No World, No People: No Problems.
Ash fills the air, the crackle of flames drowning out the screaming. The College of Mages, the last hope in his quest to recover the Staff of the Black God, burns. Yuuta's limbs tremble, his head lowering. He's supposed to be the hero. He's supposed to prevent things like this from happening.
Yuuta drops his sword, the damn sword that started all of this, and lets out a long sob. If only the Brotherhood hadn't chosen him, he'd be at home, in his village, with his family and not on a series of endless fetch quests for a bunch of uppity priests.
"Yuuta..?" A soft voice asks, a lithe palm resting upon his shoulder. "Are you...crying?" Yuuta looks up at Mari, wiping his snotty nose and forcing himself to his feet.
"It's all my fault," he sobs. "Everyone else is dead, Mari. Dead! I'm just so glad that you made it through. But I should've...I could've…" He hiccups, leaning into her side. Mari sighs and strokes his luscious hair. It is those gravity-defying, multicolor locks, cursed to blow forever in a nonexistent wind, that mark him as a Chosen (or an unpaid intern according to the Brotherhood, but I digress).
"Oh, Yuuta, you know I love you, but you're being silly. All of this is entirely beyond your control. You can't blame yourself for that which was entirely out of your hands," she reassures him, wiping away a streak of ash on his cheek and pecking his forehead. Yuuta's shoulders slump as he relaxes.
Mari's face twitches slightly as he rubs his snotty face all over the bosom of her brand new robe. Seriously? Not cool, man. She's not your personal Kleenex.
"You really think so?" Yuuta asks, forcing a feeble smile and steadying himself. Indeed, why should he be moping when there is revenge to be had upon the ones that started this whole mess. If the Eclipse Society hadn't stolen that damn staff, none of this would've happened.
Why was the Brotherhood keeping such a dangerous staff anyways? Surely it would've been smarter for them to destroy the staff or somehow negate its pyrokinetic abilities. Then, it wouldn't have been an issue. Yuuta pauses, thinking back to the High Priest. No, that guy would never harm anything with "historic value." Ugh, nerds, always causing all sorts of problems.
"Oh, I know so," Mari replies, taking several steps back and allowing Yuuta to regain his footing. "I am the one that killed the rest of our party and set the building on fire after all."
"Wait, what?" Yuuta asks before receiving a fireball directly to the face. Ouch.
Dazed, Yuuta downs one of the potions of instant health that he had left dangling on one of his many, many belts, just in case he ever needed it. He had known that purchasing every health potion that he could find and hoarding them for the final battle would pay off eventually.
"Yes, it was I!" Mari proclaims, the hood of her robe casting her face in shadow. Yuuta gasps. With her face disguised and that oddly familiar staff in hand, she does look exactly like the leader of the Eclipse Society! "And my plans have nearly come to fruition! With the College of Mages destroyed, all that is left is to set light to the Great Pyre and cleanse this filthy world from the anals of history!"
Slowly, Yuuta raises his hand, waiting to be called on.
"Yes?" Mari asks, rubbing her temples. Why does she feel a headache coming on…?
"Um, could you repeat that, please?" Yuuta says, scratching the back of his head and laughing awkwardly. Mari takes a deep breath, her eyebrows twitching as she clenches her fists.
"I'm going to kill everything with fire, you fool! You know, destroy the world and whatnot?" Mari explains as if she were talking to a toddler, enunciating each and every syllable.
"Oh." There is a pause, and the two simply stare at each other. "Um, but why?"
"Why? What do you mean why? Villainy is a respectable, well-paying nine to five job, and world-destroying is simply part of the job description. You can't be a proper villain without wanting to destroy the world!" Seeing that Yuuta clearly did not understand a word of what she just said, Mari asks, "If I don't destroy the world, what the hell am I supposed to do with it?"
"Uh, become our evil overlord? Empress Mari does have a nice ring to it..." Yuuta replies.
"That's overlady, mister, and no, that sounds like way more trouble than it's worth," Mari huffs. "Look, if there is no world, there are no people, and if there are no people, there are no problems. That means you don't have to do anymore fetch quests, and it means that I don't have to deal with the stigma of being a dropout from the damned College of Mages, alright?"
"...Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen you use higher magic before," Yuuta says.
Mari makes a choking noise but quickly covers it up with a cough.
"Look, can we get to the epic battle part already? My shift ends in," Mari pauses to check her wristwatch before continuing, "about ten minutes, and I'd like to take a relaxing bubble bath as everything burns down around us." She crosses her arms, tapping her foot impatiently.
"Uh, sure? I mean, all of my friends are dead, and it turns out my girlfriend is a nutjob, so I don't really have anything better to be doing right now," Yuuta replies. Then, he turns to face the absurdly large sheath lying on the ground behind him. Oh yeah. The sword. About that…
His voice wavering, Yuuta says, "There's just one problem. I can't, uh, really lift my sword."
"...For a long time, I never understood why people would bang their heads against brick walls, and then, I met you." Mari rubs her eyes, trying not to cry out of sheer frustration.
"Thanks, I think?" Yuuta asks, grinning sheepishly.
"You're hopeless." Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. Finally, Mari asks, "What do you mean you can't lift your sword? You've been carrying it around for weeks!"
"Well, yes, but I can't actually wield it," Yuuta replies. "Does it look like I have any arm muscle at all? The Brotherhood gave it to me solely for intimidation purposes."
"Do you even know how to fight?" Mari asks, exasperated, regretting her inability to be anything other than an antagonist. Villainy is the only thing a mage can do without a degree anymore.
"...Some," Yuuta says, shrugging. The Brotherhood had trained him. Kind of. A little bit. Okay, not all that much, but it was enough to get by. He's made it this far, after all.
"That's enough," Mari exclaims, launching another fireball at him. "I'm tired of playing these games with you. Face me with all you've got. No running away this time."
"Eek!" Yuuta shrieks, barely dodging the attack in time. He glares at his singed hair. How dare she! Doesn't she know how many hours it takes in the morning to make his hair float like that? Setting his anger aside, he rolls back toward his sheathed sword and tugs on the handle, praying.
There is a pause. For a moment, the two simply stare at the grip in his hand. Yuuta stares at the stubby blade, "Did I...Did I break it?"
"No, they gave you...a dagger?"
Mari had honestly thought that this couldn't get any worse, but yet again, Yuuta has taken it upon himself to prove her wrong. Confused, he peers into the sheath and finds it stuffed with rocks. Well, it wasn't actually intended to be used, but still, even this is a bit absurd for the Brotherhood.
"It's better than nothing," Yuuta says, drawing the itty bitty blade and falling into a fighting stance. Sweat pours from his brow. Uh, maybe this hero thing wasn't such a good idea...
"But you have not seen my final form!" Mari shouts, "I shall now transform into a mighty dragon!" She raises the staff into the air and starts to chant, a bright light filling the street. Yuuta stares dumbly into the light. So that's why they're called Eclipse.
The light fades, and lying in the middle of the street is a pile of clothing. Where did Mari go? Oh, wait, what's that lump? Yuuta approaches and tosses the discarded fabric aside. A...carp? Mari clears her throat and says, "...I shall now transform into a distant cousin of the mighty dragon?"
"But fish don't breathe air?" Yuuta says, confused.
Mari stares up at him, helpless, and in that very moment, as a result of recognizing the contradictory nature of her own existence, she dies of oxygen deprivation. Yuuta stares at the dead carp and then at his dagger and then back at the dead carp. His stomach growls. "I could go for sushi right now."
A nice meal and a long walk later, Yuuta reports his victory to the Brotherhood and is heralded as a hero throughout the land before being forced to go on another minor fetch quest.
Hey, at least he got some decent health potions as a reward.