I took a sip of tea from the cup and gently put it down on the small plate, then let out a sigh of frustration. Currently, I was in a cafe that was nearby the academy to take a break. ...unfortunately, the hope of having some peace and quiet was nigh impossible. The group of four girls sitting near a table close to me was loudly gossiping away, too preoccupied to even notice they were bothering everyone else.
"Hey, hey, did you guys hear about the incidents in the other kingdoms that have been happening recently?" one of the girls said. "I heard that in one of the incidents, lots of people were going insane and killing others like rabid animals!"
Another member of their group stopped eating her velvet cake and put her spoon down, frowning. "Yeah, wasn't that incident in the Kingdom of Gaia? The infected people apparently mutated into monsters and had to be put down." She glanced down at her food, then bit her lip. "I wonder if it had anything to do with magic..."
"There's no way! We haven't heard any magic that can pull that off from our lessons in the academy!" the brunette haughtily exclaimed as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Body-strengthening magic exists but there's nothing that allows us mages or others to transform! Otherwise, it'd be a topic we'd be able to study!"
"Maybe it was one of the god's doing?" the blonde suggested as she offered the book she had at hand to them. "No one knows if the gods are really real but this book is dedicated to these gods. I'm not entirely sure how legit this is but it looks like they did their research as far as I can tell."
I once more let out a sigh when their conversations got more heated due to the mention of gods. As far as I knew, that topic was considered forbidden in the Academy because the relationship between mages and the religious groups is incredibly bad. The acolytes see the mages as trespassing the domain of their gods and vehemently hunt them down as heretics. Mages, on the other hand, perceive those groups as fools, clinging to lies just to justify their own decisions and lives rather than pursuing truth and knowledge. Of course, there are exceptions to both sides and it seems the blonde was one of them. ...and she seemed quite open about it, which is worrying.
Though, speaking of those incidents, no such thing happened yet here in the Astrum kingdom, huh? I looked out the window beside me, watching the people walk about like usual. Most haven't panicked because they probably trust the royal family to deal with it accordingly if it were to happen. After all, they always have protected the people with great ease before. ...but... Feeling anxious, I sipped some more tea to calm myself. Speculating what could happen won't help. If I were to help, I need solid evidence. Sadly, each incident didn't seem to have any common factor between them, as far as the public knew. I won't be able to gain any more info since any offer of assistance won't be accepted due to security reasons.
"How surprising, someone is in deep thought compared to the rest of the customers here."
Jumping in surprise, I quickly turned to look at where the voice came from and saw a young man with brown tousled hair and red eyes standing there, smiling at me while holding a plate of molten chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. His outfit was very casual, consisting of rough black jeans, a white v-shirt, a brown parka jacket, and a star pendant necklace. ...hm, a normal citizen, huh? He isn't wearing a mage's uniform so I assume he is. Unfortunately, I was unsure of how to respond, so all I could do was nod my head.
"Ah, sorry, sorry! Guess I caught you off-guard, huh?" he noted, chuckling to himself. "Anyways, if you don't mind, can I take a seat here? There's no empty table available and everyone else is too tense for me to comfortably sit with them. The staff stopped the girls' conversation while you were busy thinking away but the damage is already done sadly..."
Out of curiosity, I looked around and realized that it was indeed as he said. The group of girls were talking about boys now while the other customers were still nervously talking amongst each other. From what I can hear, most mentioned the royal family, as if they were trying to assure themselves that everything will be alright.
"...fine, go ahead," I mumbled out as I gestured toward the chair in front of me. "You better not be a womanizer or I'll regret letting you sit with me."
The brunet let out a snort as he put his plate onto the table, then sat down on the chair. "Don't worry, I'm not a womanizer. Besides, flirting in this kind of situation? I'm not stupid. I can read the mood, you know," he retorted with a roll of his eyes. "I know a few people that would do that to defuse the situation but it never really ended well for them."
I wonder if he would be the type to look away and say he doesn't know them? I pondered to myself while watching the male eat his food. ...I'm getting the feeling he would, all the while mentally complaining about why he was friends with them to begin with. Suddenly, I start feeling self-conscious staring at him so I immediately averted my attention to the cup of tea with a blush. Though, now that I look, there wasn't much left. As I drank the remaining tea, I soon felt the brunet's gaze on me.
"By the way, are Devourers usually alone in this kingdom? I keep seeing them isolated from everyone, and it seems you're no exception either."
I almost spat my tea in shock and coughed for a bit, trying to recover from the fact an ordinary-looking stranger knew about mage classifications. How does the hell he know that? Normal citizens are forbidden from knowing too much about magecraft! I quickly returned his gaze after recovering, suddenly apprehensive. Maybe he's a traveler from another kingdom? But normally those people have—!
As if he read my mind, he went into his pockets and then got out a star insignia. S-star?! That's for the ones who have the trust of the royal family! I opened my mouth to remark on that but the young man put a finger to his lips, telling me to remain quiet. I closed my mouth and bit my lip nervously as the brunet put it back into his pocket. I worriedly glanced out the window. Everything was still fine but I had a sinking feeling that it might not last long, especially if someone with that badge was roaming about here since they usually appear to solve any upcoming crisis. These peaceful moments of people walking about, going on about their own business without a care, will fall apart. Biting my lip harder to the point it started bleeding, I returned my attention to the traveler.
He gave me a sad smile in return and extended a hand to me. "You're the only one who seemed genuinely concerned and keen on helping so...care to lend a hand?"
I stared at his hand, feeling my heart race. A part of me knew it'll probably be dangerous and due to the nature of a Devourer, most mages avoided me so I have no experience working with them. After all, despite being known as a mage, Devourers are essentially outcasts due to them consuming magical energy and spells around them as nutrition to fortify their bodies. In short, I might just be a hindrance. However, the other part of me wants to help. The royal family was relied on so much by the public and I could help lower their burdens even if by a little bit. Just placing all my worries and troubles onto them didn't feel right, especially since I could fight reasonably well if solo.
Pushing away my doubts, I placed my hand on his. "If it's fine, then I'll lend a hand. Though..." I paused and peered into his red eyes. "I have no idea what your name is."
His eyes showed conflicted emotions as if he was both sad yet happy, but he quickly shifted to the usual cheerfulness from before. "Ah, my name. I completely forgot about that, to be honest!" the brunet admitted with a lighthearted laugh. "My name is Rex, Rex Nihil. What about yours?"
...what a strange reaction. Why would he be sad? However, I decided not to push it, figuring that I'll know in time. I take my hand away and give him a small smile.
"Stella Valor. Anyways, is my help needed now or—?" I stopped upon noticing Rex frown and look out the window in concern, his expression quickly turning into a panicked one. "Did something happen?"
The male quickly turned his attention to me and he looked incredibly guilt-ridden, making me suddenly apprehensive. "R-rex...?" Before I could say any more, I suddenly heard an explosion, and suddenly everyone else in the cafe started to panic.
He smiled sadly at me, then quickly got up from his chair. "Sorry, it seems I'm low on time. They acted way too fast than expected but the higher-ups did make backup plans for this kind of situation. However..." The brunet glanced out the window and whatever he saw, he clearly looked unsettled. "...I'm sorry, I really didn't want to do this but I have no choice. Your role at this moment isn't to fight here. Instead, you'll be investigating in my stead."
"...and what will I be investigating then?" I asked as I got up, trying my best to tune out the screaming and panicking. "Is there something specific I have to look for?"
Rex took out an eyepatch from his other pocket and handed it to me. "First, please wear this and cover your right eye. You'll need it to reach a certain place. Two, I need you to understand this world better so it's easier for you to reach the answer. It'll be much faster if I have you experience it firsthand rather than hear a boring lecture from me, right?"
I hesitantly nodded my head. ...why do I have the feeling I got dragged into something really big? I thought to myself as I did as I was instructed. But I can't just do nothing though... Trying my best to not sigh, I was about to ask him what I should do next but the instant he snapped his fingers, my eyes suddenly felt strange. All of a sudden, my vision got blurry and strangely enough, everything got increasingly distorted. This time, I heard his voice in my head as if he was using telepathy.
"...sorry but you'll be one of my Apostles. I know you'll be involved in this no matter what I do so at the very least, I'll choose the route with the highest chance of you surviving," he explained as I closed my eyes, suddenly feeling too sick to keep them open. "...ahaha, looks like it's too much for you, huh? It's always like that the first few times when traveling. ...anyways, you'll be going to Heaven first. Go understand this world a bit more while you try to get to the bottom of these strange incidents, okay? It's probably a weird thing to request but you'll eventually see why I emphasized that. Meanwhile, I'll...do what I do best while waiting for you, protecting people. Good luck...and godspeed."
Right after he finished talking, I fell unconscious.
With one eye open, she can see heaven. With the other eye open, she can see the underworld. With both eyes open, she can see reality.
As a girl that suddenly gains the power to see all three realms and travel about in them, Stella decide to investigate and figure out the truth regarding this world and the strange incidents happening. Through all the struggles and despair, will she be able to uncover the truth, save the world and perhaps find love? Or will she fail, dooming the world to end?