[7] Two At Once
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The ball of snow flew towards her in a peculiar excitement, leaving flakes of ice drifting within the air as its body morphed from big to small to big, then back to a size acceptable for it to float above Claire's outstretched palm as she received it.

"Welcome back, Asta." She looked down at it and smiled.

". . .your smile is still scary, miss. . ." Asta whispered.

Claire couldn't help but roll her eyes.

"Do you want me to 'play' with you again?" She asked. "Or are we going to enjoy the reunion instead?"

"P-please don't! Reunion! Reunion!"

Alicia looked puzzledly at the shaking ball of snow. "What is this?"

Claire pondered that question for a moment. She looked at the ball of snow and remunerated her first day in this world as she glanced at the cloudy sky. In the end, she could only come up with a single way to explain their relationship.

"My first. . .friend in this world." She shrugged.

The vampire raised a brow. "I wasn't the first?"

"Is that disappointing?"

Alicia blinked her eyes at the ball of snow.

"!!"

For some reason, Asta felt an odd intent behind the golden-haired girl and quickly shrunk down until his size was almost indiscernible with the rest of the snow that fluttered down in the realm. Claire couldn't help but chuckle at that.

"Oh come down. Alice won't attack you."

Alicia hummed, "Mhmm. . ."

"R-really?"

Slowly, the flake of snow regained its size and floated above Claire's palm.

"Of course," The ice queen spoke, crimson eyes staring into it. "Now, would you like to come with me on my journeys, Asta?"

Trial four required they convinced him to follow along with them. Claire didn't know what the advantages or disadvantages that would bring but a trial was a trial. Additionally, having him along would likely be fun, she surmised.

Before he answered, Asta remained motionless for a few seconds. Then, the ball of snow spoke up.

"Father?"

The seated ice giant, Ymir, nodded its head.

"You may go, boy."

The elated shriek of Asta's happiness resounded.

"Finally! I'll follow! I'll follow!"

Ymir smiled as it stood, shifting snow off its body and standing taller than a house. It breathed and the air froze momentarily. Then, it looked down at the two girls.

"Until we meet again. Enjoy yourself, my heart."

As soon as his words fell, the world before them blurred.

And then, the three appeared seamlessly within a hall of ice, crystal-like in appearance. Claire and Alicia still remained seated upon chairs of ice and Asta now floated beside them, curiously wandering in circles.

"Whoa. . .is this inside the tower? It looks. . .bland! That's disappointing!"

". . ."

The chuckling of that familiar voice fell.

[Welcome back. You've successfully completed the round of trials.]

Claire raised her brow.

"Back? Completed? What about the fifth trial? I'm not complaining but if my memory serves right, which it does, I don't think we've yet to kill 10 ice giants?"

[How silly.] Igris chuckled in amusement.

As Asta floated around the slightly-annoyed Alicia in the background, the ghost-mentor continued.

[There is no 'Trial Five.' Or, should I say, trial five has already passed. It was the fake hidden between the other two. If you had ran away from Ymir, looking for 10 Ice Giants to kill, you would have wandered the realm until your death. Not doing that is trial five's passing criteria.]

". . ."

[Why are you silent? Isn't this a good thing for you?? Now there are only 4 trials left!]

Claire rolled her eyes.

If it had been a normal person or group, they would have certainly ran away from Ymir with their tails between their legs. And, thus, they would have died one way or the other. Either from freezing to death, starving, or dehydration. Either they would die by Ymir's fist or by the frozen realm.

"Mentor-that-has-taught-me-nothing. . .you're a bit sadistic, aren't you?"

Just as Claire said spoke, a voice reverberated through her mind, echoing with a sweet and familiar allure.

[Legend of the Hero of Heart, Second Chapter, 'I Won't Stand Down!']

[Legend of the Demonic Maiden, Second Chapter, 'I Won't Let You.']

The same scene played within the mind of every sentient being upon that world.

[Beasts and monsters and vile terrors. The town stood, shaking in its boots, surrounded as the shattered gate crumbled upon itself. Beasts and monsters and vile terrors rushed within, lusting after the fresh scent of blood, hunger in their growls as the humanity within ran.

A ray of gold fell from the sky.

The ground exploded as that figure crashed down, golden mana flowing about her. Short but sturdy, the Hero of Heart gripped her gloved fists as she faced the beasts.

Mana rolled and she punched.

The air rumbled and quaked, shattering like glass and monsters fell to blood pools with their screams.

She dived within the monstrosity of the coming horde.

Yet, the rush of beasts was endless.
.

.

.
She stood up even as blood and injuries covered her and her heart pained. She stood, facing the beasts even as her body screamed.

"I won't stand down!"

She stepped and the ground rumbled with her motion, mana ripping through the earth.

Standing upon a crumbling house, the demonic maiden smirked, raising her hand as her glowing tome floated before her. "And I won't let you."

The light fell upon the Hero of Heart and she stood, bloodied, but renewed to face the beastly tide once again.

Protecting the town at her back.

Over and over.

From the brink of death.

The Demonic Maiden brought the Hero of Heart anew.
.

.

.
In the end, whence their mana tittered on the brink, and their stamina waned, only the corpses and blood of the stampede of beasts remained.]

Two heroes had their chapters shown at the same time, affecting one another. It was a first for her to see and experience. It was the second 'story' she had saw since she entered this world, but this one included a friend.

Claire smiled.

'Aura's doing well for herself.'

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