The moment we stepped through into the Distortion, the surroundings blurred.
A bright and sunny beach. Ruijerd standing off to the side, watching as Eris swung a wooden sword against a small kid. But she was slow and the kid easily dodged the attacks.
No, it wasn't that she was slow, but that he seemed to have read the moves ahead of time. Even though she wasn't as fast as the Eris I knew, the attacks were still competent. More than enough for an unskilled kid like that.
A hand on my shoulder. "Lord Rudras?" Roland called out to me. "Are you well?"
I blinked and the scene vanished.
"...I'm fine, Roland."
There was no bright and sunny beach. And neither Eris nor that kid was standing there.
Instead, there was darkness. Darkness, an unnatural crimson moon hanging in the air, and shambling corpses roaming around.
"Tch. I've had enough with random flashbacks."
Once when I was showed what happened after my death was enough. Now getting random scenes from different timelines-
A raspy and gravely voice.
Glancing over, I saw a hulking monster stomping towards us. Except, it wasn't just any monster.
"Is that freaking N*mesis from R*sident Ev*l?"
The monster held up its left hand, raising... A rocket launcher?
I swung my sword.
Crimson light flashed and the monster split in half, falling to the ground with a sickening thud.
Rika wrinkled her nose and said, "Could you have not done that? This One dislikes such grotesque sights."
"Well get used to it." I frowned and swept my gaze around the surroundings. "At least that monster was relatively normal."
It was a ruined wasteland. Unlike the vibrant scenery I saw in that flashback, there was nothing but ashes and rubble lying around. Buildings turned to skeletal ruins, leaving only their foundations standing. Ruins filled with actual skeletons, most lying dormant and unmoving, but a few shambling around.
Not only that, but far in the distance I could see ominous creatures glowing with crimson mana and dripping acidic blood onto the ground.
Rika followed my gaze and then shuddered. "Just what twisted madman is responsible for this? Even the Magic God did not resort to such depths..."
The jewel on Ruijerd's forehead flashed red. Shortly after, his eyes widened and he clenched his spear with shaking hands. "Rudy..."
"Yeah. It's bad."
A zombie apocalypse setting. More specifically, one straight out of R*sident Ev*l.
And the one responsible for all this was an evil version of myself? I didn't think I'd ever resort to *these* lengths. Just what the hell happened to that guy?
Roland moved to my right side, resting his hand on his sword hilt. "...The enemy commander is nowhere to be seen."
"I noticed, Roland."
A wasteland. While there were ruins, there was a clear view through all of them. Even if there wasn't, my Clairvoyant eye covered the entire area. And with it, all I saw were the undead, twisted bioweapons, and corpses.
Rika shook her head. "This One sees many horrible things... but This One does not see anything that looks like it could be responsible."
I let out a deep sigh. "Well. Looks like we've got another edgelord on our hands, guys."
Astolfo jumped up and said, "Wao! An edgelord? Is that like a lord of blades? Is he strong?"
"No, it means... You know what? Never mind." I sighed again and then took a moment to think.
The monsters weren't attacking us. They were patrolling, and that first guy I took out seemed hostile, but for the most part, the monsters were keeping to themselves.
At the same time, I didn't see or sense anyone powerful nearby.
That meant one of two things.
1. The boss hadn't spawned in yet and we had to rout all the monsters first.
2. The boss was already here and was watching how we fought before showing himself.
If the guy responsible for this really was a version of myself... Or at least Rudeus Greyrat, it would definitely be option two. Either way...
"We've gotta clean up this mess." I glanced at Roland and Astolfo and said, "Look for survivors. I doubt there are any, but you two should be unaffected by the virus since you're mostly magic."
Roland bowed his head. "As you say, Lord Rudras."
With that, the two knights ran off, leaving me with just Rika and Ruijerd.
Rika frowned and said, "Virus? What virus?" She swept her gaze around and said, "This One doesn't see anything..."
"You won't. I can't see it either, but judging from this setting, I've got a feeling it's hanging around. Stay close, and don't make physical contact with the monsters."
"...This One is beginning to think she should have more desperately resist your summon."
"A bit late for that, Rika. Ruijerd, keep an eye on her."
Like that, we advanced.
A completely still atmosphere without even the slightest breeze. Even the distant shoreline was frozen, the water looking like a glassy pool of blood. Low moans and gruesome squishing sounds coming from the zombies and bioweapons.
Rika trembled and stuck close to me, sweeping her eyes across the surroundings. Whatever monster she set her sights on froze before crumbling into dust. The result of having all their mana sucked away.
I noticed and said, "I thought you told me not to research mana drain?"
"Hush, you! This One possesses it naturally! Moreover, it is not drained into This One's body but into a void."
"...You're really not dissuading me from researching it like that, Rika."
"Hmph. Just know that if you begin on that road, This One will make your life a hell of paperwork. Especially since This One's betrothed does not exist. Do not tempt me to create a union of-"
"Gah. Fine. Sheesh." I waved my hand and said, "I'm just joking. No need to threaten me with marriage. I've already still got one to sort out."
Which reminded me. I wondered how Eris was doing? She was with Dad and Norn, but she was a bit clumsy-
A castle town covered in flames. Corpses of knights lining the ground, all emblazoned with the Asura Kingdom emblem.
"No. No, no, no! It's a joke. A lie."
A desperate voice. One that sounded extremely familiar.
...No. It was different. Older, and more weary.
The moment I acknowledged that fact, I saw them.
Kneeling on the ground in the center of a ring of corpses, there was a man.
A gray robe, a staff made of a golden branch and adorned with wispy white leaves. Brown hair and bloodshot eyes. He frantically waved his staff, casting magic on a beautiful woman with crimson hair laying in his arms.
A woman with blood seeping out through the hole in her chest plate. One that was right over where her heart should be.
Still holding her blade, she looked up at the man and said, "Heh. I... told you. Idiot."
"Shut up. I can fix this. I can definitely fix this. Just... let me think!"
I saw the scene. I felt that man's emotions. Twisted regret and agony. Rage, barely suppressed by a desperate desire to save the one in his arms.
As for who those people were...
"You can't, Rudy. But it's fine." The woman... Eris laughed and then reached up to touch the man's face. "In the end, it's me you're crying for. Take that, Syl..."
"Eri? Eri, please." Silence. One broken only by the sound of a sword falling to the ground. The woman's grip on her blade released at last.
A panicked shout. Rika's.
At the same time, a blade cut towards my neck.
One I had just seen.
Time froze for a second.
When it resumed, the sound of clashing steel echoed. My blade reaching up to stop my attacker's.
And then I saw who it was.
Flowing crimson hair. A delicately crafted golden mask covering her face. Obsidian armor guarding her entire body. One that seemed to emit an anti-mana field, making her look like a black void when observed through mage sight.
I flicked my wrist, sending my attacker backwards and then clicked my tongue. "Definitely an edgelord. Why are all the me's like this? Did he go mad trying to bring you back to life, Eris?"
My attacker didn't respond. Instead, she stepped back and shifted her blade. A Water God stance.
I frowned and switched my blade to my right hand.
Footsteps echoed from behind me, and Ruijerd arrived. Raising his spear, he looked at my opponent and said, "Rudy. Shall I handle it?"
I could feel it now. A sharp gaze staring directly at me from up above. One that seemed to emit a crazed malice... as well as curiosity?
"I've got a feeling that this one's all on me. And I think you guys have your own opponents to deal with."
A surge of dripping black mana falling from the sky. It splashed against the ground a few paces away before starting to coalesce into figures.
The first was familiar. Clutching a bone white spear, bearing a gleaming crimson jewel on his forehead... But with skin that had long mummified, leaving a terrifying appearance.
Ruijerd... No. A Death Knight made in Ruijerd's image, if not from his corpse.
And next to him, a hulking figure appeared. One that reminded me of G*ro from M*rtal K*mbat.
Wearing decayed gold armor and tensing its four arms, it leaned its head back and let out a strangled roar.
As for Rika...
"That... Badi?" A hesitant voice.
The second figure paused and then turned to look at Rika with gleaming crimson eyes.
Rika froze. And then she started trembling.
At first, I was worried that she was terrified. But then I realized that I didn't have to be.
She wasn't shaking because she was afraid. Instead...
A surge of mana erupted from Rika. At the same time, her eyes flashed with all the colors of the rainbow and she let out a growl. "You DARE? To animate the corpse of This One's betrothed and desecrate it in such a manner?!"
...Yeah. She'd be fine.
So for now...
I held up my sword and looked at my opponent. "You know. I never have gone all out against you, Eris. I wonder..." Crimson mana wrapped around my body, sinking into my limbs. At the same time, it split apart, turning into countless threads weaving over my muscle fibers. "...Are you strong because I taught you? Or because you're a crazy genius like Dad? Let's find out."
A blinding crimson slash. The basic Sword God technique, elevated to the natural conclusion.
A longsword of light cut towards my opponent's neck.
But it was blocked.
Eris- No. The one who looked like Eris easily parried my attack with a blinding slash of her own. Not only that, she surpassed it with a stab to my heart.
But I was prepared.
I slid forward and turned my body, causing the stab to slid past me. At the same time, I grabbed her arm and then pivoted, throwing her over my shoulder and crashing against the ground.
To her credit, my opponent quickly jumped to her feet, just like Eris would. But...
"It's like I thought." I nodded and shifted my stance. "You aren't my Eris."
I'd pulled that trick a hundred times on her already. While I was pretty sure she wasn't, I had to check to make sure that the Eris I knew hadn't gotten warped here and mind-controlled. And the fact that she fell for it meant that she didn't have all the painful lessons I taught drilled into her body.
I stepped forward and swung my sword.
Like before, that Eris swung her own to parry.
...But also like before, I was prepared.
The same habits she had at first, but taken to the natural conclusion. A path that Eris could have walked, but changed after meeting Dad, and then playing with me and Sylphy.
Taking advantage of that knowledge, I slid past her guard, swung my sword, and-
"You're pretty ruthless, aren't you?"
-I was suddenly in a different place, standing before a figure wearing a tattered gray robe.
Roland glanced up at the moon, frowning.
"Captain Rolo!" Astolfo sliced a blood hound in half and then turned to look at Roland. "I don't think this is the time to be spacing out!"
"I am aware."
A horde of undead in every direction. Essentially every single one that inhabited this realm of the dead, save for the two clashing against Ruijerd and Rika.
"But Lord Rudras is missing."
"Eh?" Astolfo punted a crawling zombie on the ground into the air and said, "Boss is gone? That's bad, isn't it?"
"Mm." Roland glanced at his sword and then looked up at the moon. "...It should be fine. Although we should hurry and reinforce Ruijerd and Rika."
"Okeydokey!" Astolfo nodded and then raised her sword. "Let's go, monsters! I'll send you all down with a touch!"
Roland raised his sword as well and shifted his attention to the monsters around. As he did, only a single thought crossed his mind.
'I knew I should have studied magic instead...'