In the middle of the white void that was Asley’s dream world, Asley sat down and grabbed God’s shoulders.
[Okay, first of all, what’s going on!?]
[Ishtar of the War Demon Nation seems to be acting earlier than anticipated.]
[Ishtar, as in the leader of the Black Faction? What in the world is she doing?]
God stayed silent for a moment, then explained,
[An almost impossible mission was given to all notable adventurer organizations nationwide. Most of them had no choice but to disband.]
[What the–!? How’s the Silver holding up!?]
[…Despite their good performance up to that point, Ishtar did corner them down, and they were forced to relocate to T’oued.]
[…Right, that would get them away from the Nation’s influence. With enough funding, adventurers are free to take that action — wait, what about Lina and Tifa!?]
[They are under Gaston’s supervision, and are suffering from Ishtar’s scheme as a result, but they are still going strong. Still, things may get dangerous for them later.]
Asley scowled and let go of God’s shoulders.
[Why did this happen? Don’t the present-day Devilkin just want people under their control so that they have a shot at killing Lucifer?]
[Gaston graduated from the Magic University before the faction contracts were introduced. That, on top of his skill and charisma, makes him a significant obstacle for Ishtar.]
[I see… And most adventurers are obstacles because they aren’t even bound by the contract. Even if they do mobilize against the Devil King, those she can’t control may hinder her plans when it counts… Wait, wouldn’t that mean…!]
[Yes, Ishtar is likely trying to rein in each individual adventurers… Into the Black and White Chain.]
Asley was at a loss for words.
[A majority of the adventurers are warriors. By nature, they have low resistance to the arcane arts, and thus will not be able to go against the clauses of the Black and White Chain contract. In Ishtar’s eyes, they are soldiers to be effortlessly controlled. As such, you have the option of working out a plan in this era, before returning to your original time. The things you do here will have an effect on what happens in your future, so to speak.]
Despite keeping his face down, Asley’s impatience was still obvious.
And as if to avoid eye contact, God turned the other way.
[I have done all I could. But now that the situation has escalated this far, humanity has no hope if not in themselves. Against the resurrecting Devil King, and against the Devils lurking in the War Demon Nation… You must help them…!]
God said as if forcing Himself to, and Asley raised his face up.
[What should I even do…?]
Asley’s face was now almost pressed against God’s.
He saw God’s face — a face that usually was kept hidden — and saw that God was biting His lower lip in frustration.
[It pains me to say, but I cannot see what is ahead, because it has yet to happen… I do intend to assist you in any way possible, to grant you strength… But in this era, the current, ongoing era, that cannot be done.]
[I have only one more thing to say: You still devote yourself to your studies, so I will not tell you to do things… But I do believe that your ‘records’ hold the potential to change the world.]
Asley muttered to himself, while God looked up, as if gazing at what would be the sky of the white void.
[It seems that my time has come. I will not be able to visit you again in this era. I know it sounds shameful to ask this outright, but… Please save the world, Asley.]
[Hey, wait! I still got things to ask–]
Asley woke up in his room, in an inn in Radeata.
In a corner of his eye was Pochi, spooked by his shout just now, jumping down from the bed and closing her eyes with her paws.
“I-I swear I wasn’t looking at your sleeping face, Master! Your cheeks aren’t delicious! And I totally didn’t take an extra 100 Gold from your wallet! Actually, I did! I’m so sorry, sir!”
Pochi said everything in a single breath, but got no reaction from Asley whatsoever.
Feeling suspicious, Pochi took her paws off her eyes and took a good look at her Master.
What she saw caused her eyes to open wide, and she felt a mix of panic and uneasiness, then fear.
“W-wait, Master!? Is something wrong!? Your face! It’s so… pale!? Do you need ride porridge, sir! Yes, rice porridge! Soak your face with it, and the paleness will go away! Well, I don’t know how to make it, though! Master! Make some rice porridge for my Master, please! Anyway, you’re sweating quite a lot! What should I do!? Lick them off, maybe!? Should I lick your swear off!? I think it’ll taste better AFTER your face is soaked with rice porridge, though! But we don’t have it! And I don’t know how to make it! W-w-w-what should we do, sir!? MASTERRRRRR!?”
At some point during her panicked rant, Pochi’s trembling sights got pulled close to Asley’s chest.
Asley cast his eyes down. Pochi, worried for her Master, tried tilting her head up a little, to get a look at Asley’s face.
Their eyes met — or rather, were forced to meet. But that may have actually been Asley’s momentary salvation.
Pochi felt an extremely tight hug.
“M-M-M-MASTER!? I-IS SOMETHING THE MATTER!?”
The arms of her Master were strong, and thick as stumps — to Pochi, that was a given. The very state of normal.
But at this moment, her Master was acting differently.
She was feeling the first time the worries that Asley had kept hidden from view.
Asley trembled as he felt the warmth of Pochi’s fur.
“…Did you have a bad dream or something?”
Pochi whispered into Asley’s ear, keeping her tone much milder than usual.
“W-what is it, sir?”
She asked again, this time very slightly more cheerfully.
“It’s you… It’s really you…!”
“That’s right, sir. It’s the name you gave me. You even said ‘a dog’s name gotta be Pochi’!”
“But you ignored that I was female, sir! Later, when I read that it’s usually a male name, I was really angry… Do you remember that?”
“Yeah… But you did refuse to change your name…”
“That’s right, sir, my name is Pochi. It’s the first thing you’ve given me. There’s no way I’d not take it.”
Cold sweat ran down Asley’s face, pressed against the warm, prickly fur of her Familiar.
“I’m getting itchy…”
“I’ve been busy, sir — haven’t groomed my fur in a long time!”
“Oh… so that’s why you were angry that one time.”
“Ah, keep that a secret from my Master, sir.”
With Pochi saying something so strange, Asley paused a moment.
“…I’m right here, though…”
“Yes, this is you, but not my Master. Don’t worry, though — my Master will be back soon enough. Just keep it a secret from him…”
Doubling down on whatever she was on about, Pochi whispered into Asley’s ear.
Asley took a deep breath…
“I don’t get it……”
“It’s all right, sir. There are so many versions of you in my head…”
Pochi said, her tone carefree. Still, Asley fell silent, seeming to have understood her point now.
A few moments passed.
Eventually, Asley stopped sweating, and his tear-stained cheeks dried.
He reached out his hand to gently pat Pochi on her head.
Noticing the subtle changes, Pochi proceeded to whisper gently,
“…Welcome back, you fool.”
“Shut up, furball.”
Those names had been repeated countless times throughout history…
“Hi back, I’m hungry!”
…And for how long those names will persist, no one could tell.