“World” is such a subjective term, don’t you think? It can refer to an entire planet or to the perspective of an animal, for example a lake with no outlets is the whole world from the point of view of the fish living in it. However, it can also be used for things bigger than the largest planets. From the perspective of gods it could be said the universe, or maybe the multiverse, is their “world” as that’s where they live, while individual planets are just like our lakes to them.

But that’s not really important, and actually quite a silly thing to think about. It’s not like anyone could simply ask the gods if it’s true, after all…

A large, roughly circular forest stretches as far as the eye can see, from one side of the horizon to the other and, if you were to raise yourself above the canopy of leaves, you would find it continues on ahead until it meets the horizon yet again. In fact, if one wanted to be at the edge of this forest and see all the way across to the far side they would have to fly up to the upper bounds of the thermosphere, almost leaving the planet’s atmosphere altogether, so large is this forest. If you’re confused, don’t be, because this is likely not your planet. Of the planets in existence that are habitable according to the standards of human-based lifeforms, this one is easily among the largest and roughly 40% of its surface is taken up by landmass, so having a forest this large on one of the many enormous continents isn’t actually that surprising.

What is surprising about this forest, however, is how incredibly easy it is to navigate through. One would think that in a forest with no noticeable topographic features, made up entirely of the same kind of tree, larger than the island of Australia on the mostly harmless and stupidly named planet Earth, and with no roads or even hunting paths to follow, that getting lost would be incredibly easy. On the contrary, as long as you stay away from the central area of the forest, which is around 2000 kilometres in diameter, you will almost feel as if the trees are guiding you to your destination as you walk amongst the least aggressive wild animals you will find anywhere in this world. Inside that central area, however, is effectively the place this world’s sentient residents would refer to as “Hell,” if they were Christians from Earth, but its actual name is Zurzavar. The few who have made it out of this place alive, and with something resembling sanity left in them, tell tales which paint a picture even gods would fear to look at. Yet a mere 10 kilometres outside the boundary of Zurzavar…

“Get your ass back here, you bastard!” (Man #1)

“You think we’ll let you get away after what you’ve done?!” (Man #2)

Several tens of men and a notable amount of women are running through this forest, which strangely doesn’t have a name and is referred to simply as The Forest, in a formation that implies most of them are in fact chasing the lone man who is slightly ahead of the main group. The people of the main group are wearing an assortment of basic leather and metal light armours, the only thing providing their image with any kind of affiliation or solidarity with each other being the tatty state of their dirty outfits. Not a single one of them appears to have even cleaned their armour for as long as they’ve owned it, let alone attempted any sort of repairs or maintenance, though they look to still provide the necessary protection for facing a single man in a tame forest. At least the group are all fully clothed. Their weapons, however, are clearly sharp and ready to take lives, even if they are obviously old and well-used they are indeed looked after properly.

The man they seem to be chasing is wearing considerably better-looking clothes in all aspects: quality, defence, protection from the elements, style, and state of repair. Rugged-looking black boots worn to a dark grey colour reach halfway up the man’s calves, tightened with straps and buckles rather than laces, and trimmed with metal in several places that look to both reinforce and provide more pain to recipients of his kicks. Medium grey trousers of a denim-like material cover his legs down to his ankles, tucked inside the boots so as to prevent them getting caught on thorn bushes when running, with slight bulges around the knee cap and outer-thigh indicating padding or armour of some kind. A deep red tunic, almost the colour of blood, is tucked into his jeans and hangs loosely over a chiselled body that anyone can tell was forged from the deaths of thousands and sculpted by the struggle that is the life of an orphan on this planet. On top of this fairly standard set of clothes, if not for the metal trimmings and blood-red colour, the man is wearing a long, plain, black coat which almost reaches his ankles and appears to be made of leather, though obviously not normal leather but the skin of a deadly animal or demon. The man’s face is by no means beautiful, but nor is it ugly; he has dull reddish-brown eyes, a thin lining of rough-looking stubble, and messy ash-grey hair just long enough to cover the tops of his ears. The man is someone you could easily call handsome due to his rugged features, various scars, and intelligence barely hidden behind a poker face of seriousness, yet still with an obvious youthful feeling about him.

“Don’t think I’ll let you escape!” (Woman #1)

Suddenly, a female appears just to the side of the coat-wearing man, almost as if forming from the air itself, while swinging her dual daggers towards his neck and abdomen simultaneously, hoping to catch the man off-guard. Unsheathing the sword he had belted to his waist with his right hand, the man uses his left arm to push against one of the women’s own, deflecting the dagger aimed at his neck. This is followed immediately by a flash of black and silver so fast that the woman didn’t even scream at first, dropping to her knees and staring at the stump that used to be the hand aiming at the man’s abdomen for a full 5 seconds before erupting into wails of pain, while the man kept running without having been slowed down at all.

Unfortunately for the woman, the group of chasers appear to want this young man so fiercely that not a single one of her comrades stop to help her. Unfortunately for the man, and for the woman, she was only being used as a distraction while nearly half of the group used the same teleport-like ability to appear 20 meters in front of him in a semi-circle which is closed into a full circle by the ones still behind him. At this point these people are now just 2 kilometres away from Zurzavar, as though the young man thought such a nightmarish place was a good escape route.

“We’ve got you now, Farkas, but did you really think heading to Zurzavar would be a good idea? Sure, if you’d made it there we’d stop following you, but that’s only because you’d be dead even without our help!” (Man #1)

“*sigh* Why are you following me, anyway? It’s not like any of you actually care about each other, so what does it matter that I decimated your base and killed most of your shitty merc gang? You’re no better than bandits, so even if I hadn’t come one of the kingdoms would have dealt with you sooner or later…” (Farkas)

“You bastard! I swear I’ll fucking gut y-” (Woman #2)

“ENOUGH! There’s no point in talking. Now that we’ve got him surrounded and he doesn’t have the element of surprise, even a Fovarazslo isn’t a threat no matter that he can swing a sword around half-decent. The guys he slaughtered in the base were just cannon fodder, after all, not us elites!” (Man #1)

The tension was rising at a tremendous rate and only the young man, supposedly named Farkas, in the centre of the circle looked calm, while his pursuers were showing various expressions from cruel smiles to open rage as they readied their weapons. Farkas was actually laughing on the inside, though, as the mana density in the air this close to Zurzavar was filling up his own mana core quickly, already he had regained half of his mana after using it all over the 2 days it took him to shave the notorious Black Dagger Mercs down from 2,000 members to just the 50 or so currently surrounding him. As Man #1 said, the remaining members were the elites of the mercenary gang and weren’t present when Farkas began his attack, as per the young man’s strategy, so facing them without at least this much mana would be suicide.

“Well then, shall we finish this?” (Farkas)

As a sadistic smile threatened to ruin the young man’s good looks, a ridiculously complex magic circle appeared beneath his feet and emitted a light both pure-white and somehow at the same time rippling with the colours of a rainbow, so bright that those circling him began to panic as they had to cover their eyes or look away. If any of them had been able to see Farkas’ face amidst the light show they would undoubtedly see a look of fear mixed with confusion, as this magic circle was far beyond anything he was capable of despite his genius and rank of Fovarazslo. Someone or something else was interrupting their fight which seemed to have taken an interest in Farkas, and it was most definitely something he wouldn’t even be able to scratch if it proved aggressive…

“You’re still reading such childish fairy tales, little Lys?” (old man)

“I’m not little anymore, uncle Bror! I’ll be doing my Rite of Age in less than a year! And so what if I like fairy tales? They contain good messages and warnings to help you live decently, and often speak of captivating heroes and beautiful lands. What’s not to like?” (Lys)

“Haha! It is certainly so, but you’ll always be my little Lys! The King and I may not be related by blood but you’re as much my niece as you are his daughter. Which is why you shouldn’t be wasting your time on such books; as His Majesty’s only child you’ll be ruler one day, you can’t have your head in silly myths about gods, magic, and other worlds when you’re supposed to be running a country.” (Bror)

As one might expect of a Princess and a High Noble, the pair’s clothes were of the highest quality and certainly looked striking while the two themselves were attractive, even Bror still held a handsome visage despite him being in his late 50s. Bror was an accomplished military man who dragged his family from the middle-tier of nobles into the high-tier due to an excellent service record during his youth, and even played a major role in a large bandit extermination campaign two decades ago. This campaign was the one that sealed the Ostekake’s rise to High Noble status and also how he became closely acquainted with the new King, a relationship that only grew stronger as the years have passed. Even now his body remains healthy and strong, giving him an imposing aura despite his gentle nature.

“For some reason it feels really wrong to hear you call father ‘His Majesty’, uncle Bror… but they’re not myths! Mother said there really used to be magic and gods, and people with their god’s blessing could even travel between worlds! Mother wouldn’t lie to me. Obviously, the methods to use magic and communicate with the gods must have just been forgotten somehow. Besides, our kingdom of Belyse is peaceful, with strong ties to several close neighbours and a powerful military, and even the commoners are content. How hard can it truly be to manage this nation?” (Lys)

Lys was of average height for a 14 year old; raised without the need to help with hard labour and never worrying about her next meal, and with the last of her youthful chubbiness about to leave her, she had a slim figure. Her dazzling blue eyes were like a picturesque lake on the finest day and stood in contrast to the pale skin and shiny, silver hair characteristic of the Gnistenkrone royal family – not even the greatest scholars could determine the reason for these two traits dominating the “fresh blood” brought into the bloodline through marriage. Needless to say, First Princess Lys av’Flamme Gnistenkrone was a beautiful girl who had clearly been a cute child and will undoubtedly become a woman any man would desire. However, she wasn’t exactly skilled or interested in matters of politics, trade, or war, which was currently giving all those who know her a headache.

“*sigh* Oh, brother of mine, how have you been raising this girl…?” (Bror)

“Hmm? Did you say something, uncle Bror?” (Lys)

“Ah, no, just thinking to myself, dear. Haha! But you really can’t keep thinking that way, the reason Belyse is so stable is your father. I’m sure you know it, too, how hard he works to keep the kingdom running smoothly and to maintain good relations with other nations. Besides that, recently there’s been awfully strange monster activi-” (Bror)

Almost as if on cue, the sound of large explosion raced through the city, quickly reaching the noble and princess in time for them to witness a column of smoke start to rise from the outer wall near the main gates. Screams could be heard all the way at Bror’s residence in the middle of the city, even over the sounds of buildings collapsing as more smoke and dust is thrown up over a rapidly growing area of the commoner’s district. Though even the King wasn’t aware of it yet, the strange monster activity that has been witnessed all around Belyse the past few months is now culminating and poses a threat to the entire kingdom. Right now there are clusters of unnaturally powerful monsters congregating on towns and villages throughout the northern region, though no other city anywhere near as large as this one is under attack – perhaps this attack is a test?

Throughout the city, guards and soldiers are hurriedly constructing their lines of defence and trying to hold back the onslaught, to protect their citizens and Lord, especially as most of them came from this city and its closest villages. Even the small yet notable population of adventurers have near-unanimously joined in, despite no official draft being delivered yet, as this city is a prosperous and comfortable place due in no small part to Bror’s management.

Three or so hours later, in the garden of Bror’s mansion stands the trembling First Princess Lys av’Flamme Gnistenkrone, clutching at a small, white pendant given to her by her mother the night before she died many years ago, while surrounded by her personal guards and a bunch of despairing maids. Her first instinct when reports of the monsters breaching the gates of the nobles’ district reached them was to flee inside the mansion, but her guard captain Beskytte advised against it as they could become trapped more easily inside the mansion than the gardens. It proved to be a good decision as the group were currently fending off several monsters while waiting for the injured Bror to reach them, at which point they were planning to escape the city using a secret tunnel in a storehouse not far from their position.

The reason Lys is trembling while her maids have fallen into despair is simple: they lost contact with any forces outside of the estate nearly an hour ago, including Bror shortly after he was injured, and have been fighting against monsters for the last half an hour yet two more arrive for each one the guards kill. The fact that the monsters are between them and the storehouse which hides their escape route probably isn’t helping to calm them down, either. Normally a group of Dark Wolves and Shadow Foxes would never be found working together, even if there’s less than 20 of them, and even if they were the guards travelling with Lys would be able to dispatch them in minutes, but right now the guards are clearly struggling and two have even died already. As the number of monsters increases yet again another guard falls, 3 Shadow Foxes and a Dark Wolf ignore the sounds of a man choking on his own blood as they rush through the newly opened gap and head straight towards the Princess.

As Beskytte shouts at her Princess to run, knowing she won’t reach her in time, the maids all freeze up as though they’re too scared to even faint or collapse or cry. In her mind, as the first tear rolls down her cheek, Lys makes one last plea for help; not to the gods of myth, not to the heroes in her fairy tales, not to Beskytte who is a friend as well as captain of her personal guard. No, Lys’ plea is to her mother. The mother who filled her daughter’s head with the romance of ages past, the mother who loved the old stories even more than Lys does, the mother who on her deathbed gave a pendant she had never before removed from her neck over to her little girl. That pendant is now a necklace around Lys’ neck, being tightly gripped by a Princess who is certainly afraid yet refuses to fall into despair even as overpowered monsters bear down on her, and it starts to glow as though it heard her plea…

~~ Lys PoV ~~

With 4 monsters running straight for me and no guards close enough to intercept them, I squeezed my eyes shut and cried out to mother in my mind. Mother truly believed in the old stories, in magic and the gods, and there’s not a single thing or person I believe in more than mother. Surely, if there’s a way out of this, a way for me to see another sunrise, and my father and uncle Bror again…

“kyaa!” (Lys)
*I’m glad I had my eyes closed, but letting out a scream just because of a sudden flash of light is unbecoming of a First Princ… wait, flash of light? Why can’t I hear the guards fighting any more…?* (Lys)

As I slowly opened my eyes, careful of the remaining bright glow, I saw that the monsters had been thrown back 10s of meters and a beautiful, intricate circle of light was… I suppose “unfolding” would be a good word, on the lawn in front of me. Somehow it was glistening with all the colours of a rainbow yet giving off a pure white light, and as I looked around I noticed that I was the only one looking at it. Soldiers, guards, maids, and monsters; none of them dared open their eyes to the light. As the circle completed itself and began to rotate its glow started to fade and a ball of the strangely-coloured light slowly formed above the circle, like it was sucking in the overflowing light. Eventually, all the light previously glowing from the circle was now formed into the floating ball, though somehow both seemed to still be shining brightly. A floating ball of rainbow-light above a rotating circle of rainbow-light both emitting a pure white light yet causing no glow at all is the second strangest thing I have ever seen in my 14 years of life, the strangest being the fact that my pendant is lit up in exactly the same way making me think that it’s possibly the cause of all this.

As I refocus my wandering mind I see that my fellow humans are now opening their eyes and staring, mouths agape, at the floating lights while the monsters are still unable to see a thing and are only slightly moving.

*That’s odd, don’t wolves and foxes rely on their senses of smell and hearing at least as much as their eyesight…? Surely even as monsters that should hold true, so why do they seem so helpless right now?* (Lys)

Thinking as such, I noticed something inside the ball of light. A shadow was growing within it as the ball descended towards the circle. The closer the ball got to the circle, and thus the ground, the more definite a shape the shadow took, until it appeared to be a human man down on one knee at the moment the ball touched the circle, immediately followed by another blinding flash and howls of pain from the monsters. With my eyes closed as I waited for the light to calm I could do nothing but think, primarily about how simple light, though admittedly it is very bright, could hurt such powerful monsters. I couldn’t even feel warmth as one can with sunlight or the light of a fire, so the reason for the monsters’ pain eluded me. Though I could certainly feel something from the light; it was something I had never felt before but it wasn’t painful in the slightest, more… tiring? Yes, the feeling the light gave me was exhaustion which definitely was annoying, but not painful. However, I persevered, as I couldn’t let myself sleep until I had seen the result of this light show, not to mention the adrenaline flowing through my veins from fear of the monsters.

Finally the light recedes enough for me to open my eyes once more, apparently much sooner than anyone else yet again, and what I see astounds me, quickly taking first place on the list of strangest things I have ever seen. A man crouching down on one knee, just as I thought from seeing the shadow within the ball of light, with grey hair, a black coat made from some strange leather, and vicious-looking metal-trimmed boots. This in itself wasn’t all that astounding, though, as what truly surprised me were two other little features of his appearance: firstly, he had dull reddish-brown eyes with vertical-slit pupils, which I have never heard of anyone having except for in the old stories; and secondly, the young man had two small horns of the same colour poking out and upwards for about an inch from his forehead, very close to his temples.

“Princess Lys, please, we must leave this place at once! Quickly, while the monsters are distracted!” (Maid #1)

“What are you doing, Lys?! Get out of here you idiot!” (Beskytte)

It seems the people around me are finally beginning to regain themselves, my head maid and Beskytte both urging me to flee before the monsters also return to their senses, though Beskytte is somewhat less formal about it.

*Really, the maids are panicking while my guards and uncle Bror’s soldiers can’t decide whether they should point their weapons at the monsters or the young man who replaced the ball of light. How ridiculous. They really should have paid more attention to the old stories!* (Lys)

I memorised the faces of those that turned their weapons at the man, as they would need to be punished severely later for threatening our soon-to-be-saviour. After all, let alone our world even in the old stories there is only one race ever mentioned for having horns grow from their forehead or having reddish-brown eyes. Some from the world of the Dark God were said to have eyes the colour of blood, which is close though not exact, while some from the world of the Beast God were said to have horns at the sides of their head, but only one was said to resemble this young man.

I watched as the young man slowly stood, uncertain, like he’d just awoken and was still groggy, and quickly surveyed his surroundings, which caused me to shiver involuntarily as his gaze lingered on me a fraction longer than on anyone else. This man, he only looks a few years older than myself, but those eyes resemble uncle Bror’s and the High General’s eyes, the eyes of soldiers for whom death is a “drinking buddy.” At least that’s what uncle Bror calls it, but I’m sure no one else would agree with that. His body structure seems to fit with his eyes; that incredible figure can only come from training and fighting a ridiculous amount, beyond mere guards or fresh graduates from the military academy.

After getting to grips with his surroundings he looks back at me, specifically my pendant, before smirking and saying something I can’t understand though am certain was language rather than simple noise. As quickly as his smirk appeared he was already facing away from me, not towards the monsters that were once again readying to attack but towards the city’s main gates. He raised his right arm with his palm open and pointed it at the gates, and started saying even more words I couldn’t understand, becoming even more shaky with each word he utters.

Then silence, stillness, everywhere.

The moment he stopped talking it was as though the entire world came to a stop, with no sound or breeze or movement. And then came a chill, an incredible cold that strangely wasn’t all that unpleasant and actually brought everything back to life. The world was again filled with noise and movement, and even the breeze I’d been enjoying with my tea hours ago came back. Everything except the monsters. Just like I predicted, this man was our saviour, forcing every single monster of the 200 or so in the city to stand still as statues and nearly as white, ice hanging from their fur. There’s no need for maids and soldiers to fear such laughable monsters when a descendent of the Dragon God is among us.

Speaking of the young man, he seems to have collapsed as soon as he summoned that chill…