253 – Shield Corp Presents: Ilgarde – The Godless World
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I recommend having the song on loop through the entire chapter. Really adds to the atmosphere.

A pitch black screen. It was silent, but then a faint white light fell. A drop, disturbing a dark sea. And with it, music started.

[Play Melty - Kevin Penkin]

A mysterious repeating piano arpeggio, joined by a lone flute and scratchy background noises.

Amidst that music, a young man's voice spoke.

"I thought it was a dream."

The ripples in the darkness calmed down. As they did, a blur of colors panned down before resolving to show an army of knights marching across a trampled grassland. But they looked grim. Morale at an all time low.

As the camera panned again into the distance, the reason for that became clear.

A pure blue sky dyed a pitch black by shadows devouring the horizon. Formless beings flickering within that darkness along with crimson eyes.

"It was a world of fantasy and magic. An 'isekai' that we all dreamed of. But it was harsher than that."

The shadows bubbled before suddenly spreading out towards the knights.

The march came to an abrupt halt as the knights moved into battle formation. The leader off their helmet. And when they did, the camera zoomed in.

All of a sudden, the surroundings changed. The dark and bleak scene became sharper. More colorful.

And then the leader of the knights was revealed.

A beautiful woman with crimson hair and pure blue eyes. But one drawn as an Anime character. No, with her taking off her helmet, the other knights had changed as well. The scenery turning from reality to a stylized Anime. Like a movie.

The leader of the knights pursed her lips and then reached for the sword she kept at her left side. As she did, she looked back and shouted something to the other knights.

But then something happened.

A surge of darkness. The female knight's own shadow suddenly distorting and lunging at her.

She flinched and quickly drew her sword. But it was too late.

A blur of ivory fangs and crimson eyes.

A cut to the female knight closing her own and muttering a soft prayer as the fangs reached her neck.

And then the camera panned, changing the scene to a dimly lit altar.

"They wanted a hero. They needed someone to save them. But all they got... was me."

Blue flames erupted, revealing torches surrounding the altar. And kneeling at the foot was another beautiful woman. A princess in a pure white gown wearing a silver crown in her golden curled hair. She clasped her hands together in prayer and then looked up, tears in her violet eyes.

The screen cut, focusing on her lips as she spoke. But her voice didn't carry. Instead, her words appeared on screen in a shaking box.

[Great hero! Please, save our world! Please!]

"I was their answer. In response to their desperate wishes, I arrived. But I couldn't be their hero."

The camera panned back and then an explosion erupted behind the princess. The flames vanished, snuffed out from the force of the explosion. And then a pitch black shadow surged towards the princess.

She turned around, her eyes wide in terror. Desperate, she turned back and reached out to the camera.

A hand reached back. But it would be too slow.

"I couldn't save them. I didn't have any powers. I didn't have any cheats. I didn't have anything to my name that could help them."

Time slowed down. The princess reaching out to the screen.

The hand reaching back.

A monster, slowly forming from the shadows, revealing ivory white talons dyed with blood and a crimson pair of malevolent eyes.

"...Yes. I couldn't save them. But maybe..."

Time froze.

"You can."

The hand reaching out vanished in a flash of light. At the same time, the screen turned black.

And then two lines appeared across the screen.

[Link established.]
[Shield System activated.]

Cracks spread across the screen. Hazy static started appearing in blotches, dying the darkness with gray light.

And then the sound of shattering glass echoed.

Time resumed.

The darkness surged towards the princess. But before it reached her, it stopped.

The princess stumbled, collapsing on the altar. As she did, the person who reached out to her before helped her up, pulling her close. And then the camera panned to focus on the monster.

Lights formed. A group of hazy figures holding a shield in one hand and various weapons in the other.

The monster roared and then charged at the group.

The group charged back. And when they did, both vanished in a flash of light, dispelling the darkness.

The camera panned back to the princess, showing her hugging someone with teary eyes.

[Thank you! Thank you!]

The person hugged her back. And then the voice spoke up again.

"I'm not the hero of this story. I'm not even someone who can fight in this war. But there is one thing that I can do: Send a message."

A sudden jump cut, flashing back to the knights.

Time was frozen, the scene stopped just as monsters erupted from the shadows of each knight.

"This is a world fated to fall."

Another jump cut. This time, it showed a beautiful woman with light blue hair. She was doubled over, clutching a wooden staff. Her clothes, pure white robes, were stained red with blood and tattered. Behind her, there was a single stone gate with a village in the distance. In front of her, there were countless bodies. Ashes, dismembered limbs, bones...

And surrounding her was a horde of shadows. Monsters waiting to attack.

The woman bit her lips and then closed her eyes, accepting her fate. As she did, tears streamed down her cheeks.

And then the darkness surged.

But before it connected, there was another jump cut.

"This is a story destined to end in tragedy."

This time it was a handsome young man with light green hair. Like the woman with blue hair, he was in rough shape. The golden crown on his head was melted. His silver armor was cracked and ashen. And the sword he was using as a crutch was pitted with cracks and holes, as if melted by acid.

A throne room. Monster corpses were all around the young man. At his back, a pair of young girls with light green hair hid behind the throne, trembling as they watched the young man. And in front of him, an ominous figure advanced.

A suit of shadowy black armor, dripping black liquid all around. A completely bleached skull where a face should be, revealing a chilling grin paired with flickering emerald flames for eyes.

It stopped right before the young man and then raised a towering blade.

The young man grit his teeth and tried to stand. But before he could, the death knight swung its blade.

A pair of screams echoed.

And then the scene changed again.

"This is a reality where heroes aren't invincible. Where even the strongest can die in an instant."

Another throne room. But this one was within an obsidian castle.

There, a black-haired young man wearing a martial artist uniform advanced, clutching his left arm. With every step he took, shadows surged to strike him down. But he beat each away, knocking them down with a single blow.

And then he arrived at the throne.

Taking a deep breath, the young man straightened, carefully holding out his right arm. Shifting his left foot back and forming a fist with his right hand, he faced off against the figure on the throne.

Rumbling laughter echoed. And then the screen shook, revealing a towering figure within the darkness.

The young man's expression turned grim. As if he knew that victory was impossible. Even so, he grit his teeth and then kicked off the ground, leaping towards the figure.

But it was useless.

Before his feet left the ground, a bolt of crimson lightning raced towards him.

The young man's eyes widened and he tried to move. But it was impossible. He was too fatigued to dodge. And he knew it.

Even so, his face was determined.

Time slowed, showing the lightning reaching out to the young man. Showing the young man straining with all his might to dodge.

The camera zoomed in, showing his grim expression. But then it shifted, cutting that out moving it to the top left corner. After that, it showed the female knight's face, eyes wide in terror and resignation. That too shifted, moving to the top right.

Another change. The bottom left lighting up to reveal the young man with light green hair, his head lowered and bangs covering his face.

Yet another change. The bottom right corner rippling and showing the beautiful young woman with blue hair, eyes closed and tears streaming down her face.

"This is a world without hope."

A crack formed on the screen.

"This is a world without heroes."

Another crack formed.

"This is a world that can't be saved without you! So please, don't look away and answer my call! Please!"

The screen shattered, leaving behind gray static. But within that static, a sound echoed. A small vibration. And with that sound, something became visible within the static.

A light blue shield, accompanied by two words. Shield Corporation.

"Help my powerless self save this beautiful world!"

The camera panned out, revealing that the static was the screen of a smart phone. One cracked and splintered.

It suddenly shut off, turning black. But then an alert appeared on the phone. No, a call.

[Caller: UNKNOWN]

"Please, pick up!"

The voice again, but distorted through static. As if it was from a call with bad reception.

The phone vibrated. Once. Twice. Three times.

And then on the fourth, someone reached over to pick it up.

"Hello?"

The screen turned dark again. And then within the darkness, a green wireframe window popped up.

[Ilgarde, the Godless World]

Silence.

And then lights turned on, revealing a stage in front of the previously dark screen. Standing there was a seemingly ordinary Japanese businessman in his late twenties or early thirties. He let out a friendly smile, revealing slight wrinkles around his eyes and then waved. "Hello everyone! I am Yato Akira, CEO of Shield Corporation. Thank you for watching the first broadcast of Ilgarde, the Godless World."

Applause erupted from the crowd.

Akira continued smiling, waiting for the applause to die down. When it did, he said, "Shield Corporation is a cutting edge animation company with a mission to immerse people all around the world into a fantasy that everyone can enjoy. Though we are just in the beginning of broadcasting Ilgarde, we hope that you will keep an eye on this project and lend us your aid. But for now... there's someone I have to introduce." He turned back to face the screen and said, "Kami-sama? Do you want to introduce yourself?"

A hushed silence fell over the crowd.

The dark screen flickered. And then a scene came into view. Like the previous scenes, it was like one from an Anime. A picturesque setting that could have been a depiction of the Garden of Eden.

Silver trees with golden leaves and crimson apples. A clear blue river streaming in the background. Various other colorful plants scattered throughout.

But the most prominent feature there was a marble fountain in the center with a crystal ball suspended above it. And standing behind that crystal ball, also floating above the water, was a beautiful woman.

Dark blue hair with purple stars reminiscent of the night sky, a silver tiara paired with a glittering black shawl dusted with gold. Pure white skin and an elegant face... but one disturbed by worry.

Her hands hovered over the crystal ball and she peered into its depths.

Akira blinked and said, "Kami-sama? Can you hear me?"

The woman's worry suddenly vanished and she smiled. Her silver eyes lit up and she leaned forward, excited. "Yes! I can hear you, Yato-san! Did our message pass through? Am I speaking to the saviors?!"

Akira laughed and turned towards the stage. "We can hear you loud and clear, Kami-sama."

"Wonderful! Then... Um, so if it connected, I should look over here... Yes." She nodded and then walked around the fountain to face the front of the screen. After that, she bowed her head and said, "Saviors of Earth. It is my highest honor to be able to speak to you." She raised her head and then placed both her hands over her chest. "My name is Lazuli, the Goddess of Ilgarde. If circumstances would allow it, I would never wish to disturb you or make such a request... but my world is in grave peril."

Lazuli bowed her head. "I have tried countless attempts to save it, but none have succeeded. And so I turn to you." She looked up, determination in her eyes. "Yato-san has helped me connect to your world. While I am unsure of the details, he said that it would be possible for you to support my heroes... Um. Is that correct, Yato-san?"

Akira turned towards Lazuli and nodded. "That's right, Lazuli. Though... it might be hard to get their help for free..."

Lazuli quickly nodded. "Of course! I would never dare to ask for such a thing! B-But..." She bit her lips and said, "There is not much that a powerless goddess like myself who cannot even save her own world can do... Oh!" Her eyes lit up and said, "I-I heard that Earth is a world of entertainment and luxury? I... I cannot provide you any physical compensation, but I can at least provide that! Yato-san said that another from beyond your world has already begun a project to garner aid in exchange for some entertainment. I-If it is like that... I will do my best! So please!" She gave a deep bow and said, "Please...! Save my world! Save my heroes! They... they deserve a better fate than this!"

Tears dripped down from her face, falling like glittering crystals.

Akira looked troubled and then said, "That's enough, Lazuli."

"A-Ah." The goddess straightened and then brushed away her tears. "My apologies. I showed everyone an unsightly appearance..." She sighed and then shook her head. "...Even so, I hope that you will consider it. Until then..." She looked up at the screen with a faint smile. Half expectant, half resigned. "...I will be waiting."

The screen turned black again.

After that, Akira turned back to face the crowd. "Now that you've heard her plea... Let's go over the details about what exactly Ilgarde is..."

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