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Archon had fallen. A major kingdom, wiped off the map just like that. It had been one of the main oppositions to the Kingdom of Kal, Now, it was just another name in the long list of countries conquered by the [Hero King] Kallistus.

He was an otherworlder. Not a native of Vacuos. He woke up here in this world just ten years ago, and already, he had established his vast kingdom. The World System itself favored him. Empires trembled at his name. The Kingdom of Kal now expanded to span over half of the continent with the territories of Archon under his rule.

Scholars from all around the world, kings across Laxo, and even his own subjects speculated Kallistus would now rest and consolidate since one of his greatest enemies had just been crushed in the heel of his boots. And perhaps that was what the [Hero King] himself wanted. Unfortunately, he couldn’t just adhere to his own whims or decisions.

He sat at the center of a dark chamber, face illuminated by a single candlelight, and surrounded by over a dozen shadowed figures. They wore hoods, concealing their faces. They stood in the shadows— he was the only one seated in this gathering. Their voices came out rippled and distorted, disguised so he wouldn’t know who they were.

“...I am saying that with Archon under his control, he can amass his forces to sail south and deal with those accursed elves!”

“A hasty move. No invasion of Drazyl has succeeded for a reason. We need to bide our time and—”

“Bide our time? You have been saying that for the last three damn decades! How long do you wish to sit on your ass, using my riders to deal with each and every one of your petty grievances?”

Kallistus narrowed his eyes. He knew some of their identities despite their disguises, of course. Not all of them. But a few were rather liberal with their information, and he could easily infer who they were from their minor slip-ups. After all, everyone here was influential on the world-stage in one way or another.

“That is enough!” a deep voice boomed up.

The susurration died down, and Kallistus raised his head. He looked up at the foremost figure. The only other man who stood in this gathering without a hood covering his face. He was the leader of this organization— the man who recruited [Hero King] himself.

Leonhard the Archmage King of Scholus. He spoke, addressing the seated man.

“Kallistus Kal. The [Hero King] of the Kingdom of Kal. The Savior of Sibylla. The Destroyer of Deveral. Adventurer-turned-ruler. Pawn-turned-rebel. You are the newest member of the Sect of Abyssal Thorns. Three years ago, you came before us, a stranger who just learned the truth of Vacuos. Untested. Untrustworthy. Now, three years later, you have proven yourself worthy. You have exceeded our expectations tenfold, obeying our commands with no questions asked. Soon, we shall accept you amongst our ranks, and you shall be able to find your way home.”

“I thank you for your praise, Kyn-Le’ard,” Kallistus said, speaking Leonhard’s name in the old language. “How else may I serve the Void?”

The Archmage King walked up to him, figure flickering in the darkness with each step. None of the gathered members of the Sect of Abyssal Thorns were actually present in the room. They were merely projects— apparitions created from magic to bring them before Kallistus for just a moment.

“Your final task is simple,” said Leonhard. “Invade the Astrad Kingdom, kill their foolish king for rejecting the Sect of Abyssal Thorns, and unite all of Laxo under a single banner.”

That caught Kallistus off-guard. He nearly stood up in his seat. “What about our alliance?” he asked, keeping his cool.

But Leonhard showed no concern for such things. “The only alliance that matters is your alliance with the Sect of Abyssal Thorns. Need I remind you that your allegiance is to the Void, not to this world which stole you from your home?”

Kallistus paused. He thought of his home. He remembered his life growing up back on Earth. He nodded slowly. “You do not, Kyn-Le’ard.”

“You have labored hard for the last three years, Kallistus. Do not let your hard work go to waste at the very last moment. Is that understood?”

Even though it was just the Archmage King speaking, Kallistus could feel the gaze of everyone in the room boring into him. The [Hero King]’s eyes flickered, scanning their contemptuous looks. Some out of jealousy, others out of suspicion.

“Yes, Kyn-Le’ard,” he finally said. “I will unite Laxo for the Sect of Abyssal Thorns.”

“Good.” Leonhard’s projection smiled.

Most of the shadowed figures clearly were still displeased— unconvinced. But all that mattered was the Archmage King’s approval. And he drew back, waving a hand simply.

“The Miststorm Riders shall aid you. They will begin raiding the westernmost parts of the Astrad Kingdom starting next—”

But he suddenly paused. Leonhard’s eyes grew wide as he spun around in shock.

“That’s…” he started. “Do you feel it?”

Kallistus didn’t reply, but he sensed it. He rose to his feet, frowning. He glanced to the southwest with narrowed eyes. It was a strong feeling— one that sent vibrations washing over his skin as his hair stood on end.

The rest of the room felt it too. But they clearly didn’t sense it as strongly as Kallistus did. The gathered figures looked around in confusion, each pointing in different directions as they whispered, a jumble of voices.

“W-what is that?”

“I don’t know—”

“It feels… familiar.”

Kallistus watched as the entire chamber seemed to shake violently around him followed by the increasing intensity of a high-pitched screech. But he knew this was only something he saw.

“This is…” he whispered.

“The call of the Void!” Leonhard exclaimed, spreading his arms wide. He dropped to his knees, looking up towards the sky in trepidation. “The Void has heard our discussion— it is telling us that it has approved of our plans! Soon, we will be able to liberate all of Vacuos from its shackles!”

He bowed deeply, his head touching the ground.

“Praise the Void,” he said as the rest of the shadowed figures followed.

They dropped to their knees, speaking in reverence as Kallistus looked on.

“Praise the Void.”

“Praise the Void!”

“Praise the Void—”

Slowly, the [Hero King] joined them as the shaking around him seemed to calm. He spoke softly.

“Praise the Void.”

 

—--

 

And I closed the portal. I turned to Noele and Grat-ra’zun. “There, happy?”

“W-what?” The dragon blinked. He faced me with round eyes, pointing a clawed finger at the vanishing rift. “Wait, I barely even had time to— all I saw were floating rocks and… stars?”

He frowned, rubbing his chin. Slowly, he drew back as he murmured to himself in thought.

“That’s not right. Those weren’t stars, were they? They were too… distant. And they were squirming…”

I shrugged and reached for the rift once again. “If you want, I can open up the portal to the Fractured Realm again.”

“Absolutely not!” the Elder Dragon quickly snapped, breaking out of his stupor. He spun around to me, glaring. “I cannot believe you just did that! You tore a hole into the Void! Do you understand the gravity of your actions? You just endangered every living being in all of Vacuos!”

“That’s why I closed it as soon as I did,” I said simply. “It’s not that dangerous, anyways. If any void beast or whatever came crawling out, I’d just kick it back in. Or stab it.” I gestured at my sword.

Grat-ra’zun stared at me, utterly befuddled as I waved a hand off dismissively. It took him a moment to work his jaw. Finally, he collected himself.

“I… I do not understand any of this. You need to explain everything to me, Amelia. Before I lose my damn mind.” The dragon massaged his temples with his clawed hand.

Noele sidled up next to him, patting the dragon comfortingly. “Don’t worry. I haven’t had a single idea of what's been going on since I met her. Somehow, I haven’t gone crazy yet.”

“I can hear you.” I rolled my eyes, before acquiescing. “Fine. I’ll tell you guys everything.”

 

—--

 

Grat-ra’zun listened closely as Amelia began to regale her tale from the very beginning.

“Ten years ago,” the brown-haired human said as she raised her head, “I woke up in the Fractured Realm.”

He activated his [Perfect Memory] Skill to record everything she was going to say. The dragon was going to review every little minutiae she mentioned for the next few days.

Amelia continued. “There, I was attacked by voidlings. So I fought them off. But more came, and I fought them off as well.”

He leaned closer, nodding. Noele sat next to him, leaning in as well. They were both entranced by Amelia’s every word. Every tidbit and every part of the story, carefully deconstructed.

“And after that, some more voidlings showed up. I also fought them off. There were even more voidlings— I fought them off.”

Grat-ra’zun waited for the next part. He sat upright, still ready for any important piece of information. But it never came.

“I fought a single voidling, once,” Amelia said as she tapped a finger on her chin. “I honestly don’t know what it was doing by itself. I thought it meant maybe I’d get a chance to finally rest, but more voidlings showed up soon after, and I had to fight them off too.”

The dragon stared at her. This can’t be real, right? He turned to Noele, hoping that the blonde girl would tell him this was all a joke. But she had her head lowered, looking just as defeated as he was.

Amelia snapped her fingers. “Oh. There were some void beasts as well. Actually, I—”

“Please don’t say you fought them off,” Grat-ra’zun pleaded.

“I ran away,” Amelia snorted. Then she quickly averted her gaze. “But I came back stronger later on and fought them off.”

Both the dragon and the blonde girl gave her a flat stare. Amelia sighed.

“Point is: I fought,” she said, shaking her head. “And I fought some more. I also spent some time fighting. That’s it. That’s what I did the entire time I was in the Fractured Realm until I grew really strong and managed to find my way out of there.”

“I… see now,” the Elder Dragon said, not understanding anything more than before. “So you just suddenly woke up in the Void?”

Amelia raised a finger. “I suddenly woke up in the Fractured Realm.”

“What’s the difference?” Noele piped up, still clearly lost, but at least curious.

“The Void is what permeates the Fractured Realm. It is like the air flowing through this room. It fills the room, but it is not the room. That’s it, really.” Amelia crossed her arms as she explained.

“And you spent the last ten years of your life there fighting. That’s how you grew so strong.” The blonde girl placed a hand on her chin.

Grat-ra’zun narrowed his eyes. So she grew this strong with neither the Void or the World System’s power?

That almost seemed impossible to the dragon. He had briefly speculated earlier the reason why she was so powerful without a Class was due to being empowered by the Void. But now it was clear: she achieved this power on her own.

How? he wondered, utterly baffled. He peered at Amelia. What are you?

The brown-haired woman shrugged in response to Noele’s question. “I’ll be honest, I have no idea how much time passed since I first woke up in the Fractured Realm. And I haven’t aged one bit while I was there. I just said ten years because it felt right, I guess.”

“I have heard of the Fractured Realm before,” the Elder Dragon said as he eyed her. “It is but an archaic name used to refer to the Void. And from what I know, spacetime itself is broken in that world, so it makes sense that you have yet to age since waking up there, and keeping track of time is pointless. But… I have never heard of a distinction between the Void and the Fractured Realm myself in over a dozen millennia of my existence.”

Noele blinked, glancing between Amelia and Grat-ra’zun. Even the blonde girl seemed to pick up on this dissonance. It was something the Elder Dragon found incredibly jarring about her story.

He frowned at the otherworlder. He no longer held any animosity towards her, but he was still slightly suspicious that she wasn’t telling the full truth.

“You claim to have spent the whole time in the Fractured Realm fighting, nothing else happening. So how do you know all this, Amelia?” he asked as he studied her facial expression.

Amelia sighed, raising her head.

“Well, I guess there was also a… voice,” she admitted as she met both the blonde girl and the dragon’s gazes. “It called itself the God of Vacuos.”

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