too stubborn to do that, but the human boy would obviously be unable to reach Asgard under his own strength.
It was obvious she would have to do something to save that boy (and for them to get married, but Waltraute would never admit it herself).
“(Uuh…Cough. What is it, Lady Frigg?)”
“(Do you have any good ideas as to how to get Waltraute to go to that boy?)”
“(If so, I would not have let her push me around this long.)”
“(How about we send in another Valkyrie?)”
“(She already struck down the Midgard Serpent for interfering. If another Valkyrie approached him, a war amongst the Valkyries would probably break out with them yelling about NTR this and NTR that.)”
“(I have heard that the essences of the nine Valkyries are connected, but I suppose they still fight due to their individual differences.)”
The two gods could not think of any truly good ideas.
But as the boy did not have much time, they decided to suggest every idea that came to their mind.
“Waltraute, what if you make it so you lose rather than having the boy win? The competition is set to end when that boy reaches the heavenly world where you are waiting for him. So if you head down to the human world first, you would ‘lose’ and be able to marry him.”
“I cannot do that!! I cannot intentionally lose a competition someone is risking their life over! That would be blaspheming that boy’s serious efforts!!”
“Um… He just has to climb up with his own strength, right? I can send down an airtight flying swan boat for him. He can pedal it himself, so…”
“No, you fool!! He has to do it with his own strength! Tools he prepared himself are one thing, but a tool handed to him by a third party is out of the question!!”
“This Valkyrie is a giant pain in the ass.”
“This Valkyrie is a giant pain in the ass.”
The two gods may have simultaneously grumbled in complaint, but they were not ready to give up yet. That human boy was in real danger (and if he died, Waltraute would likely physically destroy the heavenly world).
However, it seemed Waltraute refused to lend the boy a helping hand no matter what happened and she would use her top-class spear to strike down anyone else who might try to interfere. It was more or less impossible for the boy to reach Asgard under his own strength, so the two gods could only wait as the countdown until the end of the world continued.
But then Frigg clapped her hands together.
“I know! Waltraute, what about this?”
As he grabbed at Yggdrasil’s bark, the boy could tell his fingertips were gradually losing feeling. The air was thin, his ears were ringing horribly, and the cold wind ripping into him was robbing his body of heat. His consciousness began to grow cloudy and he could no longer feel pain in his hands that were ripped open and bleeding.
He could climb no further.
Nor could he head back down.
He really did understand. He understood that his request had been reckless. The boy’s young heart accurately came to the conclusion that the pain and cold he was feeling were punishment for trying to obtain what he did not deserve.
He continued on nonetheless.
He did not give up. He knew he had been wrong, but he still did not give up. And so the boy ignored the blood flowing from his palm and forced his cloudy mind to make his body move. The boy did indeed continue on up even if it was at a rate no faster than a caterpillar crawling up the tree.
“Wait for me… I will…definitely win…”
And then the boy’s hand slipped.
He did not know if it was due to strength leaving his hand or if it had merely slipped on the blood flowing from it. Even though he could not feel pain, he could still feel that the hand was no longer supporting his weight and that he was beginning to fall. A chill ran down his spine, but he could not stop his body now that it had begun to fall.
The boy’s expression remained unchanged in that final moment
He did even have the presence of mind left to change his expression.
He did only one thing.
He reached out his hand.
He stretched it upwards.
He reached for the giant rough trunk he was supposed to be holding onto.
He was not swinging his arms around in an unsightly desperate attempt to regain his balance. He was trying to continue on despite knowing it was hopeless and impossible.
He knew he could only reach air, but he still stretched out his hand.
In that moment when the boy should have fallen upside down towards the surface, he suddenly felt support return to his body in midair. The next thing he knew, the suffocating lack of oxygen and slicing cold wind were gone. A beam of light had shone down from beyond the dark clouds. And two arms were now supporting the boy.
It was Waltraute.
The golden-haired Valkyrie was riding a white horse.
The boy had no idea how she had appeared, but even as Waltraute held the boy in midair, they continued to fall down according to gravity. However, she expressionlessly had the giant white horse effortlessly land on a narrow branch of the world tree.
The boy’s first question showed what he cared about more than the fact he had survived.
“…Did I lose?”
“No.” Waltraute shook her head. “You were the victor of this competition.”
“How?” asked the boy while being held in the Valkyrie’s arms. “I fell from Yggdrasil. I didn’t make it to Asgard. I got help from you partway there, so I lost….”
“That is not the proper way to look at this.” Waltraute looked the boy directly in the eye with her icy (in appearance only) eyes. “It is true I reached out to help you. But that is only because you made me do so. I had no intention of helping you. I intended to merely observe no matter what happened. However, you made me break my own rule. It was you that made me want to reach out to help you so badly that I would break my own rule. For that reason, my arrival here was accomplished with your own strength.”
“…I don’t really get it.”
“The rules stated that you would climb Yggdrasil with your own strength. If you hold the power to summon a Valkyrie, then having me take you to Asgard is still using your own strength, is it not?” Waltraute then added, “The rules also stated that you would win when you arrived in Asgard where I waited. I must accept defeat as penalty for leaving Asgard in the middle of the competition.”
Some time later, the boy was still in the human world of Midgard and Waltraute was peering down from a runway of Bifröst on the edge of the heavenly world of Asgard.
This interfered with Heimdallr’s work, so he looked troubled as he asked, “How long are you going to do this?”
“Sh-shut up. He went through a lot. It only happened because of the faulty rules I came up with, so I need to observe him to make sure there are no lasting effects.”
“If you’re that worried, you could have chosen not to live apart…”
“Make no mistake, you fool!!”
Waltraute’s iron fist flew and sent Heimdallr writhing in pain from enough damage to immediately kill someone who was not a god.
Paying that no heed, she continued, “I-I did not want to get married in the slightest!! That was the only method I had to retrieve that stubborn boy from Yggdrasil! If I had not gone through that process, I would have been unable to help him. I am not attached to him. Not in the slightest!!”
“With that in mind, it should be obvious that we are living separately. I have no intention to let the formalities of his rescue alter the way I live my life. If I did, it would just be a bother for him anyway. Hey, are you listening? I’m asking if you’re listening to me!!”
As Waltraute grabbed Heimdallr by the collar and shook him around, Frigg, the goddess of marriage, spoke up.
“If that boy came to the heavenly world, he would die. And it would be difficult for you to remain in the human world permanently. Isn’t that the real reason you had to tearfully choose to live separately?”
“Please do not joke about that!! I-I am having enough trouble with this as it is!!”
Heimdallr then made an unnecessary comment as he hung in midair.
“I-if it’s that much trouble, why don’t you just break up with him? There is always the option of divorce. Frigg would know more about it than m-…gbeeehhh!?!?!?”
Heimdallr had expected Waltraute to silently start strangling him, but instead Frigg elegantly lifted up the sides of her long skirt and started kicking him in the back. The goddess had a lovely smile on her face all the while.
“Do you really think you should be using that word in the presence of the goddess of marriage?”
“Eee!! I’m sorry! Please help me!! Eeeee!!”
Heimdallr continued complaining, but Frigg did not care.
She was certain that stubborn Valkyrie would say something troublesome if she learned about divorce. People like her needed to be able to tell themselves they had to stay married because they had no other choice. After that, she would finally begin doing what she truly wanted to do.
“So how is the boy?” Frigg asked the newlywed Waltraute.
“Th-the same as always. He spends his mornings learning how to read and write and spends his afternoons training under a mead maker… Wait…ahhh!!”
Waltraute cried out when she glanced down toward the surface.
Frigg looked confused, so she looked down to the surface as well.
“Nwha ha ha ha!! So you are the soul of the human world it is said climbed the world tree and married a Valkyrie! I will take you with me and add you to my army of evil spirits!!”
“Who are you, lady?”
“I am no mere lady, boy? I am Hel. I am the queen of Niflheim, realm of the dead. I will give you the special privilege of referring to me by name. But only so you can plead for your life!!”
“A queen…I-I see…”
The boy’s expression made it clear he did not quite understand what was going on, but he bowed down nonetheless.
However, this seemed to provoke the queen of the realm of the dead.
“Y-you’re bowing down to me…? But everyone always calls me the cruel queen or says I ridicule people’s attachment to their life… D-don’t do that!! No one has ever done that before, so I don’t know how to respond…!”
“Hey, the old shaman guy said Niflheim is a world of ice. Is that true?”
“H-heh. Yes, it is. Niflheim is a prison of eternal ice! It is a frightening place that provides eternal suffering of hunger and cold to souls of the human world like you! Scary, isn’t it? You can cry if you want, but I’ll still be taking you to Niflheim!!”
“Wow, a world of ice. …Is the whole world really made of ice!? That’s amazing! I bet you can make tons of ice candy there!!”
“…Hah? No, wait…”
“Today’s really hot, so I bet Waltraute would love it if I made her some ice candy! I have to go to Niflheim right away!!”
“You can’t!! For a soul of the human world to go to Niflheim, it has to die! Do you understand? Do you really understand that!? Oh, damn. He’s not listening at all. But…wait. Maybe I can just invite him like this. He said he wants to go, so there’s nothing wrong with it, right? …Heh heh heh. So this is a soul rare enough to lead a Valkyrie astray. He will make a powerful addition to my army of evil spirits. Y-yeah, that’s it. This is all for my army of evil spirits! I don’t care about the boy at all! I need to make sure there are no mistaken ideas about that…”
And on that day a great number of Spears of Destroying Lightning fell down to the human world.
A local shaman was known to have said that abnormal weather was partially caused by something nearby.
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