Story of a Cannon Fodder who Firmly Believed He was the Protagonist, Misunderstood the Actual Protagonist as the Cannon Fodder, and Ended up Victorious
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Chapter 045 – Protagonist’s Awakening – Original Timeline and Alternate Timeline [B]
―――――――◆◆ Alternate Timeline
Fay, Arthur, and Tlue arrived at the abyssal city. It was an important mission to survey the abyssal city that would soon be used to expand the kingdom’s territory. It didn’t need to be said why Arthur and Tlue were chosen for their talent, achievement, and raw power.
However, Fay was also chosen to accompany them. Although he was a twelfth-grade knight that was the lowest rank possible, people knew his ability was way beyond what his grade suggested. Thanks to the words of people in the same generation and the seniors, Fay’s ability was also highly valued although not as capable as Arthur and Tlue.
“Excuse me, are you paladins of Britannia?”
“…And what of it?”
“My name is Merlin. I’ll ask straightforwardly; I want to request your help to defeat the monster that lives in this city.”
“I refuse. I’ll defeat it with my own strength.”
“…Fay, this person is suspicious, so it’s better to move some distance away.”
“E-err, don’t you two think that’s quite rude towards a person you met for the first time…?”
Fay was a solitary man, so he refused the request. Arthur mentioned how suspicious the person who suddenly called out to them was despite the person in question being still in front of them. On the other hand, Tlue felt bad for Merlin due to the two’s attitude.
“N-no, I certainly can’t deny I’m being suspicious, so it can’t be helped… um, that, I have the ability to see art… then I could see the person called Arthur there was filled with light, so I thought she is a person with amazing power and I went to request help. How is it? Can I request for your help?”
“Fay, what should we do?”
“Just do what you like.”
“…Okay, since Fay says so… I’m sorry, I refuse.”
“B-but, Arthur-san, she didn’t seem to be a bad person.”
“She seems suspicious after all…”
Did I look that suspicious? I just called out to request help from her and her strong art though… But really, her name was Arthur. Perhaps she is that masterpiece… in that case, I want her cooperation no matter what. If she were to help, I’m sure we could defeat Juggernaut. 1
That gentle young man with pitch black art is quite worrying though… other than that, it’s just the fact they found me suspicious.
“Please, I beg of you. Please help me.”
“…Since you asked that much, okay.”
Since Fay is beside me, I won’t be scared…
Arthur glanced at Fay who had crossed his arms with his eyes closed. Arthur seemed to judge that Fay accepted the situation as it flowed.
“Well then, I will tell you what I know. I have been chasing the entity known as Juggernaut in this city…”
They exchanged information. The three came to this city to investigate the suspicious art since this city would be under development in the near future. On the other hand, Merlin explained that said suspicious art belonged to the highest rank abyss, Juggernaut of the Sevens.
Merlin had been chasing after that monster all this time and fought against him many times. When she was one step away from finishing him, Juggernaut escaped to this city and concealed his whereabouts. It was only recently that Merlin found traces of his existence in this city. Such was Merlin’s confession.
Also, Juggernaut was an Abyss that had the ability to inflict mental death and corrupt other beings into darkness in addition to his pure overwhelming physical ability.
They rented a room in an old inn, talked, and took a breath. They were filled with worry due to the enemy they had to face this time being way stronger than what they faced so far. However, Fay alone didn’t change his expression and his arms were still crossed.
“I see. I understand the situation.”
With that said, he went out as the conversation was concluded. As for where he went, the other two didn’t need to ask as they realized it must be his usual practice.
“I’ll go as well.”
“Please wait a moment. Arthur, I have something to talk about with you.”
“Yes, let’s talk a little outside.”
Tlue was left all alone, so he decided to switch his train of thought and stay in place, waiting for everyone to return.
“Arthur, I have something to tell you.”
“It’s about Tlue, the boy with us earlier…”
—Merlin spoke about dark art within Tlue.
“I see. So Tlue is…”
“You don’t seem to be surprised.”
“Perhaps because I already felt it somewhere in my heart… even more so since light and darkness conflict with each other. But I haven’t seen him committing anything evil until now, and he also gets along well with Fay, so I don’t think we need to worry about it that much. If something did happen, I’ll take care of him.”
“I see… so you already have your resolve… also, about that boy named Fay.”
“What’s wrong with Fay?”
“As for him… you seem to rely on him very much, don’t you?”
“It might be wrong to say this to a person I met for the first time, but I think it’s better for you to stop relying on him.”
“I saw the state of his art… it feels like it is mostly empty, with only a trivial amount remaining. It is harsh to rely on him for the upcoming battle.”
“What do you mean by the upcoming battle?”
“It’s against the Abyss, no, it’s more of the final clash against the true body of Oumagadogi. Darkness is trying to envelop the world once again. The ones who can resist it are us with light art.”
“Fay has been fighting with us all this time. So even for that upcoming battle-“
“…No, the boy named Fay wouldn’t be able to keep up with the future battles. Since he lackes art, his growth will stop soon. It’s a different kind of concern than Tlue who has an unusual state of art, though.”
Merlin noticed Fay’s abnormally miniscule amount of art. That’s why if they kept staying together, Merlin felt that Fay might eventually become shackles for her (Arthur).
“If you were to lose him, you might break down. I want to prevent that from happening.”
“…I’m sure Fay will be fine. Fay has proven that power isn’t all about art until now.”
“I see. But please remember my warning. He might have been able to keep up until now, but the same can’t be said for the future. When that happens, he will no longer be able to fight alongside you, so I think it would be better for you to think of him as someone to protect instead.”
Merlin left with that word and returned to the old inn. Then the sun went down and the night approached. The presence of darkness within the city appeared.
They set foot in a ring made of rubble.
There was an eerie white humanoid creature with four arms. Arthur’s group realized instantly that it was the monster known as Juggernaut. Then he pointed at them with a creepy voice.
“One, two, three… with one person who’s the same as me… no, there’s another one there. What is that? A life form similar to trash? How shabby, how shabby, what an ugly and fragile existence…”
Laughing, he pointed at Fay who stood next to Tlue. It was a demeaning insult, but he soon grew tired of it and looked at Tlue this time.
“But really, what an insane existence, wearing human skin yet inside is a monster just like us. Kukuku, did you forget about your mission? In that case, I will help you draw it out…”
Waves were emitted like what happened in the original timeline. Merlin tried to contain it only to fail, then Arthur also tried to block it with her light art, but she couldn’t make it in time.
Darkness overflowed from Tlue as the waves reached him. The area around him was blown away and the dark art stood like a pillar extending to heaven.
“Fufuhahahahaha, this is it, this is it. This is your true nature.”
Juggernaut laughed as he saw Tlue screaming. But then, he looked at Arthur and Merlin next.
“Even so, now that I look properly, your art is like a paper-mache. It’s disgustingly beautiful, but how many people were sacrificed to make people like you? I’m sure tons of people are dead. What pitiful victims. It’s not much different from us eating people.”
“Merlin, your expectation is off the mark. That girl might be something in the future, but she isn’t a worthy opponent to me right now. And I grew stronger by consuming the people in this city, growing far stronger than you.”
“Kuh, to think the darkness has grown this big…”
“You are truly a stupid girl. Your nonsense of wanting to save people and taking action is merely an excuse to escape from the burden of the sacrifices to make people like you.”
“You don’t even want to save others. All you want is to erase the burden of your sinful existence. You merely think as long as you achieve a result beyond the number of people that were sacrificed, you might be able to escape from the burden. What a poor creature. So much so I feel like laughing to the point my stomach hurts.”
Juggernaut’s words struck the deep seated anguish within her heart.
Merlin was formerly a normal girl. She wasn’t a special existence. However, her father was fascinated by the hero creating institution, “The Cage of the Hundred Children,” and she became far from normal.
Merlin was spared from being an experimental body. However, she benefited from the results of the research as the daughter of a researcher. Her father wished her to play the role of hero.
She received light art to be the hero. However, even she was too different from the primordial hero. That was why she was granted the role to be the “buffer” until the true hero that could protect the world appeared.
Merlin didn’t even want that. There was no way a normal girl who sought normality wanted such a thing. But she could hear things from her body, blood, and cells.
It was the wails of the people who ended up being sacrificed, the despair of those whose future was robbed, and their hatred toward Merlin who was alive at their expense.
Merlin chose to fight so she could escape from the nightmare that haunted her every day. It was to save many people and protect the world until the true hero appeared. That became her purpose of living.
But when she was told that all of her good deeds were merely an excuse to dispel the darkness within her heart, a gap appeared there. That didn’t happen to just Merlin, but Arthur as well.
Both Arthur and Merlin were similar in nature and thought. They were forced to produce results more than what was sacrificed to make them.
Juggernaut continued to laugh at the clowns who were forced to do good despite not wishing to. Neither Arthur nor Merlin could say anything in response.
Fatigue wrapped them… as it was about to happen, the atmosphere changed a little.
—There was a man driven by rage near the two, who were incapable of being angry at the moment.
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