AFTERSTORY 01 – THE WHITE GODDESS
Not many people knew the truth about the world that was now only accessible in the form of an MMORPG, that it truly existed.
Those who did included only the management of the game, certain players, some people within the upper echelons of the government and military... and a few other superpowers who had, by chance, gotten their hands on the information.
Eager to find new lands to bring into their fold and to send their citizens into, one of these superpowers had bought off and gathered up the scientists and engineers formerly involved with the ‘parallel world’ project. But just as they were on the verge of their first successful test, the Girl of White had turned the whole military research base into a desolate wasteland.
Officially, the country announced it to be an “accident”, one that had resulted in the death of “thirty-five unfortunate souls”, when the truth was that tens of thousands of people had disappeared, never to return, while losses were estimated to be in the range of trillions of dollars. It was a national disaster.
The nation trembled in fear of the shadow of the Girl of White, and they washed their hands of all research related to the parallel world.
But the superpower neighboring them didn’t. They knew what had happened, yet they still desired the boons of the new world. They continued their work with the utmost discretion.
This country had vast lands, but not enough people or natural resources. The harsh climate stalled their crops and consequently slowing their population growth, while their lack of resources did no favors to their industries. They were forced to survive as a militaristic country.
They desired the resources of the new world. At the same time, they also knew to be far more circumspect than their defeated neighbor and the superpower that had first discovered the parallel world.
They knew that the first country had failed in an endeavor to gain infinite energy.
They knew that their neighbor had failed a connection test that had been meant as the first step in a plan to send citizens over.
The superpower surmised that, due to a reason still yet unknown as there had been barely any survivors from the previous incidents, the act to connect to the other world itself would invite some form of grievous devastation. So the country did not plan on making any kind of contact; they would only investigate the things that had arrived here from the other side, and they would see if they can gain anything from them.
One day, in a military research compound of the country, a certain something arrived after being sent through multiple other countries.
The container doors opened. Under the researchers’ instructions, the soldiers carefully carried the item outside. It was a hibernation capsule used for VR, one that was made by a certain country. The glass was fogged, hiding the contents, but there was a name on the capsule. A name in Latin letters.
It read “BRIAN”.
Yggdrasia, a different world. A world held up by the World Tree and ninety-nine Saplings. A world protected by an artificial Goddess.
Once, this world had been under the rule of the human race, thieves who had monopolized the World Tree’s blessings for themselves. Its mana was being consumed without end, and the world was heading toward a slow destruction. And once Earth began their silent invasion to gather mana, it only hastened the process.
But the apocalypse was then stopped by one person, one single girl who had been called the Dark Lady. By her exaltation into a Goddess, she had protected the world.
The ascendant reign of humans was cut short when the world was ravaged by what would later be called ‘The Dark Lady’s Great War’. Now, humans were allowed to continue living far away from the World Tree’s blessings, under the supervision of those who had once suffered under their hands, who had once been their slaves: the Demihuman Union.
Peace had come to the world. Yet after the Great War, three years were enough for the greedy and the corrupt to begin forgetting the painful lesson they’d been taught.
Deep within a forest, the ruins of a simple settlement stood. Its former inhabitants had lived in nomadic tents, and so there hadn’t been any sign of a standing house. All that remained in the grass were traces of a makeshift log table and a butcher’s workplace.
Next to them was a small tent, so new as to be out-of-place. Its size suggested that it wasn’t meant to be a permanent dwelling, but for traveling purposes instead.
Morning came. A young boy appeared from inside the tent. He walked to the nearby stream to get water.
He looked about ten years of age. His lithe physique and pointed, long ears hinted to his elven ancestry, a demihuman race. While elves were famously long-lived, elven children still grow as fast as humans, so the boy was truly as old as his appearance suggested.
The boy’s name was Yol. When the world was still the dominion of humans, he had lived here with several other families, hiding away from the humans’ eyes.
At the time, aside from the babies, Yol was the only child in the village. He hadn’t been old enough to help out much, so he spent his time just picking firewood and fruits by himself.
Then one day, what looked to be a child appeared in front of him.
Their face and body was hidden under a cloak. He didn’t really know for sure if they really were a child — he only knew they were small. They didn’t talk, didn’t make a sound, didn’t let him get close. The gestures they made in response to his words were the only way Yol knew they understood him.
The strange child-like form only ever appeared in the forest whenever Yol was alone.
Then one day, he heard from the adults that some human slavers had been about to attack them, and that they had been defeated by a ‘white mist monster’. Yol immediately though that child was the Forest’s Spirit, and as a sign of their friendship, he had gifted them a Name. He promised them they would meet again.
After the human threat had passed, Yol was now free to travel the world.
All the same, monsters still continued to be a danger, and there were also some humans who had chafed under the rule of demihumans and had escaped into the forest to live as bandits.
Yol wanted to visit the forest where he once lived in. At first the adults hadn’t allowed him, citing his youth, but once he turned ten and learned magic, he finally gained permission, if only for just several days to visit the forest. But after arriving and staying for a few days, the friend who he had thought to be living in the forest still hadn’t shown up.
On the final day, there was an unexpected encounter.
Hearing the sound of cracking branches, Yol looked up. It wasn’t the friend that he had been waiting for, but several demihumans.
“Heey, little guy. You’re an elf, aren’t you. Why are you here alone?”
“...who are you, misters?”
They were feline beastmen clad in what looked like the attire of hunters. Yet he thought it strange that hunters would go so deep into the forest, and not only that, he also noticed a large-set man to the back of the group, his face hidden under a hood that glimmered as though made of wet leather. The man sent shivers down Yol’s back.
“Oh don’t worry, kid, we’re just coming to visit the elves who used to live in this forest. We heard that they moved to this area. Where’s your family now?”
“...we used to live here until three years ago. Nobody’s here now.”
The man who’d talked to Yol slightly narrowed his eyes. A moment later, the feline beastmen behind him began to quarrel.
“Fucking hell, who the fuck said there were elves here?! Fucking waste of time!”
“It ain’t my fault! There’s no way to know how up-to-date information about elves outside of towns is!”
“Shut up, you two, the kid’s gonna figure it out. I just got him calm.”
The kindly-sounding man’s gaze was now ice-cold. Yol flinched backward a step. An arrow flew from the direction of the men to stab into the ground next to his feet.
“Now now, stay right there.” The bow-wielding feline beastman then turned around and bowed to the hooded man behind him. “Sorry boss, no elf girl here. Just a kid.”
“It’s fine, shit happens. Kids sell for a decent price too anyway. Life’s been comfortable enough these days for the perverts to start showing up, so there’s good demand now.”
The hooded man pulled off his hood, revealing grey skin covered in scales.
He was a fishman. A race that shared the sea with the merfolk.
In contrast to the merfolk whose bottom halves were that of a fish, the race of fishpeople had legs, allowing them to walk on land. They still could not go too far from the water, however, and longer journeys would require them to wear a specially-treated coat.
So why had the man gone to all this trouble, leaving his home so far behind?
He was a slaver.
The merfolk were, as a rule, all beautiful, and so they were frequently hunted to be pet-slaves for humans. On the other hand, the most the fishpeople were useful for was simply labor, and only near the water, at that. It was why that had avoided the same fate. And as they had not joined in the Great War, they had survived with their wealth and power undiminished.
The War had drastically reduced the population of humans and demihumans, but not the fishpeople. After joining the Demihuman Union, their influence ballooned by virtue of being the only race with their population and wealth intact. They used their money to buy up magitools that had been left behind by the formerly dominant human race, and they began to approach the prosperity that humans had once possessed. And like humans, they then thought about making slaves out of other races.
Peace had come to the world. Even beastmen, those who should have understood the painful lesson better than anyone else, now began to lose themselves to their desires. They were about to repeat history once more.
“W-Why are you doing this?! The world is protected by the Goddess—”
Finding his courage, Yol began to shout, but the first man silenced him with a slap.
“Shut the hell up. She was one of those who had broken the world in the first place, and now you tell me to worship her? You think I’m an idiot?”
“B-but...” Yol whimpered.
“Hey now, don’t damage the goods.”
The fishman spoke, having came near Yol. He pinched the boy’s cheeks and turned his tear-stricken face upward.
“Regrettably, us fishmen never met that White Goddess or whatever her name is. Can’t believe in a god you’ve never seen, you see? And besides, we haven’t heard a thing about her in all these three years. You sure she didn’t die together with that Evil God she fought?”
Yol bit his lips in frustration. The human Hero named Gold was someone Yol truly looked up to, and he had been proud of the fact that he had once fought together with the Dark-Lady-turned-Goddess. Gold told him that she had forgiven all the evils that humans had wrought, that she was a true Goddess who had saved this world from its fated ruin.
Then why were these demihumans doing this? Why were they repeating the same foolishness of the human race that they had once hated? Why were they making a mockery of all the Goddess had done?
Yol whispered. He reverently asked for forgiveness from the Goddess, and he said his apologies to the friend that he still hadn’t met.
Forgive us, Goddess, we have been ungrateful to our savior... and I’m sorry, my friend. I don’t think I can keep that promise now...
“—Don’t worry. I hear you.—”
Yol jerked his face up. The female voice seemed to have come from everywhere and nowhere at all, yet everyone else didn’t seem to have heard it. The first beastman grasped Yol’s arm and growled.
“Stand up. I’m sure you know where the other elven villages are... wait, what?”
Feeling a sudden chill, the men looked up, eyes darting around. A white mist began to envelop the area.
“What’s happening? Why is there mist?”
“H-Hey! I can’t move!”
Everyone turned toward the panicked shout. A feline beastman off to the side was rapidly being covered by white frost. His legs were frozen mid-step.
The ice rushed across his whole body, freezing him still as his hand stretched out in a desperate plea for help, and the ice statue fell forward. It shattered into white dust.
“What is that?!”
The men looked on in stupefaction. Appearing from within the mist was a girl clad in a scarlet dress with crimson eyes and snow-white hair, her steps unhurried.
The girls looked to be about fifteen, maybe sixteen. Adorning her graceful features was a pair of long, floppy ears, like those of a rabbit’s.
There were no rabbit beastman in this world, with one single exception: the girl who had opposed mankind, who had been the bogeywoman of two different worlds. Formerly called the Dark Lady Whitehare, everyone now knew her under a different name.
“T-The White Goddess?”
Flame burst out from the divine left hand of the Goddess, turning a feline beastman into burning petals in a blink of an eye. The first beastman stretched out his hands toward her as though begging for forgiveness, and the burning petals began to spread from his fingers, purifying his evil soul. Flames of mercy burned until he was no more.
“N-no, no no no, I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s them, it’s them!”
The final remaining fishman trembled in terror, rambling and making half-formed excuses. He tried to run away. The Goddess pointed her right fingers at his back.
“It’s not my faul—”
The fishman was interrupted by the raging blizzard coming from the Goddess’ demonic right hand that swallowed him whole. All of him, even his soul, broke apart into petals of ice and dissipated. Not a speck of himself remained.
Yol could only mutter in astonishment as the White Goddess eliminated the demihuman slavers in a blink of an eye. She patted his blushing cheeks and smiled.
“It’s nice to see you again.”
She whispered, and the White Goddess disappeared in white mist.
Yol stood still, watching her departure as his cheeks still burned. Her words triggered something in his mind.
“...Shedy?” he mumbled.
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