High Smashers

Snow Dreams

Come to think of it, I’ve always been alone.
It was snowing outside the window.
The sky was ashen, and white snow was falling. Only the sound of the crackling of the firewood in the fireplace could be heard inside the room. The snow absorbed all other sounds.
Snow gazed out the window, hoping for a sound other than the crackling fire.
Snow was alone in the room, just as he'd always been.
Snow was a prince, and born quite late. His mother, the queen, had died while giving birth to him, and the old king had treasured Snow as he grew up.
The king’s position was a very busy one, however. There was always work to be done, and the king found it hard to spend time with Snow. In accordance with tradition, the servants didn't bother Snow unless he called for them.
Snow had never learned such emotions as loneliness, and even if he had felt it, he was fated to never reveal it. As a prince, he could not appear weak.
This was why Snow was simply staring out the window. The piles of snow absorbed all sound, and he sat expectantly.
He’d been waiting a long time when he suddenly began to hear what he'd been waiting for, albeit faintly. Snow's bored face began to slowly fill up with a smile.
“Hurrah for the kingdom!”
“Hurrah for Glacia!”
The streets heading towards the palace were filled with the cheering of a crowd and the music of a military band. It was a welcome parade for the royal army, which was returning from a victory over a neighboring kingdom.
Snow’s kingdom had been but a small country when Snow had been born.
It had been surrounded by multiple powerful countries. The kingdom had been peaceful, but there had always been the fear of invasion by one of its stronger neighbors. Such worries were in the past now, all but forgotten.
“Hurrah for Glacia!”
“Hurrah for Glacia!”
The shouting of the crowd continued until the line of soldiers reached the front of the palace, where the king and Snow were standing to congratulate the soldiers.
“Sister, you’re here!”
At hearing this from Snow, the general who’d been leading the soldiers on a white horse smiled in his direction. She lightly dismounted from her horse.
“Have you been well, Snow?”
With a smiling, mischievous face she ruffled Snow’s hair. Then she kneeled before the old king.
“My daughter, Glacia. Welcome back.”
Glacia. She was Snow's older sister and the eldest child of the royal family.
She was also the extraordinary hero who’d turned the small kingdom into the most powerful one around.
Glacia rose at the king's command. White snow fell onto her flowing, pitch-black hair, both transparent and obsidian black. It also fell onto her black dress and armor, which were the same color. Even though she’d returned from a long battle, her outfit was clean.
“Is your expedition over?”
Glacia smiled with confidence.
“Yes, Your Majesty. We have conquered the last standing enemy castle. There are no more enemies that can threaten our kingdom.”
The king looked on as the cheering continued, his face unreadable. Snow felt his heart beat faster at the noises. Snow admired Glacia.
Glacia, who was the eldest, had already been about to have her coming-of-age ceremony by the time Snow had been born. When she came of age, she’d begun to turn this tiny kingdom into a powerful nation that no one could dare to threaten.
She'd been born with powerful magical capabilities. With this magical power, she'd led the few soldiers the kingdom had to offer and begun a war with the surrounding kingdoms that threatened theirs. Under Glacia's leadership and with her powers, the royal army had begun toppling the armies of their neighboring kingdoms and absorbing them. Until finally today, the expedition to conquer the final kingdom had come to an end.
Snow admired her for this.
Even though the king was standing here, the soldiers and crowds were shouting Glacia’s name only. Everyone respected and admired her. Unlike him, people didn't serve her simply because she was a “prince” or a “princess.” She’d accomplished things on her own. She’d won battles, and was praised as a hero. Snow respected her for this, and wanted to become like her.
“Do you think I can?”
Glacia laughed softly to see Snow shyly glancing at her, his eyes shining.
“Well, Snow, I suppose it might be a bit of a stretch for someone like you. You’re like a princess.”
“That's mean, sister...”
Snow pouted and turned away. Glacia sometimes dressed Snow in girl’s clothes as a joke. Snow had a pretty face and they looked good on him, and he went along with it since he had no choice. But he found it embarrassing and unpleasant.
Snow looked miffed and stumped. Glacia laughed a little louder.
“I'm kidding, Snow. Of course you can be like me too. You’re my brother, are you not? I'm sure you’ll become an amazing hero when you grow up.”
Snow smiled as she ruffled his hair and spoke to him in her warm voice.
The welcome ceremony for the soldiers had ended, and Snow was getting to spend a brief moment with Glacia. There was an important ceremony tonight that had been delayed until Glacia’s return.
“I’m sure you’ll make a fine queen.”
“Thank you, Snow,” Glacia replied gently.
A succession ceremony was to be held today.
The old king would be officially announcing his heir, who would succeed the throne. The ceremony had been slated for Glacia’s return, and no one doubted that she was the one who would be queen regnant.
“I’ll work with you, Sister, to make our kingdom great as well.”
Snow meant it. Snow admired his sister, and thought that no one else would make as good a ruler as her.
Glacia was talented, and not only in magic.
People always followed her. It wasn’t only the generals and soldiers of her army that did so. The conquered neighboring countries hated Glacia for invading them at first, but in a few years they’d begun to accept that they were people of Glacia’s kingdom.
Snow, who was always alone, admired that of her and wanted to learn how she did it.
Feeling embarrassed to say that directly, Snow changed the subject.
“Sister, had nothing interesting happen during the expedition?”
Snow spent all his time inside the castle, and the stories of the outside world and other kingdoms Glacia brought back were always an enjoyable pastime. Glacia seemed to know this. She stopped dwelling on whatever she was thinking about and spoke in a brighter tone.
“Oh, come to think of it, we discovered an interesting object on this expedition. I’ll show it to you later, Snow.”
“An interesting object?” asked Snow, tilting his head.
“That’s right. It’s... a talking magic mirror. It’s sealed away in the basement of the castle. It can predict the future and reveal the truths its owner asks about, but apparently it’s dangerous...”
“Is that truly okay to use?” asked Snow fearfully.
Glacia seemed to have noticed his tone. She assumed a very serious tone.
“Well, you see, it's said that there’s a demon in that mirror. That's why it was sealed away underground. The angry demon is always trying to escape the mirror, and if you look into it when you’re alone... Boo!”
Snow, who'd been listening breathlessly, his heart beating with fear and curiosity, suddenly screamed. Glacia burst into laughter.
“Y-you scared me, sister...”
“Hahahaha! You’re still a child, aren't you, Snow? You're so easy to fool.”
Glacia continued to laugh at Snow’s grumbling, but Snow didn't hate it. When in front of others Glacia always acted dignified and aloof as was fitting for the first in line for the throne and the war hero she was; when she was with Snow, however, she dropped the facade, sometimes pulling pranks on him. Snow liked seeing her like this.
“The one who shall succeed my throne...”
A single sentence put an end to his happiness.
“Is my son, Snow.”
It was only a few hours later.
At the king’s announcement, everyone gathered at the ceremony held their breath for a moment. There was a heavy silence in the hall.
Murmurs began to fill the space around them. There was a huge crowd at the succession ceremony. There were many vassals who would be aiding the king, powerful families from the kingdom and nobles from the nations Glacia had conquered, many army generals, and more attending.
What was going on? Glacia wasn’t receiving the throne? Snow? That young prince would be the next king? What in the world had happened?
Surprised by the murmurs, Snow looked at the king in disbelief. The king didn’t look at all fazed, however. It was as though the king had decided long ago, and he had no intention of retracting his decision no matter what happened.
The murmurs continued. The king didn't seem to care about the noise of the crowd. Snow himself could clearly hear people talking among themselves. Why is it Snow? Why is it not Glacia? There were words of resentment, words of blame. Did this mean Snow was the dominant power now? Should they start currying his favor, even if it was a bit late? The voices were selfish and calculating. Snow had turned to see the people behind him, his attention drawn, and found people looking back at him with suspicion, expectation, jealousy, envy, yearning, resentment, and a host of other emotions in their gaze. Snow felt frightened.
Snow thought of the only person in the world who would be on his side at this moment. Right now, he felt more lonely and scared than anyone else. Neither the king nor the people watching behind him would help him. But if it was his sister, his only sibling—the person he respected and loved—she might take his side. With that thought he looked at Glacia, who was kneeling beside him, as he was.
Oh, sister.
Snow understood. Or rather, he recalled something that he already knew but would have preferred to forget. Glacia had wanted the throne all her life. All her life she’d been trying to prove that she was suitable, that she had what it takes.
Snow had never seen such a look in Glacia’s face before.
She was looking at him with hatred, like everything she owned had been stolen from her. There was betrayal, sadness, and rage in those eyes, threatened to fill with tears. Snow didn’t want Glacia to look at him like that.
It was late at night.
“Please revoke the decision, Father!”
He made the request after going to the king in his bedroom.
The king said nothing as he looked at Snow with a rigid expression. His eyes seemed to be reprimanding Snow for his rudeness in visiting him so late, but Snow refused to yield.
“I’m still young, and I'm nowhere as good as my sister. My sister has strengthened our kingdom and dedicated herself to it. She deserves to be queen.”
“I can't allow it.”
“Why not? Is it because she is not a son?”
The king shook his head.
“Glacia revels in battle, and always wants to be the victor. She is a great general, but she is not fit to be a queen.”
“Then why didn’t you ever stop her? You let her conquer the neighboring kingdoms and grow our power. Why did you then betray her expectations at the moment she was so looking forward to?”
“I had no intention of making her queen in the first place.”
“But why!” shouted Snow loudly, unable to hold back his anger any longer.
The king was silent. The king stared at him silently, his eyes revealing a mixture of anger and sadness. He soon gave a small sigh.
“That’s because this is fate.”
“Did you say... fate?” stuttered out Snow. Snow couldn’t understand what the king meant.
The king began to speak as if he was left with no choice. For some reason, the king looked a lot more older and tired suddenly.
“Snow, listen closely. Fate ordained that you must become king. You have the fate of becoming the most important person in this world, no matter how painful it may be, and regardless of whether it's something you want. Fate should not and cannot be altered.”
“What? What do you mean, Father?”
Snow, unable to understand, reiterated his question. But the king didn’t reply. The king pointed to the door.
“I will not change my decision. My successor will be you, Snow, and not Glacia. Leave now.”
“We're done.”
Snow wanted to make the king change his mind somehow, but the king’s response was cold. Snow understood that no matter how much he insisted, no matter what he tried, he wouldn’t be able to impact the decision.
Snow's days began to change after that.
Glacia was no longer there to joke around with him and show him her true self. Glacia began avoiding Snow. Snow visited her multiple times in order to clear up the misunderstanding, but Glacia refused to meet him. When they met in unavoidable public events or such things, she maintained a strictly formal mask, giving him looks of jealousy and hatred.
The people around Snow changed as well.
The retainers and nobles in the palace began treating him differently. Before, everyone had treated him kindly. He had been the son of their king, and a child. But now things were different. Some looked at him with hatred, some with suspicion. Some fawned at him, flattering him in ways that even he, a child, could detect as obvious.
After being selected to succeed the throne, there were always visitors in his room. Snow felt that being among so many people was only now teaching him what loneliness felt like.
Snow's daily life was also impacted.
When he walked about in the castle, things like water vases suddenly fell on his head. When he walked down stairs, he sometimes received the impression that someone had pushed him, and he nearly tripped. He was told he had to learn to ride a horse to become king. When he climbed the horse, the horse had suddenly begun jumping about wildly, nearly throwing him onto the ground. One time, he mysteriously fell sick and ran a fever after a meal.
Snow knew what all this meant, and who had done it.
One day, Snow went along on a hunt. After they distanced themselves from the castle, the hunter revealed that he'd been hired to kill Snow by Glacia. The hunter had taken pity on the young Snow and suggested that he leave the castle now, and that he would make it seem as though he had been killed.
Snow had already known that Glacia had tried to kill him. The words of the hunter were only a confirmation of that knowledge. And Snow knew the cause as well.
Snow knew from the rumors that Glacia had started talking with the magic mirror in her room. He’d heard that she'd begun to experiment with various spells and magical concoctions.
Glacia had spoken about a demon inside the mirror on the day of the succession ceremony. Snow recalled the stories he'd heard as a child. In them, despairing heroes were tempted and corrupted by evil demons and witches and their tempting suggestions. Snow thought that perhaps this was what had happened to Glacia. It was certain that the demon had tempted Glacia in her moment of weakness, after having lost the throne she’d wanted to her brother.
Snow didn’t know what to do, however. If he told the king, Glacia might be thrown out entirely. If that happened, there might really be a battle for the throne between his sister and himself. Besides, would the king even believe him? The story of Glacia and the magic mirror was no longer a secret in the castle. It was just an unconfirmed rumor as of yet, but the king had to have heard it already. So why was it that the king wasn't trying to confirm the rumor or investigate it?
Fate should not and cannot be altered.
Snow suddenly recalled what the king had told him. Snow had a feeling that he knew the answer. He had a premonition that even if he took this to the king, nothing would happen.
He wanted to be on good terms with his sister again. If he could get him through all this, he thought that perhaps he would be able to tell her the truth when he ascended the throne and let her take the throne in his place. At a certain point, however, Snow understood that this was an impossibility.
So he decided to leave. He had no interest in becoming king. If he left, the throne would go to Glacia, as she wanted. He could go off somewhere and live a quiet life.
The only worry was what he was to do if she was really under the control of the mirror. If it was true, Snow wanted to rescue her. If his sister had fallen for the mirror’s honeyed words, perhaps getting rid of the mirror and telling her the truth would allow him to restore their relationship. Glacia might stop doubting him and even forgive him if he told her he was glad to see her be queen.
Snow however, wasn't capable of carrying this out. He didn’t know how he could overpower Glacia, who wielded powerful magic; he didn't know how he could get rid of the magic mirror that was apparently possessed by a demon, either. Nor did he have anyone to help him. That was also one of the reasons he’d decided to leave.
He thought that there might be someone out there willing to help him. I’m going to find that person. This was the only way he could console his own anxiety and guilt over the fact that he was perhaps abandoning his sister who was under the control of the mirror.
His head full of worry, Snow began wandering through secluded areas. He was worried that if Glacia learned that he was still alive, she would punish the hunter who'd let him live or send someone else to kill him.
Snow finally arrived at a cabin near an abandoned mine. Seven dwarves lived in the cabin.
They didn’t seem at all surprised when they saw Snow come in without permission, almost as if they’d been waiting for him to arrive. It was Snow who was surprised, actually. The seven dwarves were a legend in the kingdom, characters that had featured in many of the tales he'd been told as a child. They aided heroes and taught them.
Snow began to think that maybe these dwarves would know of a way to rescue Glacia from the magic mirror’s grasp. Snow was about to tell the dwarves everything, and discovered to his shock that they already knew. The dwarves began speaking to him.
There, he learned what it was that the king had been talking about when he'd mentioned “fate.”
The seven dwarves told him about the secret of this world.
This world was in fact a world inside a fairy tale.
“And you are the protagonist of this story.”
The seven dwarves explained to him that the world Snow lived in was the backdrop for a certain story, and that Snow himself was the protagonist of this story. He was told that he was fated to be thrown out of the castle because of a member of his family, defeat the witch that this member had become, and return to the castle.
That was the purpose and “fate” of this world. The seven dwarves explained that they were the “wise men” who knew the truth and made sure that fate was fulfilled.
That was why the dwarves knew everything about him. The seven dwarves told him that his fate was to return to the castle and defeat his sister, Glacia.
At first, Snow found this very hard to believe. He couldn’t believe that this world was a tale, and that such a fate could be decided in advance. Snow denied their words and said that all he wanted was to lead a quiet life here. In fact, Snow pleaded with them. Snow tried to persuade the dwarves to help him find a way to live peacefully with his sister instead of having to defeat her with their help.
In the end, however, it was Snow who was persuaded.
Snow didn't want to believe in the fate that he must fight Glacia and defeat her. But he concluded that if Glacia was being controlled by the demon in the mirror and that no one knew about it, he was the only one who could rescue her.
He had embarked on this journey to find someone to help him. Snow was thankful inside that the excuse he'd been telling himself had now become reality. He felt that the guilt of running away to save his own skin while abandoning his sister to the mirror's clutches would disappear if he could grow stronger and rescue her one day. Snow even felt glad to hear that it was due to fate that he'd met with the seven dwarves.
Snow began to train. If a fight with his sister couldn’t be avoided, he had to grow stronger. Glacia had been a powerful mage from the moment of her birth, and no one could oppose her. The training required to fight against such a person was harsh.
“Rise,” the seven dwarves would say without emotion as they threw water on him to wake him after he passed out. Snow had become their student.
“If you faint over something like this, you cannot defeat the Witch Queen.”
The Witch Queen. That was what the dwarves called Glacia. The dwarves explained that this was the name Glacia would “one day be called.”
The seven dwarves taught Snow how to wield a sword. They also taught him how to fight the Witch Queen’s magic. With their knowledge, he was taught to make powerful weapons. There was no fellowship between them, however. Snow thought that the seven dwarves were teaching him only because it was fate.
Snow felt lonely, but he was used to it.
When he'd lived in the castle, he'd watched the children of the vassals playing outside. As the prince, he'd been unable to join them. When he visited a village to buy supplies while undergoing his training, he saw kids his age playing together. But there was his fate to consider, and he couldn't play with them. To Snow, friends were a concept he'd learned but not experienced.
Time passed, and Snow came to learn that his father, the king, had passed away. Glacia had succeeded the throne, and earned the title of “Witch Queen” thanks to her powerful magic. Snow realized that fate really did exist.
The Witch Queen ruled the kingdom peacefully at first. Just as they’d praised Glacia, the people praised the Witch Queen, their new ruler. Snow began to have hope.
But at some point, people's opinion of her shifted. Rumors told Snow that the Witch Queen decided everything based on the advice of her magic mirror, and that she listened to no one else. Snow recalled how the Witch Queen had told him about the mirror—one of the spoils of battle in another kingdom—on the day of the succession ceremony.
“It’s time,” the dwarves told him one day. Snow knew what those words meant. This world’s fate dictated that the Witch Queen would come in disguise and feed him a poisoned apple. Snow would fall into a sleep similar to death but would wake again, defeating the Witch Queen and taking the throne.
The seven dwarves paused when Snow called out to them. Snow usually never questioned his masters’ words or asked any questions of his own.
“Is this really the only way? Defeating my sister?”
“She is not your sister. She is the Witch Queen,” replied the seven dwarves coldly. Snow didn't accept the reply, however. He'd made his decision long ago, when he'd first begun to learn from the dwarves. He was calm, but resolute that he would not yield.
“My sister told me once that there is a demon residing in the magic mirror. Perhaps my sister is being controlled by that magic mirror. Maybe she can come back to her old self if I get rid of the mirror.”
“So that's what you were getting at? How trite.”
The seven dwarves scoffed at his words.
“Yes, that is true. A demon resides in the mirror, and the Witch Queen is being controlled by it.”
“If that is true—”
“But that is not of importance,” replied the dwarves, cutting him off frostily.
“That is part of the fate. It was all by fate that the Witch Queen acquired the mirror, that she fell for the demon's devices, that she became the tyrant she is now. It cannot be changed, and should not be changed.”
Snow swallowed his reply. His teachers sounded as if this were some universal truth. Snow had tried to resist when he’d told his father to give the throne to Glacia instead and when he’d learned of the truth about this world from the seven dwarves.
Snow began to understand just how all-pervasive this “fate” really was. Snow recalled the time his father had told him about fate. The king had suddenly looked very old and tired. So that was why. Snow felt that he could finally understand how his father had felt.
If this world was truly a fairy tale and all fates were predetermined, it was also fate that Snow had met his masters, the seven dwarves, after running away. And it was thanks to this fate that he'd become capable of fighting against the Witch Queen.
In the same way, Glacia's discovery of the magic mirror, her being enticed by the demon within, and the way she’d been deprived of her throne and hated Snow, ultimately becoming a tyrant—all these things were also fate. Fate that couldn't be changed, that shouldn’t be tampered with. Snow felt like he was facing a solid, impenetrable wall, and that these dwarves were like guards protecting it. He said no more.
And after a few days, an old woman came to Snow in the cabin to sell some apples.
Sister. The words nearly escaped his mouth. Even if he hadn't known that her appearance was a disguise, he could feel something of Glacia inside the old woman. Holding the poisoned apple in his hand, Snow began to think.
What if I come clean to her right now?
What if he told her that he knew who she was, that he had no interest in the throne, that the whole affair was a mistake? He wanted to believe that the Witch Queen would accept his hand if he held it out for a shake.
But Snow knew. If the Witch Queen or Glacia had really wanted nothing but the throne, there was no reason to come all the way here in person. Snow thought to himself that perhaps it really was fate that had led Glacia to this place.
Is this what fate was like? Thinking such thoughts, he took a bite of the apple.
Snow fell into a deep sleep.
Ah, I see.
Snow understood.
So this is what it’s like to see your life flash by before your eyes.
Snow opened his eyes.
He could see two faces in front of him. He wondered who they were for a moment, perhaps still lost in his old memories; having woken up, he found he could remember who they were.
Cindy sighed, her hand on her forehead. Peter was sniffling, tears in his eyes. They were people his age that he’d met after coming to this place, the Library World.
“Oh, you’re awake.”
When he got up, Cindy noticed his movement.
“Are you alright? Are you fully awake now?”
Still a bit dazed, Snow looked around.
There were flowers placed around where he’d lain. Snow got the feeling that the scene was familiar. Snow had come to a surrounding of flowers like this after falling asleep from the poisoned apple. The flowers had been prepared by the seven dwarves and the people of the kingdom, willing him to wake up.
Cindy shrugged as if to say that she found all this very preposterous as well, but that she had to explain the situation.
“I contacted a nearby hospital after seeing that you were breathing, but then both of you disappeared... When I found you, you were in this state.”
“I... I thought you were dead...” explained Peter.
His eyes still glistened with tears, and he was sniffling. Snow understood what Cindy meant by both of them disappearing.
“I brought you to a place with a lot of flowers so we could have a proper funeral...”
“Come on, he wasn't even dead. You were thinking of holding a funeral?”
Cindy looked baffled by Peter's actions and swatted him on the head. Peter was crying as if talking about it had pushed him to his limit. Peter began to cry even louder. Perhaps the blow had hurt.
Oh, right. The memories were coming back to Snow.
After coming to the Library World, he’d been swamped with work.
The Library World was where all stories met. When he'd finished his battle with the Witch Queen, Snow had found himself in this strange world. Waiting for him here were the seven dwarves, waiting like the first time he’d met them.
Snow asked them what was going on, and the dwarves explained.
Snow’s world had been inside a certain story, and there were many stories in the world. Each story had a “fate” in its own world, and when they were achieved, the stories gathered in a single world, a world where all stories gathered.
Which was this place, the Library World.
Snow had been intended to come to the Library World after completing his fate in his story by defeating the Witch Queen. But the Witch Queen, perhaps with the mirror’s help, had escaped the flow of fate. The seven dwarves, the “wise men” who managed the world, had brought Snow to the Library World in the chase after her.
“Call us 7D from now on.”
The Witch Queen's ambitions were growing. Snow learned that the Witch Queen had maneuvered in the darkness and gathered all the villains in the Library World to form a secret organization called “Umbra.” 7D explained to him that their purpose was to rule the Library World and extend their control to every single story in existence.
Snow decided to fight back, just as he'd done in his story.
With 7D, his masters, Snow established a company called “7D” in the Library World. With the technology he and his masters had, the company grew to vast proportions in only a short time, becoming the biggest in the world. Based on that technological prowess and capital, 7D battled against Umbra. As in the story, the goal was to fulfill their “fate.”
It wasn’t an easy job, however. There was much work to be done and Snow grew more and more tired by the day. Snow recalled that perhaps because of this, he'd lost consciousness.
It wasn't just the work that tired him, however. It was none other than Snow himself that had eaten into his energy and driven him to the point of fainting.
At the final battle with the Witch Queen, he’d been unable to get rid of the magic mirror.
“Give up now, sister!”
The Witch Queen had gotten up at Snow's shouted words, laughing in a low voice.
“Haha! You want me to... give up?”
Her bleak laughter had pierced his heart with a strange sharpness despite the shouting and clashing of spears and swords around them.
The battle between Snow and the Witch Queen was nearing its conclusion.
After eating the poisoned apple the Witch Queen had given him, Snow had fallen asleep. When Snow had finally been taken care of, the Witch Queen resumed her tyrannical rule, and the people’s anger against her grew. A few years passed, and Snow woke from his sleep.
When Snow had appeared with the legendary sword that had been sealed away and given to him by his masters, the people rejoiced. The true king the former king had named was back. They joined Snow on his way to the palace, and the final battle began in the royal castle.
Angry people rushed into the palace, and soldiers loyal to the Witch Queen to the end, tried their best to stop them. At that point, however, it was only a matter of time. Snow hid among them and soon stood face to face with the Witch Queen herself. And the battle of swords and magic soon neared its end.
The sky turned purple through the gaps in the wall created by the Witch Queen’s magic, signalling the brink of dawn.
“Give up? How dare you say such a thing to me!”
The Witch Queen glared at Snow and hurled a spell at him through the mirror. Thanks to his training, he was able to sidestep the beam and block it, albeit with some difficulty.
“You took everything from me! I’m just trying to get back what is rightfully mine! And you tell me to give up? You, of all people? Ugh!”
The Witch Queen had been shouting ferociously and flinging magic at him. She suddenly went down on one knee, looking pained. The Witch Queen’s body was already covered with wounds from the battle with Snow. Snow wanted to reach out a conciliatory hand to her, but he could not. Fate should not and could not be altered. That was what he’d learned.
Even so, Snow was conflicted. Would it be too late to tell her the truth? If he told her that she could keep the throne, would this battle come to an end?
Snow wanted to believe that the Witch Queen was merely under the control of the magic mirror. He wanted to believe that without the mirror, she would return to her original self, to Glacia. That would allow them to clear up their misunderstandings and restore their relationship.
But what if that wasn't the case?
What if his hope was nothing more than an excuse for him, since he couldn't stand being hated by his sister? What if all of these things truly followed fate on its inexorable path, as the seven dwarves had told him?
From a logical point of view, Glacia had more than enough reason to hate him.
Snow was aware of the way Glacia must be thinking. Snow had been thinking this since the succession ceremony years ago. Glacia probably thought that while she’d been fighting her battles afar, Snow had begged his father for the throne. Snow realized that she’d been naturally led to think that her beloved brother, the brother who'd always told her he wanted to help her once she ascended the throne, had actually plotted to take it for himself in her absence.
He could also understand why the Witch Queen had shouted that he'd taken everything from her. The Witch Queen had plenty of reason to hate him even without the magic mirror. Even if there had been no magic mirror, and regardless of whether there really was a demon inside the mirror, the Witch Queen had more than enough reason to hate her brother.
Snow had wanted to forget this. The fact scared and pained him, just as it had when he’d run away thinking that she was under the mirror's spell; ran away despite wanting to save her because he was powerless. The excuse had been that he’d go looking for someone to help. Perhaps he'd been running away ever since; running with the excuse that his sister was under the mirror’s spell.
“I'm never giving up! I'm the one who truly deserves to be the true protagonist!” The Witch Queen shouted this as if telling herself the words.
She soon rose and prepared to fight again. Snow, who'd been lost in thought, also adjusted his grip on his sword. Snow knew that this would be the end.
“Alright, sister. Let's end this."
In the end, Snow accepted it. They could never return to those days when they’d joked with each other, not caring about appearances. Snow held up his sword, and the Witch Queen reached towards the mirror to prepare for the final attack.
Snow was here right now, preparing for yet another fight with the Witch Queen, just like in the story. He still did not know if his sister was being controlled by the mirror, or if it was just that she wished to fulfill her goal of becoming the protagonist, this time for all the stories in the world.
He felt anxious. He had to stop the Witch Queen from taking control of the Library World, stop her from doing any further evil. The only person who could stop her was Snow, born with such a fate. There was no easy way to stop Umbra and the Witch Queen, however.
And more than anything, Snow felt lonely.
He’d always been alone.
Snow had been alone in the castle, as he had been when he’d trained under his masters. He'd been alone even when fighting with the people that had supported him. No one saw him as Snow. They'd seen him as the young prince, the successor to the throne, the boy with a fate to defeat the Witch Queen, the hero and the king. Inside these different shells was the true Snow, always a loner.
He was used to feeling this way. In fact, it felt normal. But just because he was used to it didn't mean that he was okay with it.
Snow had always envied the Witch Queen, Glacia. Glacia had the charm to draw people in towards her and had the power to keep them by her side. This hadn't changed after she’d come to the Library World. It didn't matter that the people around her were evil like her. When he'd first heard that the Witch Queen had collected villains and formed the organization “Umbra,” he’d marveled inside.
Snow supposed that he’d always be alone.
He hadn't expected any affection from his masters, 7D. He was gathering companions to fight against the Witch Queen and Umbra, but he didn't consider them people he could lay his heart bare to. They were companions with a common goal, but they were nothing more than that, driven by that goal.
“Stop crying already, Peter! Snow is okay!”
“I... I thought Snow had died...”
“He’s not dead, so stop saying that!”
Snow laughed to see Peter still crying and Cindy busy consoling him or rebuking him, or perhaps both.
“I’m okay. I was just tired, that's all. Thank you both for worrying about me.” He smiled at them both.
These were his first friends, friends that were not mere “companions,” people that had nothing to do with “goals” or “fate.”
For the first time, he did not feel alone when he was with these two.
Snow wanted them to take no part in such affairs. He wanted them to be the friends of a normal boy who lived in the Library World, rather than the companions of the Snow that would battle the Witch Queen or the Snow that led 7D against Umbra.
At the same time, they were the ones who motivated him to fight back against the Witch Queen and Umbra. He didn't want his sister's ambitions and Umbra's misdeeds to impact his friends Peter and Cindy. He wanted them to enjoy themselves during their stay in the Library World. He wanted to protect them until the point when all of this would come to an end and they could return to their own stories.
For the first time, Snow did not feel lonely. He suddenly didn't feel hesitant about fighting his sister.
Right now, Snow had something precious to protect.