“That was the beginning of everything.”
With those words from the apostle, we returned to ourselves.
It was like seeing a video on a revolving lantern.
No, it was nothing that simple.
I experienced five senses, memories, and even emotions, so even calling it virtual reality wouldn’t cut it.
As the apostle said, it was reliving the experience of those lives.
“That’s… the beginning of everything…? I and Rei were…?”
Claire-sama muttered to herself, looking dumbfounded.
She probably didn’t fully understand it, but what she understood must’ve been way too shocking.
“I understand that it’s shocking, but everything I just showed is true.”
The apostle indifferently said.
After seeing that, I was half-convinced.
“Then, Apostle. Your identity is–”
“Indeed. I’m a terminal of the control unit of the Loop System, the artificial intelligence TAIM.”
“Could you confirm something for me too? Rei was Oohashi Rei in her previous life, and Claire is the Claire François that we saw, right? Since reincarnation is repeated with this technology called quantum or whatever.”
Manaria-sama asked the apostle.
“It’s a little different. You’re right about Claire François, but Rei Taylor right here is a different individual from Oohashi Rei who became the Demon Queen.”
I couldn’t understand what the apostle said.
Because, I have memories of Oohashi Rei–
“Rei Taylor. You have memories of being an OL, but none of being an administrator, right?”
If I was the person who had created the loop system, it would be strange that I didn’t have memories of that.
In the footage shown to us, as an administrator, Rei had erased her memories each time she lived in a civilization. But in that case, it was unnatural that I had memories from the corporate OL era.
What in the world does it mean?
“Rei Taylor. You are a piece whom I prepared. Another Oohashi Rei created from Oohashi Rei’s quantum data.”
I’m… not the real Oohashi Rei…?
“As you can see, the real Oohashi Rei abandoned her duty as the administrator as is trying to end the history of mankind as the Demon Queen. I had to stop it.”
“My raison d’être is the survival of mankind,” added the apostle – TAIM.
“However, I exist to be used by people. I can’t operate without an administrator. So I had to secretly prepare a new administrator to replace Oohashi Rei.”
“That’s you, Rei Taylor,” the apostle emphasized.
“I expected this to happen, so from a few loops ago, I’ve been trying to create an individual with strong powers to oppose the Demon Queen. The people who have the same face as you in this world are remnants of those failed works.”
So both Irie and the pope were those.
“However, I finally succeeded in producing a strong individual. That’s you, born in the last scientific civilization.”
“Then… the time I spent with Misaki and others…”
“You certainly experienced that.”
I see, then it’s fine.
Even if I’m not someone like the administrator, it’s fine as long as the days I spend with Misaki and others aren’t fake.
The previous life from my memories definitely existed.
“Your soul from scientific civilization was recovered, given as much power as my authority allowed, and reincarnated in this world. However, due to something known as soul capacity, you’ve lost memory of a certain amount of time before reincarnating. The process of memory restoration also took some time, which caused an unnatural interruption in your memory.”
So that’s why it felt like I was playing a game after work and then suddenly came to an academy classroom.
Come to think of it, Misha said that I’d suddenly changed, so Rei Taylor had also existed before I came to.
Not everything was fake.
“Hey, TAIM. Be a little more careful with your words.”
Claire-sama spoke sharply as if she spoke for my feelings.
“A piece, created, Oohashi Rei’s replacement, how can you say such things? What do you think a person is – a person’s dignity is?”
Claire-sama got angry.
For a moment, I was about to lose my identity because of TAIM’s story.
“I apologize for offending your feelings. Even after hundreds of millions of years, I still don’t seem to be able to understand the subtleties of human emotions.”
“So it seems. Understand? Rei who is here is not anyone’s substitute. She’s my one and only irreplaceable partner.”
My tear glands inadvertently loosened.
Ahh, I’m really glad to be her partner.
Even if I was no more than a piece to achieve the apostle’s objective, the fact that I and Claire-sama fell in love and got together remains unchanged.
As long as she needs me, I can live.
“Hum… Please let me put it in order. TAIM, if anything is different, point it out. First of all, mankind made a civilization called scientific, and it reached a dead end.”
TAIM affirmed what Dor-sama said.
Mankind was about to meet its demise due to environmental destruction it caused.
“Researchers called Oohashi Rei and Claire François performed research to ensure survival of humanity and created the loop system.”
“That’s the official reason, but it seems Rei’s true intention was eternal romance with Claire François.”
Really, what was I (strictly speaking, it wasn’t me though) thinking?
“Then, the system was activated and humanity alternated between scientific and magical civilizations, with Rei maintaining the system as its administrator.”
“While enjoying romance with Claire François.”
But, it didn’t last forever.
“After going through too many loops, Rei’s feelings for Claire eventually wore down, so she decided to end the loop before they disappear completely.”
“That’s right. It’s a very selfish decision. I suggested adjusting her memory to delete Claire François from it, but the Demon Queen didn’t listen at all, so I gave up on her.”
Selfish – I think so too.
I still couldn’t really understand Oohashi Rei’s – the Demon Queen’s feelings, even after experiencing it myself.
Right now, I was madly in love with Claire-sama.
I couldn’t even imagine my feelings for her fading.
However, the Demon Queen has spent an unbelievably long time alone.
For her, Claire-sama was one of the few – or perhaps even the only one hope in the infinite loop.
Just how much fear and anguish must she have felt when those feelings wore out and disappeared?
“Wait a moment.”
While I was lost in thought, I heard a voice that disrupted the flow of the conversation.
“What is it, Rodd Bauer?”
“Even if you tell me this was how everything all began, I’m still not going to believe you that easily.”
Rodd-sama shrugged as he continued.
“A previous life? A repeating world? And on top of that, all of this was because of Rei? Hey now, come on. Everything we’ve heard so far has only come from a single source. Do you have any evidence for everything?”
Come to think of it, he was right.
Since we were shown everything through virtual reality, we were convinced quite easily. However, when I thought about it, we couldn’t be sure of whether or not TAIM was really telling the truth.
After all, there used to be a well-known saying in regards to entrepreneurs. “He who controls information, controls the world”, was it?
“You were shown everything just now, and I am the very system standing before you. Isn’t that proof enough?”
“You can’t really call that proof. And besides, you look just like the person that was once controlled by Salas’ hypnosis. I’m not going to believe you that easily.”
It seemed that Rodd-sama was distrustful of TAIM.
Well, I also felt like there was something amiss.
“Besides, I don’t like how you’re shoving all of the blame onto Claire and Rei.”
“It’s the truth, after all.”
“Is that so? Doesn’t that seem awfully convenient for you?”
Rodd-sama spoke provokingly, but TAIM only responded with a smile.
Rodd-sama let out a sigh before continuing.
“The Demon Queen is the enemy. That much is the truth, so that’s enough talk about who’s responsible for everything. ―― So, are you supposed to be our ally?”
“…… I doubt you will believe me no matter what I say.”
TAIM said as she shrugged her shoulders.
“…… So? What do you want us to do?”
Sein-sama posed the question to TAIM.
TAIM smiled while still wearing Lily-sama’s face and said,
“Defeat the Demon Queen, and then take her administrator rights away from her.”
“Eh? Do you think we can accomplish that?”
Philine was the one who expressed her doubts.
“Well, you know, the Demon Queen is still the administrator at the moment, right? In other words, she’s basically the creator of this whole world, isn’t she? I can’t even begin to imagine how we’d be able to defeat her and take the administrative rights away from her……”
Philine spoke with a weak tone, but I thought she had a valid point.
In reality, the Demon Queen that we were fighting off against was ridiculously strong.
The mysterious magic that Rodd had prepared barely managed to get through to her, but other than that, nothing else worked.
And to begin with, how were we going to take away something as ambiguous as administrator privileges away from her?
“It’s true that the Demon Queen is incredibly powerful, but she has numerous weaknesses to her.”
“Ohh? I’d like to hear about them, then.”
William-sama, seeming deeply interested, urged her to continue.
“First of all, she can’t bring herself to do anything to Claire François directly. If she could do something like that, humanity would’ve been long gone by now.”
“Are you saying we should use Claire-sama as a human shield?!”
I inadvertently raised my voice.
No matter how you looked at it, the idea sounded completely outrageous.
“That’s a rough way to put it, but that is the idea. The Demon Queen could wipe out entire mountain ranges if she wanted to, but as long as Claire François is involved, she won’t be able to lift a finger.”
“Wait a moment, Rei. TAIM, so what you’re saying is, as long as I’m there, the Demon Queen will be handicapped?”
“I’m glad you catch on quickly, Claire François.”
Claire-sama continued as she paid no mind to my panicked state.
“That’ll be fine for our defenses, but what about our offensive side? The magical barrier that the Demon Queen uses has been completely immune to all of our attacks, you know?”
“Rodd Bauer will be able to take care of that front. Isn’t that right?”
TAIM directed our attention towards Rodd-sama.
“You really don’t hesitate to use me. Well, it just means I’m so reliable, huh? Fine, leave it to me.”
As usual, Rodd-sama casually took it in stride.
“Rodd-niisan, what exactly is that magic anyway?”
“It’s a large-scale technique that I developed. It uses quite a bit of magic, and the procedure to activate it is quite complicated, but its strength and quality is authentic, you know? You’ve seen how it managed to penetrate the Demon Queen’s barrier, right?”
Rodd-sama flashed a smile full of self-confidence in response to Yuu-sama’s question.
“I’d like it if you could tell me the details about it. I know it’s probably a military secret, but right now, we’re on the brink of mass extinction. I expect you to make a decision while thinking of the bigger picture here.”
Manaria-sama said to Rodd-sama.
“It can’t be helped, huh. I really wanted to save this for our rematch, though.”
“No matter how you look at it, that’s not something you should be using on an individual, right?”
Rodd-sama and Manaria-sama smiled at each other.
At that moment――
『―― Here’s a message for you all.』
There was a terrifying voice that echoed in my mind.
“I feel a strong magical energy! This is probably a telepathic message from the Demon Queen!”
While Philine was still bewildered, Hilda speculated what was going on.
The emotionless voice continued.
『I have a message for all of humanity. I am the Demon Queen – the one who will put an end to all of human history.』
From how she was speaking, this voice was probably being transmitted to all of humanity.
For some people, this was probably their first time experiencing telepathy, so hopefully, no cities were sent in a panic.
『I will destroy the world. However, I will grant you one temporary saving grace.』
“She’s just doing whatever she wants――!”
Claire-sama spoke, full of indignation.
However, the Demon Queen’s next words completely drained the color from Claire-sama’s face.
『Hand Claire François over to me. Otherwise, we will destroy every single country in the world each day, one by one.』
This marks the end of chapter 17 (“The Truth of the World“)!
The release date for the final chapter – chapter 18 – is slated to come out during mid-January. As always, the pre-release will come first, with the public release following it one week after… Please stay tuned for more information about this, which you will be able to find on Inori-sensei’s pixivFANBOX.
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As always, thank you all for reading I Favor the Villainess! We’ll be back with chapter 18 in about a month.