Before the tutorial begins chapter 10 part 1

Chapter 10: Haruka Aono

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Dungeon City Sakura – 27th Dungeon [Eclipse], 1st Layer: Swordmaster Haruka Aono.

Haruka Aono’s life was filled with monotony and compromise, despite being born into a prestigious family and possessing remarkable talent, promising a bright future.

However, this led to both expectations and envy from those around her. She accepted it as an unavoidable reality and continued living her days.

She was blessed, desired, and had it all.

So, is that why? was that truly enough?

Since a young age, Haruka pushed herself to surpass everyone else’s efforts and consistently exceeded expectations. The burden of endless expectations from adults grew day by day.

While it would have been unbearable for an ordinary child, Haruka continued to deliver exceptional results.

Yet, it wasn’t solely because she was desired.

This pain became her responsibility. If she could do it, she felt obliged to do it.

In this manner, she defined and restricted her own privileged standards.

While the above portrayal may suggest that Haruka possessed a strong sense of responsibility, the reality was slightly different.

To her, the extraordinary effort and surpassing expectations were merely challenges that could be overcome with a mindset of “I’ll just do a little more.”

Even without grand resolutions or aspirations like “protecting my life” or “supporting my family,” she could still work hard and achieve impressive results.

While others viewed her talent with envy, for Haruka, it was simply a safety net to protect her own existence.

At the tender age of five, she gained recognition as a swordsman from the esteemed “Aono” clan. By the age of seven, she inherited one of the three divine spirits of the sword, [Futo Mikoto]. And before turning ten, she emerged victorious in battles against over a hundred schools, earning her the position of the next head of the Aono family. All of this she achieved as a young girl.

“It’s too easy,” she chuckled.

It wasn’t just that; it was undeniably the greatest emotion she experienced.

Everything came effortlessly, and to be frank, it lacked excitement.

However, Haruka understood that her seemingly insignificant troubles were perceived by others as luxurious, arrogant, and self-centered.

With this understanding, Haruka gradually started seeking fulfillment beyond herself.

The Dungeon.

The unknown world that lay beyond the portal gate.

Within it, powerful adversaries beyond human comprehension slumbered, alongside undiscovered treasures. Adventurers risked their lives day and night in the face of these challenges.

This is it, Haruka thought. This is my calling.

The catalyst for this realization was a television program about adventurers.

The show, titled “Young Genius Adventurer Challenging Unexplored Dungeons,” featured a girl around Haruka’s age.

Despite being a student, she fearlessly led a party of adults, bravely battling formidable enemies within the dungeons and achieving remarkable feats.

Invincible. Indomitable. When Haruka witnessed this girl on the screen, emotions that had long eluded her—excitement and anticipation—stirred within her chest.

“I want to become an adventurer!”

With this newfound determination, Haruka pleaded with her mother, the authoritative figure within the Aono family, and somehow managed to obtain permission to take the adventurer exam just last month.

Since then, Haruka had devoted herself to swordsmanship training more diligently than ever before, eagerly awaiting this day.

However, upon reaching her destination, Haruka couldn’t help but feel a slight disappointment.

The spirits that emerged from the dungeon were opponents that could be defeated without even unsheathing her sword or casting spells. Meanwhile, her rivals engaged in thrilling battles against “them.”

Their swings, their magic, their flashy struggles lacked true strength, technique, ingenuity, or originality.

In other words, as Haruka would put it, “It wasn’t exciting.”

And the climax of her disappointment came with the presence of the examiner.

The examiner—a skilled adventurer who supervised Haruka’s exams—was meant to pose formidable challenges and trials for her to overcome.

With sparkling eyes, Haruka eagerly embraced the trial, thinking she could compete against a master like the adventurers she admired on TV. However, within a minute, she came face-to-face with reality.

The examiner, known as Nikaido, effortlessly defeated by Haruka.

Of course, he held the position of an examiner, and the exam wasn’t an actual battle, so it couldn’t be considered a full-force encounter. One could argue that it fell within the scope of the exam and dismiss it with a nonchalant defense.

However, unfortunately, such reasoning was nothing more than a comforting fiction.

Haruka had intentionally held back her abilities, sealing many of her techniques, not out of obligation to avoid killing or adhere to exam norms, but rather to create a fair fight with the examiner.

She intended to gauge the examiner’s abilities, though it could also be seen as a self-imposed handicap for her own amusement. Nonetheless, it proved to be fatally skewed.

Due to her admiration for adventurers, Haruka had overestimated the limits of their prowess.

“I surrender. You are much stronger than me,” gasped the examiner Nikaido.

Upon hearing the examiner’s words of praise, Haruka’s initial reaction was, “Huh?”

No, it couldn’t be. It can’t be.

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Reacting like this to a level of challenge like that seemed absurd.

Had she misjudged her own strength? No, she should have easily brushed it off.

After all, he was an adventurer, right? He was an examiner, right? He stood on the same stage as the person she admired, an amazing individual.

Logically, she understood that.

Yet, this feeling that washed over her was painfully childlike, arrogant, and presumptuous.

Imposing her ideals on others and then experiencing disappointment—she was becoming a victim of her own expectations.

But this dream…

It was the newfound light in Haruka’s life.

Having been suffocated by boredom and compromise, she had finally found a passion that ignited her spirit.

So, she pleaded silently to the examiner.

Please, don’t shatter my dream.

Don’t make me believe it’s merely this.

Don’t take away my admiration.

Tears moistened the girl’s heart, gently cascading down her cheeks.

Even though there were no visible wounds, the innocent part of her felt an undeniable pain.

Ah, here it is again. It’s happening once more.

The moment she voices this pain, it hurts someone—someone she can’t see—who curses Haruka in vulgar terms, labeling her as arrogant, selfish, and incapable of understanding the struggles of those without talent.

She understands. She does. It’s unreasonable for her to yearn for more when she is already so blessed.

Patience. She should exercise patience. If she gives up, as usual, everything will fall into place.

But, but…

Is it such a terrible thing to desire excitement?

The girl desperately fights the urge to scream, pretending to remain composed and calm, attempting to make an effort.

“UuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAaaaaaa!!”

Suddenly, it bursts out.

“Huh?”

Her composure falters, and an involuntary sound escapes her lips.

Simply put, it is abnormal.

Abnormal. A glitch.

It is something that immediately violates the principles of the world —something unknown that crawls out of a black elliptical hole, a dimensional rift.

Emerging from the rift, it invades the blue world while emitting an ear-piercing roar.

It is a colossal corpse.

A massive, robust body, nothing but bare bones.

Clad in a black, stagnant cloak, devoid of eyes in its sockets, it emanates a bluish-white spiritual power—a truly otherworldly form.

The words “death god” flash through Haruka’s mind.

Death god. The messenger of hell, reaping human souls.

There couldn’t be a more fitting description for the monstrous creature standing before her.

“Excuse me, Examiner. Just to clarify, is this also part of the exam?”

“Oh, no, no, that’s impossible. Why would a sudden mutation appear here!? Such a report, nowhere, nowhere until now–“

Haruka cautiously asks, seizing the opportunity to confirm the situation with Examiner Nikaido. Yet, it seems the situation is worse than she anticipated.

Nikaido, supposed to be an examiner recognized by the country and an experienced adventurer, is now panicking to the point of dysfunction.

Suppressing a sigh that nearly escapes her throat, Haruka maintains her composure and calmly gives instructions to Examiner Nikaido in a composed voice.

“Examiner, could you please call for reinforcements? I will stay here and keep this thing occupied.”

“Leave you behind while I escape? Is that what you’re suggesting?” Nikaido replies, bewildered.

“No, that’s not it. I want you to call for reinforcements. Let’s divide the roles, divide the roles,” Haruka explains, her voice unwavering even in this abnormal situation.



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