Ragna: A young girl's failure to become a hero

by

YAK Edge

Chapter 65 – Level 1 "Heroes never fail": Wings of divine right

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The scenery faded away. Everything was gone, and Ragna stood in a white void room.

Words started to glow in blue light within the void. “Mission failed. Do you wish to continue? Yes. No.”

Ragna’s shoulders dropped.

After defeating the assassin and losing her arm, it turned out she had to eliminate another opponent.

Her eyes wandered towards her arm. There was no mistake. Her arm had regenerated, and her sword as well.

Restarting the level restarted her. So, if she died, did that mean she would begin anew as if nothing had happened, or would her death be final? Or worse, what if the tower couldn’t revive the dead but merely create copies of them? Would that mean her real self could die, and she would be a clone without ever knowing?

Ragna stood in the void, staring at the words without any noise leaving her lips.

How much did it matter? Perhaps it did, or it didn’t. At this moment, she had to focus on clearing the level. And for that, she would have to take out Altera. Could she do that? Even if it was a fake, she couldn’t kill her friend. But maybe defeating her through non-lethal methods could work. In the past, Altera eclipsed her in combat. Was that still the case since she had learned to use runes? Did the day come where she could become Altera's equal?

Ragna smirked. She chose ‘Yes’, and the room transformed into the banquet hall of Castle Gimli.

“My dear guests.” Eric took the microphone. His voice echoed from the surround-systems into every direction of Castle Gimli’s ivory banquet hall.

In the dark, the spotlight scattered in star-like patterns. It danced through the scenery and conglomerated at the stage’s center, casting Eric’s shadow onto the background.

And amidst that audience sat Ragna, her head resting on her hand, and her fingers tapping against the armrest.

How many times had she heard these words by now? Whatever.

Ragna summoned a blob of water, formed it into four shurikens, and threw them at the chandelier. Their edges froze and sharpened and cut through the chandelier’s strings. It crashed to the ground.

The audience turned their heads to the source of the noise. But when nothing happened, their attention returned to the stage. No one emerged from it. Kaguya wasn’t hiding within the chandelier.

Did she move somewhere? Or could it be that she had cleared the first task and progressed within this level? Only one way to find out.

Ragna sat on the couch next to Eric and watched the show. The sniper didn’t attack, and when Altera was about to grab her weapon, Ragna jumped onto the stage and attacked her.

Altera stopped. Her armor spread out over her body and blocked the attack.

Aura fled alongside Eric, and the audience evacuated as well. They were alone.

“Please don’t do this.” Altera's wings manifested. She flew backwards and landed on the piano, looking down on Ragna. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Ragna halted as well and sheathed her blade.

Perhaps they could talk it out. They didn’t always see eye to eye and argued over their differences, but they had gotten closer since their days at the academy and should understand the other's position.

“Why are you trying to murder the princess?” Ragna asked. “Should a Valkyrie behave like that?”

“I’m doing this precisely because I’m a Valkyrie.”

“What do you mean?”

Altera widened her arm and circled with it the hall. “Look at this. Is this how a princess...no...any human being should live? She lost her honor, her loved ones, her status, and there’s no hope of her ever regaining anything.”

“And that makes it okay to murder her?”

Altera shook her head. “It’s not murder; it’s mercy. She lost everything and can’t go back. I won’t allow her to suffer anymore. As a Valkyrie, it’s my duty to help the lost and the unsavable.”

“How do you want to know that? There’s always hope. If you kill her, she’ll never be happy.”

Altera lowered her eyelids, her red pupils basking in sadness and pity. “Valkyries can’t think like that. Sometimes there’s no hope, and all’s lost. There’s nothing you can save. Wasn’t that your argument at the Titanic Sea? You prevented me from searching for the passengers because we couldn't save them.”

“Thi...” A lump stuck in Ragna’s throat. “This...this is different.”

“How?” Altera tilted her head. “Please tell me how it’s different. Even if there’s a specter of light far, far away, what’s the point of chasing it endlessly? A monkey mistakes the moon’s reflection on the water surface for the real thing and drowns when it reaches for it. Sometimes, that light of hope you see is nothing but an illusion. You continue to chase it for eternity, never reaching it. And every step adds to your suffering. As long as it exists, despair will continue to haunt us humans. That’s why hope is one of mankind’s evils.”

“Cut that crap. I won't accept this.”

“Do you?” Altera asked. “I wished our journey had made you more like a Valkyrie. But I guess you just aren’t fit to be one. So, please give up. This is my final warning. I like you, and I don’t want to break you. There’s nothing you can do.”

Ragna drew her saber.

Altera sighed. “I wish it hadn’t come to this, but I have to show you just how weak you are.”

Between her arms, Altera manifested a clump of ice. She formed it into a javelin and threw it at Ragna.

A water sphere appeared between the combatants, and steam emitted out of it. The construct moved towards the weapon and caught it within its body. It melted, the javelin's body adding to the sphere’s volume.

New ice appeared around Altera. She formed them into swans, and the birds flew towards Ragna. The sphere chased after them, but they evaded the water.

Ragna’s eyes followed their trail.

Using the water wouldn’t work. Even with the abundance of Mana, her brain couldn’t delegate and coordinate multiple constructs at once.

She stomped on the ground, and ice covered the floor. Stakes shot from it, impaling the birds. Their bodies cracked, and crumps of ice fell on the ground.

Altera widened her wings, drew her partisan, and flew at her opponent. Ragna jumped on the stakes. Using them like springboards, she elevated herself into the sky.

She would prove Altera wrong. Yes. She would show her how strong she was and save Aura.

Ragna raised her leg and kicked the partisan out of Altera’s hand.

Altera flinched from the pain. The weapon spun through the air, landing several meters away, and in the same breath, Ragna grabbed Altera’s arm and threw the future Valkyrie over her shoulder.

She crashed into the stage, Ragna landed on the floor and attacked with her saber.

Altera got up before Ragna could hit her and evaded the sword. She widened her wings, but Ragna swung her seax, leaving Altera no chance to fly.

Ragna attacked with her saber again and threw a kick at her. Barely could Altera avoid her moves, her feet becoming sloppier with each second.

As she suspected, Altera didn’t train in hand-to-hand combat. With her runes, her Fylgja, and the partisan, she wouldn’t need to. But Altera’s fighting style suited mid and far-range fights. Now she could use neither her weapon nor had she the time to use her abilities. She could defeat Alte-

The partisan sliced through Ragna’s head and flew into Altera’s hand. She widened her eyes in horror and dropped on her knees, staring at Ragna's body. Ragna stopped moving, and her head fell off.

It landed at Altera's knees.

“Rag…na…?” Altera’s eyes starred at the head. For a second she froze as her brain started to recognize her action’s consequences. “I….I….I’m so so…I didn’t want to…Please, believe me…” Tears ran down her face, wetting Ragna’s face. “Please, don’t hate me…It…it was an accident…Please…I just wanted my weapon back…Please…Don’t hate me…”

The scenery faded away. Everything was gone, and Ragna stood in a white void room.

Words started to glow in blue light within the void. “Mission failed. Do you wish to continue? Yes. No.”

Ragna’s hands drove to her head and throat and felt up her skin. She relaxed. Her body was in one piece.

The tower would reset all the damage she received, but that didn’t mean her body would understand. Altera beheaded her. That...She couldn’t put it into words. Altera didn’t intend to cut off her head, but she couldn’t believe it. Who could describe such a sensation, such an event? Within the tower's rules, it should make sense that one could survive death, but neither her body nor her mind could get around it.

Ragna slowed down her breath.

She had to calm down. Whether it made sense for her or not, the events had happened, and they would repeat if she didn’t come up with a better strategy. Altera had won that round, but that didn’t mean anything. She could defeat her friend. This time, she had to make sure that Altera could not use her runes to remote control her partisan. If she did that, she could win. She shouldn’t worry and think much of it. Forcing her into close quarters was a good strategy. She made the right choice; she was on the right path.

Ragna chose ‘Yes’, and the room transformed into the banquet hall of Castle Gimli.

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YAK Edge

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