‘The world is falling apart.’
Veronica thought as she watched her father die.
The Bahamut that had attacked the city was twice the size of a large man.
Although it had a human form, its throat had been ripped out. Its hunched back had bones jutting out at every joint, seemingly like a giant skinny skeleton.
The red pupils in its heart looked at her.
It was then that she knew. It would be her turn to be shoved into the tooth-lined hole next.
Her body froze, and chills ran down her spine from head to toe.
‘I have to run. Please move. Please…’
With each step the Bahamut took, a steaming liquid splattered heavily on the floor.
It approached, closer and closer.
But why was she just standing there like an idiot?
A hand shot out and grabbed her arm, pulling her out of the open door. Veronica recognized the familiar back of the person as she was half-dragged.
It was Benjamin, the blacksmith’s apprentice. He was famous for chasing Veronica around like a stalker.
But why would he come to her at a time like this? What about his family?
“I ran here as soon as the church bell rang. Let’s hide somewhere safe and leave the city together.”
Veronica’s mind went blank, and her body was pulled along like a limp doll. Veronica reflexively ran and managed to ask a meaningless question.
“Benjamin… what about your siblings…?”
“The Church will be sending the Holy Knights soon. Just hold on a little longer. Bayern is a large city, so it’s impossible for it to be destroyed like this.”
The news of the Holy Knights’ arrival doesn’t answer the question of his family’s whereabouts.
‘Benjamin doesn’t know either.’
Veronica vaguely guessed that he came straight here, abandoning his own family.
“Let’s hide here for a moment.”
Benjamin forcefully pulled her through the debris while she was out of breath, and she was dragged like a loose screw. Something pungent filled her throat, but she didn’t feel any pain.
Perhaps dozens of screws were loose in her head, not just one or two. Everything was destroyed. Her family was dead, and she had gone crazy. As she thought that way, her vision cleared a bit.
Veronica lowered her head at the cool touch of metal in her hand. She saw a beautiful camellia branch engraved on a dagger she had been eyeing every time she went to the forge.
“Why are you..?”
“It’s a late birthday present.”
Veronica asked, unbelieving.
“Yeah. I-I really like you. I know you hate me, but I saved your life, so give me a chance. Since we have no family now, let’s leave Bayern and get married.”
The words went in one ear and out of the other.
Marriage? What was he talking about?
What were they, to do that?
Her dazed mind shook, more in horror than romance.
The city was in ruins. Amidst the uncertainty of his family’s fate, was this trivial love the problem?
She didn’t know how to explain the eerie feeling. Normally, being loved is a good thing. But for some reason, she felt a sickening sensation in her stomach.
It was disgusting.
Veronica unconsciously took a step back.
“First, we’re going to go to Kart and get some help from my uncle who sells war horses. After settling down there… “
Veronica, white as a sheet, barely managed to cut off his rambling plans for the future. She then muttered clearly.
“Thank you so—so much for saving me. I’ll repay this debt even if it takes a lifetime. But I won’t follow you. So please just leave me alone… Even if I die here, it won’t be your responsibility anymore. Go to your family, I’m sure they’re worried about you.”
She didn’t know what her tone was like. She couldn’t even think straight.
She just spoke sincerely and then darted out from behind the wall she had been hiding behind.
As soon as she came out onto the open street, a black and red hell unfolded before her.
Suddenly, a building collapsed just a few steps in front of her, making a loud noise.
She looked around frantically and stumbled in disbelief. Even though everything was in chaos, she had a destination in mind.
Albeit her disorderly thinking, her malfunctioning brain decided that she needed to get to the Church on the outskirts of the city.
To a place protected by God, a sacred place that the Bahamut would not dare approach.
The city was a sea of flames everywhere she looked. Screams and cries echoed through the rubble. Desperate cries for separated family members no longer attracted anyone’s attention.
She stumbled around for a long time like a drunk person until someone firmly grabbed her shoulder from behind and turned her around.
‘Oh, it was Benjamin again.’
His eyes were glazed and he grinned bitterly.
“Veronica. Yes, I understand the shock you must have felt. O-of course. But I hope you can be a little more stable in the future. It’s not cute when you keep acting hard-to-get. I get hurt too. Otherwise, I might move on to a nice girl who listens.”
With a click, she could see one, two, no, (1) a dozen screws coming out of Benjamin’s temple.
Ah, maybe it wasn’t just her who had finally gone crazy.
Benjamin had gone crazy, too. Veronica gritted her teeth.
“Back off, Benjamin. You’re starting to give me the creeps.”
“Me, creepy? How could you say such a thing? I risked my life to save you, even while that monster was chewing on Uncle’s brain! I saved your life!”
He shook her violently, causing her shoulders to ache. She struggled to break free, but the man’s strength was too much for her small frame.
She screamed with a pale face.
“Ow! It hurts, Benjamin, let go of me!”
After wrestling for a while, she finally pushed him away with all her might.
“This bitch…!” Benjamin raised his hand as if to hit her, and she shut her eyes and braced herself for the pain.
Then suddenly, blood splattered on her face.
Her vision, which was black, turned almond-shaped as she opened her eyes, closed them, and then widened again.
A warm liquid, like tears, ran down her chin as Veronica opened her mouth in shock. Her eyes bulged and her legs shook, taking a few steps back from the gruesome sight.
In the next moment, Benjamin was lifted from behind with a hole in his mouth, unable to finish his sentence. There was no ensuing scream, just the sound of flesh piercing flesh, and that was Benjamin’s last words.
Veronica screamed as if she were being torn apart. Her body staggered backward, and she cried out in pain.
As she fell and hit the ground, a strong pain surged through her arm.
It hurt. It hurt too much. Maybe it was broken.
She immediately turned her body and began to crawl desperately, directionless. It didn’t matter where she went.
There was no safe place from the beginning.
Should she go to the Church? Would that even be safe? Could the house of God really stop Bahamut?
As she moved like crazy, her knees and palms were scraped, and her fingernails were broken. But she couldn’t feel the pain or the cold anymore.
She crawled on the ground like a bug through the snow.
She stopped when she saw the red writing, scrawled on a wall like graffiti. The words written in blood were in the language of the Church.
Without realizing it, Veronica read the words.
Deus dereliquit hominem.
“God has abandoned mankind…”
Her vision suddenly widened, and she saw the scattered pieces of what had once been living beings: fragments of flesh. Bell towers. Crosses. Crows perched on them.
The building in front of her was the Church she had been desperately searching for, but those who had come seeking God’s mercy had become sacrificial victims, torn to pieces.
Veronica burst into hysterical laughter.
The Pope’s claim that the sun would never set on humanity was wrong!
The era when arrogant humans sat at the top of the food chain and ruled the world has officially come to an end, since the meteor fell into the southern sea and the Bahamut crawled onto this land.
Although Bayern was not the capital, it was a well-known port city that anyone would recognize by name. It was a clear defeat. The red glow of civilization was fading.
At that moment, a groan came from one of the things she thought was a corpse, and Veronica jerked her head up and quickly crawled to her knees. The woman was covered in blood, her eyes wide.
“Ma’am, are you okay? Wake up…”
Veronica suddenly closed her mouth, her eyes wide open in shock. Not because of a profound black terror that had dampened the woman’s eyes, but simply because of what she felt behind her.
A shiver of a chilling sensation ran through her spine. Her body trembled.
There are things that people instinctively know without even seeing. Overwhelming fear that organisms feel by nature. Anxiety. Despair.
Turning her head slowly, Veronica looked into the darkness that consumed her from head to toe, and saw ‘it’.
‘It’ was right behind her, lowering its waist and bowing its head deeply to the ground.
Veronica bit her lips as she looked at the face right in front of her. She tried to stifle her whimpers, but her voice squeaked out.
How could a face like that exist?
Her blurry vision shook. This was the first time she had seen ‘it’ so close.
Demon. Devil. Monster.
It was the divine judgment that came down to suppress human arrogance.
As its red iris shrank, the black pupil swelled roundly. The pupil was only as big as her head. The face, without hair, had an ugly smile on it, and where the ears should have been, the gills wriggled, as if to let her know that it had come up from the sea.
It just stared at her silently.
By nature, the Bahamut had no head. But she had heard stories that it swallowed countless human heads and had one head like a human.
The stench of rotting corpses was intense at such a close distance that she could see every tiny muscle in the red iris.
‘No, don’t provoke it.’
Veronica thought of the mice and cats she had seen in the back alleys of the market. The cat had only watched with interest until the mouse moved. The hunt only begins when something moves.
So, if she just stays still…
She held her breath. Her heart pounded wildly, and her pulse raced like her heart was attached to her eardrums.
She gritted her teeth and stifled her voice, scratching the ground with her broken nails. She was on the verge of going crazy and losing her mind.
The red eyes began to beat like a heart. The edges of the chain-like pupils swelled and shrank, swaying. Veronica gazed at it in a daze.
The sound disappeared.
In an instant, only the red eyes and her heart remained in the world.
Red. Crimson. The world was soaked in blood. Babies that were born into a world that had been falling apart from the beginning cried with painful wails. A dark scent of blood and a bleak world filled their sight.
This world is falling apart. It was destined to perish.
Her heart slowed down and eventually stopped. Her life flashed in front of her eyes.
Tiny hands reaching out during infancy. Mom and Dad smiled widely. The first little snowman was made and a warm fireplace. Lively dinner and laughter. Mom reading fairy tales by her bedside. Mom embracing her. Mom.
And now, her mother was lying on the bed without reading fairy tales, smiling sadly. Poor Dad, exhausted, lowering his head. When she approached him by the dark bed, holding his hand, he smiled weakly.
Under a clear sky, there are neighbors in black clothes. “Where’s Mom?” Little Venny asks, and this time, Dad holds her hand tightly. She looked up at her kind father, but he had (2) no head.
And are born again.
As if someone had sprinkled red paint, her vision turned reddish.
The vision of her father sent spasms through her limbs, but Veronica didn’t scream.
She just smiled thinly. Because it’s Bahamut. I am now Bahamut.
“She’s already been assimilated.”
In a flash, the crimson memory collapsed and a cold man’s face broke through the fragments.
As noise rushed in, her heart began to beat again. The man who grabbed Veronica’s hair had black armor and red hair. He gazed at her with savage and bloodshot eyes.
She struggled to break free, but he held onto her hair roughly, causing unbearable pain as if her scalp would tear apart. As he looked at her with disdain, he asked in a cold voice.
“Do you want to live?”
“Ugh, cough. Ugh.”
“Do you want to live even if you have to roll in the fires of hell?”
“Let me go.”
“Answer me. If you wish to die, I will kill you painlessly.”
‘Do I want to die?’
Veronica’s lips trembled in silence.
I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die yet. I had just been reborn.
“Then ask me for help.” The man, who seemed to read her thoughts, sneered. The burning abyss was staring straight at her.
“I want to live… please, help me,” she pleaded.
The handsome face twisted cruelly in an instant. If there were different types of cruelty, this was the kind that would tear off a cicada’s wings while smiling.
He released the grip that was hurting her with a look of amusement.
“All right then, I’ll help you,” he said.
The man then sat down in front of her and plunged his sword into the ground. The silver blade glinted in the flickering firelight, reflecting her fragmented face. Black short hair, white face, red eyes.
Red eyes. Eyes the color of Bahamut.
The world was crumbling, but humanity was evolving.
[Collection of Footnotes]
1) “A dozen screws coming out of Benjamin’s temple”
– This meant that Benjamin had finally gone crazy, as the idiom “loose screw” means “to be eccentric, crazy, or mentally unstable.”
2) “No head”
– Her father had no head as he was already dead. He was killed by the Bahamut at the very beginning of the chapter.