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On a certain day of a certain month, the boy and Waltraute had a fight.
It happened during one of their dates. As usual, this date came about from a challenge made by the boy to the (supposedly) reluctant Waltraute. He had challenged her to a fishing competition. The boy had only been able to catch boots and buckets, but when he puffed out his cheeks in frustration just before the time limit, he accidentally snagged the clothes of the goddess of the sea Rán and won the competition. (Incidentally, this meant Rán was half-naked when she was pulled up out of the water, so Waltraute had scolded him unfairly.)
As for the story behind the aforementioned fight…
“Waltraute, you sure are tall.”
“Yes, having a decent height gives one an advantage in battle. That is why I was designed this way.”
“I don’t grow no matter what I eat. I wish my legs were as long as yours.”
“Hyaahn!? D-do not start rubbing me there, you fool!”
But that was not the cause of the fight.
“It’s so hot.”
“Y-yes. The god of harvest Freyr may be putting in too much effort today.”
“Don’t you get hot always wearing that armor?”
“Once you are used to it, it is no big deal.”
“Hmm. You don’t have some trick making it cool inside your armor, do you?”
“Nwaaaaaahhhh!? Where do you think you are sticking your haaaaannnnnnd!?”
But that was not the cause of the fight.
“Pant pant pant… Y-yes. But do not touch them if you do not intend to eat them. They will make you itchy.”
“…Okay, Norns, you goddesses of fate. This is not happening. I can take a guess from the previous two incidents that this will have some kind of lewd punch line. However, I have my doubts about whether it still counts as simply ‘lewd’ if things head to a more delicate area-…gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!?”
The three goddesses Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld who were usually completely expressionless started clapping their hands together and laughing, but this was not the cause of the fight either.
It all started with the white horse the Valkyrie always rode. When Waltraute arrived in the human world of Midgard, the boy had looked up at her and asked a question.
“I want to ride it too. Can I?”
“Mh.” Waltraute held the reins to control the white horse’s movements. “Unfortunately, I cannot allow that.”
Given the boy’s height, it would have been difficult for him to ride a normal horse. He might have been able to ride something like a pony, but it seemed impossible for him to manage such a large beast. It would obviously end up as something out of a rodeo.
And on top of that, Waltraute’s horse was no normal horse. It was also a device meant to ensure the special transportation method using Bifröst went smoothly. Bifröst would break her “existence” down, but intentionally adding in an impurity allowed her to move more quickly and more accurately. Other gods used Bifröst as well, but they were not able to travel at 87% the speed of light or land with a margin of error of only a few centimeters like a Valkyrie could.
That special white horse was not as simple to handle as a normal one. There was no way she could hand that boy of the human world the reins of a rough horse that was known to easily throw off your average god.
But it seemed the boy did not understand any of that.
“Why not? Why not? I wanna ride it! I wanna ride it!!”
“Sigh. This horse is almost 2 meters tall. Can you even climb up onto it?”
The Valkyrie denied him gently.
But the boy suddenly began rummaging through the bag on his back.
And the white horse immediately knelt down.
Waltraute gritted her teeth and said, “Kh, so you’re just a beast!!”
As the boy tried to grab on to the horse, the Valkyrie grabbed his upper body with both hands and placed him right in front of her.
Looking dissatisfied, the boy said, “…No. You can’t be supporting me from behind. I have to hold the reins on my own.”
“Why are you so insistent about this? If you want go somewhere, I can bring you anywhere within the human world.”
“The whole point is to control it myself!!”
“Well, unfortunately, I cannot allow that.”
That was Waltraute’s honest response after considering the fundamental difference in physical ability between a human and a Valkyrie, but the boy’s cheeks visibly puffed up.
“I can do it!! Even if I can’t do it right now, I’ll train a whole bunch and then do it.”
“No, the problem is at a deeper level than that.”
“I can do it!!”
“This is the same as having a race between a human and a leopard. It is not something worth putting any effort into.”
“I will help you with everything a human cannot do. I do not know if a human can help me with anything I cannot do, but I am not so narrow-minded as to ask for an equivalent exchange.”
Waltraute realized something was odd.
The boy held between her arms was shaking. She tried to look at his face, but before she could, the boy raised his head and shouted out.
“Shut up, you idiot!! If I work hard…If I work hard, I can get strong!! Wahhh!!”
“Wait… Wh-why are you crying!?”
The boy slipped from Waltraute’s arms and half-jumped down from the white horse. He ran off with his arms up in the air and Xs in his eyes.
Waltraute was completely dumbfounded.
“…What was that?” she muttered.
Her white horse twisted its thick neck to look at its master.
Its round eyes seemed to say, “This is bad. Humans have many ways of crying, but ‘byahhh’ is bad.”
“Yeah, ‘byahhh’ is definitely bad,” said the 9th Valkyrie sister Rossweisse once Waltraute returned to the heavenly world of Asgard.
Waltraute was the 4th sister.
Even though she was the youngest of the nine Valkyrie sisters, Rossweisse was a 170 cm tall iron wall of a cool beauty (although she had a completely flat chest). The Valkyrie system naturally selected for those who had an affinity with both the gods and humans, but in this age, there were likely plenty of people in the human world of Midgard that would want her to look down on them and verbally abuse them.
Bifröst’s 3rd runway had been completely transformed into a gathering point for the gods and more Valkyries were there in addition to those two. They were sitting directly on the runway and speaking about something. Perhaps it was due to their constant trips to battlefields, but they showed no particular resistance towards sitting in an area void of high-class chairs or tables.
“B-but… I cannot understand why the boy would grow so emotional over that. I suppose humans are not as simple as they might seem. But as I went on that date as his reward for winning a competition, I cannot allow it to end on such a poor note.”
“You probably hurt his pride,” said the 2nd sister Gerhilde without giving it much thought.
She was the intellectual strategist type and she was never seen without her glasses. She brushed her fingers across their frame as she spoke.
“The men of Midgard use bravery as a barometer for how virtuous they are. Lord Odin taught them to be that way. That boy is exceedingly mistaken if he is viewing a Valkyrie the same as a human, but he may feel ashamed to be constantly protected by a woman.”
“What do you think, Sister Brynhildr?”
The 9th sister Rossweisse turned the conversation toward the eldest sister Brynhildr, but her expression showed no particular change. She merely moved her eye slightly to look at the 4th sister Waltraute.
“…Sorry, but I doubt I could give you a decent answer on this topic,” she said in an emotionless voice. “My relationship with the human Siegfried came to a ruinous end. Not only would advice from one who failed be of no use, but it could also further confuse your decision.”
The 9th sister Rossweisse seemed more dissatisfied with the lack of an answer than the subtly of lack of emotions.
The second sister Gerhilde looked toward the end of the runway and said, “Any answer received based on conjecture is nothing but a delusion. As you can always gather more information, would it not be better to simply gather more if you do not know the answer?”
“Perhaps. Let’s see…”
The 4th sister Waltraute peered over the edge of the 3rd runway and into the human world of Midgard.
She spotted the boy swinging a wooden stick around in front of his small house.
“…What is he trying to do?”
Waltraute was relieved to find he no longer seemed upset, but she also frowned. The boy’s parents who were smoking some bacon in the yard must have felt the same because they called out a question to their son who had suddenly started acting this way.
The boy replied, “Well, I had a fight with a friend today.”
“I am not a friend!! You are the one that asked to have me as your wife!”
“Waltraute, should I take how super, super, super quickly you reacted to mean that was quite a shock to you?”
“That information is related to the rules and result of our competition. I cannot have it treated so ambiguously!!”
“Yes, yes. Well, this friend is really strong, always has their back straight, and is never afraid of anything.” As the boy spoke, he continued to swing the stick around. “But I doubt this friend will allllways be strong. They might catch a cold or get injured.”
That would never be an issue for the residents of Asgard who ate tons of the immortality apples grown by the goddess Iðunn, but Waltraute remained silent.
“So if this friend is ever in trouble and can’t use their normal strength, I want to have the strength to support them. I can’t always be protected by this friend. I want to be strong too. Once I’m strong, I can support Waltraute too. We may have been born in different places and have different levels of talent or whatever, but that doesn’t matter. But…”
The boy trailed off.
An unpleasant sweat began to flow from Waltraute’s body.
What idiot had it been telling him it was impossible and that it was not worth working at?
The boy in Midgard then raised his head and spoke with a weak smile on his face.
“But I’m going to try even if it’s impossible! Even if I don’t get perfect results right away, maybe I can be useful in some other way. I hope I can help Waltraute in some way.”
As the representative of the other nine Valkyrie sisters who had heard that from the 3rd runway, the 2nd sister Gerhilde asked a quick question.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I’m sorryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!” cried Waltraute while on her knees and bowing down.
At times like this, the 4th sister Waltraute could get rather athletic-minded.
Waltraute tried to head straight for the boy’s house, but the other 8 Valkyries held her back. It could be easy to forget, but her job was to gather the souls of the most excellent war dead in preparation for the final battle of Ragnarök. If she forced her way into that house in the human world of Midgard, the parents could very well be afraid their son was going to die soon.
And so Waltraute sent the two ravens Muninn and Huginn instead.
But they had their complaints.
“Y’know, you seem to have forgotten…”
“But we’re actually Lord Odin’s private scouts.”
But despite their complaints, they frantically flew off once multiple Valkyries glared at them. It seemed the ravens needed to go ahead and admit to being an errand-runner for the entirety of the heavenly world.
The ravens arrived in Midgard and peered in through the window to the boy’s room, but…
“Hm? The boy isn’t here.”
“What?” said Waltraute as she looked down into Midgard from the 3rd runway.
It was late at night. Even a Valkyrie who was unfamiliar with the customs of the human world knew a boy of his age should not be out that late.
“Where did he go?”
“There’s some kind of map in his room.”
“The writing is really bad, but I think it says ‘training journey’.”
When Waltraute heard that, she really did hold her head in her hands. With this, there was no way she could face his parents.
“Where did that boy go!? From our previous experiences, I doubt he will stay within Midgard!!”
That boy had already attempted to head to two different worlds out of the nine worlds that branched off of the world tree. That was rare enough for anyone in Midgard, but that boy had done it completely unarmed. It would not be surprising if he had some insane idea such as heading to the giant world of Jötunheimr in order to drink the water gushing from the spring of wisdom.
But the information Muninn and Huginn provided went beyond Waltraute’s expectations.
“Well, if what this map says is accurate…”
“It looks like he intends to explore the fire world of Muspelheim.”
“That is the enemy’s headquarters ruled by the evil Surtr!!” exclaimed Waltraute. “Why is that boy once again heading towards an area with a danger level of red!?”
When the final battle of Ragnarök happened, it was said a large number of evil spirits and giants would be dragged from that world using the giant ship Naglfar that was made from the nails of the dead. It was the most evil of all places. And Surtr, the one who ruled at the top of all that evil, would burn away all nine worlds with his burning sword.
“Hmm. If a human tries to learn the fighting techniques and magic of Asgard, it takes decades. He may be trying to take a shortcut by using a different system,” suggested one of the ravens.
“You fool. They would never simply teach him their techniques or magic! They would only deceive him and devour his soul!! Dammit. Did my foolish comment drive the boy this far!?”
As Odin and the rest of the Æsir would not grant people’s wishes so easily, it was not uncommon for sorcerers to worship Surtr or Hel, the queen of the underworld, who possessed power using a different system.
But a Valkyrie like Waltraute knew well what fate awaited those who took such shortcuts. Some had their souls taken by the queen of the underworld and some had even their souls destroyed by a Valkyrie. Either way, there was no hope for them.
She hurriedly mounted her white horse and requested permission to use the 3rd runway.
“…Tch. Too much data traffic. I can’t activate Bifröst right away.”
She glared at Heimdallr the watchman, but the timid controller merely shook his head.
She looked into the sky beyond the end of the 3rd runway and opened her eyes wide.
She looked across the entirety of the human world of Midgard.
“…There he is. He is only moving on foot, so he has not made it out of Midgard yet. I can still have him turn back. No dark shadow will grab ahold of his soul!!”
“What should we do?” asked the ravens.
“Due to the data traffic, it will be 20 or 30 minutes before Bifröst can activate. You should be able to reach him quicker. Contact that boy and inform him of the danger. Use your words to stop him before I arrive!!”
As she listened to Muninn and Huginn’s words, Waltraute concentrated while sitting atop her white horse. Many magical processes were being executed at high speed, but she could not stand how the surrounding devices with poor data transfer speeds could not keep up.
“There he is. We found the boy,” reported one of the ravens.
“Hey! Wait up, wait up!!”
The boy looked surprised at Muninn and Huginn’s sudden appearance.
“It’s Huginn and Muninn,” he said.
“Yes, it’s Muninn and Huginn.”
“Were you forced to run over and give me a message again?”
“Did you have to remember that part!?” The two ravens flew around the boy. “Please do not go to the fire world of Muspelheim! That is not as safe a place as you think it is!!”
“If it isn’t dangerous, I can’t train there.”
“Good point, but we are saying its difficulty level is too high for you to level up!! While not everyone there is a great demon king, it is something like an island filled with small demon kings. You cannot gain experience points there!! You’ll just get your ass kicked!!”
“You’re only equipped with the Leather Clothes and the Wooden Stick! A beginner is supposed to train by wandering around just outside the city and heading back to the inn when your health is down too far! You have to gather money, gather equipment, search for party members, and all sorts of other things before heading there!”
Either because they had used too much jargon or because they had not planned out their argument, the boy did not quite understand.
Muninn and Huginn continued squawking.
“And didn’t your parents teach you that that the evil spirits and giants of Muspelheim will never open their hearts to a human? Why would you go somewhere that dangerous?”
“Well…” The boy swung his wooden stick around. “I want to train on my own in the same place as the people of Muspelheim.”
“Setting aside the fact that there are no ‘people’ in Muspelheim, what do you mean by that?”
“Our human world is protected by the gods and Waltraute, right? That would be the same as having her control the horse for me. To really get strong, I have to work hard on my own!”
“…Mh. So that’s it,” muttered Waltraute as she held the reins of her white horse and frowned.
It was true that using that method could allow a human soul to contact the residents of the fire world of Muspelheim and gain skills and magic while avoiding being tainted.
If one was doing the exact same things but changing their location, there would be no problem.
The Valkyrie had a feeling that working outside of the protection of the gods would only lower his speed of growth, but she was relieved that he was not thinking of borrowing the power of the ruler of the fire world or the queen of the underworld.
“In that case, he should have asked me to teach him!! No, no, wait. I was the one that pushed him away by telling him it was impossible.”
Waltraute’s mood sank into self-condemnation.
The cause of it all really was her.
At any rate, the situation could be summed up in the following: that boy of Midgard was heading for Muspelheim. However, he was not seeking the evil skills and magic of the evil spirits and giants. He simply wanted an environment to train under his own power that was outside of the protection of the gods.
If that was all, he was not taking a shortcut or heading down the path of heresy.
The end result was perfectly acceptable, so there was no pressing need for her to stop him using the authority of a Valkyrie.
“The question is whether the residents of Muspelheim will accept the boy or not. The odds of that are extremely low. Is dragging him back the only way to protect the boy?”
Waltraute was a bit unwilling to do so since it was her overprotectiveness that brought about the situation in the first place, but she had no choice here.
The Valkyrie began thinking about seeing him safely back to his house and then introducing him to a training menu a human could manage.
As she thought, the voices of the boy and the two ravens reached her ears.
“But it is true that Muspelheim is a dangerous place,” said one of the ravens. “How about you use the knowledge of the Æsir as a shortcut? We can give you that knowledge. There is no need to be reckless. Lord Odin ordered us to gather information from all across the heavenly world, so we have plenty we could teach you.”
“Actually, do you think Waltraute wanted to play the role of the sexy tutor?” added the other raven.
“Hey, wait!!” shouted Waltraute. “Do not make up nonsense, you fool!!”
“Um,” said the boy. “I want you to keep this a secret from Waltraute. I don’t want to worry her.”
“I am already incredibly worried, you fool!!”
Waltraute decided anew to drag that boy back, but then…
“And this is a manly training journey. Mr. Nebby from my neighborhood said men go on journeys to get stronger!”
“No! That was just a free spirit trying to show off!!” complained Waltraute.
“I’m going on a manly training journey! And once I get strong, Waltraute will praise me a whole bunch!! So keep this a secret!!”
When Waltraute heard him talk like he was secretly preparing a birthday present, she let out a groan as the departure process for the 3rd runway continued.
For his safety, she needed to head out and take him back immediately.
But if she did that, the boy’s touching plan would be ruined.
The battle-obsessed Waltraute did not hate that kind of effort taken to obtain strength.
Training was a battle against oneself.
One who continued working while brushing aside all temptation and setbacks would win definite blessings. She felt a just beauty in that fact.
And she also knew exactly how rude it was for a third party to smash that gathered beauty.
While swearing silently that it was for purely official reasons and not because she had been shaken by him imagining the praises he would receive from her, she spoke.
“I-I can’t stop him,” Waltraute finally muttered. “I can’t believe this! I can’t stop that boy now!!”
Despite what she said, Waltraute took off from the Bifröst runway and descended to the human world of Midgard while creating an unnatural aurora in the night sky. After she had dismounted from the white horse, it disappeared into the light once more.
However, she was not near the boy.
While maintaining a distance at which a human could not see her but a Valkyrie could see him, Waltraute opened her eyes wide and stared intently at the boy.
“Um,” started Muninn and Huginn upon meeting up with Waltraute. “Why don’t you head back to Asgard? You can watch him easily enough from there.”
“You fool. I need to be able to head out immediately if something happens. Bifröst cannot be used around the fire world of Muspelheim or the underworld of Niflheim because the flow of magical power is so strange there. I can be more certain from here.”
“If you’re that worried, you should have just landed right in front of the boy.”
“She’s probably too embarrassed because they haven’t made up after their fight ye-…bgyahhh!?”
Seeing Huginn about to be crushed within a fist, Muninn began trembling and changed the subject.
“W-well… A human boy approaching Muspelheim is one thing, but won’t they prepare for war if a top-class Valkyrie approaches their headquarters?”
“Mh. I can cut through them to retrieve that boy if need be.”
“Is this really okay?” muttered the two ravens doubtfully.
The fire world of Muspelheim was the primary enemy force for the heavenly world of Asgard.
Not even a top-class Valkyrie could take that world on alone. If she could, Muspelheim would have been destroyed long ago.
That was how dangerous this foe was, but Waltraute said, “If this progresses as is, I do not see there being much of a risk. Of course, I need to be prepared for unexpected circumstances.”
“The odds are very low that the boy will ever make it to Muspelheim,” said Waltraute simply. “It is an island at the farthest end of the ocean. One does not simply walk there. Nor does one sail there on a hastily constructed boat. In fact, the completion of the giant ship Naglfar is one of the signs of Ragnarök because it allows them to cross that vast ocean. I doubt that boy can accomplish something the entire force of Muspelheim might not be able to manage.”
If one could fly through the air, it was possible, but they all knew that boy possessed no such magic power.
Some of the evil spirits borrowed from Niflheim to help prepare that ship in Muspelheim would ignore gravity and cross that ocean to do damage to Midgard.
However, that was a sporadic occurrence. Even a Valkyrie would be in danger if an army of giants and evil spirits attacked, but she could deal with a small number of evil spirits before they could attack the boy.
“That boy will arrive at the shore, but that it as far as he will get. Even that is crossing the boundaries of Midgard, so it is still a great adventure to another world. The boy will give up at the shore. If I tell him his journey has made him strong once he returns, all of this will be over.”
“I suppose the boy’s legs will at least be stronger.”
“Y-yes. I cannot deny that. He has already tried to travel to three different worlds after all,” admitted the beautiful Valkyrie who was the boy’s driving force.
At any rate, it seemed all the loose ends would be tied up.
The fire world of Muspelheim was a dangerous place, but the boy would face no real risk if he never actually arrived there.
But something happened Waltraute did not expect.
“Oh, Mr. Loki. What are you doing here?”
“Oh, what a coincidence. Fancy meeting you here.”
“!? All of a sudden, I sense a storm approaching!!” shouted Waltraute.
“That’s the joker of the Æsir for you,” commented one of the ravens.
“I have business in Muspelheim. Are you heading out for a swim in the ocean, boy?”
“What a coincidence. I’m headed to Muspelheim, too.”
“No, wait. He does not have Naglfar!!” argued the Valkyrie. “Loki himself may be able to transform, but he cannot create enough lift to carry that boy even if he turns into a hawk!!”
But Loki continued, “Then how about I give you a lift? I happen to have a feather of Icarus, so just grab on to me.”
“Icarus!!” shouted the boy excitedly.
Waltraute was about ready to smash everything within reach.
“That evil god really is a joker!!”
“And he just introduced something from Greek mythology. But you’ve already crossed over to other settings when you mentioned gyms and used the metric system, so I suppose this didn’t come from nowhere.”
“But if this world has wings even a human can pilot, doesn’t the initial challenge to climb the world tree under his own power lose all meaning? And it doesn’t even require relying on Greek things. Wayland created very similar wings, so-…gygygygyaahh!? D-don’t…don’t strangle me like that!”
“How dare you spit on the results of a strict competition a human risked his life on. It seems ravens need to be taught manners before they are taught to speak.”
More importantly, the boy was about to accept Loki’s invitation and head to the fire world of Muspelheim. The level of danger was very, very different between turning back at the beach and actually entering the fire world.
“I really am going to kill that evil god this time. Come to think of it, if we just kill him instead of the giants and evil spirits, wouldn’t that prevent Ragnarök from happening!?”
Waltraute held a Spear of Destroying Lightning tightly in her right hand.
“No, wait. If you attack Loki now, won’t the boy be caught in the blast?”
“And it seems Loki knows it. He’s smirking in this direction.”
Waltraute fired Spears of Destroying Lightning indiscriminately into the night sky and very nearly hit the wolf that was constantly chasing after the moon.
Carelessly approaching Muspelheim could easily cause them to prepare for war.
The Valkyrie gritted her teeth and muttered to herself.
“(But if need be, I will bring that boy back even if it starts a war. Yes. I cannot use Bifröst near Muspelheim, but I can always split the sea with a Spear of Destroying Lightning. I have to take responsibility for leaving that boy alone.)”
“This idiot in love is thinking something crazy while trying to pass it off as her battle obsession!!”
Surtr, the ruler of the fire world of Muspelheim, had accurately captured the locations of Loki and the boy as they approached (as well as the location of the Valkyrie emitting a fearsome light from her eyes).
Whether it was due to being a giant or due to being an evil ruler, Surtr was large.
For one thing, he was over 4 meters tall. He also held enough energy within him to activate a magic sword with destructive power on a great enough scale to burn down the world tree.
When Loki landed on the ground, he was surrounded by an army of the Muspell giants who resided in the fire world and an army of the evil spirits dispatched from the underworld of Niflheim. However, Loki merely casually raised both hands with a thin smile.
Surtr said, “What are you here for? Surely you know what this place is.”
“My side may have changed when I became brother-in-law with Odin, but I originally had giant blood flowing through my veins.”
“Blood of the giant world of Jötunheimr. You have no connection to Muspelheim.”
“Are there a lot of different kinds of giants?” asked the boy innocently.
Still smiling, Loki answered, “The neighboring Vanir were originally considered a type of giant rather than a type of god. They are a lovely example of how race does not determine whether you are good or evil.”
“Normally, giants are 3 to 5 meters tall. But when the Vanir became gods, some adjustments were made so they would be the same size as you humans. Even the goddess Freyja who is known for being the most beautiful in all of Norse mythology originally came from the Vanir. In other words, she has giant blood.”
“So there really are all sorts of giants,” said the boy with his eyes sparkling.
However, Surtr was not going to remain silent.
The Æsir had unilaterally decided the residents of Muspelheim were giants who had headed down the path of evil for some reason other than their race, so that should not have been surprising.
Plus, Loki had been purposefully choosing his words in order to apply damage to Surtr while using the boy’s innocence as a cushion.
And the boy was completely unaware it was happening.
“What is that?” asked the boy while pointing to the army of evil spirits surrounding them.
Despite how ridiculous an idea it was, it was possible he thought they were there to welcome Loki and him.
“They are evil spirits who have allied with Muspelheim’s forces,” answered Loki.
It may have seemed odd for evil spirits to be the enemies of the gods, but the gods used the war dead of the Einherjar as their own soldiers. They were the spirit soldiers on the evil side, so they were known as evil spirits. The line drawn by the Æsir was very simple and quite unfair.
And the ones who commanded the Muspell giants and the evil spirits were Surtr, a giant, and Hel, the queen of the underworld who possessed giant blood. But just like the Vanir had originally been giants, Surtr and Hel both possessed the attributes of gods as well.
In other words…
The organization of the heavenly world of Asgard and the fire world of Muspelheim were actually very similar. The primary difference was the location itself.
If Muspelheim controlled the world, they would be the ones known as gods.
“…Oh, so they’re evil spirits,” muttered the boy with his eyes wide.
However, he did not grow terrified or try to run away from those “repulsive things” like other humans would.
For some reason, he pulled some snacks from the bag on his back, placed them on a makeshift plate he had made from a large leaf, and held them out towards the evil spirits.
It was like he was giving an offering.
And then the boy held his hands together and spoke.
The army of evil spirits very nearly ceased to be evil.
“H-hey!! You are the ultimate army filled with hatred for the final battle of Ragnarök! Why are you all getting that cheerful look!? And the Namu Amida Butsu is from a completely different setting!!” frantically shouted out Surtr as he very nearly suffered a severe loss of military strength.
“Hah hah hah.” Loki’s smile was as pure as that of the (formerly) evil spirits. “It looks like all that chatting we did midflight paid off. But not even I expected it to go this far.”
“Loki, you joker! What the hell are you here for!? Are you here to attack Muspelheim as one of the Æsir!?”
“I am both an Æsir and a giant. To be blunt, I have no interest in that kind of division.” Loki grinned. “I am the one who almost destroyed the Æsir by kidnapping Iðunn so that they lost the method of producing apples of immortality. And I fathered the greatest foes of Asgard: the great wolf Fenrir, the great serpent Jörmungandr, and the queen of the underworld Hel. …Doesn’t it seem that you owe me more than I owe you?”
Surtr’s anger was cooled.
“So why are you here?”
“My objective was complete from the moment I set foot on this land.”
“Also…I know.” Loki ignored Surtr’s confusion and placed his hand on the head of the boy next to him. “While we’re here, how about you grant this boy’s wish?”
Waltraute was monitoring the boy from a point just barely beyond Muspelheim’s defensive line.
When she heard that conversation, she muttered, “Hm. I doubt Loki would act so kind without reason. What is he after? …Don’t tell me he really does have an interest in other men.”
The two ravens Muninn and Huginn spoke while flying around next to Waltraute.
“Hm? That is…”
“Waahhh!! Lady Waltraute, look…look over there a second!!”
“Silence. Do not speak to me during this important moment.”
“No, this is more important!! I don’t know why, but the no-view zone in Muspelheim has been unlocked!” squawked one of the ravens. “That’s Naglfar!! That’s the giant ship Naglfar!!”
She was reluctant to take her eyes off of the boy, but Waltraute frowned and glanced over in the direction Muninn and Huginn indicated.
And she was left utterly speechless.
A number of large white ships were lined up along a dock on the shore of Muspelheim. They were not floating in the water. Instead, they were lined up along the flat ground and supported by many wooden pillars.
They must have been under construction.
They were the giant ships known as Naglfar. During the final battle of Ragnarök, they would carry countless evil spirits and giants to attack the human world of Midgard and the heavenly world of Asgard.
Technically, they were likely not simple ships but actually something like a mobile version of Bifröst.
Around the fire world of Muspelheim and the underworld of Niflheim, the odd flow of magical power prevented the use of Bifröst. That was one of the defensive lines set up by the giants to prevent a surprise attack from the Æsir, but it also made it difficult for the giants to use similar transportation techniques.
That was why they needed Naglfar.
Once Naglfar achieved enough distance from Muspelheim that it was outside the range of that defensive area they had set up themselves, the giants and evil spirits on the ships could be scattered throughout the nine worlds. That was how “the battle that would end the world” would spread throughout all the worlds in no time at all.
The completion of Naglfar was one of the triggers for Ragnarök.
In other words, a general time limit for Ragnarök could be calculated by the construction rate of Naglfar.
“…What was it the head of wisdom Mímir had predicted?” asked Waltraute.
“I-I think it was that the danger would likely come 300 years from now…”
“That fool!! It is over 90% complete! From the looks of it, they might be able to finish it within a week!!”
But then Waltraute received a communication in her ear.
It was from the second Valkyrie sister Gerhilde.
“We have received a report via Muninn and Huginn of what you are seeing. Waltraute, please return to Asgard.”
“What are you going to do!?”
“As the timing of Ragnarök has been accelerated, we must also prepare for war. We must begin immediately. The difference lies in whose preparations are completed first.”
The fourth sister Waltraute looked over towards the fire world of Muspelheim.
The boy was still there.
If Ragnarök began now and the gods and the giants clashed, the boy would most certainly be caught in the middle of it all. And a soul born in the human world of Midgard was not durable enough to withstand the attacks of the gods.
Even his soul would be destroyed.
Waltraute would not even be able to retrieve him as a member of the Einherjar.
And the second sister Gerhilde was likely already aware of that danger thanks to Muninn and Huginn.
Despite that knowledge, she said, “We have always known that over 99% of the residents of Midgard will die once Ragnarök begins. The stage where you could remain attached to that boy has ended. You must change your line of thinking and prepare for Ragnarök.”
The creaking sound of something straining could be heard inside Waltraute’s fist. She very nearly crushed the part of her aurora armor that covered her hand.
“The information we have received from you has been very useful,” continued Gerhilde. “We can use that information to strike first against Muspelheim in a preemptive surprise attack. I will see you at the strategic control room in Valhalla.”
The transmission ended.
The two ravens cowered in fear of the killer intent coming from Waltraute, but remaining silent would not help matters.
One of the ravens hesitantly said, “But if Ragnarök has started, there really isn’t anything you can do for the human boy.”
“In fact, isn’t a good thing we managed to catch a glimpse of Naglfar? It would have been completed sooner or later even if this had not happened. If we hadn’t noticed, Midgard and Asgard would have been caught off guard.”
“…A good thing?” said Waltraute in a low voice as if it was a curse. She finally began shouting with clear hatred in her voice. “Damn you, Loki… Damn you, Loki!! You brought that boy to Muspelheim because you knew this would happen, didn’t you!? You lured in Muninn and Huginn, the scouts of the heavenly world, so they would see how far Naglfar had progressed!!”
Due to the distorted flow of magical power, Bifröst could not be used to reach Muspelheim. That distortion also interfered with Asgard’s other magic, and some of the most distorted areas could not even be seen with their magically-enhanced vision.
Surtr had hidden Naglfar’s construction in one of those areas to prevent anyone from observing its rate of completion. That was why Asgard based their decisions on the prediction made by the head of wisdom Mímir.
So why had Waltraute and the ravens “coincidentally” learned how far along Naglfar was?
The answer was simple: it was no coincidence.
“Loki forcibly opened the no-view zone from within Muspelheim! His goal was to let us see Naglfar just as it became dangerously close to completion!! And he got a soul of the human world involved to do it!!”
“But…” The ravens looked over at the boy who was asking about various things within the fire world of Muspelheim. “Wasn’t that the right thing to do as a member of the Æsir? Even if he got us involved, Loki was working to reveal the plans of Muspelheim.”
“Not a chance,” denied Waltraute immediately. “What is Naglfar made out of?”
“What is it made out of!?”
“Th-the fingernails and toenails of dead humans!!”
“Yes. The more humans die, the faster Naglfar approaches completion. Times of peace delay its completion. So you’re saying Loki predicted how far along Naglfar’s construction was? Of course he did. He is the one who has been causing volcanic eruptions and wars in Midgard to hasten its completion!!”
He was merely showing off the destruction he had prepared.
It was a mocking plan befitting of that joker.
But the end result would be the demise of all nine worlds. And that would of course include that innocent boy.
“B-but why!? Why is Loki doing this!?”
“…I cannot even guess,” replied Waltraute in a low voice.
The target of her hatred stood next to the boy she wished to protect. And the armies of Muspelheim stood in the way of her path to either.
“Looks like it’s begun,” muttered Loki to himself so Surtr could not hear as the giant barked orders at his subordinate giants and evil spirits in one corner of the fire world of Muspelheim.
The boy next to Loki did not seem to understand the situation as he looked around at the objects and scenery he could never see in the human world of Midgard.
“What has begun?”
“The final battle of Ragnarök.”
Even that boy’s expression stiffened when he heard that. It seemed even a human of his age had been taught about Ragnarök from his parents or a shaman.
That meant the end of the nine worlds supported by the world tree Yggdrasil.
It was the final battle that would burn everything away.
“Why would I be kidding?”
“But…you have to be kidding!! The old shaman would always laugh and say Ragnarök is something a long, long time from now!!”
“The gods have more accurate information than humans. And look. You can see Naglfar being completed, right? Surly you have heard the stories. It is very nearly complete. At this rate, it will not even take a week.”
The boy looked like he was about to cry.
The only reason he was able to resist obeying his feelings and letting out a wail was because he had come here on a journey to grow stronger.
“Really?” asked the boy with his voice hoarse. “The final battle of Ragnarök really is beginning?”
Loki used some magic on the boy. This level of magic was usable even in Muspelheim.
The boy could now hear the communications and transmissions currently being sent throughout the heavenly world of Asgard.
“If we can get in a preemptive surprise attack now, we can substantially wear down Muspelheim’s forces!! This is our only time to attack!”
“No, we can’t. This is too little time to prepare. We do not have enough Einherjar war dead yet! We need to focus on fortifying our defenses instead of attacking!!”
“Even if the preemptive surprise attack is a success, a counterattack from Surtr could burn away 40% of Midgard.”
“That does not matter. Once Ragnarök begins, the predictions say over 99% of them will die anyway. Protecting Asgard takes priority!! Once Naglfar is complete, they will head directly here!”
To the powerless human boy, those words were much too cruel.
“This is to be expected,” said Loki with an unconcerned expression. “Asgard is operating under the assumption that the battle will occur, so their plans have already eliminated the possibility of stopping the battle. Even if nothing happens now, they will still be left waiting for Ragnarök to eventually happen.”
“Why did you come here, Mr. Loki?”
“To cause some disturbance in that assumption that it will happen sooner or later.”
As he replied, Loki dismantled the wings of Icarus by melting the wax holding the feathers together and pulled something out from within them.
It was a sword contained within a scabbard colored a sinister black and red.
“This sword is Dáinsleif. It is one of the highest ranked magical swords that even humans can wield.”
Once that magic sword was removed from its scabbard, it would never return to its scabbard until the hated opponent had been killed. Either the target would be killed or the wielder would lose his own life. This “sword of endings” would inevitably bring about one or the other result.
The average human could easily have their heart destroyed by the overflowing curse even if they pulled it just a crack from the scabbard.
It was a sword of mutual destruction.
That cruel weapon was most useful when an extreme gap existed between the value of the killer’s life and value the killed’s life.
“Are you going to fight that Surtr guy with this?”
“That is but one of many options. Success would be difficult, though,” readily admitted Loki. “After all, Surtr possesses a magic sword of his own that can set fire to the world tree Yggdrasil and burn away all nine worlds. He has the more powerful sword and his strength is much greater than average. I doubt I could win in a direct fight.”
Then what was he hoping to do?
Loki smiled thinly when he saw the look of confusion in the boy’s eyes.
“Have you heard of the god named Höðr?”
“Ha ha. I suppose he would not be well known in Midgard. His body was weak and he was blind. Unlike a harvest god or a war god, his role was not one to have a large impact in human history.”
“What happened to this god named Höðr?”
“He was famous for a certain spear. Specifically, a throwing spear made of mistletoe that was too young. A rule existed stating that nothing could harm the light god Baldr, but this mistletoe was exempted from the rule because it was too young. And Höðr did a brilliant job of killing Baldr using a throwing spear made of that mistletoe that no one saw any danger in.”
Loki failed to mention that it had actually been Loki himself that had given Höðr that mistletoe and that Höðr had only obeyed Loki’s instructions to throw it as a joke because he had not known it would kill his elder brother Baldr.
“There is always a blind spot. If you can take advantage of it, you can even kill the light god who supposedly could not be killed. And the gods and giants are essentially the same. There is a good chance Surtr has a blind spot like that.”
A blind spot.
A means of fighting that did not involve using sword against sword.
An alternate method that parted ways with the standard functionality and the standard usage.
“I think Dáinsleif, the sword of mutual destruction, should be used, but I do not plan to draw it myself,” said Loki. “I mean to have Surtr draw it. The sword of mutual destruction puts a curse on the killed and the killer. I cannot win a straight fight, but once Dáinsleif’s curse has been applied evenly, Surtr is guaranteed to receive a certain level of damage as its user.”
During the final battle of Ragnarök, several monsters such as the great serpent Jörmungandr, the great wolf Fenrir, and the queen of the underworld Hel would join together to oppose Asgard. However, the once who held the most important role was Surtr.
His sword would burn away the world tree and all nine worlds.
In other words, if he was defeated at an early stage of the battle, the ultimate conclusion would greatly change.
“But would Surtr really touch such a dangerous sword?”
“Normally, no. That is what the blind spot is for.”
Loki pulled another object out of the wax for the wings of Icarus.
It was a giant scabbard measuring over 3 meters and a giant sword grip that matched.
But the actual blade was missing.
Instead, the scabbard contained a hole the perfect size to fit Dáinsleif and the grip contained a hole the perfect size to fit Dáinsleif’s own grip.
“I can disguise Dáinsleif to look exactly like Surtr’s own magic flame sword. That way, Surtr will ‘accidentally’ draw Dáinsleif. No matter the method used, you will be cursed if you draw the magic sword. This will alter Ragnarök.”
Unlike an Æsir like Loki, the human boy or the giant Surtr would definitely be cursed if they drew the magic sword Dáinsleif. Even if the gods and the giants were said to be the same at the root, they directionality of their powers (what the Æsir called good and evil) was completely different.
While Surtr might be able to withstand the curse that leaked from the scabbard, even he would be unable to resist it if he completely drew the sword.
“But…” The boy hesitated. “Won’t Surtr be in trouble if you do that?”
“Unfortunately, the Norns have already predicted that Surtr will lose his life even if Ragnarök goes perfectly well. Whether this happens or not, his fate is the same,” said Loki smoothly. “But altering at which stage Surtr dies will greatly affect the lives of those living in the nine worlds. Over 99% of Midgard will die, so your mother and father are at risk. And over 80% of Asgard will die as well, so the odds aren’t good for Waltraute either. If I can greatly change those numbers, what do you think I should do?”
The boy looked down to the ground, fell silent, and bit his lip.
Finally, he spoke.
“How often do your ideas work?”
“You had to ask that, didn’t you?” Loki smiled. “My success rate is 30%...no, more like 20%. The odds are pretty high he’ll catch onto the truth by detecting the faint curse leaking from the crack in the altered scabbard. And even if he doesn’t, the magic flame sword symbolizes Surtr. I can’t say for sure whether he would mistake something else for the weapon that has adhered to his existence.”
At best, the odds were 30%.
If it succeeded, Surtr and the forces of Muspelheim he commanded would be thrown into chaos. Surtr was their greatest power, so Asgard would attack and smash Muspelheim to pieces if he was gone.
Was the boy willing to make that sacrifice in order to protect the human world of Midgard and the heavenly world of Asgard?
Or would he refuse to sacrifice and simply wait for the destruction of the nine worlds?
And he made his decision.
“Give me that sword. I have an idea.”
With a Spear of Destroying Lightning in her right hand, Waltraute called the two ravens that flew nearby.
She continued, “This is enough. You return to Asgard.”
“What will you do!?”
“You need not worry about that. If you stay, you will only get caught up in it all.
Muninn and Huginn could not question her any further.
This was because multiple Spears of Destroying Lightning flew towards Waltraute from many directions at once.
It was a total of seventeen.
That downpour of powerful light stabbed down from heaven to earth.
The air in the surrounding area shook. A brilliant flash of light filled one corner of the night and lit it up like midday.
A single Spear of Destroying Lightning created enough destructive power to destroy the average evil spirit if it so much as grazed them.
That violent dance of light filled a set area.
“None of you can outmatch me in maneuverability, you fools,” muttered Waltraute calmly.
Giant craters measuring kilometers in diameter were created everywhere, but the explosions were uneven. She moved at high speed to accurately evade through the small gaps between destruction.
An unnatural aurora covered the night sky.
The Valkyries who had fired the multiple Spears of Destroying Lightning from Asgard had descended at 87% the speed of light. The eight sisters on horseback had split into three groups to block Waltraute’s escape. Despite their attacks missing, their expression remained unchanged. The attacks had only been intended to hold Waltraute in place as they landed. They never expected to defeat her with their initial attacks.
They had Waltraute surrounded in a 20 kilometer ring around her.
But for them, that might as well have been right next to each other.
After landing on the surface, they dismounted from their white horses and held their Spears of Destroying Lightning at the ready. The horses silently disappeared into the light, leaving only the Valkyries on the battlefield.
The Valkyries could move throughout the nine worlds at 87% the speed of light, but they did not like to appear right in front of their enemy to perform an immediate surprise attack.
The Bifröst method broke their existences down to transport them and then returned their existences to normal. In other words, one’s senses could not grasp the situation for an instant after landing. If the target was already on guard, it was possible the target could get in a counter attack.
The fourth sister Waltraute was the Valkyrie of the nine with the greatest maneuverability. She had the greatest odds of succeeding in such a counter attack.
A transmission from the third sister Ortlinde reached her ears.
“…Located. …Located. …Fourth sister Waltraute has been located. …She must be detached from the Wagner Valkyrie system to open a path to Muspelheim.”
“So you are going to eliminate me without warning or negotiation?” asked Waltraute.
“Nothing we say will get you to move out of the way.” This time it was the ninth sister Rossweisse. “After all, your beloved darling waits for you in Muspelheim. If we carry out a preemptive surprise attack, he is almost guaranteed to be caught in the middle of it.”
Waltraute fell silent and the second sister Gerhilde pressed her further.
“Your actions could be seen as treason against heaven as they could assist Muspelheim and bring danger to Asgard. Asking you to move out of the way and obey our instructions was only for show. We could only obtain permission to eliminate you once you failed to heed our warning, so we do not care if you did not even listen. If a wooden placeholder is set in the seat of the missing fourth sister, the system can continue functioning.”
“You may be superior when it comes to maneuverability,” whispered the eldest sister Brynhildr to finish the conversation. “But we each have our own specialties. Surely you do not think you can outdo us in any category other than maneuverability.”
The ninth sister Rossweisse had defensive power.
The much too large armor covering her slender body told it all. She sacrificed speed for that solid armor, but she could withstand several strikes from the Spears of Destroying Lightning fired by the other Valkyries.
The second sister Gerhilde had her great number of simultaneous attacks.
In both hands, she held the types of sticks used to control the strings of a marionette. She could use them to use 10 Spears of Destroying Lightning at once.
And then there was the eldest sister Brynhildr.
The aurora armor she wore flickered unnaturally. But with darkness, not light. A large bloody man floated up vaguely from within that dark flicker. The way his arms and legs hung down limply showed no sign of a human will. A single spear piercing through his back and out his chest furthered that impression. Several black strings wrapped around the spear and writhed about within the large man.
He was the legendary warrior Siegfried.
Brynhildr’s specialty was her ability to control human souls. She could command and control the army of the Einherjar war dead more skillfully than anyone else.
“It is 8 to 1. As we are all Valkyries, numbers will decide this. Sorry, but we must defeat you,” announced Brynhildr as the bloody Siegfried followed her around.
Siegfried was a soul from the human world, yet he was also a hero who had been made invincible except for the one spot on his back after bathing in dragon’s blood. She could simultaneously control hundreds of thousands of souls on that level. In a pure contest of strength, Waltraute had no chance.
What if the boy drew the magic sword Dáinsleif from its scabbard? Even if he challenged Surtr to a fight with that magic sword, the boy would not win.
After all, it would be a battle between one of the strongest swords a human can wield and one of the strongest of swords that a human would never be able to wield.
It was obvious which would be victorious.
What if the boy tried to approach Surtr with that dangerous sword in hand? Surtr might be so taken aback he would frantically try to take Dáinsleif from the ignorant boy. If the sword was loose in the scabbard, it might slip out.
Whatever the situation might be, the one who drew the sword from its scabbard would be cursed. It was possible Surtr would be cursed by Dáinsleif.
But Surtr was the ruler of the fire world of Muspelheim. He understood just how great a meaning was held in his own life and the choices he made.
If the boy approached with an object dangerous enough to possibly hinder him, he would likely cut the boy down no questions asked.
And after making the correct decision, he would regret it on his own without letting anyone else know.
What if the boy drew Dáinsleif of his own free will and then told Surtr he had been tricked by Loki? Dáinsleif could not be returned to its scabbard until either its target or its wielder had died. Would Surtr hesitate to strike and be struck by the boy’s attack?
However, Surtr was a great ruler who had thoroughly trained himself and others for the sake of the coming battle. As he planned to literally rebel against the gods and sought victory despite knowing he could not overturn the predictions about Ragnarök, he had continued to strengthen his body and mind past their limits day after day.
Whatever the reason, he would cut down any human that stood before him while armed with a magic sword.
Surtr had thoroughly trained his thought processes for war, so that would be how he thought.
Even if he later regretted cutting down a powerless human, he would heartlessly act in the moment. That was simply the type of being Surtr was.
No matter what action he took and no matter what path he chose, the result would not change.
That was how most would view it and it was likely true.
But Loki was the one who had killed the light god Baldr who supposedly could not be killed no matter what. He knew from experience that those protected by an absolute always had the most vulnerable loopholes.
Even for Loki, this was a poor bet.
Replacing the magic flame sword that would burn down the nine worlds with Dáinsleif, the sword of mutual destruction, sounded simple enough, but it would be truly difficult to make Surtr mistake something else for the sword that was said to symbolize him.
And then the boy from Midgard made a suggestion.
After bringing him to Muspelheim to lure in Waltraute, Muninn, and Huginn so they would see Naglfar, that boy’s role was supposed to have ended.
The boy gathered his determination and spoke.
He stood before the evil god Loki.
He stood before the magic sword Dáinsleif.
The path chosen by that tiny boy was…
The other eight Valkyrie sisters closed in on the fourth sister Waltraute.
They had their Spears of Destroying Lightning, the army of Einherjar under their command, and the hero Siegfried controlled with both love and hatred by the eldest sister Brynhildr. They used all of that to advance on the traitor they deemed to be a real threat.
But Waltraute smiled.
“Simply getting into a fight to suit the situation is too boring. Let us bet a definite prize on the outcome.”
“A competition?” muttered Brynhildr as her tone of voice completely changed. “You dare enter into a competition with the Valkyries that oversee such things for the gods who rule over war!? Surely you know how reckless that is, Waltraute!!”
“I experienced it enough thanks to that boy from Midgard. I am painfully aware what a competition entails, Brynhildr,” said Waltraute quietly. “Let the competition begin. All eight of you can come at me at once if you wish. But once all eight of you have been rendered unable to fight, you must restrain from making any attacks that might involve that boy.”
“We planned to crush you regardless of any such promises…but you have a deal, Waltraute! However, I am only giving you this small hope so I can smash it to pieces!! You never had a chance of victory here!!”
“You are the ones with no chance of victory.”
“You likely did so to quickly begin your bombardment from above and to stress adaptability and individual strength, but it was a mistake to create a force made up entirely of Valkyries. The outcome might have been different had you added in a pure god.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am saying that victory is mine, you fool.”
The boy walked through the fire world of Muspelheim.
He was searching for Surtr.
Loki’s words were spinning around in his head. If Surtr was defeated, the result of Ragnarök might change. He might be able to protect his beloved Waltraute and others doomed to die.
The Muspell giants and evil spirits must have been busy preparing for war because they had been running every which way for a while. They did not have time to pay any attention to the boy’s movements. Just like the spear Loki had once prepared, the boy was simply too young and powerless to pay any attention to.
But he was a human.
He had what it took to wield the magic sword Dáinsleif.
He could draw the magic sword as direct power or he could use it in a deception. The boy could make either choice.
(There he is. It’s Surtr.)
The boy spoke silently to himself as he poked his head from behind a giant ship.
Surtr had his back to the boy as he gave orders along the beach lined with the ships of Naglfar. They were rushing to complete Naglfar for the final battle of Ragnarök.
“Sorry, but I don’t have time to speak with you,” said Surtr without even turning around. He used a gap between barking orders to speak to the boy. “Your idea to train in an area not protected by the gods was a good one, but you simply didn’t have the time. …To be honest, I didn’t expect to gather so many nails of the dead so quickly.”
Surtr did not even look at the boy.
He must have been confident he could immediately take action if something happened. Then again, Surtr would not even be scratched if the boy swung a normal dagger up at him.
But what if the boy used Dáinsleif?
What if he used an alternative method to a frontal attack?
Was there really no hope of success?
Was it truly correct to think there was a chance?
The boy called his name.
The ruler still did not turn around.
The boy continued regardless.
“The thing is…”
Eight Valkyries attacked at once to detach Waltraute from the system.
The Valkyries’ Spears of Destroying Lightning allowed them to attack from dozens of kilometers away, but they could attack in quicker and quicker succession the closer they were. When a formation of eight was doing so from three different directions, even Waltraute’s great maneuverability could not continue to evade every single attack.
And Waltraute would die if even a single strike hit her. The aurora armor was not enough to defend against a Spear of Destroying Lightning. The other Valkyries were treating this as a simple detachment procedure rather than a competition.
That was only what would have happened if this was a pure fight between the gods in an action novel.
“Unfortunately for you, this is a love comedy. As reluctant as I am to admit it.”
“What are you talking about!?”
Waltraute smiled quietly while paying no heed to the other eight charging towards her with their legs practically causing explosions along the ground and the tips of their Spears of Destroying Lightning flying towards her.
“I am saying that this competition will not be decided solely by such serious matters!!” shouted Waltraute as she released the Spear of Destroying Lightning she had been holding in her hand and reached a hand into her armor’s pocket.
Inside that pocket was the tool she had confiscated from that boy in the previous chapter.
It was the multi-tool knife created by the dwarves.
It was a golden tool that would automatically remove a Valkyrie’s armor.
(Are you trying to remove our weapons and armor to prevent us from fighting?)
Brynhildr guessed at Waltraute’s intentions.
“Fool!! Did you really think a tool developed to remove our armor while we lie motionless on a bed can do anything while we are moving at full speed!?”
“That is not the function I am using, you fool.”
Waltraute grinned and unfolded one of the blades from the multi-tool knife.
Specifically, she unfolded the unwanted new function the dwarves had added with the extra gold.
As soon as she did, a large number of tentacles squirmed out while completely ignoring the law of conservation of mass.
Brynhildr was left dumbfounded and Waltraute said, “It seems the dwarves put in a little too much effort on this one. A Valkyrie caught by these things will supposedly pass out and foam at the mouth.”
Please wait a moment…drool.
Waltraute pressed the button on the tool’s handle to stop the housewife-pleasing function at the last second. The widowed eldest sister and the other single women were left bound by those slimy objects wrapped all around their bodies.
“You should be thankful this is a love comedy. If it was an erotic novel, this would have gone beyond simply binding your arms and legs.”
Brynhildr laughed weakly after that close call.
The Einherjar she controlled could not act with their commander gone.
“It does seem there is nothing more we can do. We admit defeat. But you are in a dilemma as well, Waltraute.”
“Yes, it is true this could be turned on me at any time.”
“That is not what I meant,” said Brynhildr while twisting her bound body around. “I have been communicating with Loki. We had been planning to crush Muspelheim all at once with simultaneous attacks from two fronts, but his attack alone should be effective enough. …And it seems his attack uses that boy as its key.”
Waltraute looked confused and Brynhildr’s continued with a verbal finishing blow.
“It seems Loki hopes to have Surtr wield the magic sword Dáinsleif so the curse damages him. He plays the important role of burning away the nine worlds, so his defeat is bound to greatly affect the outcome of Ragnarök. But what do you think Surtr will do once he is cursed by Dáinsleif? At the very least, he is sure to view that boy from Midgard just as responsible for the plot as Loki.”
“Loki has the ability to transform, so he may be able to escape Muspelheim in the form of a hawk or something. But will he be able to bring that human boy with him? In fact, will that evil god even show the integrity to worry about the boy at all? What do you think, Waltraute?”
“Surtr, do you know about the magic sword Dáinsleif?”
Surtr finally turned toward the boy with a puzzled look. Then he wrinkled his brow grimly. A great ruler like him saw through it immediately. A slight remnant of a curse clung to the boy’s right hand.
(That abominable sword? But he did not draw it from its scabbard. That is only what leaked through the scabbard. If he had actually drawn it, this boy’s fate would already be sealed.)
Surtr snapped his fingers lightly.
Sparks flew from the boy’s palm similar to when a hot piece of iron was struck. The trace of the curse disappeared.
“…Do you possess the magic sword?”
Surtr thought for a second, but he quickly realized that could not be the case.
Dáinsleif’s curse was so powerful not even he could oppose it if he were to draw the sword from its scabbard.
“No, the scabbard is not enough to completely seal away Dáinsleif’s curse. If you carried it with you constantly, you would need some kind of countermeasure built into your flesh. However, I can sense no such trick in you. …You held it for the first time recently, didn’t you?”
Loki frowned slightly as he watched from a distance.
(He touched the hilt, but he never actually drew it. When that boy whose role should have been over reached for Dáinsleif himself, I thought some great change might be coming. I guess I was wrong.)
He traced his fingers along the sinister sword of red and black he held.
(I did not think he would change his mind at the last second. Was he afraid of the curse or of Surtr? That was just one of many options, but if the result of Ragnarök is not changed in a large way, over 99% of the humans in Midgard will perish.)
“Who has it? Was Loki the one behind this?”
“That doesn’t matter.” The boy shook his head. “Y’see, I heard the final battle of Ragnarök would begin once those ships are finished. Is that true?”
“Yes. We have been preparing for this for a very long time.”
“Because,” said Surtr in a low voice. “Originally, we were equal. There was no distinction between gods and giants. But the process they used to create the nine worlds left most of us dead while most of them survived. And instead of trying to save us, they named themselves gods and insulted us by naming us giants!! And it was all because of a plan they came up with and carried out on their own! They rose up to the heavens while driving us to the outer edges of the worlds!!”
“Uuh…uuh…” The boy let out a groan because he could not come up with a way of expressing the thoughts in his head. But then, “But a bunch of giants will die during Ragnarök, right?”
“That does not matter. This hatred was inputted into us from the moment these worlds were created. All giants were born in order to carry out our revenge by destroying the nine worlds during Ragnarök!!”
“But, but! The Vanir were originally giants, right? It makes no sense to say you need revenge because you’re giants or that you’re okay with dying because you’re giants.”
“They were taken in by the Æsir! They forgot what they must do and worked to earn the favor of those so-called gods!! They are not true giants. We will never cast aside our pride!!”
Even as he shouted, Surtr felt like something did not quite add up.
Their pride as giants?
Their pride in the bigoted and derogatory designation that had been used to drive them to the outer edges of the worlds?
“This is my first time in Muspelheim, but it doesn’t seem like the giants here are doing bad things.”
“Of course not!! We have justice on our side! It is those so-called gods who…who…!!”
“Then it’s wrong to die just to get revenge against them. I think the giants should be able to work to protect things, make things, and leave something behind. It’s wrong to throw away all those feelings just because you are giants or to give up your life for the sake of revenge. That’s…”
The boy trailed off, but Surtr knew what the boy was trying to say.
From the moment the nine worlds had been created and from the moment they had been classified as being either holy gods or evil giants, they had been doing nothing different from the classification “those more powerful” had unilaterally forced upon them.
“…Boy. What would you have us do? What goal do you see beyond those words of yours!?”
“Put down your weapons,” said the boy decisively. “The note of the Gjallarhorn being blown may one day ring throughout the nine worlds. The sun and moon may one day be swallowed up. The chains binding the great wolf Fenrir may one day be broken. …But that day is not today.”
“We will convince our gods. We will have them lay down their weapons. So you lay you down your own weapons. If you do that, this world that had begun to end can contain a few smiles once more.”
“Hah,” laughed Surtr. “Can that happen? Can that really happen!? We do not trust them. And they do not trust us. If we ask each other to put down our weapons so we can talk this out, it can only lead to deception!! When they created the nine worlds, they tried to wipe us out. Can you really put down the only weapon you have to protect yourself before an opponent that has tried to kill you before!?”
“I can,” he replied immediately.
This was not just a nice thought or an idealistic statement.
It was backed by a certain strength.
The boy spread his empty hands and spoke.
“I made sure to put down my own weapon.”
Surtr froze completely in place at those words.
He recalled the magic sword Dáinsleif.
Even if a direct attack would have been hopeless, the boy could have used that sword to kill Surtr if he used some kind of trickery. That piece would have let him greatly change the outcome of Ragnarök. He might have been able to lessen the damage to the human world of Midgard in exchange for the utter destruction of the fire world of Muspelheim.
Even setting aside whether he could have actually killed Surtr or not, he would have been able to at least fight back.
But the boy had let go of that weapon without hesitation.
Not to run away once he knew his opponent was the ruler of evil but to speak with that ruler of evil.
Did cutting down such a boy coincide with the justice Surtr and the giants claimed to have on their side?
This was not an enemy displaying clear malice.
Should the proper ruler of Muspelheim turn hatred in the direction of someone who held no hostility and even laid down his weapon out of respect?
(He said this was a journey to grow stronger.)
Surtr gritted his teeth.
Despite being the ruler of the fire world of Muspelheim and despite his overwhelming size, Surtr was jealous of this puny human.
(So is this the type of power and strength you seek!?)
“I cannot accept it.”
Surtr drew the giant sword from the scabbard on his back.
It was over three meters long. It was made entirely out of a silver that was almost black. Orange sparks flew from the blade of that ominous sword. A single swing of that sword could send a great rain of fire pouring down from the sky. If it was stabbed into the trunk of the world tree Yggdrasil, I was said it would burn away the nine worlds. It was perhaps the greatest of all magic swords. And he pulled it out when faced with a single boy.
“I cannot accept that strength!! I will give you some time. Go and retrieve Dáinsleif! Return and fight me!!”
“Are you afraid of that magic sword’s curse? If you fear for your life, call for help from the Valkyrie just beyond our defensive lines!! Send that divine punishment to fight me!!”
“Never,” declared the boy decisively. “I came to your world to gain a strength that would not spill any blood. I still believe I can gain that strength if I train here. That is why I will never rely on this type of fighting.”
With those words, the boy was treating Surtr as something other than the ruler of evil.
He was treating him as someone with great power.
He was treating him as someone who could grant his wish.
He was treating him as someone who had been treated equally in the age before gods and giants.
He said he believed.
That is what that boy said to that existence that held such great power.
Surtr gritted his teeth as he thought about that clumsy courtesy.
But he could not put his sword away.
As the ruler of Muspelheim and the leader of the many Muspell giants, Surtr let out a roar and swung down his flame sword.
After neutralizing the other eight Valkyries, Waltraute watched what was occurring within the fire world of Muspelheim.
Flames blew about.
Light and heat wiped away the night.
The destructive power was more than enough to befit the ruler of evil.
“He cannot do it,” muttered Waltraute.
In the next moment, Surtr stopped that flame sword that symbolized destructive power. The boy had not moved even at the last moment. He had not shut his eyes. He had simply stared directly at Surtr the entire time. And he was completely unscathed.
Surtr had halted his attack.
“That boy treated you as a respected god rather than an evil giant. As the ruler of an entire world, you could not return such feelings with cruelty. This was a crossroads where you could either affirm or deny that Muspelheim is a world of evil. This was a decision as a ruler that would affect the fates of all Muspell giants.”
And Surtr had made the decision of a god rather than of a giant.
He had saved the life of the one who had lifted up a prayer to him.
And it had been that boy’s strength that had allowed him to remember that.
Waltraute herself had long viewed the great gap between god and giant as completely natural.
She was one of those who benefitted from it.
“Soul of Midgard,” said Surtr.
“Even if I lay down my weapon here, the tragedy cannot be avoided unless Odin replies in kind as the leader of the Æsir. What will you do about this problem?”
“I will stop it of course,” replied the boy decisively. “We – Waltraute and I, that is – will make sure Lord Odin lays down his weapon.”
“Heh,” laughed Surtr.
It was a small but definite thing. It was possible one of the Muspell had never before been brought to laughter by a soul of the human world.
And the laughter grew.
“Ha ha ha ha ha!! Interesting. Then get going and stop that war-obsessed old man!! Prove your sincerity with that! But it won’t be easy. After all, we have yet to see even the beginning of a resolution even after facing each other down over this issue for more than 1000 years!!”
Having said that, Surtr let go of his flame sword. The giant sword stabbed into the hard ground, but no major change occurred.
That sword would no longer produce flames or burn away any of the worlds.
He had lost an element of himself as a giant and as a ruler, but Surtr only glanced down at the sword with strong feeling in his eyes.
“…I put it down. Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!! I put it down! I put down my weapon! I don’t need to kill anyone!!”
“I feel light. I can feel my stiff muscles loosening up. I see. So this is what it feels like to be freed from that environment of kill or be killed.”
“That’s right, ruler of Muspelheim.”
“But how are you going to get the Æsir and Vanir to put down their weapons?”
“Don’t worry,” said the boy with a smile. “I can get my wife’s help. If she talks it out with them, it’ll all be okay.”
“Hmph,” snorted Waltraute as she turned away.
Everyone would have things a lot easier if the Æsir were so easily dealt with. The head god was a war god who liked to start wars. Just like a harvest god would cause crops to grow for no reason, that war god did not need a real reason. If the situation allowed for a war to occur, he would cause one. That was how he had always acted throughout history.
“…What will you do?” asked the eldest sister Brynhildr.
She believed in defeating someone before they defeated her, so she no longer saw attacking Muspelheim a necessity now that it was not an immediate threat. The fact that she would not act in a heartless manner as long as one did not turn a weapon towards her displayed the humanity(?) of Brynhildr that she rarely showed on the surface.
After Waltraute threatened to send out those tentacles the instant they tried anything, the other seven Valkyries grew obedient. (Although the fact they had lost the competition may have played a larger role.) Just as the holy spear Gungnir symbolized the head god and the lightning hammer Mjölnir symbolized the lightning god, the golden tool Waltraute held symbolized the weakness of a Valkyrie.
If that tool was fully activated, their hearts might stop due to a highly unairable reason.
The only way Brynhildr and the others could resist it would be to become something other than Valkyries.
Waltraute decided the item’s abilities were too much for her to give it back to the boy for the time being.
“This is a difficult issue,” she admitted. “But it is the job of a wife and a god to meet the expectations of her husband and believer. I have no choice but to do something rather reckless.”
“I will talk this over with Odin after beating him to a pulp.”
And only one final problem remained.
After making sure a sobbing Odin declared a truce, Waltraute left the heavenly hall of Valhalla. As she did, she spotted an evil god entering.
It was Loki.
He was the one who had plotted out the entire incident.
A sharp look entered Waltraute’s eyes as she recalled all the various dangers that had approached that boy.
“I suppose the Norns’ prediction has been avoided just as you planned,” she said.
“Are you trying to say Ragnarök has been completely avoided? Do not be naïve. Fate has been twisted, but it will be mended in a different form. After all, Naglfar is not the only impetus for the beginning of Ragnarök. The sun and moon disappearing, the chains binding Fenrir breaking…there are plenty prepared. Even if a single cause disappears, the core of the issue will shift to a different impetus and the countdown towards Ragnarök will continue on. This merely delayed it. It will happen sooner or later; this just shifted its timing.”
“So this will happen again?”
“It is inevitable at the current rate,” said Loki casually. “Not even Odin can avoid the Norns’ predictions. They are so accurate you would think their mouths are curses in and of themselves. …I don’t like it. As a joker, a world with everything set in stone is no fun.”
“So that is where your essence lies, you evil god.” Waltraute’s tone of voice dropped even further. “You would never have an admirable objective like avoiding Ragnarök or protecting the nine worlds. You just want to cause trouble. You only act according to your nickname of joker. Even if this pushes Ragnarök in an even worse direction, you would not care in the slightest, would you?”
“I am not the one that decides the value of a joker. That changes depending on the rules of the game. The joker can be the best card that leads one to victory or it can be the worst card that leads one to defeat. Don’t you think that is what it means to be a joker?” Loki smiled thinly. “But if you ask me, that human boy is quite something. I throw the rules into disarray as a joker, but even that is only within the confines of the rules. But that boy is different. When I handed Dáinsleif to him, that option did not exist. His actions did not exist within the rules. That may be what it is to be human.”
“At that point, the only two options were to take the weapon or to not take the weapon. But that boy saw meaning in taking the weapon but then casting it aside. He did not simply not take it. There is a difference between that and letting it go after taking it. He used that difference to his advantage.”
Even if the boy had used the exact same words while confronting Surtr, the giant would not have been as moved by his words had the boy simply come empty handed. He would have rejected the boy’s ideas as the idealistic view of someone who had never even picked up his weapon.
And if he had stood before Surtr while still holding the weapon, Surtr would have sliced the boy in two no matter what reason the boy had. That ruler of the giants had trained himself and others for battle with the gods who ruled the worlds. He would have shown no mercy. No matter how much he might have agonized over it later, he would have brought it all to a clear end when that boy stood before him.
It was unclear how much of that the boy had done intentionally.
It was possible it had been all the more effective because the boy had not done it intentionally.
But whatever the reason…
“I can see why that war god Odin is so obsessed with this boy. Odin’s role is not to protect those who fight in wars; it is to ensure war itself persists. You could say that boy is his natural enemy. I doubt Odin himself is actually aware he views that boy as his natural enemy, though. The final battle of Ragnarök is both Odin’s ultimate end and also his greatest accomplishment as a war god. Since that boy managed to easily stop such a great war, his nature must counterbalance that of Odin.”
A world where war was seen as natural.
A world where the heroic war dead were lead to the heavenly world and those who died of old age and illness were sent to the underworld.
A world in which a war god ruled at the top and people were taught that was a virtuous thing.
That boy was a puny creature and his soul would never be anything but a soul of Midgard. In other words, he would eventually die as a human. He could only live in the basic cycle of life so he was nothing but a “puny” existence from a god’s point of view.
Even so, the answer the boy had given here held a possibility great enough to overturn the basic assumptions of that world ruled by a war god where war was natural.
Loki shrugged and said, “Waltraute, it seems you have an excellent eye for men. Given the nature of Valkyries, he seems a bit unsuited for you, but who else is such a great mass of military might supposed to marry? Perhaps someone like him is needed to balance out the scales. Much like how the war god Odin is bound to the goddess of marriage Frigg.”
“H-hmph. He is not that great a soul. That boy’s soul is completely overshadowed when compared to the human Siegfried who once temporarily separated Brynhildr from the nine-Valkyrie system.” Despite denying Loki’s words, Waltraute went on to say, “But he is still the boy who attempted to climb the world tree and won that competition with me. As the impartial overseer of that competition, it is my duty to pay him a proper reward.”
“When you were trapped within the gears of that war god, you would have found it difficult to say he ‘won’ given how that competition ended.”
Loki grinned, but he then changed the subject.
It seemed seeing Waltraute’s reaction had achieved his goal.
“But I will continue to carry out my role as a joker. I will cause as much trouble as I can with fate set by the Norns’ predictions. If one is able to skillfully turn the movements of the cards in a direction that benefits him, he will be able to gather a fortune. You should pray you can handle yourself well.”
“I see.” Waltraute let out a light sigh. “By the way, I just finished going on a bit of a rampage within Valhalla.”
“So it seems. It sets a bad example for the house of the gods to be in such disrepair.”
“I do not want to let anyone slip through the cracks. I need to ensure my warning is as thorough as possible.”
“…What?” muttered Loki as the Valkyrie held a Spear of Destroying Lightning in her right hand.
In the next instant, she let loose the greatest strike that day.
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