It was shortly before Ruphas and Alovenus broke time itself and everything in the world stopped.
A young man was browsing his favorite website on his computer that day. His domestic cat, Fahl, settled on his hand several times, as if to disturb him. Every time, he would move the cat away, but it just came back after a while. What exactly did the cat want?
He had gotten tired of X-Gate Online, the game that he had been playing constantly until recently. As a result, he currently had a lot of free time. He had already gone for a job interview, so now he was just waiting to hear back from them.
When the young man was disturbed by Fahl for the seventh time, he suddenly felt like looking outside while moving the cat away. Outside the window, he saw two children walking along the road to an elementary school somewhere. It was a scene from everyday life. It was nothing unusual. He had probably seen it before…or even done it himself.
The two children were laughing and playing with each other on their way to school. That was all there was to the scene. It was nothing special.
“It’s ineffective because there’s a barrier!”
For some reason, Japanese boys tended to play this “barrier” game when they were young. According to a survey, this was true for ninety-five percent of them. If there were one hundred men, ninety-five of them would have played this strange game at least once before.
He didn’t know why, but there must be something about it that resonated with children. The young man felt nostalgic watching them, as he had played it before as well. Initially, it was just “touch” and “barrier”, but eventually, it became something beyond that. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence either.
There were no clear rules like tag or hide-and-seek, so the children had to make the rules up themselves. Therefore, there were no limits and no fouls.
“In that case, beam!”
“Beam barrier! It’s useless!”
There was no upper limit to this. After all, it was just word play. They could decide on the settings as they played along. If they so desired, one player could imagine an absolutely invincible barrier. Likewise, the other player could conceive a beam that could destroy such a barrier.
Children were invincible in the imaginary world. They could do anything. In that case, when would this game end? Would it last forever? No, of course not. The end would surely come, no matter how it might actually end.
The young man looked outside the window and scratched his beloved cat’s head as Fahl disturbed him for the eighth time.
Everything must eventually come to an end, except for the disturbance of a certain cat.
How long had the fight been going on for?
She no longer had any sense of time, but surely, let alone a second, not even an instant had passed. For Ruphas, it felt like she had been fighting for hours, but the battle between the Goddess and the rebel had been perfectly even so far.
The battle had come to a temporary stalemate as they simply glared at each other from a distance. As they faced each other in this white space, Ruphas made a move first. When she waved her arms, Lifthrasir appeared in her hands, even though they had been borrowed by Alioth.
Even though the universe in which Midgard existed had already vanished, this pair of swords alone had not. This pair of swords, which was said to remain even if the world was destroyed, would continue to exist for the rest of eternity. Ruphas placed the two swords together. Then, the shapes of Lifthrasir strangely changed and combined into a longsword, as if that was its true form.
Likewise, Alovenus waved her hands and retrieved two white glowing swords, which were then combined in the same manner as Ruphas’ swords.
The two of them laughed as they held swords of similar shape. Then, silence filled the place. Ruphas’ red cloak fluttered despite the absence of wind. Alovenus’ blue cape did the same.
They jumped and collided with each other.
The after-effects, which couldn’t simply be described as shockwaves anymore, spread throughout the infinite Final Point. The after-effects covered several hundred millions or even several trillions of light-years in an instant and continued on indefinitely.
At the center, Ruphas and Alovenus circled each other in flight and crossed their blades. The battle, which had been extremely flamboyant until now, had turned into a simple sword fight. However, even though they didn’t look flashy, all of their attacks were absolutely deadly.
Their blades collided and numerous dimensions collapsed. Their swords clashed and many timelines shattered. Lightning-quick strikes crossed each other and cracks ran through the Final Point.
Their swords locked with each other. When they thought they would be blown away by each other’s attack, they instantly launched a full-body assault, scattering sparks in the process.
They didn’t even know what was being broken by the after-effects. They didn’t care anyway. Their eyes met. Ruphas looked at her fiercely, while Alovenus laughed happily.
Ruphas swung her sword down, but Alovenus jumped and evaded it. Then, Alovenus flipped her dress and swung her blade, scattering slashes before Ruphas’ eyes. All of the scattered slashes had absolute accuracy and would inflict absolute destruction. But both of them cut each other’s slashes down, closed the distance, and crossed their blades again, sending out even more shockwaves.
They seemed to be evenly matched…No, they were actually evenly matched. As long as both parties kept repeating “I’m stronger” in relation to the other party, there could be neither superiority nor inferiority between them. Now that they had reached the highest possible form of being the “strongest”, this battle could only result in a stalemate.
It was a simple equation that even a child could understand. When it was a matter of infinity versus infinity, there could be no answer as to which of them was superior. At least, that was how it should have been.
However, Ruphas began to push back with her sword, while Alovenus showed signs of impatience on her face for the first time.
This is strange. I can’t possibly lose. I can’t be pushed back.
She should have been increasing her power according to her opponent. Naturally, Ruphas was doing the same thing, but while she was doing so, Alovenus was also repeating it. Therefore, they should be neither superior nor inferior.
So why was she being pushed back? Why was she losing?
“A quarrel (game) between children…That’s what you called it, right, Alovenus?”
Ruphas pushed Alovenus back with even greater force. They were doing the same thing by repeatedly configuring their settings to be above each other’s settings. However, Ruphas was doing it slightly faster. Alovenus was increasing the speed at which she became stronger. The scale was increasing. But Ruphas was still one step ahead. Somehow, there was a difference between them. What was the reason for this?
“By the way, you were using a quarrel among children who each insist that they are stronger as an example…Do you know which one would win in the end?”
“There’s no resolution…There’s no end to it as long as they continue doing the same thing.”
“Wrong. My avatar played this when he was a child…Eventually, one would realize that there is no end to it. The child who was a little smarter would compromise, and the game would be over.”
Indeed, there would be an end to this seemingly endless children’s game. This end was called compromising. Upon the realization that there was no end to how long it could be repeated for, the slightly more mature child would compromise and settle the matter. Those implications must have been conveyed to Alovenus, whose expression became even more impatient.
“I—I’m compromising…? Are you saying that I’m giving up?”
“No, you aren’t compromising. You’re not giving up, but you’re not obsessed enough with victory.”
The difference in power was even greater now. Ruphas’ power had completely surpassed that of Alovenus. As a result, Alovenus’ sword started to crack. Despite having the setting of being unbreakable, the setting that it could be shattered was repeatedly written over the previous setting. Even if the sword gained the setting to repair itself, it would just be erased immediately.
“You’re already satisfied. You became satisfied the moment a person on equal footing with you showed up. But I’m greedy…I won’t be satisfied until I win.”
Indeed, this battle must end with a victory. A draw was unacceptable. She wouldn’t accept something that was merely better. She sought only the best. Only victory would be acceptable.
Ruphas and Alovenus had different goals. The Goddess only sought someone who was her equal, while the rebel was aiming beyond that. It was the same situation as the battle between Leon and Sol. One could say that it was as expected of a master and her servant.
Alovenus hated Leon…probably because he must have seemed shallow to her. He must have looked stupid to her. But Ruphas was quite fond of Leon, and considered him someone who shouldn’t be abandoned. His obsession with victory was something that surpassed every other member of the Thirteen Stars.
“It’s over, Alovenus. I’m…No.”
Ruphas jumped and swung her sword. In that moment, Alovenus saw numerous illusions behind her. Even though they should have left earlier, Benetnash and Orm were there. Her own manifestation, Dina, and the doll, Libra, were also present. The Seven Heroes, the Twelve Heavenly Stars, the heroes of the past, demons, humans, demihumans, magical beasts, and even animals could be seen. All kinds of lifeforms that had existed in Midgard were present. Everything that Alovenus had been playing with until now was there.
“—We are stronger than you.”
Ruphas’ sword broke the Goddess’ sword, and even sliced through the Goddess’ body. The slash tore through everything in its path and continued to fly on indefinitely. The slash, which seemed to cut even the Final Point open, became bigger as it flew on to a distant location—and eventually disappeared.
Naturally, the Goddess didn’t die because of this. Death would not come to her by any means except for suicide. Even if her soul was destroyed, erased without any traces left, or rendered non-existent, she would still return, calmly and brazenly.
The current Ruphas might be able to forcibly kill the immortal Alovenus, but it seemed she had no intention of doing so. In any case, Alovenus herself had already painfully accepted her defeat.
“…Eh? Ah? Im—Impossible…I’m currently…”
“Oh, your HP has been reduced to zero. You should know this already.”
Even when her HP had been reduced to zero or less, or when her HP statistic itself was erased, Alovenus still wouldn’t die. The battle would continue for as long as she wanted it to continue. She could stand up again as long as she wanted to do so.
However, she had lost. Indeed, there was no doubt that Alovenus had lost. Furthermore, if Ruphas had wanted to kill her, Alovenus would be dead already.
Faced with that fact, Alovenus sank down. Now that she had admitted to losing, even just once…Alovenus would never be able to beat Ruphas in another fight over this divine realm. No matter how much she added the setting that she was actually stronger, the fact that she had lost would still remain in her heart. This would cast a shadow over the belief that she was the strongest.
Alovenus laughed dryly.
Oh, what a day. This is both the worst and the best day ever.
She had never thought that someone on an equal footing with her would come here, much less someone who actually surpassed her. She couldn’t help but be amazed. This woman…Ruphas Mafahl was a ridiculous idiot who surpassed even a deity.
Ruphas raised her fist in front of her to finish the fight. Then, she brought it down on Alovenus’ head. The roar of an explosion echoed, and a shockwave that was about to die from overworking spread out.
If this was a regular planet, Alovenus would have been buried into the ground and burst out from the other side, penetrating the end of the universe to cross over into another universe. Naturally, Alovenus’ existence was too powerful for her to be in a normal universe, so this was built on the premise that it was an extremely strong universe.
…In any case, it was a fist that was swung down with that much power.
“Eh!? It—It hurts!?”
“This is punishment for a naughty child. Seriously…I had to work so hard just for this one hit.”
“Wai—eh, is that all!? Did you really go so far just for that!?”
“Of course not. Anyway, rewrite that annoying script. A script that’s frowned upon by all of the characters in it isn’t even a script anymore.”
She could have completely defeated the Goddess. It wasn’t that she had never considered it. In fact, if Alovenus was truly a villain, Ruphas would have done so and completely annihilated Alovenus with that last blow.
However, Alovenus wasn’t truly an evil deity. Instead, she was just a lonely benevolent deity who was a little misguided. She had been more zealous than most people. Naturally, this didn’t mean that the outrageous things she had done could simply be forgiven. However, Ruphas thought that it would be fine to give her a little grace.
After all, nobody had ever stood by her, so she had always been alone. There had been no one to scold her, correct her mistakes, and teach her…No one could save the Goddess who was piling mistakes on top of more mistakes.
This was the difference between Dina and Alovenus. They had the same memories and personality, so why was there a difference between them? It was due to the place where they were standing. Dina was never alone. She had parents who loved her, and she walked on the same land along with Ruphas and the others. She had a foundation that allowed her to recognize her own mistakes.
Alovenus didn’t have anything like that. Because she was too strong, she would have crushed the universe under her feet. It wasn’t really an excuse, but nothing would be resolved by getting rid of her. Instead, her cooperation was indispensable for restoring the things that had disappeared in the aftermath of the battle. She had to take responsibility and save those who had been unhappy.
If she was simply erased, the demons would also disappear, as they were her magic. That would be too hard on Orm.
“Also, transfer your divine authority over Midgard to Dina. Leave the management of Midgard to her for a while. You can just watch and learn.”
After dumping that oversized baggage onto an unsuspecting person, Ruphas moved her arms to rewind and repair the various dimensions and timelines that had been erased during the battle. Although she was a bit concerned about whether the timelines could be properly rewinded, she was able to get it done by maintaining that anything was possible.
“You should help out too.”
Ruphas grabbed the stunned Alovenus by her collar and dragged her along.
This was the end of the game between the Goddess and the rebel, which had lasted for more than two hundred years. All of her pieces had been eliminated or stolen. It was finally checkmate. The board had been overturned, along with even the stage. The punishment had also been meted out.
The world had been released from the script of the Goddess. From here on, the script would be written by the people themselves. Ruphas thought of the future and laughed as if a weight had been lifted from her. And—
After finishing the battle at the Final Point, she returned the mana that she had acquired from the universe. Then, she returned to those who had been waiting for her. She returned to the world where she belonged.
Upon seeing her, her subordinates cheered and her friends celebrated her victory. Benetnash kept her arms folded as if she was bored, but there was a slight grin on her face. On the other hand, Orm simply nodded in satisfaction.
Meanwhile, the girl, who had the same face as the Goddess, smiled brightly at her master and said words that were all too normal in that kind of situation…but those words were packed full of all kinds of emotions.
“—Welcome back, Ruphas-sama.”
“—Oh, I’m back.”
And so the twilight of the gods came to an end.
|All Images from Light Novel Volume 9.|
The Golden Apple That Was Created In The Blutgang Arc: “…Hey. Why was I created to foreshadow something and yet not make it to the end…?”
Foreshadowing-san: “It must have been me. But it was foreshadowing that Ruphas could collect mana and become absurdly strong. At the same time, it explained why there were so many Level 1000 characters two hundred years ago. You weren’t foreshadowing anything in particular. It was better to show the readers at least once that the apple could be created…and that’s you.”
Golden Apple: “What…the…”