TLN: Hello everyone. It’s me again, 2S2L from the future. I come from the far future of the year 20XX, and after spending a year fixing my time machine, I’ve finally come back to show you all more of the latest volume of “Is it Tough Being a Friend?” For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember what I’m talking about, refer to this post and this one.
I walked through a desolate street, so empty that I could hear the pulse of my own heartbeat. With each heartbeat, a fresh supply of blood coursed through the ruby lodged within my chest, giving it power. This street was once familiar to me, it was the street I always passed through when walking to Oumei High School, but recent events have left it in ruins, unrecognizable.
I wonder whatever happened to the school. I doubt even the building remains intact.
(Just how long was I stuck in that dungeon? How much damage did ‘they’ cause in that amount of time?)
As I continued forward, I began to see people…or rather, what remained of people.
There were bodies lying down on the floor, sliced, burned, crushed, or gouged. Seeing their wounds, it was quite obvious who the perpetrators were. Furthermore, it seemed that these corpses weren’t too old. Perhaps these people died a few days ago, not long before I made it out of the abyss.
Nearby on the floor, I noticed a small, bloodstained medallion with an emblem engraved on it. The emblem depicted a ferocious dragon staring right ahead. Behind the dragon stood four other figures, too vaguely shaped to decipher.
This emblem was everywhere. On posters, banners, flyers, sheets of paper drifting through the wind. Even when I first encountered it, it was quite obvious what it meant and who it belonged to.
This emblem represented everything that had gone wrong with this town, everything that must be reversed.
I picked up the medallion and walked through the corpse-laden street, numerous posters adorning the concrete walls.
‘This subject was guilty of protesting and questioning the legitimacy of the Dragon Organization. Death penalty.’
The poster stood above the body a man, seemingly bludgeoned to death. There were harsh wounds all across his body, broken bones from repeated impacts. It appeared that the move which killed him was a bash to the head, causing his skull to cave in. Furthermore, in some incomprehensible act of cruelty, his lips were crudely sewn shut.
‘This subject was guilty of attempting to flee the perimeter of the Dragon Organization’s effective area. Death penalty.’
Another body laid beneath this poster, completely burned to death. There was very little left of whoever this person was, nothing more than a charred skeleton with only the occasional burnt sliver of flesh or an organ still attached to them. I couldn’t even tell if they were a man or a woman. However, I did notice that their legs seemed to have been chopped off before they were sent to their fiery demise.
‘This subject was guilty of glaring at an official of the Dragon Organization with an unkempt gaze. Death penalty.’
The poster stood above the corpse of a now-unrecognizable little girl. It seemed that her killer made shallow cuts to her at first. This executioner was very precise, aiming to lacerate the tendons in her hands and feet with a blade, preventing her escape. Afterwards, it appears that the executioner moved onto a much deeper cut, tearing open her entire abdomen, revealing her messy innards, now laying on the floor with her. Her eyes had also been gouged out at some point.
Such posters and accompanying corpses were strewn across the entire block, creating a gallery of public executions for the entire town to witness and fear.
“They” were the ones who originally fought against malicious forces that generated fear. But now, they’re the ones generating it. It’s almost funny how ironic reality can be sometimes.
(Ryuuga, Yukimiya, Aogasaki, Elmira, Kurogame…what happened to you all?)
Of course, by “them,” I mean Ryuuga’s crew. They were once a force who battled for the sake of peace. A force I idolized during my foolish phase of wanting to be a “friend character.”
However, something strange happened. Something that I still can’t explain.
Mysterious structures, dungeons, began to form around the town. These structures were made of stone, similar in appearance to underground caves. Though I say cave, they’re actually closer to labyrinths.
Each dungeon was filled with numerous dangers.
Traps that could take the life of any human at a moment’s notice.
Puddles of poison, lava, or acid across nearly all rooms.
Stalactites that seem to fall the exact moment anyone walks under them.
However, none of those even came close to the real danger.
Each floor in the dungeon was crammed with monsters always ready to tear any visitor apart. Their bloodthirst only heightened as you travelled deeper into the dungeons. Furthermore, their meat always tasted disgusting, a fact that I’ve come to hate during my time trapped in one particular dungeon.
The dungeons began siphoning the energy off of the surrounding nature to sustain themselves, withering trees, contaminating water, endangering the local wildlife, and eventually affecting nearby neighborhoods. The only way to stop the destruction caused by a dungeon was to conquer it by reaching the bottom floor and shattering the ruby powering it. These rubies were the source of the dungeon’s mysterious malice and were capable of world-defying phenomena. As a result, they were aptly named Phantom Rubies.
Each dungeon had only one entrance and one exit. Once you entered one, there was no leaving until you reached the bottom floor and conquered the entire dungeon. Though, there was an exception. Certain floors contained pits. Sacrificing a fellow human into such pits would open up an immediate exit for the remaining survivors. As for the one sacrificed, they would plunge further into the depths of the dungeon, eventually meeting a lonely, pitiful demise to a monster.
Nobody had any idea where these dungeons came from, but they immediately proved to only be a threat to the world.
The moment these dungeons appeared, Ryuuga and the others decided to take matters into their own hands by conquering each dungeon.
As I accompanied them on their endeavors, I began to notice something very unsettling. Ryuuga and the others started to change.
They began to lose their tempers much more quickly. Bitterness replaced their usual kindness. They started to ignore some dungeons. Their minds started to corrupt.
They were no longer the heroes I once knew.
Yet, for some reason, I wasn’t affected. However, I didn’t have much time to ponder about why, as before long, they turned their hostility towards me.
One day, Ryuuga and the others gave up on conquering a dungeon, and right then and there…they sacrificed me to the dungeon’s pit. And thus, I sank into an abyss.
I held the medallion with the dark crimson aura that now replaced my left hand. With only a bit of force, my hand, if you can even call it a hand anymore, pulverized the metallic disk like it was made of paper. In a matter of mere moments, the medallion was nothing but a fine pile of dust.
I let go of the dust in my hand, watching the remains of the medallion crumble down and blow away, mere debris in the wind.
I placed my right hand on my chest, paying tribute to the innocent citizens lost to the massacre that took place here. A massacre, no doubt, sanctioned by Ryuuga and the others, or the “Dragon Organization” as they seem to label themselves as now.
“I promise…I will end what started all of this, and then hopefully, you will all find peace on the other side.”
I took one last look at the corpses around me before turning back to the road in front of me, vowing to give these poor souls a proper resting place once I finish my mission. The faster I finish what is necessary, the less victims there will be in the end.
I was about to continue walking until I heard a familiar voice from behind me.
“Oh, what do we have here? Looks like we’ve got another straggler.”
It was a voice I knew far too well.
I turned around to face the owner of the voice.
There stood a tall and lean swordswoman with a ponytail reaching to her waist. She wore a uniform unlike anything I’ve ever seen her wear before.
I was used to seeing her wear the Oumei High School uniform or some trendy outfit that was part of the latest fashion craze. However, she currently wore a dark gray uniform that resembled something a military official would wear. On the shoulders of the uniform was the same emblem that was on the medallion. It was the emblem of the Dragon Organization.
In addition to the uniform, she wore a peaked cap with that very emblem attached to the front.
She pulled out a blade from her sheath.
In the past, she carried a wooden sword. However, she had now replaced that with a legitimate metal one. It was caked with dried blood, coating the steel metal with a shade of crimson.
Upon seeing her figure, I muttered out her name.
She frowned even further and pointed her sword at me.
“That’s General Aogasaki, to you. I could have you killed for your insolence.”
General Aogasaki, huh? That’s rich.
Aogasaki kept her sword pointed at me as she continued speaking.
“What are you doing here, out after curfew?”
I remained silent, glaring at her from behind my metallic mask. This only further aggravated her and she began to ready her weapon.
With a sigh, I decided to speak.
“Curfew? During daytime? I always knew you were a strict person, but I didn’t think it was this bad.”
Aogasaki’s eyes widened for a brief moment before she regained her stern countenance.
“Take off that mask, now!”
I gave a small shrug and replied to her command.
“Alright, if that’s what you want.”
I slowly lifted my right hand and removed the mask covering my face. Sure enough, Aogasaki’s expression turned grim once she took a look at me.
“Kobayashi Ichirou…and here I thought that you were dead.”
Hearing her say the name I already cast away, I immediately corrected her.
“I don’t go by that name anymore.”
She stared at my face, in particular, my missing right eye. All the while, she firmed her grip on her sword.
After a brief silence, she finally spoke once more.
“You’ve certainly changed…”
I glared at her in resentment before replying.
“I could say the same thing to you. Whatever happened to the Aogasaki style you were so proud of, ‘never resorting to heartless violence’? What happened to ‘respecting the heart more than anything’?”
Aogasaki merely scoffed at me.
“None of that matters anymore. I did what I needed to do for the sake of spreading order.”
I glanced at the dead bodies around me, responding to her statement with a lifeless tone of voice.
“You spread nothing but fear, discord, and death.”
Aogasaki glared daggers at me.
“Now I remember why we wanted to kill you.”
I chuckled to myself in response.
“You know, I used to think that the ‘Evil Spirits’ were the biggest threat to humanity. But now I see that it’s you guys.”
With that, I readied my fists and leapt towards Aogasaki.