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The man liked to be deep in the mountains and forests. After all, he could hear and see the non-human beings loitering about when he was alone in such places. The bird fairy Sirene who loved to sing, the wolf spirit Loup, and the mischievous midget Lutin. Coming in contact with such beings allowed the man to feel a peaceful gratification. Wanting to get close to the beings referred to as gods was the secret desire harbored by that man.
Of course it didn’t mean that he refused to deal with people. Whenever he showed up in a human settlement on a whim, he examined and cured the ailments of the villagers, left behind bundles of medicinal plants, and similar. Because he never gave others his name, the people started to call him Sage. And because he had a fairly small build, some also called him the Tiny Sage.
Naturally he also encountered interaction he didn’t desire. Some people would attack him, believing that he was an eyesore. The hunters and lumberjacks who feared that he might lay waste to their forests and mountains, priests who arbitrarily decided him to be a shady witch doctor, and villagers who didn’t want a strange man to get close to their village.
At times the Sage dealt with all of them, and at other times he ran away, searching for places where he could get in contact with non-human beings.
One day, the Sage was sitting on the ground as usual, carefully listening to the sound of nature while surrounded by trees. The sunlight weaving its ways through the leaf canopy created specks of light on the man’s overcoat. Noon was just around the corner.
It was at that time when the Sage heard the footsteps of a human.
“You the man famous as the Sage around here?”
It was a tone completely missing any hint of reservation or politeness. The Sage twisted around, and looked at the origin of the voice with eyes full of reproach.
A man. Probably somewhere in the middle of his twenties. He wore crude leather armor, a sword and quiver were hanging at his waist, and he was shouldering a bow. In his hand, a somewhat large machete.
His hair was short, his eyes, ears, and nose were big, and his lips were thick. Or to summarize it with a few words, he had a sketchy face. But, a boldness to the extent of being brazen oozed out of the man’s eyes.
“I think you’re mistaking me for someone else.” The Sage answered, obviously unwilling to deal with the man any longer.
However, without minding the Sage’s attitude, the man simply asked what he wanted to know, “Say, do you know where to find the den of the evil heretics causing trouble in this area?”
For an instant the Sage hesitated. Leaving aside whether they were heretics or not, he knew the location of that group’s base. Also, they were hostile towards the Sage and had attacked him on many occasions. For them the Sage was a nuisance.
“As long as it’s limited to guiding you there, I’ll lead the way.” With those words, the Sage stood up.
It wasn’t limited to just guiding the man. The Sage was forced into fighting against the group worshiping pagan gods. Once this came to an end, the man dragged the Sage into town, and fully involved him in various incidents, battles, and intrigues.
When the Sage reflected on all of this later on, the meeting with that man had completely changed his life.
The man was endowed with an aura enticing anyone into supporting him. The gleam dwelling in his eyes, and the voice spilling out of his mouth possessed a might that would strongly shake anyone’s emotions.
Given that the man was a mercenary, battlefields were his main work place.
Understandably, the Sage never went out on the battlefield himself, but he racked his brain and came up with plans for the man. Sometimes the Sage was charmed by the man’s way of fighting, sometimes astonished by the man’s steadfast attitude of never losing heart, and at other times he sighed when the man embarrassed himself after becoming dead drunk. Encouraged by that man, the sage even took a liking to apple cider.
The man was outstanding, as a warrior and as a commander. He slew nearby enemies with his sword, and brought distant enemies down with his bow. Commanding hundreds and even thousands of soldiers, he repeatedly routed enemies outnumbering them by two-fold or more.
After going through another number of incidents and wars, the man founded a country, and when he planted his butt on the throne, the Sage stood at the man’s side as his oldest subordinate and the king’s most trusted confidant.
Shouldn’t I leave this place? It was around the time he started wondering about that when he had gradually begun to lose his humanity after fighting a demon called Koschei to the death and devouring that demon as result.
There was no change to his outward appearance. However, he definitely sensed a difference between his current self and his former self.
The Sage stepped in front of the man, now king, and announced that he’d leave. In response, the king inquired about his reason.
The Sage was surprised by that question. Up until now many people had left the man. Some saw a conflict of interests, others simply stopped following the man. Yet, the man had never asked for their reasons, as far as the Sage knew, always letting them go without a single word.
“I believe it’s unwise for a being that’s not human to remain at the king’s side.”
Once the Sage gave that reply, the man looked shocked.
“You’re a human though, right?”
After becoming stumped, the Sage added, “It’s bad for a witch doctor to stay at your side.”
Without giving the impression that he had actually considered the Sage’s response, the man simply answered, “I guess we’ll just call you priest then.”
In the end, it resulted in the Sage remaining at the king’s side.
“I’ll give you territory.”
One day the king summoned the Sage, and informed him of this. The Sage reacted by frowning.
“It has to do with my own circumstances, so feel free to pick any place you like. Apparently it’s bad for a king to have rumors about him not rewarding his most distinguished and trusted retainer going around.” The king supplemented.
The Sage sighed. Until now he had wielded his resourcefulness in various matters for the king’s sake. And because he could understand what the king was saying, he had no room to decline. After making the king wait for five breaths, the Sage brought up the name of a place.
“Give me Lutetia.”
This was the land where the man and the Sage had met. But, the Sage didn’t choose that place just out of sentimental reasons. He had another reason.
“I’ll rule over Artishem. So──” The Sage continued, “──run as far as your feet take you without minding them.”
Afterwards, as if making use of the good opportunity, the Sage proposed to the king to abandon the bow.
“It will be more than plenty as long as you have Durandal. The bow is bad news.”
Without answering right away, the king looked straight into the eyes of the Sage for a while, and then sharply asked, “Is that the reason why you instructed the statue of me to only hold the sword?”
The Sage nodded without a sliver of hesitation. This time it was the king’s turn to sigh.
“Very well. But, I don’t think it’s going to have much of an effect, even if I discard the bow.” And then the king threw a bottle towards the Sage, “It’s apple cider. Come to think of it, I’ve heard you can harvest fine apples in Lutetia.”
The Sage bowed, and left with the cider.
Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon woke up within darkness.
“A dream, huh…?” Ganelon muttered, faint surprise dyeing his voice.
After he had talked with Valentina Glinka Estes in Silesia, he had stopped requiring sleep. He suspected this to be a side effect from having devoured the demons.
Ganelon closed his eyes, as if trying to project a part of his dream on the back of his eyelids.
As the king he had served grew older, he died of age just like any human. Ganelon appreciated the fact that the king hadn’t asked him to take care of his children or anything like that, because he didn’t possess any emotional bond towards the king’s children whatsoever.
Ever since devouring Koschei, Ganelon had stopped aging himself. Old legends often referred to demons as 『Immortals』, and those demons seemed to possess abilities appropriate to that alias. Ganelon couldn’t even begin to imagine when his own body would rot away.
Should I go back into the mountains and forests?
He suddenly wondered. The decades he spent together with the man were the very definition of heresy for his own life. He pondered whether he should return to his solitary days of carefully listening to the voices of fairies and spirits.
“What am I thinking…?”
Breathing out miasma, Ganelon laughed at himself. He wasn’t sure whether he was still dreaming of a distant past.
I’m here to become a god. And I’ll achieve that goal by devouring the goddess.
What are you going to do once you’ve become a god? When Valentina had confronted him with this question in Silesia, Ganelon had replied that becoming a god was his objective in itself.
That was no lie. While listening and observing the non-human, Ganelon had desired to become even closer to the gods. However, there was one thing he wanted to try once he became a god himself. Something that would be impossible with a human body, but would become possible as a god.
The cold, dry air greatly shifted within the darkness. The flames of a torch bravely fought off a part of the encroaching blackness, revealing golden hair that let you tangibly sense its softness and the face of a beautiful girl beneath.
Her name was Regin Estelle Loire Bastien do Charles, the princess of Brune and its current ruler. Despite her tender age of 17, she had earned herself the respect and adoration of the kingdom’s lords and citizens through her many achievements.
Right now Regin was descending a long stairway with a torch in hand. However, she wasn’t alone. Three men and women were behind and in front of her in order to protect her from any potential danger. Closest to Regin was Earl Mashas Rodant, a short and stout earl with his body wrapped up in traveling clothes. The two behind and in front of her, Claude and Selena, were serving as her guards, explaining their tense vigilance.
The group was in Artishem, a city in Brune’s north. Regin’s party was heading for the underground palace called Saint-Groel located beneath that city. Saint-Groel was said to be the place where the Founding King Charles received his divine revelation, making it an important place for Brunian royalty. However, two years ago Saint-Groel had been buried by rubble when its ceiling collapsed.
Regin had planned to have all the rubble removed someday to get back inside, but as the reconstruction of Artishem took priority, that project had stalled.
However, ten days ago a report from Artishem’s governor, Isidore, was delivered to her.
“A stairway connected to Saint-Groel has been discovered.”
Probably written up in a hurry in light of the extremely surprising finding, the handwriting was so messy that it actually shocked Regin.
Around the end of autumn, Artishem was attacked by a group of dragons. The dragons destroyed the wall, invaded the city, and selfishly went berserk inside the city’s bounds, blowing away buildings and devastating streets. Back then Tigre’s party had been staying in Artishem while on their way to Zhcted. Thanks to their combined efforts, the dragons were all killed, which restored peace in the city.
Following was written next in Isidore’s barely readable report:
“After we removed the debris, we found out that many of the buildings, which had been destroyed by the dragons, were in a state requiring them to be built back up from scratch. The same applied to the temple located near the city’s center, but when we removed all the debris over there, we discovered a long stairway leading underground.”
Considering this to be strange, Isidore had called the priests, who had lived inside the temple, and asked them about the destination of the stairway. The priests answered by shaking their heads with their faces colored by surprise and confusion, explaining that they hadn’t known about any such stairway.
At first Isidore suspected that they were trying to hide something from him, and had the priests look for the temple’s blueprint. However, once he checked the blueprint after it was found, it only recorded a wall where the stairway was located. Isidore considered the possibility that the blueprint was wrong, but it was accurate in all other places.
He boldly recruited volunteers from among his subordinates. Then he paid them a big amount of money in advance, telling them that he’d guarantee the livelihood of their families as governor of Artishem in case something happened. Five soldiers in total had volunteered. They fully armed themselves, and descended the stairs with torches in hand.
Around one koku later, all of them managed to return safely. According to their report, the stairway was a straight path, leading to a cave that had probably opened up beneath all the debris by coincidence. And they also reported that they had seen a portion of a huge, metallic door.
After finishing reading Isidore’s report in the royal palace of Nice, Regin immediately summoned two of her trusted chief vassals to her office – Mashas and Prime Minister Badouin.
As soon as the two had read the report, Regin informed them with a serious expression, “I’ll leave the capital by today and head for Artishem.”
The two elderly statesmen stared at the young princess in mute amazement. At this point the sun had already begun to sink towards the west. Even if they were to rush the preparations for her journey starting this very moment, she likely wouldn’t be able to leave the capital before the evening.
“When it comes to your leaving the capital, you would require an escort of at least a hundred guards, Your Highness. Departing before the day is over is simply not possible…” Badouin shook his head.
In his mind, the elderly prime minister actually considered even a hundred guards to be too few. Regin was this country’s ruler, and a successor didn’t exist at this point in time. If something happened to her, no one would be able to replace her.
“I won’t need any soldiers. Selena and Claude will be more than enough.”
Hearing this, not only the cat-faced prime minister, but even Mashas looked as if they had to endure a headache.
“Could you possibly tell us the reason as to why you must hurry so much, Your Highness?” Mashas inquired while stroking his gray beard.
Regin picked up a bundle of more than 20 pieces of paper that had been placed on her desk, and passed it to the elderly earl. The many short text passages written on the papers didn’t seem to follow any particular theme. Peeking onto them from the side, Badouin’s eyes widened.
“All of these have been written by the late king, haven’t they?”
“Yes. These are father’s…His Majesty Faron’s notes.”
These notes had accidentally fallen into Regin’s hand several days ago. Faron’s room had been left in its previous state after his death. This stemmed from Regin’s wish to at least keep the room like that until the next king had been decided, and the only person entering the room besides her was the maid in charge of cleaning it.
That maid dropped one of the books in the bookshelf by accident while she was doing her cleaning. As a result of that, a bundle of papers that had been stuck between the books was scattered on the floor.
Regin told the maid, who had reported her mishap and profusely apologized while kowtowing, to not mind it, forgiving her with a smile, and picked up the papers herself. Back then Regin believed this bundle of papers to be a book without binding or something along those lines, and intended to simply sort it back onto the shelf.
However, catching sight of a handwriting she clearly remembered, she immediately grasped that this bundle of paper wasn’t what she had expected it to be. It was a memorandum of the thoughts Faron had come up with during his breaks of governing the kingdom.
On the night of the same day, Regin looked through those notes, her heart filled with tension, faint curiosity, and remorse for selfishly looking through her father’s belongings.
Although the notes numbered more than 20 in total, not one of them was densely packed with letters. Rather, Regin had her fair share of trouble to guess the predicates and subjects that had been omitted in order to decode the meaning behind the sentences which consisted of arrays of abstract words. And yet, feeling her father’s thoughts as ruler being handed down to her through those words, Regin broke out in a smile.
──I’d have loved to talk so casually with my father while he was still alive.
Faron had written those notes roughly one year before he fell ill. Some papers contained writings that were added almost every day, others had blanks of more than ten days. Thinking that some of it might be of use to her for her current reign, Regin read the notes several times, just to notice a certain truth ─ apparently Faron had been a lot more vigilant of Ganelon than Thenardier.
Following was written on the note of a certain day:
“Thenardier is terrifying, but Ganelon is like a bottomless abyss.”
Reading that sentence reminded Regin of a certain incident. In the past, when Faron and Regin were having a chat during their meal (although she had forgotten the general flow of the conversation), Faron revealed following about Ganelon to his daughter:
“That man has the habit of talking about the past as if he had seen it with his own eyes. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with an old man who’s more than a hundred years old.”
Hearing this story from Regin, Mashas and Badouin carefully reread the notes. As a result, both felt that a significant number of descriptions concerned Ganelon.
“Having discovered these now might have been a stroke of good luck…” Mashas muttered.
Mashas believed that Regin wouldn’t have felt this nervous and vigilant about the contents of this memorandum, even if she had found these right after the civil war had ended.
Nowadays Mashas and the others knew a lot more about Ganelon. This included him faking his death, and his abnormality.
Fixing her eyes on Mashas and Badouin, Regin said, “Artishem belonged to the Ganelon Dukedom since the rise of Brune, and it always used to be a major strategic point of the kingdom. Saint-Groel had been managed by the Ganelon family for many generations. I feel there’s something to be found in that place, and I want to clarify what it is as ruler of this country.”
Mashas and Badouin looked at each other without answering the princess. You could call it only natural for Regin to be obsessed over Ganelon. Not only was he an enemy who had tried to murder her, but he also had remarkably shortened King Faron’s life span through poison. As someone who had served King Faron for many years, Badouin could fully understand her sentiments.
“But, Your Highness,” Despite perceiving Regin’s inner turmoil, Badouin still objected, “lately eerie rumors about sightings of fairies and monsters that seemed to be dragons have been making their rounds. Those rumors aren’t limited to just the castle town either. Similar reports have arrived from various places all over the kingdom. If possible, I would like you to spend your time in the palace without going out until these rumors die down.”
The mysterious happenings occurring all over Zhcted naturally occurred in Brune as well. Mashas and Badouin also had both received reports about casualties. The elderly prime minister deliberately described them as rumors, but in reality he harbored the feeling that something ill was afoot.
“I fully understand what you’re saying, Prime Minister. But, now is the only time when I can leave the capital.”
What Regin was hinting at were the current movements of Brune’s neighboring countries. Although Sachstein and Muozinel had invaded Brune, both had to retreat after defeat. Moreover, Sachstein was fighting against Asvarre at the moment, and Muozinel was embroiled in a civil war over the throne succession after the previous king had passed away.
Regin had heard that King Viktor had also passed away, and that Prince Ruslan and Earl Pardu were currently handling the governmental affairs, hence she guessed that they wouldn’t have any time to meddle with a foreign country.
Badouin groaned. He was also quite aware of the circumstances Regin had mentioned. The princess further pressed on, “There’s no doubt that it’ll be a big help for my future reign if I can get approved at Saint-Groel.”
Regin had one weakness as ruler. Until two years ago, she had been raised as Prince Regnas. King Faron had explained it by using an oracle as an excuse, but unable to accept that, some folks, who were unhappy with the setting, had caused an uprising after being instigated by Melisande.
Saint-Groel was said to not open its door for anyone other than descendants of the royal family. Nothing else would work as a better proof for Regin’s legitimacy.
Badouin hesitated while carefully stroking his cat-like whiskers. Going by logic, he should stop her. But he knew from experience that good opportunities often arrived after going beyond logic. Before long, Badouin turned his eyes at Mashas.
“Could you accompany Her Highness?”
Mashas immediately understood from his words that Badouin intended to keep Regin’s trip as confidential as possible. Doing that would allow them to increase her safety somewhat. Mashas himself wasn’t the youngest anymore, but last year he had traveled through the wintry Zhcted to search for Tigre. It wasn’t as though Badouin couldn’t trust Selena and Claude, but he considered both as inexperienced because they were still young.
“Good grief, the cold winds of winter are going to take their toll on these old bones of mine, but if it’s for the sake of Her Highness, it cannot be helped.” Mashas said jokingly, thus accepting his old friend’s request.
And that was the reason why Regin, Mashas, Selena, and Claude were walking the stairway down into the underground right now. Beyond the stairway extended a long and narrow tunnel straight ahead. As this agreed with the report, Regin’s group silently proceeded.
“Although they received a big amount of money and knew their families safe, the soldiers did quite well to advance through such a terrifying tunnel, and come back afterwards.” Mashas caressed his beard with his sweaty hand.
His beard felt stiff and wet. Trudging onwards through this darkness that seemed to choke the life out of any living being, making it possible for anyone to break down at any moment, furiously gnawed away at his spirit. Even though he had heard an estimate of this straight path’s length in advance, his exhaustion was accumulating at an alarming rate.
As soon as the tunnel ended, they were faced with a steep slope, and after scaling it, they came out in a hemispherical cave. The stones and bedrock, which had likely formed Saint-Groel’s ceiling, lay strewn across the floor as debris, interestingly mingling with lumps of earth and stone pavings that used to be part of Artishem’s streets, and thus creating this cavity. In one part of the cave the party could see a gleam that could belong to a metallic wall or door.
Being accompanied by Selena who held a torch, Regin planted her feet in front of that door.
“Your Highness, is this truly a door as big as you can hear in the stories?” Selena inclined her head in doubt.
It was only reasonable for her to call it into question. Most of the door was buried by rubble, so it was hard to tell its full size. However, as someone who had seen it in the past, Regin nodded silently.
With her body stiff from tension, Regin touched the door. In the next instant, the door’s surface glowed up faintly. Selena and Claude reached for their swords, and Mashas rushed over in panic, but they couldn’t do anything. Regin attempted to get away from the door too, but she couldn’t move at all with her hand’s palm seemingly being sucked into the door.
『A descendant of Charles, huh?』
Someone’s voice reverberated within Regin’s mind. Surprised and bewildered, Regin restlessly glanced left and right, unable to calm down. Selena hugged Regin closely, firmly holding onto her free hand.
“Your Highness, I’m right here with you.”
Regin tightly squeezed Selena’s hand back. After taking several rough breaths, she regained her composure to some extent.
After thanking her close retainer with a voice almost close to whispering, Regin pulled herself together, and turned around to the door again.
I’ve come for this. I mustn’t get frightened by something of this level.
Regin answered inside her heart while closing her eyes and pushing her hand against the door instead. As soon as she did, the next words echoed throughout her mind in no time.
Didn’t this door exist for the very reason of proving it? Even if it tells me to prove it myself, I don’t know what to do.
She still couldn’t remove her palm from the door, so Regin frantically brooded on how to go on.
‘What does it mean to be Charles’s descendant?
Probably because Regin had sunken into silence, Selena tightly squeezed her hand once more. The princess looked at her, and smiled with the intent to thank her.
“It’s alright, Selena. Please give me a moment.”
Those words might have been spoken faster than usual because anxiety was rapidly on the rise in Regin’s mind.
I wonder what’s going to happen if I can’t meet the door’s demand? Am I going to lose my qualification as royal?
That was a frightening possibility for Regin.
I’ve clawed my way all the way to where I am right now. But, if I’m told that anything and everything was insufficient as Charles’s descendant, I might be unable to object.
She clenched her eyes shut so as to brave her fear.
The face of the youth she cherished surfaced in her mind.
I’ve been saved twice by him. Once when I got attacked by Muozinel soldiers in Agnes two years ago, and once when Melisande caused the uprising in spring of this year. No, if you add him widening my world during my childhood, it’d be thrice.
When he told me that he loved another woman, I did receive a heavy shock, but I managed to come to terms with it. I could confirm that my feelings for him haven’t changed.
──Please lend me your courage.
Tigre never avoided exposing himself to danger for the sake of those believing in him and for the sake of protecting those he loved. He challenged Duke Thenardier, and he challenged the Muozinel army. He didn’t falter away in front of the rebel forces, nor did he falter in front of Sachstein’s army.
Regin had been gazing at his back for a long time.
She opened her eyes, stared at the door, and tightly pursed her lips. There was no need to put it into words. She voiced her feelings in her mind so as to answer the voice that had spoken to her.
The me from back when I was Prince Regnas never did anything extraordinary. That me spent her days embracing a vague anxiety towards the future. The defeat at Dinant and the journey thereafter changed my mind little-by-little. When I was left all alone after Jeanne, who had protected me, fell, I thought that everything might be over many times.
I kept walking on my own feet while glancing at the villages and towns I passed. And then I was rescued by Tigre. Being able to consider this country of Brune as something precious that needs to be protected stems from that experience. It’s not just that I’ve inherited my father’s will, but I’ve reached a point that I feel I must do everything I can in order to protect the livelihood of my people.
I’m working hard at governmental affairs while being supported by Mashas, Badouin, Augre, Selena, and Claude. It’s definitely no lip service to say that my people’s happiness has become my source of encouragement. If they can lead a safe life, they’ll pay their taxes even while complaining about it, and they’ll also serve in the army. Once they become rich to a certain extent, they buy all kinds of things to improve their own lives. For this reason, a ruler must maintain the roads, repel foreign enemies, kill bandits, and rack their brain about flood control.
Regin brought up the things she had done after becoming the ruler in her father’s stead. She explained how she had made efforts and racked her brain for Brune’s sake.
──This is what it means to be Charles’s descendant for me.
Suddenly, the sensation of being sucked in vanished. The door withdrew towards the inside, accompanied by a grating that resembled iron grinding against iron. Once it opened fully, Mashas and Claude leaked voices of admiration.
Mysteriously, the debris forming the cave didn’t collapse. Mashas readied their torches once more, the group pulled itself together, and went through the door.
What they were met with was a huge space. It was so gigantic that you might have easily stored Artishem’s biggest temple and mansions in here with ease. Each and every pillar that supported the ceiling was thick and very long. The ceiling itself was so high up that it was wrapped up by darkness.
Regin’s group proceeded further inside, and swallowed their breaths when they saw what was illuminated by their torches. It was the statue of a giant with three faces. It had a size that didn’t lose to Saint-Groel’s door. Three female faces silently looked down at the little group.
“Tir Na Fal, right…?” Regin mumbled under her breath.
Since she had heard about her from Tigre and the Vanadis, she could immediately recall the goddess’s name. Mashas and Claude slowly walked throughout the space with their torches, surveying the area. Long text passages were carved on the walls to the left and right in the letter of an ancient era. Below those text carvings were carvings of Brunian letters of old.
“It looks like it’s a translation of the text above into Brunish.” Mashas said full of admiration after looking up to the writings for a while.
Regin could roughly grasp the meaning of the text by just looking at it. Even though she didn’t understand what was written there. Looking at her palm, she found a strange tattoo that emitted miniscule amounts of heat engraved onto her skin. Regin guessed that this tattoo allowed her to grasp the meaning of the text passages. The blond princess read what was written on the left and right side, but she had to interrupt her reading many times because of the shocking contents.
When she somehow managed to finish reading after spending more than a quarter koku on it, Regin croaked with a hoarse voice, “This here describes the method how to let Tir Na Fal descend on the surface…”
Shock was written on the faces of the other three. Naturally Tir Na Fal was regarded as an evil goddess in Brune, too.
“It seems Charles killed the priests of Tir Na Fal, who had turned Saint-Groel into their base, in the past. Afterwards, once he realized that this place was one of the altars to allow Tir Na Fal to descend, he ordered a priest whom he trusted to seal it securely.”
“That priest was the first Duke Ganelon, wasn’t he?” Mashas commented.
Regin nodded, “Not destroying it and instead just sealing it off was apparently done in preparation for a time when making Tir Na Fal descend was the only option left. Though I don’t quite understand the part about calling her Human Tir Na Fal…”
“This is something I’ve heard from Tigre’s group, but actually…”
Once Mashas explained that Tir Na Fal possessed three personalities, Regin apparently understood.
“So that’s how it was, huh…? Charles knew about it. It’s written on this altar to make the Human Tir Na Fal descend if the need should ever arise.”
The other thing that caused Regin surprise was the reference to the Black Bow.
“The Black Bow that shares feelings with Tir Na Fal… Back then Charles carried it, but it’s written here that Charles discarded it in the eastern mountains after having it identified as dangerous by Ganelon.”
After having said all this, Regin exchanged a look with Mashas.
When taking an overview of Brune, the eastern mountain referred to the Vosges Mountains that had become the border with Zhcted. Not a few hunters lived within those mountains.
Hmm, it makes sense. It’s unlikely that the bow would have been picked up by chance if he discarded it in the Vosges Mountains.
In the past Mashas had entered those mountains many times together with Tigre’s father Urs, but he considered the area to be too rugged, and riddled with places inaccessible to not only humans, but also animals.
However, what if some hunter had picked up the Black Bow over there? The first Earl Vorn, who served as source for Tigre’s name, had been a hunter.
“──Earl Rodant.” Regin looked back at Mashas after having finished reading everything. “How do I get to Zhcted from here?”
Many words to stop her crossed Mashas’s mind. Regin having traveled all the way here was because she was the only one who could open the door of Saint-Groel. But, someone else would be able to pass on what Regin had learned to Tigre in Zhcted. In this regard, Mashas might as well ride on his horse to Zhcted himself.
But, in the end Mashas didn’t voice out a single of those words to stop Regin, only apologizing to Badouin in his mind.
Maybe this endeavor is bound to fail if Regin doesn’t do it herself, Mashas wondered. As long as it’s not her who’s been acknowledged as the one having inherited Charles’s will.
When Tigre finally spotted something looking like Zagan in the far distance, the sun was already approaching the western horizon. A few days had already passed since he’d left the village of David and the others.
Standing atop a hill thinly dotted with patches of grass, he quietly observed his destination that lay three or four belsta ahead. This area had nothing you could call the remains of a town except for Zagan. So he doubted that he was wrong.
──That’s Zagan. Ganelon is over there…
Tigre tightly grasped the Black Bow affixed to his saddle. He pulled the bowstring several times, carefully listening to its trembling by straining his ears.
It’s alright. It’ll be able to shoot many arrows.
He shifted his eyes to his quiver. It contained 22 arrows. The condition of the arrow feathers would pose no problem either. He had checked them many times over while traveling all the way up to this place.
They might not be sufficient when taking on that man. No, isn’t it the opposite? Will I actually have the leeway to shoot my arrows until I run out? Won’t it spell my loss if I don’t take him down with my first shot?
Shaking his head, Tigre wiped away the idle thoughts gnawing at him. He knew that it’d be pointless to now think about this.
I’m going to give it my all to protect those dear to me. That’s all I can do.
While gazing at the town rising in the distance, Tigre spurred his horse on.
When he arrived, he could see that the town had apparently fallen into ruin a long time ago. The wall surrounding the town had crumbled away at many places, unable to perform its duty by now. The gate couldn’t be found anywhere, probably having been completely destroyed or looted.
Not being able to sense even the faintest presence of life like rats or insects crept out Tigre.
Getting off his horse, he stepped inside the town. What spread out in front of him was a townscape as decayed as the wall surrounding it. He didn’t have the slightest idea just how many centuries ago this place might have functioned as a town. The stone paving, which probably had covered the entire ground in the past, had come off, only allowing him to guess its existence through the traces left behind.
“──Ganelon!” Tigre shouted at the top of his lungs towards empty space. “I’ve come just as you desired! Show yourself!”
There was no verbal reply. Instead, black fog suddenly gushed out of the ground several dozen steps ahead of Tigre. Swaying despite the absence of wind, it adopted the shape of a human. The fog started to move as if to guide Tigre.
The youth grimaced lightly, but followed it silently. While walking, he let his eyes wander to the left and right. All he could see were rubble and ruins laying atop each other without any apparent order. He could only tell that those must have been buildings in the past. The debris was black or gray after having lost its colors, and the designs, which possibly adorned walls in the past, were now faded and partly gone.
Tigre felt that something was out of place, and immediately identified the cause for it. With the townscape having decayed to such an extent, weeds and other plants should have grown all over the place, and yet he couldn’t find anything resembling vegetation. As if all living beings, no matter what kind they might be, were being rejected by this place.
The black fog disappeared into a temple-like building located in the town’s center. The temple itself had lost its roof, and many cracks ran through its stone walls and pillars.
Tigre readjusted his hold of the Black Bow, and stepped into the temple ruin.
Its interior was darker than he’d expected. After heading down a straight corridor, he soon came out in an open space. A single man stood there, looking down at Tigre from a somewhat elevated location.
Even as he stopped and readied his bow, Tigre couldn’t help but to ask, “Are you Ganelon…?”
The Ganelon reflected in Tigre’s eyes could as well be described as grotesque being going well beyond abnormal. His small build and facial features certainly agreed with what Tigre remembered of the man. However, his skin was so pale that Tigre felt like he was looking at a corpse, and green specks were scattered across Ganelon’s cheeks and jaw. His thinly-opened eyes were as crimson as blood.
He wore a jet black robe looking as if the blackness had been cut out of darkness and woven into the fabric. The hands extending out of the sleeves were so thin that anyone would consider them to be bones-only. Tigre suspected that the something appearing like black fog that swirled around him had to be miasma.
“The last time we met was at Brune’s royal palace. It pleases me to see you healthy.” Ganelon spread his arms as if to welcome Tigre.
On the other hand, the youth nocked an arrow on his Black Bow.
“For what reason did you call me to a place like this?”
“Spare me with boring questions you can very likely answer yourself.” Ganelon calmly let his gaze wander across the temple’s interior. “In the past Tir Na Fal descended upon this temple. ──Let me just ask in case, but you know what kind of goddess Tir Na Fal is, don’t you?”
“I suppose you mean her being a goddess who combines three goddesses into one.”
Ganelon nodded in satisfaction at Tigre’s reply.
“Indeed. The goddesses were extremely devoted to their believers. The human Tir Na Fal to the humans, and the demonic Tir Na Fal to the demons. They were truly annoying.” Ganelon’s voice was filled with unrestrained anger.
Tigre narrowed his eyes inquisitively.
Going by the way he’s talking about them he seems to be awfully well-informed. Where did this man learn of what we only managed to find out after tediously investigating the documents in the royal palaces of Brune and Zhcted.
Pushing that question back into the deepest part of his mind, Tigre asked something that interested him much more, “Haven’t you joined up with the demons in an attempt to allow the Tir Na Fal, who cooperates with them, to descend upon the surface? For the sake of remodeling this world, that is.”
Ganelon’s eyes faintly opened beneath his hood, and a deep laughter escaped his lips, “You’re half-right, I guess. I cooperated with them to allow the demonic Tir Na Fal to descend. However, my goal has never been to remake the world. Though I wouldn’t particularly mind if monsters, fairies, and apparitions were to roam the lands either.”
“…What is your objective then?”
“To obtain the goddess’s power.” Ganelon raised his hands high into the air, like a priest who was offering a prayer to his god. “Don’t you think that it’d make anyone’s heart throb, even if it’s terrifying? Becoming capable of doing what no human would ever be able to pull off. For example, yes, being able to resurrect the dead.”
Tigre stopped moving upon Ganelon’s words. Ganelon smiled as he didn’t miss the faint trace of agitation revealing itself on the youth’s face.
“You lost your father and mother to illness, didn’t you? In addition you’ve been running from one battlefield to another, despite your young age. I’m sure you must have people you’d want to resurrect. So, what if that would become possible once Tir Na Fal descended?”
Tigre was unable to answer back right away. The faces of his parents crossed his mind as he recalled the time when both died. His mother lost her life to illness when Tigre was still little, and his father followed her four years ago, likewise to illness.
When his mother died, he didn’t understand what was going on. It was only after he grew up that he fully realized her death. It was similar when his father died. He couldn’t come to terms with that reality right away. He was only able to face that fact while being supported by Bertrand, Mashas, and Titta. Even while stumbling here and there, he managed to to move forward as Alsace’s lord. Bertrand lost his life when he saved Tigre in Saint-Groel.
It wasn’t just his parents and Bertrand either. The people of Alsace he couldn’t save from rampant diseases and disasters. The soldiers who lost their lives on the battlefields while following his orders.
Being able to revive all of them was a sweet temptation that excelled anything else.
But Tigre rejected Ganelon’s words while gritting his teeth.
“I shed tears for them, buried them, and prayed to the gods to let their souls rest in peace. I’m not the only one to have done that either. Everyone…everyone has done the same.”
He’d mourned Bertrand’s death together with Titta. He’d seen faint gloom cross the faces of Augre and Mashas when they were talking about his father. Tigre clearly remembered Elen’s profile when she talked about Sasha and Vissarion. The eyes of Lim, Mila, Sofy, Liza, and Olga were also blurred by complicated feelings of sadness and loneliness whenever they talked about dear people who had passed away. The faces of his people when their friends and family of the same village or town had died had burned themselves into a part of his mind. Rurick, Aram, and the soldiers of Leitmeritz would mourn for the souls of the dead while drinking together. Even though Valentina pretended to be calm as commander, she also wasn’t indifferent towards the casualties and wounded of her own army. Tigre was sure that the same had to apply to the enemy generals he had fought and defeated so far.
I’m sure all of them have seen a lot of death, and they must have also seen those mourning those deaths.
“There exists a plethora of people I’d love to resurrect. So many that I couldn’t even begin to count them. But, despite that, I can’t go along with your proposal.”
“Because of my obstinacy.” Tigre bluntly and curtly declared.
Would I be face my fief’s population after reviving them at the cost of making many people suffer by throwing the world into chaos thanks to letting the goddess descend? It’d give them the fear that they’d eventually die again.
Would I be able to look into the eyes of those who have come to terms with the deaths of their loved ones even while grieving and mourning? Would I be able to forsake my own self who accepted the deaths of many so far?
“I’m certain the dead must be yearning to come back to life if only they had the opportunity to do so.”
“Don’t belittle the feelings of those who died.”
Ganelon’s expression warped slightly upon Tigre’s rebuttal.
“I’m the lord of Alsace.”
Tigre’s words were unexpected for Ganelon. With fighting spirit dwelling in his black eyes, the youth directly stared at Ganelon as he continued his words. Even if Tigrevurmud Vorn might have been the commander of the allied forces or a patriotic hero devoted to his country, he was first and foremost the noble lord of his birthplace.
“It is my duty to protect the people living in Alsace. That doesn’t include reviving the dead.”
“…What a noble stance.” Ganelon muttered with a serious expression, erasing his smile.
The bizarre aura released from his small build gained in intensity, causing Tigre to swallow his breath. Even when facing the demons, he’d never felt such a mighty pressure.
“But, I want to obtain the power of Tir Na Fal. For that sake, I must allow Tir Na Fal to descend into your body.” Ganelon moved his right hand, pointing at the Black Bow, “That bow is the proof. The one mastering it can become the goddess’s vessel.”
The flow of miasma circling around Ganelon sped up drastically.
“I guess I should test your current strength before beginning the ceremony. Assuming you have a frail body that cannot endure the goddess’s advent, I must adjust the procedure a bit. Don’t disappoint me by saying something along the lines that I wouldn’t have all these troubles if I had killed you at Brune’s royal palace or Saint-Groel.”
“Saint-Groel?” Tigre furrowed his eyebrows.
He could understand Ganelon mentioning Brune’s royal palace. After all, it was the place where Tigre fought Ganelon for the first time. But, he couldn’t tell the meaning behind bringing up Saint-Groel here.
Ganelon answered without a care, “It was two years ago, I think. Back when you stepped into that place, the ceiling collapsed, didn’t it?”
Don’t tell me…, Tigre gasped. Thinking back on it now, Elen had some doubts about the whole incident, but is he saying that it was no accident?
“It was you…?”
Bertrand’s face surfaced in Tigre’s mind as Ganelon replied, “I had a hand in it. Back then, I didn’t care whether you died or not…”
Ganelon’s answer was interrupted at that point. Tigre had unleashed a remarkably powerful blow. Without even trying to block it, Ganelon dodged by swiftly tilting his body. Next he kicked off the ground, and closed the distance between them in a breath thanks to his terrifying jumping power, swooping down on Tigre from above.
However, Tigre had already nocked the next arrow into his Black Bow. Drawing the bowstring back to its limit, he poured a miniscule amount of 『Power』 into the arrowhead before releasing the arrow.
Ganelon swiped the arrow away with a wave of his arm, and swung down a hand strike, aiming for Tigre’s head, while nosediving.
Tigre avoided the dreadful attack by rolling across the ground, taking some distance from Ganelon. As he raised his body, Tigre had already drawn the next arrow, and placed it on the bowstring. But, maybe because he was hurrying too much, the arrow flew off almost right overhead.
Although Ganelon started to move in order to not miss the opening shown by Tigre, he stopped himself after half a step. At the same time, Tigre shot a second arrow at him. Ganelon grasped the arrow, which had been flying straight for his eye, with his bare hand, and crushed it.
Tigre glared at Ganelon while letting his rage freely burn within his eyes, but having seen the spectacle just now, he instructed himself to calm down. Just now he had found his reason why he’d never be able to forgive this man, but he was no opponent he would be able to beat by allowing his anger to dominate his actions.
Ganelon lifted both corners of his mouth into a cheerful smile.
“That was quite the interesting trick. Let’s see. I guess I’ll show you one of my tricks.”
As soon as he finished speaking, a tongue extended from Ganelon’s mouth. It rose up to around 20 chet, just to pulverize the arrow that came flying down, targeting the crown of his head.
Tigre stared at Ganelon with shock written all over his face, unable to speak up. Showing an opening by making Ganelon believe that he’d misfired the first arrow, he’d fired his second arrow. Just as the opponent would be preoccupied with the second shot, the first shot would be coming back down. But, Ganelon had completely seen through Tigre’s aim.
The shock suffered by the youth wasn’t limited to that either. The oddly extended tongue of Ganelon had reminded him of the frog demon Vodyanoy. As if having read Tigre’s mind, Ganelon revealed scorn on his face.
“I think you’ve realized by now, but I’ve devoured Vodyanoy.”
Come to think of it, Valentina had mentioned something like that.
Shudders and fear assailed Tigre all over his body. He realized once more that this man was far more atrocious than the demons he had fought so far. With a sheen of sweat covering his forehead, his breathing was about to become irregular. Gritting his teeth, Tigre glared at Ganelon.
“This is something you’ve seen before, isn’t it?”
A fireball with the size of a human head manifested in Ganelon’s right hand. It was a spell of Witch Baba Yaga. The cluster of crimson flames flew straight at Tigre whose eyes had widened.
Without a moment’s delay, Tigre poured 『Power』 into an arrow and released it. The fireball, which had been approaching right in front of the youth, scattered with a thunderous roar after getting hit by the arrow. Countless sparks danced through the air, and a blast and heat wave struck Tigre’s face. And then a small figure attacked him from within the violently blowing blast – Ganelon. He had used the fireball as a smoke screen.
However, in the next instant, Ganelon’s body was blown away into the air, accompanied by a powerful impact that caused the atmosphere to tremble. Tigre had shot an arrow at Ganelon, but instead of cladding the arrow in 『Power』, he had created an arrow out of 『Power』.
Ganelon’s small body fell to the ground with him facing upwards. Tigre panted heavily, not even having the leeway to wipe the sweat off his forehead. Creating an arrow out of nothing but 『Power』 consumed a lot more stamina than adding 『Power』 to an arrowhead.
──But I was able to hit him from the front.
While striving to put his breathing in order, Tigre reached for his quiver, and drew out a new arrow. His expression was as stiff as a rock.
While dusting off his robe, Ganelon had stood up as if he’d never been hit by the previous attack. His hood had come off, revealing his bald head.
“You have my admiration for the attack just now. Not only did you see through my aim, but even firing arrows with only a small amount of power up until now was all for the sake of not letting me notice this, wasn’t it?” Ganelon pointed with a finger at his chest.
A big hole was remaining there after him getting hit by Tigre’s arrow. Something eerie with a darkish red color was squirming within that hole. Tigre felt like throwing up, but he somehow managed to push the urge back with his fighting spirit.
“I guess being able to wound me means that you can also serve as a vessel for the goddess.”
Tigre felt relieved that a certain extent of composure still remained within him while being insulted so terribly. Not to mention his chances for victory being slim, even him not losing was on the verge of hopelessness, but he couldn’t afford to give up.
Ganelon revealed a faint smile, “Even if I fail at adjusting my power, resulting in your arm being torn off, it doesn’t matter. After all, I can simply stick a new arm on you.”
Tigre frowned at Ganelon’s comment.
“It might be faster for me to show you what I mean.”
As soon as the last word left his mouth, Ganelon’s left eye began to transform. The eyeball swelled up greatly, poking out of its socket as if being pushed out from within. Five protrusions came into existence on its surface, stretching out like feelers. Those were fingers. They had wrinkles at their joints, and were equipped with nails at their tips.
While Tigre was watching with a bated breath, Ganelon’s eyeball continued changing into the shape of a left arm. Confronted with the strange spectacle of an arm growing out of an eyeball, Tigre had become speechless.
As if playing the fool, Ganelon showed the palm of his new left arm with a “Baah!” An eye was visible in the center of that palm.
“This is just a little sideshow.” With those words, Ganelon grabbed the left arm which used to be his left eye, carelessly pulled it out, and tossed it on the ground.
The empty eye socket was immediately closed up by a new eyeball which had been pushed out from within the hole. While adjusting the positioning of the eyeball by tampering with the outer corner of his left eye, Ganelon continued to speak, “A part of my body has become demonic. It’s easy for me to create an arm or leg out of a thumb-sized piece of flesh. Those new limbs are a lot sturdier than those of humans. Having said that, your body is quite superb. There’d be nothing better than it being capable of housing the goddess without me having to fiddle around with it in any way. ──Hmm, I suppose I’ll check it out a bit more.”
Ganelon held up his right hand high into the air. Its wrist was torn up by something from within – a blade with the radiance of steel. A greatsword was in the process of appearing by pushing its way out from within Ganelon’s thin arm.
Ganelon mocked Tigre who was lost for words in light of this abnormal scenery.
“You really don’t need to get surprised by something of this level this late in the game, do you?”
However, when Tigre realized the true identity of the sword that had appeared from within Ganelon’s body, he was assailed by a new pang of surprise. That sword with its guard and hilt being adorned by golden ornaments was doubtlessly Brune’s treasured sword Durandal.
“Why do you have Durandal…!?”
Talking up to this point, Tigre swallowed the rest. It was unnecessary to even think about it. It simply meant Ganelon had stolen it.
“I needed it for a little something, so I borrowed it for a bit.” Ganelon grabbed the sword, which was as big as he was tall, with just his right hand, and raised it overhead.
Tigre immediately fired an arrow with 『Power』, but Ganelon easily crushed it with a single swing of Durandal. Shivers wrapped up Tigre. He fully knew the dreadful power possessed by the Sword of Invincibility. This sword had even endured an attack combining the Black Bow’s 『Power』 with the powers of Sofy and Elen’s draconic tools. He knew that he wouldn’t be even able to scratch the blade’s surface with a half-assed attack.
Kicking off the floor, Ganelon approached Tigre. The youth barely managed to evade the ridiculously fast flash coming at him from above. A red line ran across his forehead, and several strands of his hair fluttered through the air.
──This is bad.
A single streak of sweat ran down from his forehead, along his cheek. Ganelon’s range had tremendously widened by him holding Durandal. At this rate he’d really lose at least one arm or leg. Just imagining the idea of having demon flesh implanted caused a chill to travel down his spine.
──But, assuming I focus my mind and shoot a powerful arrow, I don’t know whether it’ll reach him.
Just penetrating Durandal’s tough defense required a substantial amount of 『Power』. Ganelon was ultimately trying to test Tigre. If he judged the youth to be unmanageable, he’d likely blow away Tigre’s arm without mercy.
“Being aware of his own, disadvantageous position, and yet not losing his fighting spirit, huh?” Ganelon mumbled.
Despite it being his impression after having watched Tigre, his voice carried a tone as if he was addressing some distant place. But, Ganelon immediately scowled at Tigre, revealing a fiendish smile.
“It’d be troublesome if you were to put up a resistance during the goddess’s advent. I guess I should cut off an arm just in case.”
Ganelon charged at Tigre, shouldering Durandal. Tigre shot an arrow, but Ganelon blocked it by using Durandal as a shield without speeding down. With a screech, the arrow snapped and fell to the ground.
Tigre perceived that he wouldn’t be able to ward off Ganelon’s blow any longer. Staring at the half-man-half-demon, he fetched a new arrow. He intended to deliver a blow against his foe from close distance, even if it’d cost him an arm.
“──Wing Flight Trinity.”
The dispassionate voice of a girl reached Tigre’s ears, followed by the sound of the wind being loudly torn apart. Ganelon stopped.
Raising a short yell, he repelled the huge something, which had been flying at him, with Durandal. A metallic clank, so loud that it hurt Tigre’s ears, reverberated, and the something that had assailed Ganelon flew off while drawing an irregular arc. And then settled down in the hand of a girl whom Tigre noticed standing within the darkness only now.
Tigre looked at her, and couldn’t help but yelp in surprise, “Olga…!”
The one standing there was Olga Tamm, her body wrapped up in the attire of the equestrian tribes. Her small hand held her draconic tool, Muma. She had rescued Tigre by throwing the ax at Ganelon. Olga walked over, and planted herself in front of Tigre, protecting him while glaring at Ganelon.
“Great, in time.”
That was all she said with her back facing Tigre.
Without showing much of a surprise over her appearance, Ganelon stared at the pink-haired Vanadis with a faint smile twisting his lips.
“It’s not just you either, is it? You people are spread out. I suppose you came here separately from him.”
Olga knitted her eyebrows. It was just as Ganelon had said. Olga had driven her horse towards Zagan together with Elen, Liza, and Lim, but just yesterday evening Sofy, Mila, Titta and the others had joined up with them.
But then again, it didn’t mean that they had planned this reunion in advance. Both parties simply had avoided all contact with each other up until now for the sake of not allowing their enemies to grasp their whereabouts. Given that their destination remained the same either way, it might be correct to describe it as both parties having unexpectedly run into each other when Zagan was close at hand.
Having arrived in Zagan, the girls decided to split up in teams in order to search for Tigre. And it was Olga who had found Tigre, and Ganelon with him, as the first.
“I wonder whether you’ll be able to protect Vorn by yourself until the other Vanadis discover this place.”
Fighting spirit lit up in Olga’s eyes upon Ganelon’s provocation.
“I have no words to exchange with an enemy I cannot respect.”
“You savage tribes really haven’t changed in the slightest over the last 300 years.”
Tigre frowned. He felt uneasy about the way of Ganelon that hinted at him actually having witnessed it all.
Without minding such small stuff, Olga bared her pure wrath at her tribe being ridiculed. The blade of Mad Roar grew, reaching a size that was almost no different from her height. Olga kicked off the ground. On the other hand, Ganelon didn’t move from his spot, only readying Durandal.
As the Sword of Invincibility and the dragonic tool clashed straight from the front, two different types of spark illuminated the darkness. Ganelon had parried Olga’s blow that would have likely pulverized any skilled knight along their armor.
“Very well. I have already seen Vorn’s power. I’ll humor you for a bit.” Ganelon forced Olga back with Durandal, and shifted to a fierce offensive.
While swinging around the greatsword like some light stick, he let its steel blue blade rain down on Olga from the right and left. Olga blocked those blows with Muma, but without being able to find a single opening to launch a counterattack, she got forced into an one-sided, defensive battle.
Tigre had nocked a new arrow on his Black Arrow, but since he couldn’t find a moment to fire it, he was doomed to keep watching Olga’s battle while unable to help her.
In the first place, Ganelon had a small build, which meant his height was close to that of Olga. And both wielded huge weapons that didn’t correspond to their heights in any way. Even though Tigre was highly skilled at archery, even he would find himself hard pressed to land a precise hit under these circumstances.
──However, Ganelon isn’t perfect either.
Tigre had noticed that Ganelon’s attack patterns were monotone and repetitive. He could easily tell that Ganelon very likely hadn’t studied any swordsmanship. Ganelon had overwhelmed Tigre by capitalizing on his superhuman strength and speed. Tigre was sure that Olga had noticed the same as him.
“Olga!” He called out to her while drawing his bow to the limit.
If it was her, she should be more than capable to guess what was coming from this much. And the young girl magnificently met the youth’s expectation. While twisting her body, Olga repelled the greatsword homing in on her from the side with her ax, using a motion similar to scooping it up from below. Ganelon’s sword was hit upwards for a moment.
Not missing that opening, Olga brandished Muma, aiming at Ganelon’s feet. No sooner than the wind howled, the ground was gouged out and broken apart.
Only a small cut-off piece of a robe was to be found among the countless scattering stone fragments. Ganelon himself was in the air as he had evaded Olga’s huge ax by jumping. He tried to slam down his sword on the top of Olga’s head just like that, but Tigre shot his arrow at that very moment.
Ganelon’s eyes shifted from Olga to Tigre. He opened his mouth, spitting out something similar to black phlegm. That mass hit the arrow, and melted it into oblivion.
Olga, on the other hand, was about to strike the airborne Ganelon with her draconic tool, but reconsidered just before putting it into practice, and quickly leaped backwards. Durandal left behind a jarring screech as it grazed Muma on its way downwards.
Tigre walked up to Olga who had carefully retreated.
“You okay, Olga?”
“Thanks, you saved me there.”
A red line was running across Olga’s left arm. Durandal’s tip had touched her shallowly. If Olga had been just half an instant later, she’d have doubtlessly lost her left arm then and there.
“Is he a demon?”
“And a human as well.” It was Ganelon who had answered Olga’s question. His tone was cheerful, but his eyes oozed with a tenacity that wouldn’t allow any objection. “Because I devoured several demons, my body has become a mixture of both, though. However, this place here is still pure human without any demonic elements.”
Ganelon lightly tapped his forehead with a finger. And then he continued his words as if to emphasize it once more, “I’m human. My name is Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon.”
Neither Tigre nor Olga replied to that because they couldn’t find any words for that abnormality. Even if Ganelon were human as he claimed to be, it still wouldn’t change the fact of him being a lunatic.
“Don’t make me laugh. Do you think there exist any humans who would devour demons?” A voice, beautifully cutting Ganelon’s statement down, could be heard from within the darkness.
While being well aware of the feelings of surprise and joy dancing in his heart, Tigre directed his eyes towards the origin of the voice.
A wind got up, blowing away the miasma. And from within Elen appeared with her silver hair fluttering. It wasn’t just her either. Liza and Lim were next to her.
“My ice has also judged you to be a demon.”
That voice could be heard from the opposite direction of Elen, Liza, and Lim. When he turned his eyes in that direction, Tigre was attacked by even more surprise.
Mila was walking in his direction while clad in chilly air. Sofy was next to her. Moreover, Titta, Gaspal, and even Damad were behind the two Vanadis.
With his delight winning over his confusion, Tigre let his eyes wander with a bewildered expression. Until some time ago he didn’t have the leeway to think, but it was quite weird for Olga to have come running for his rescue. Especially since he didn’t tell anyone about coming here.
“I’ll tell you the details later.” Olga quietly addressed Tigre.
Because of that, Tigre also managed to pull himself together.
Even while being surrounded by five Vanadis in a half-circle, Ganelon didn’t show a sliver of flinching back. The faint smile, which he had shown for some time now, still remained on his lips as he scrutinized the faces of his foes one at a time. His eyes passed across Mila and Sofy, stopping at Titta. The girl’s shoulders jumped in fright, causing Gaspal to move in order to protect her.
“I see. So it’s the plot of the human-loving bitch, huh?” Ganelon justified for himself, looking away from Titta as he had apparently lost all interest in her, just to return to scanning the Vanadis and Tigre as before. “It’s a bit different from what I had planned, but it fits either way. Let’s have you people do the work for me.”
Elen and the others furrowed their eyebrows.
“What do you mean? Do you believe that we’ll let you do as you please any further?”
Ganelon sneered at Elen who had taken a step forward while readying Arifar, “Do as I please, huh? That’s already over.”
At that moment, the ground beneath Tigre’s feet became cracked. Many rays of black light surged out of those fissures. They pierced Tigre’s body, changed into miasma, and began to erode the youth’s body.
“Did you think that my preparations weren’t already finished?” Ganelon roared in laughter.
He had finished the ritual before Tigre had even shown up. The finishing touch was Tigre, the one to become the vessel, coming to this temple ruin. The battle afterwards was, just as Ganelon had said, nothing more than him checking Tigre’s compatibility.
“It’s the advent of the Demonic Tir Na Fal!”
“Tigre!” Elen shouted what was more of a scream than a yell.
Kicking off the ground, she tried to rush over to Tigre while borrowing Arifar’s power. But, the instant she came in contact with the miasma surrounding Tigre, Elen suffered an intense recoil, getting flicked away.
Liza raised Thunder Swirl overhead.
“Disperse the Night, Ephemeral Fang!”
Black light was released from the whip’s tip as it plunged onward with irregular movements. Liza had concluded that they wouldn’t be able to rescue Tigre without a draconic art, even if it resulted in injuring Tigre. Her internal conflict about this measure revealed itself in her not having used her strongest draconic art.
However, Liza’s draconic art was confined to only scraping off a bit of the black vortex of miasma, causing her to stand stock still in shock. Mila, Sofy, and Olga couldn’t come up with any means to change the situation, and thus were stuck watching on as Tigre continued to be swallowed up by miasma.
Elen stood up while using Silver Flash as a cane, and called out to Tigre with a hoarse voice. But then her eyes widened in surprise. Tigre’s body transformed within the maelstrom of miasma. His dull red hair turned black, and an eerie black gleam filled his eyes. Unable to endure the excessive pressure, his body started to spout blood from his face and arms. The miasma clung itself to the blood, darkening his body. The voice escaping his lips formed no words, but seemed more like the growling of a beast.
And then Tigre’s left arm started to melt. The Black Bow in his hand was absorbed into his arm, fusing with it. As if having timed it, his face began to distort as well. It wasn’t that his facial features changed or anything, but his nose got crushed, his mouth tore wide open to the sides, and his teeth became sharp, changing into fangs. It was such an extensive mutation that it made even Gaspal and Damad swallow their breaths.
“You’re saying…this is a goddess?” Mila breathed out with a shudder.
She wondered whether it turned out like that because the goddess was trying to descend into a human body, or did it actually reflect the goddess’ true appearance?
Either way, the Vanadis wouldn’t be allowed to remain dumbfounded spectators indefinitely. Tigre──no, Tir Na Fal lifted her left arm, turning the Black Bow in the direction of Sofy’s group.
“Everyone, hurry and get behind me…!” Sofy yelled, sensing the danger.
She held up her golden staff.
Tir Na Fal drew the bowstring to the limit while an arrow fully made out of miasma manifested at the tip of her right hand.
The Vanadis instantly perceived the tremendousness of the 『Power』 concealed in that arrow. After waiting for Elen and the others to rush behind her, Sofy unleashed her draconic art.
“──Congregate before me, gleaming waves!”
Accompanied by a clear, sonorous sound, countless light particles poured out of the pointed end of Light Flower. It extended in front of the Vanadis, creating an invisible barrier. At the same time, the goddess released the arrow.
The atmosphere roared and the earth rumbled as light and darkness exploded. The girls’ visual field was dazzled by a furious dance of light and dark, almost making it impossible for them to see anything else. The Vanadis clearly realized the goddess’s dreadfulness through the roaring of the ground and the howling of the wind which both were passed on to them through their skins.
And then their horror instantly transformed into shock. In front of Elen and the others, the goddess made the miasma congregate, creating a new arrow, as if it was nothing. That arrow was one size bigger than the previous one, allowing the prediction that only Sofy’s draconic art most likely wouldn’t be able to block it.
The arrow was fired. At the very same time, as if in complete harmony, Elen lifted Silver Flash overhead, Mila held up Frozen Wave over her head, and Liza mowed down Thunder Swirl.
“──Tear the atmosphere apart!”
“──Freeze the heavens!”
“──Miraculous Smashing Claw Ripping Heaven and Earth Apart!”
Storm, blizzard, and lightning coiled around each other in a vortex, turning into a raging stream of light, and melting into the invisible barrier that had barely maintained its shape, just before the miasma arrow crashed into it. The light and blast caused a searing pain in their eyes and ears. The ground around Elen and the other Vanadis was mercilessly gouged out.
The aftermath caused the atmosphere to quiver faintly while smoke blended with miasma billowed. While panting heavily, the Vanadis tensely waited for the smoke to fade, swallowing the saliva in their mouths. The three draconic arts at full power had apparently offset the goddess’s arrow, and thus fully blocked it.
Due to the view opening up in front of them as the smoke cleared, Elen and the others couldn’t help to become aware of how their bodies trembled. The walls and the floor’s stone paving had been blown away without leaving a trace behind. The ground itself was awfully crooked. They realized that not a single strand of their hair would have remained if they had directly taken the arrows on. No, it was quite likely that Zagan itself would have perished.
“Tigre… What happened to you?”
While Titta cowered in anxiety, Gaspal sighed. Lim and Damad, who were trying to protect Titta just like him, had become speechless due to the dreadfulness of what was going on.
Tir Na Fal stood where she had been standing since before without any apparent change. And while kneading the miasma between her left and right hand, she produced a new arrow. A cold shiver full with the prediction of their death traveled down the spines of the Vanadis. Olga was about to unleash a draconic art as well, but she seemed unable to make up her mind.
It was that very moment when Tir Na Fal’s posture fell apart. Her body slanted over as if being pulled by something, on the verge of falling down. The arrow, which was fired at that moment, passed Elen and the others far above their heads, vanishing into the sky.
──What’s going on? What happened?
Elen and the others stared at Tir Na Fal with questioning looks. If she had shot the arrow just now normally, they would have likely been pulverized without even their bones remaining.
Ahead of the Vanadis’ line of sight, the goddess was twisting as if bearing excruciating pain. She pinned down the Black Bow which had fused with her left arm, groaning in agony. It was a golden opportunity to attack her, but no one present was able to move because the current happening was way too queer and unnatural.
“You guys, use this chance to fall back.” Mila said to Lim, Gaspal, Damad, and Titta with her voice pregnant with nervousness.
Lim revealed a mortified expression, but she couldn’t avoid admitting that an average warrior would be a burden by just being present in this place. She swiftly bowed, and left while urging Titta, Gaspal, and Damad to do the same.
Tir Na Fal started something new. From a position of her body being bent backwards, she loudly kicked off the ground. Exhibiting a terrifying jumping power, the goddess swooped down on Sofy who was the Vanadis standing closest to her.
A sudden gust. And then a small shadow wedged itself between Tir Na Fal and Sofy. It was Olga. But, once she considered the body being that of Tigre, she hesitated in unleashing a draconic art. Using Mad Roar as a shield, Olga attempted to block the goddess’s blow.
Without minding the small girl’s actions, Tir Na Fal bashed Olga from above her draconic tool with her left hand. A thunderous bang as if a huge rock got smashed to smithereens ruptured the eardrums of everyone present. After a short scream, Olga’s body whirled through the air.
The other Vanadis became terrified once more. Blowing away a Vanadis together with her draconic tool by just punching her was an impossible feat for a human.
“Olga!” Sofy rushed over to Olga in a hurry.
Meanwhile Liza slapped down her black whip, and Mila stabbed with her ice spear at the goddess from point-blank range. Tir Na Fal didn’t even try to dodge them. She stared at the two Vanadis with her eyes emanating a black radiance, and casually moved her arms.
Alongside a hard clank, Thunder Swirl was repelled by the Black Bow. At the same time, Frozen Wave’s thrust was warded off by the goddess letting it slide off her right palm. Even though either attack was powerful enough to even break dragon scales apart.
Tir Na Fal tried to discern whom of the two she should attack first, but then her eyes shifted upwards. At that very moment Elen, clad in wind, was about to slash down Silver Flash.
A metallic sound similar to blade ringing reverberated. The goddess had held up her left arm, and parried Elen’s slash with the Black Bow. Then Tir Na Fal drew the bowstring in that posture. A miasma arrow came into existence between her hands
Elen tried to change her direction in mid-air through 『Wind Shadow』.
──Won’t be in time, huh…!?
Tir Na Fal’s movements stopped but for a moment. Elen kicked the goddess’s head, using it as a foothold to jump away from her. The miasma arrow was released immediately following, but passed through empty spacing and vanished.
Using that opening, Mila and Liza also leaped away, opening up some distance. All three of them ran over to Sofy and Olga. Olga was down on her knees, being propped up by Sofy. She was lifting her body even with her face twisted in pain. She was tightly clasping Muma in her right hand, but her left arm was powerlessly dangling down. Obviously having its bones broken.
──This outcome even though she got hit through her draconic tool?
New fear blew a freezing breath into the hearts of the Vanadis.
Tir Na Fal stared at Elen. Immediately after groaning lightly, she came charging. Sofy clenched down her molars, and brandished her golden staff while scowling at the goddess.
“──Glittering Spray, Scamper Ahead of Me!”
A globe of white light with the size of an adult head was created at the pointed end of her staff. Upon one swing of Light Flower, that globe was released into space, attacking Tir Na Fal.
The goddess smashed the globe apart all too quickly with a punch of her left fist that was fused with the Black Bow. At that moment, the light ball burst into countless light particles, scalding Tir Na Fal’s eyes, and thus stopping her movements for an instant.
Mila readied her ice spear and swiftly advanced. She let her spear glide, trying to pierce the enemy this time for sure. Support the translation by reading Madan no Ou on Infinite Novel Translation
The goddess smiled ominously with her eyes still closed. Lavias’s spear tip grazed Tir Na Fal’s flank. In the next instant, the goddess simply extended her right arm, grabbing the handle of Mila’s spear.
“You little…!” Mila cursed.
She made Frozen Wave freeze the goddess’s right hand by having it release freezing air from its entire frame.
In the next moment, an astonishing spectacle was reflected in the Vanadis’ eyes. Tir Na Fal lifted the spear alongside Mila. The Snow Princess of Frozen Wave couldn’t let go of her spear in time because of her sheer surprise. The goddess swung the spear down just like that, slapping Mila on the ground.
A short scream escaped Mila’s lips. At the same time, Tir Na Fal’s hand was freed from Frozen Wave. Immediately following, Tir Na Fal leaped, assaulting Mila, who hadn’t gotten up yet, like a beast.
Making a spot decision, Mila shortened her hold of Lavias, but the goddess was faster. Right after a crunching sound similar to metal being crushed, Mila moaned in pain.
Before Mila’s groan could even fade, Elen and Liza were already in the process of striking the goddess from the sides. Liza had transformed her jet-black whip into a cylindrical weapon through 『Steel Whip』.
Tir Na Fal repelled the blows by Silver Flash and Thunder Swirl with a horizontal sweep to the side of the Black Bow. And then she stepped in toward Liza who had begun to fall back, punching her with her right hand. Liza attempted to parry the blow with Thunder Swirl, but she got slammed against the ground thanks to the goddess’s terrifying physical strength.
Elen accelerated through 『Wind Shadow』, and took some distance from Tir Na Fal while carrying Mila.
“…It’s just a scratch.” Mila responded with her face twisted.
The blue-haired Vanadis was holding her right chest with the left hand. On a closer look, one could see that the right side of her breastplate was broken in a strangely distorted way. A part of her outfit was torn, and blood was oozing out close to her solar plexus.
“She bit it off, that bitch.” Mila spat out in annoyance while standing up.
Elen needed a short moment to grasp the meaning of those words.
Tir Na Fal, who had forced Liza to yield with a single blow, shifted her eyes to Elen, Sofy, Mila, and Olga.
“What should we do…?” Mila, who was usually so confident, now mumbled in despair.
She had even considered that she’d encounter an opponent who was basically immune to her draconic tool. Even though she’d love to find a means for survival with her draconic arts, the other side had miasma arrows, which surpassed all their draconic arts by far, at her disposal.
Feelings of resignation going way beyond fluster colored Elen’s ruby eyes as well.
“This doesn’t even qualify as a fight between a child and an adult…”
She couldn’t come up with a breakthrough solution. All she could think of was them getting slain one by one at this rate.
No good, the silver-haired Vanadis gritted her teeth. Putting strength into the hand holding her longsword, she staved off the despair trying to encroach upon her heart.
──I’ll get back Tigre. As if I’d ever let the likes of a goddess have him.
Elen stared back at Tir Na Fal. At that moment Elen saw it. The goddess tried to raise her left arm, but it immediately dropped back down. Tir Na Fal repeated that action twice.
──Don’t tell me… No, I’m sure it must be that.
She had almost overlooked it because the goddess was wielding such overwhelming strength, but Tir Na Fal’s actions were riddled with oddities. Even though she should have been able to fire miasma arrows at any time she wanted to, she hadn’t done so. In addition, her stance had suddenly fallen apart, and she had also stopped moving a few times.
──Tigre is fighting her.
Elen had thought that Tigre might have been swallowed by Tir Na Fal. But this didn’t seem to be the case. Tigre’s consciousness was still around. And he was trying to suppress the goddess’s actions.
Elen lifted the corners of her mouth into a smile. A smile of delight teeming with a strong fighting spirit.
“Elen, what are you planning to do…?”
After having approached Elen while preparing her staff, Sofy planted herself next to her. Olga was next to her, too. Olga’s face had become pale, but it didn’t harm the light of fighting spirit dwelling in her eyes. While tightly clasping her huge ax in her right hand, she fixed her eyes on Tir Na Fal.
“I’m going to save Tigre.” Elen declared.
She concisely recounted to the surprised Vanadis what she had observed.
“I dare say that I’m still alive right now because of him. If not for him, all of us would have died a while back.”
“…You say save him, but how are you going to do that?” Mila inquired while propping up her body with her spear.
Elen immediately replied, “I’ll drive my draconic art into that woman’s left arm──the Black Bow.”
Sofy swallowed her breath. She believed that method to be too excessive and violent, even if Elen’s conjecture were to be correct. Although it had been reduced to a beast dominated by the goddess, that body was still Tigre’s.
Olga asked with a dispassionate tone, “What if Tigre loses his arm?”
“──I’ll make it up to him, even if I have to spend all of my remaining life on it.”
The one answering like that wasn’t Elen, but Mil who was engulfed in a layer of freezing air. She then bluntly declared to Elen, who was knitting her eyebrows, “Eleonora, I shall go along with that idea of yours. That’s why, yield this duty to me.”
Even while aware of their respective positions, Mila couldn’t help but confront Elen with her feelings.
It’s unthinkable for the man, who’s made me go this far, to not fight against the goddess, Mila could believe so from the bottom of her heart.
Elen was about to say something, but since Tir Na Fal, who had been standing upright, started to move, she reassessed that this wasn’t the right moment to discuss this topic. She scowled at Tir Na Fal while readying her sword.
No sooner than hissing that, Elen kicked off while tightly gripping Silver Flash. Challenging the goddess from the front, she slashed away at her. The goddess stopped Arifar with her right arm. Without minding that, Elen began a flurry of attacks from various angles. In the meantime, Olga went around to the goddess’s right side while dragging her ax behind her. She moved so shrewdly that one could doubt her being injured. With a little delay, Sofay started to move as well, going around to the goddess’s left side.
Tir Na Fal’s expression distorted as if she was trying to form a smile. Being right in front of her, Elen got goosebumps from the wickedness and repulsiveness of this smile-look-alike. It went so far that she honestly believed that it was great that Tigre’s face had been transfigured.
A tremendous amount of miasma billowed up around the goddess, forming a defensive layer. Elen cut at it with Silver Flash, but the sword bounced off with a shrill clank. As she almost let go of it, Elen quickly readjusted her hold on the hilt.
Rather than hard, it’s terrifying, was the impression Elen embraced. Fully stepping into this resembles throwing myself into a raging stream. Either I’ll be flung away or swallowed by it. That’s probably why she laughed. Elen comprehended.
──Don’t underestimate us.
Elen hoisted Silver Flash up with her body engulfed by wind. Olga’s Mad Roar was tinged with a gleaming reminiscent of moonlight. Light particles spilled out of Sofy’s staff, fully enveloping her. The power flocking towards the draconic tools gave birth to light, heated them up, and swirled around them in a maelstrom, thus meeting all conditions for a devastating blow.
The countless wind blades released by Elen’s longsword, the shockwave so strong that it smashed the ground as it plowed onwards from Olga’s huge ax, and the shining light globe released from Sofy’s bishop’s staff collided with the defensive layer of miasma.
A thunderous roar so powerful that it numbed one’s skin surged through space. The defensive layer around the goddess was torn apart at countless places within the furious storm of wind and light, and dispersed after losing its power.
At that very moment, Mila thrust Frozen Wave with both hands at the goddess’s Black Bow while screaming out her fighting spirit. Her body was already wrapped up in a film of freezing air, and the tip of her draconic tool was shining fiercely.
“Lavias! Entrust your everything to me!” She appealed to her partner without caring about using up all her power, and even her life force.
Staying true to her own words, she bet everything on that one attack while imploring Frozen Wave to do as told if it approved of her as its master.
──I shall take back my loved one with my own power and hands!
A huge amount of cold air currents came into existence within a short distance, repeatedly engulfing Lavias’ spearhead. The freezing air surrounding Mila emanated a white brilliance thanks to her resolve and fighting spirit.
Once she cast a glance at the approaching Mila, the goddess tried to hook her right hand’s fingers on the Black Bow’s string in order to start creating a miasma arrow. But at that moment a black whip tore through the air, twining itself around Tir Na Fal’s right hand. It was Liza’s attack. When Elen and the others had fired their draconic arts, Liza had gotten up, returned Thunder Swirl into its whip form, and lain in wait for an opening.
And thanks to that, Mila’s draconic art was unleashed but an instant faster than the goddess could create her miasma arrow.
“──Freeze the heavens!”
The enormous amount of freezing air gushing out of Lavias instantly froze the ground at the goddess’s feet. Many ice spears extended from there, sealing Tir Na Fal’s movements while at the same time attacking her. And a short moment later Mila drove her draconic tool into the Black Bow with a momentum as if trying to ram Tir Na Fal with her body.
The goddess howled like a beast. Brandishing her left arm, she blew away Mila.
Mila was violently thrown on the ground, but immediately got back up, and glared at the goddess. Tir Na Fal’s left arm ─ the spot that had fused with the Black Bow ─ had been gouged out. Black miasma was flowing down from the wound. The Black Bow itself had been frozen with the coldness having reached all the way to even the bowstring.
“Tigre! Can you hear me, Tigre!?” Having watched all of this play out, Elen frantically called out to her lover.
Mila also raised her voice as if her body wasn’t bogged down by fatigue all over.
“How long do you intend to stay like that, Tigre!?”
Sofy, Liza, and Olga also frantically appealed to him, placing their feelings into their words and voices.
The miasma gushing out of the wound gained in density, and groans escaped the goddess’s lips. It was at the moment when the Vanadis thought that it needed just another little push.
“──Okay, thanks for your hard work. You’ve done well.” A gruesome voice filled with scorn reached the girls’ ears.
Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon stood a dozen steps away from Elen and the others. The 『Sword of Invincibility』 stood next to him, stabbed into the ground. His jet-black robe was tattered, but the injuries he had carried away in the battle against Tigre were already healed.
“Goddess, now is the time for you to become mine!”
No sooner than trusting both his hands high into the air, Ganelon knelt down on the spot, and then pressed both palms on the ground. His small body was wrapped up by miasma, and a sinister, violet light was released from his hands.
While meandering like lightning, the light traveled across the ground at a tremendous speed, and stabbed into Tir Na Fal who was rooted to the spot. The goddess screamed her pain out so loudly that it caused the atmosphere to tremble. With her eyes rolled back and her mouth opened to the limit, her body convulsed. It was such a terrifying expression that the Vanadis were lost for words.
“What…What are you doing!?” Sofy, who came back to her senses first among the Vanadis, sharply glared at Ganelon.
Ganelon didn’t answer. Because he didn’t need to. With each moment, the violet light tying the goddess and Ganelon together grew in size and brilliance. This was the effect of Ganelon 『Devouring』 the goddess. And Ganelon truly experienced with his own skin how the miasma covering his body continued to become more powerful.
Losing her temper over Ganelon giving her the cold shoulder, Sofy brandished her bishop’s staff. She felt that it’d be dangerous to carelessly approach Ganelon, going by the strength of the miasma surrounding him. Thus she concluded to have no other option but to attack him from her current position. And Sofy’s action also triggered Liza.
“──Glittering Spray, Scamper Ahead of Me!”
“──Disperse the Night, Ephemeral Fang!”
The whitely glowing globe of light from the tip of Light Flower, and a flash so strong that it dazzled one’s eyes from Thunder Swirl were unleashed, assailing Ganelon. However, both draconic arts were blocked by the miasma covering Ganelon’s body, thwarting them from even touching his body.
Ganelon felt enraptured while savoring the 『Power』 flowing into his body. Up until now he had devoured three demons, but Tir Na Fal, his current target, was incomparable to them. She was a being exceeding his imaginations by leaps and bounds.
Ganelon’s eyes were widened to the utmost limit, a red light teeming with sinisterness burning within. The atmosphere around Ganelon was transformed into miasma, emitting a black light and coiling around him. The miasma fully engulfed him in no time, and continued to swell up even further.
“Going through the annoyance of the proper procedure was worth it.” Ganelon unintentionally muttered while laughing.
It was only the person endowed with the potential to become the King of Magic Archery ─ the one chosen by the Black Bow ─ who could allow the goddess to descend into their body. Thus it remained impossible for Ganelon. However, once the goddess had descended, he could devour her. But, the opponent was still a goddess. It was unthinkable that she’d let herself devoured without any resistance. And Ganelon could easily imagine that he’d be no match for the goddess with his own powers if she were to exhibit her full power.
He had to allow the vessel for her advent to become strong. A robust physical health was a given, but the vessel also had to be equipped with the will power to oppose the goddess. If he could chip off the goddess’s power on top of that, he’d be able to devour her, Ganelon had concluded.
On this point Ganelon had room to negotiate with Drekavac. If Ganelon were to fail in devouring the goddess, or was hijacked by the goddess after devouring her out of inability to control her powers, things would proceed as Drekavac had planned. The world might have been remade for the sake of the demons.
On the other hand, Ganelon was confident that he’d be able to suppress the goddess with his own power. His original plan was based on Ganelon whittling down the goddess’s power by himself. This was also one of the reasons why he had stolen Durandal from Brune’s royal palace. If it was this sword that had been forged for the sake of blocking off the powers of draconic tools, it should also be capable of damaging the goddess.
What could maybe called a fortunate circumstance for Ganelon was that he was able to push that duty on the Vanadis. And thus he was now devouring the goddess. Without leaving even a single fragment of her in Tigre’s body, he completely absorbed the goddess into himself.
And then a change occurred to Ganelon’s body.
While the goddess was sucked out rather than being devoured, Tigre’s body continued to return to its former shape. His hair which had dyed black reverted to its usual dull red. The miasma disappeared from his eyes, and while only faintly, light returned to them as well. The same applied to his nose and mouth. And above all, his left hand and the Black Bow, which had combined into one, separated slowly but steadily. Tigre’s consciousness was about to revive as the terrifying pressure of the goddess had been lifted. He had been frantically resisting a complete domination, but he was at his limit. If things had gone on for a little bit longer, Tigre’s soul would have lost itself, broken into pieces, and probably got absorbed by the goddess.
On the other hand, Tigre was assailed by a strange sensation. Fragments of odd sceneries kept playing back in his mind. It appeared to be someone’s point of view. The scenes depicted the interior of a dim forest, the inside of a bar that was probably thriving with business, a battlefield littered with a humongous amount of corpses, and a grassland rustling gently in the wind. One man was always reflected as part of those sceneries. Him feeling like he was towering tall probably stemmed from the viewer being short.
There was no talking or any other sound. But the eyes of the man looking at the viewer were brimming with trust. Tigre very naturally believed that the viewer most likely observed the man with the same feelings. And he felt like the viewer was addressing that man as Charles.
Suddenly, the floating sensation left his body. Unable to move it normally while being weighed down upon by gravity, Tigre fell to the ground.
That cry, seemingly on the verge of tears, roused the youth’s consciousness. He tried to answer, but his voice failed him. He couldn’t even move a single finger, let alone his arms or legs. As soon as he perceived the sounds of someone running over, he was powerfully pulled into an embrace. His sight was filled with the face of a girl possessing silver hair and ruby eyes. For him she was an indispensable, cherished existence. Endless streams of tears trickled down from her two eyes.
“E…”, he finally managed to squeeze out. Then he strained himself to let “len” follow. Elen nodded many times over, tightly pressing her body against his. A hoarse breathing, instead of a scream, escaped his mouth. His fingers were trembling, but the sound leaving his mouth was owed to something happening behind Elen.
“Stop it, you’re making him suffer.”
Mila forcibly tore Elen off Tigre. About to fall on the ground once more, Tigre was supported by someone from behind. Once he shifted his face, Titta’s face entered the edge of his visual field. At the time when his body had been under the goddess’s control, Lim, Titta, Damad, and Gaspal should have fallen back, but apparently they had now rushed over.
Tigre moved his lips, calling Titta’s name, and moved his fingers. His lover didn’t miss that, and gently grasped them while nodding so as to tell him that she’d understood.
“Carry Tigre away from here. Hurry.” Sofy’s voice resounded.
Several hands extended for him, propping up Tigre’s body together with Titta. Their owners were Lim, Gaspal, and Damad.
“It is great to see you safe.” Lim’s words were curt, as typical of her, but still filled with a lot of emotions.
Tigre’s visual field gained in height as he was lifted up. Moving his head, he let his eyes wander across the vicinity. A bit further away stood Elen and the other Vanadis, their backs turned on him. Tigre’s eyes widened when he realized what they were facing.
It was a giant with a height of more than thirty chet. The upper body of a jet-black giant and the lower body having no clear shape as it melted into a black swamp-like miasma from the waist down. The giant’s right hand clasped Durandal. Even the Sword of Invincibility looked like a shortsword in the hands of the giant. And Ganelon’s face in pure white had surfaced on the giant’s forehead.
“This is…can you actually describe something like that as goddess…?” Sofy’s words were filled with disgust.
Not a sliver of divinity could be felt from that ghastly, repulsive cluster of miasma.
『Indeed, you can』, answered Ganelon from the giant’s forehead. 『The statues of the gods merely depict what humans imagine the gods to be. The gods have no fixed shapes, thus they can take on any form. That’s why they’re gods』
Ganelon lifted his right arm, pointing Durandal upwards. A black globe floated high up in the distant sky. It consisted of an ominous darkness that looked like it’d swallow up all creation.
『The black sun. The world has just begun to change』
“You think we’re going to let you go through with that?” Elen stepped in front of the giant, hoisting up Silver Flash.
Mila, Sofy, Liza, and Olga followed her lead, lining up next to her.
Ganelon looked down at the Vanadis, cheerfully asking, 『What are you going to do about it?』
Five draconic arts served as reply. Storm blades, a whirlpool of ice spears, a light orb, lightning, and a shock wave dividing the ground as it pushed its way onwards attacked the giant all at once.
However, the black miasma forming Ganelon’s gigantic frame didn’t show even the slightest resemblance of a swaying when getting hit by those attacks.
『Let’s see… I guess I’ll test the goddess’s power on you bitches』
He spat out miasma from the part looking like a mouth. That miasma turned into a black tempest, assaulting Elen and the other girls. The invisible barrier deployed by Sofy was extinguished in almost an instant, and the Vanadis were blown away by the miasma.
Tigre and those around him could do no more than watch it happening in utter shock.
Ganelon’s face shifted its eyes away from the Vanadis to Tigre’s group.
『Let me test this next』
With those words, the area around the giant’s belly bulged into a strange shape. Something flew out from within. Those were monsters made out of miasma. Some of them grew horns and had a huge body, others were scrawny with huge wings, resembling those of bats, growing out on their backs, and yet others had heads like a frog. In addition, there were dragon-like and skeleton-like monsters among them.
Tigre swallowed his breath after spotting the monsters. Probably because they were made out of the black miasma, the monsters were colorless and didn’t sport distinct contours. Yet they resembled the monsters which Tigre and the Vanadis had fought on countless occasions.
While raising beastly roars, the monsters swooped down on the Vanadis. Elen and the other girls had barely managed to get up while propping themselves up with their draconic tools. And yet the girls held their ground, desperately fending off the swarm of monsters.
A scrawny monster flew Tigre’s way while powerfully flapping its wings. Tigre groaned in his heart as it looked just like Baba Yaga.
“Titta, please take care of Tigre.” Lim snarled with a tense voice, readying her sword.
Gaspal and Damad took up positions next to her.
The Baba Yaga-like monster swooped down from the sky, heading straight for Lim. Lim timed the distance, and then swung her sword. A feedback as if cutting through water, and a shriek similar to glass screeching. Lim had loped off the monster’s arm.
But, she had no time to celebrate. Another three monsters of the same type were heading their way. Meanwhile, monsters were born out of the giant’s belly on end.
Gaspal and Damad frantically wielded their swords, but not only were their opponents made out of miasma, but they were also attacking from sky, resulting in them being forced into a hard struggle. The number of small cuts on their foreheads and shoulders kept increasing. The monsters seemed to become unable to maintain their bodies and vanished when suffering a certain amount of damage, but just killing one monster cost the three a lot of their stamina.
The Vanadis resolutely brandished their weapons near the giant. They blew away the monsters with a single strike, but their side had to deal with too many foes. With them only countering the monsters, they had almost no time to take a stab at Ganelon. And even when they barely managed to find an opening to counterattack, their attacks were incapable of inflicting any damage upon Ganelon.
Moreover, Ganelon had been mercilessly attacking the Vanadis with lightning and fireballs while creating the monsters.
──This won’t go anywhere with me just supporting.
Lim’s face twisted in vexation as she drove away a monster rather than knocking it down. So far she had been assisting Elen in different areas while staying at her side. And she had been satisfied with that.
But, that didn’t work in this situation. As long as Lim wasn’t as powerful as Elen, she wouldn’t ever be able to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with her. All she could do was to watch how her close friend had been pushed into a predicament.
The distance between Lim and Elen amounted to roughly twenty steps. Lim estimated that she could cross that distance before counting to thirty if she ran. However, right now that gap between them looked insurmountable to Lim.
Probably because she had been preoccupied with Elen’s situation, she only noticed the monster approaching her from behind when someone shouted at her. She swung her sword while twisting her body. With one reason being that the opponent had approached too closely, her sword had bisected the monster from the top of its head all the way down halfway through the body. At the same time she heard a strange crack from the area around her hands.
Lim became shocked. Her sword had snapped in the middle. Immediately following, the monsters swarmed towards her who had now become unarmed. Damad cut at one of those monsters, causing it to fall back, and Gaspal struck another monster with his sword.
Opening her mouth into a soundless cry, Lim crouched down on the spot. Her face distorted in despair, she drummed both her firmly clenched fists against the ground.
──These two have to protect Tigre and Titta, and yet… Someone…anyone, please lend me strength.
She desired a weapon. A power allowing her to fight at Elen’s side. A power to protect the ones precious to her and to prevail through this perilous situation.
The monsters’ roars and shrieks. Slashes tearing through monsters and space. Lim prayed so hard that she didn’t hear either of those. To something and nothing that was not human.
The face of Vissarion surfaced in her mind. The face of Alexandra Alshavin surfaced in her mind. The face of Figneria surfaced in her mind. Their faces had crossed Lim’s mind when she had thought of Elen. Having lost her means to fight, praying was all Lim could do right now.
──Please! Please, give me power! Grant me a weapon to fight!
It was at that moment when violently blazing flames manifested within Lim’s consciousness. Not an imagination produced by her, but something similar to a single scene that continued to stream into her head from outside. The flames contained a mysterious radiance that overwhelmed anyone looking at them. Without using words, those flames silently called out to Lim. Lim knew the identity of those flames.
Her eyes flew open out of surprise. A dark, muddy ground was right in front of her, but inside her head the flames had drawn a clear and vivid image. It was a weird sensation, but Lim was able to accept it for what it was without any hesitation. She closed her eyes. For the sake of concentrating on nothing but the flames.
Lim muttered soundlessly while staring at the flickering flames. She suspected that their souls had influenced 『Flame』, or maybe that they had guided her in front of the flames.
──Are you going to allow me to depend on your power?
Lim asked in her mind, directly facing the flames.
No reply came from the flames. As if they had already told her everything they ought to tell her.
For an instant, Lim’s mouth loosened a bit.
Indeed. You being in front of me says everything. All that’s left is for me to answer you through my actions.
Lim had already been engulfed by those flames once, so maybe because of that, no fear disturbed her heart.
──I shall gratefully accept your power.
With fighting spirit filling her blue eyes, Lim extended her hands into the flames. She felt a light numbness and pain as if getting scalded, but she didn’t stop. She thrust her hands even deeper into the fire.
Then she touched upon something hard. Lim grabbed those hard objects without the slightest hesitation.
In the next moment, the flames silently dispersed in all directions, turned into countless embers, and coiled themselves around Lim’s body. This also revealed how her right hand was clasping a small sword with a golden blade, and her left hand a small sword with a vermilion blade. Those swords, which had been decorated with mystical ornaments and carried a brilliance that allowed anyone to sense their might, were unmistakably Luminous Flame Bargren – the draconic tool that should have been in the camp of Leitmeritz.
Lim’s feelings of despair from moments ago vanished as if being burned to cinders. The heat passed on to her from the blades provided Lim with fighting spirit and energy. It urged her to get up, desiring her to plunge into the middle of battle.
Around that time, the winged monsters had flown over Gaspal and Damad, trying to swoop down on Tigre and Titta.
Lim kicked off the ground. Her body felt so light that it actually astonished herself. Even though she hadn’t been in contact with the two swords for long, they familiarly laid in her hands as if they had tread across many battlefields together.
Two slashes with one breath, four slashes with two breaths. The monsters were slain with each slash, quietly vanishing altogether. Apparently having identified Lim as a threat, the monsters, which had been heading their way, all focused on her. Lim’s dull blond hair swayed as she let her two blades rip through space.
“──Piercing Fire Lance Column.”
The fitting draconic art naturally popped up in her mind. The fire lances that blew out of the ground pierced through the monsters. They burned down one after the other within the crimson, swaying conflagration, just to disappear in the next moment.
“Lord Gaspal, Sir Damad, please take care of Lord Tigre and Titta.” Lim said while gazing at the two soldiers.
Both looked at her with surprise coloring their faces, but they didn’t ask anything. They had simply decided to accept the reality of her having obtained a power to battle the monsters. And in such a case, she should be further up on the battlefield.
“I’ll leave it to you,” was all that Gaspal said while Damad silently walked over to Tigre’s side.
Because all the monsters heading their way had been eradicated, it looked like they had the leeway to catch their breaths.
Readying her two swords, Lim directed her eyes at the swarm of monsters, and Ganelon beyond them.
“──Vanadis Limalisha, here I come.”
No sooner that she felt like flames were flickering at the corner of her eyes, the monsters disappeared in succession. Elen, who had cut down a monster straight from the front with Silver Flash, looked towards the source of the flames, surprise and bewilderment reflected in her eyes. After all, a Vanadis manipulating flames shouldn’t exist in this world at present.
The one she found fighting there was her best friend. Lim freely wielded the two blades, indiscriminately slaughtering the monsters, be it dragon or frog.
When Elen called out to her, “──Lim,” her voice was hoarse. Lim responded with a smile.
“It’s been a while since we fought side-by-side like this, hasn’t it?”
Lim’s voice was filled with a calm might and a joy over being allowed to stand next to her best friend on the battlefield.
──That’s true, isn’t it?
Elen recalled what had been normal during their time as mercenaries.
“I’ll have you tell me all the details later on. For now, we have to──” Elen looked up to the giant of miasma proclaiming himself to be the goddess. “──somehow deal with that guy.”
Mila, Liza, and Sofy couldn’t hide their surprise over Lim participating in their battle. Only Olga cast a fleeting glance at the two blades in Lim’s hands, and nodded with obvious comprehension. As if she had sensed some kind of spiritual existence.
『──The Vanadis have increased by one, eh?』 Ganelon cheerfully laughed as he looked down on them from the giant’s forehead.
A sadistic gleam dwelt in his eyes, almost as if he was watching sacrifices that had been thrown into the cage of a ferocious beast, as he asked, 『So, what are you going to do next?』
Elen and the others groaned quietly. Lim joining them was a valuable addition, but not as much to overturn the current situation. They were well aware of it. Even if they unleashed their draconic arts while slaying the monsters, the giant’s huge frame made out of miasma didn’t even sway in the slightest.
『Look』, Ganelon pointed Durandal towards the sky once more. Elen and the others almost cried out in reflex. Right now it was the time for the sun to sink in the west, and the sky should be mostly dominated by darkness.
And yet, the sky’s color as it filled the Vanadadis’ visual field was tainted with an ominous violet.
『Sooner or later the black sun is going to sink, and the crimson moon is going to rise. The soil will change into the sky’s color, and the oceans will become green. And then, the era sought after ── shall descend upon us』
A part of that remark was terribly unclear. Unfortunately no one knowing the Brunian language of ancient times was present at the moment.
“Even if you ask us what we’re going to do, it’s obvious that we’ll fight you with all we have, isn’t it?” Elen scowled at Ganelon while tapping her shoulder with Silver Flash.
Mila, Sofy, Liza, Olga, and now Lim as well; all of them readied their draconic tools. The silver-haired Vanadis continued as if spitting out her accumulated rage, “You’re an invader, Ganelon.”
Ganelon narrowed his eyes, seemingly having his interest piqued a bit.
“As if I’d allow Leitmeritz to turn into some weird place outside the human world because of you. I shall take you down as ruler of Leitmeritz.”
That was almost the same as what Tigre had told Ganelon.
“Up until this very day, I have never forgiven anyone trying to harm Olmutz, and I don’t have any intention to start with you either.” Mila let Frozen Wave release chilly air.
Sofy also spoke up while holding her staff at her chest, “A black sun, crimson moon, and violet sky doesn’t suit Polesia. Not to mention that it’d hurt the people dear to me, so it’s not even worthy of consideration.”
While having Thunder Swirl lightly caress the ground with a thwack, Liza pinned her odd eyes on Ganelon, “This place, where you’re right now, is my Lebus. I don’t have anything else to tell you.”
Olga dragged Mad Roar along with her right hand, informing Ganelon in a way that could only be called indifferently, “My clan lives in Brest. The souls of my ancestors rest between heaven and earth. It’s the duty of a Vanadis to protect her people, and it’s the duty of a chief to protect the peace of her ancestors. I’ll carry out either duty.”
After staring at the blades of Luminous Flame, Lim looked up to Ganelon, “I don’t have the qualification to say anything about the livelihood and people of Legnica. However, I can at least tell this much from what I’ve seen and heard myself: Neither Lady Alexandra nor Lady Figneria would have pardoned or overlooked you.”
The Vanadis kept their replies towards Ganelon short.
Mila and Liza kicked off the ground. Tempests of ice and lightning traveled across the ground as if competing against each other as they closed in on Ganelon.
Ganelon spat out a black blizzard blended with miasma from the giant’s mouth, and countless, branching, violet lightnings were fired from his left hand.
The two Vanadis widened their eyes. Mila’s draconic art was erased by the blizzard whereas Liza’s lightning strikes shattered during the clash with the giant’s violet lightning.
Ganelon raised Durandal overhead, just to swing it back down in Olga’s direction. Olga took the blow with Mad Roar. A fierce pain ran through her broken, left arm, but she endured by clenching her teeth.
A crack traveled across the ground at Olga’s feet. It widened in no time, collapsing. Olga was buried in the soil up to her ankles while earth, sand, and stone fragments were whirled into the air. No sooner than screaming curtly, Olga was slapped against the ground, back first.
Ganelon raised Durandal overhead once more, obviously planning to deliver the finishing blow. Elen, Lim, and Sofy planted themselves in front of Olga, getting ready to defend her.
Ganelon lifted his left hand, created a great number of fireballs from its palm, and let them pour down on Elen’s group like rain. Sofy made Light Flower expand its invisible barrier, protecting her friends. However, the flames that gouged out the ground vanished right away, instead turning into a raging sea of flames around the four.
Her blond hair moist with sweat, several strands clung to Sofy’s forehead. She fended off the conflagration and heat, but it consumed her stamina at a rapid rate.
“I leave Olga to you.” Elen said to Sofy, and leaped, choosing the brief moment when the rain of fire ceased.
Lim followed her best friend. Arifar engulfed the two girls in its wind, allowing them to fly high up into the air as they approached Ganelon.
Ganelon swung the Sword of Invincibility sideways. Arifar and Durandal collided, causing Elen to be blown backwards. However, Elen flew as if drawing an arc, immediately launching herself at Ganelon once more. Matching Elen’s timing, Lim released flames in a radial shape, stealing Ganelon’s line of sight.
But, Lim’s flames were scattered in the blink of an eye. Ganelon had spat out a miasma storm. Emanating a dull gleam, Durandal swooped down on Elen. After a fierce clash between the blades, Elen was hurled towards the ground. She changed her posture with the help of the wind, somehow managing to barely avoid crashing onto the hard soil. Lim alighted next to Elen.
『Talking so big, and yet this is all you can muster?』 Ganelon commented with a bored expression while glaring down at the Vanadis.
Elen looked up to him, laughing scornfully, “Stupid amateur. That’s a line you say after you’ve won.”
Ganelon revealed a thin smile. Being slightly away from Elen and Lim, Liza and Mila released their draconic arts once more. The miasma giant dealt with them just like earlier.
A section of the ground got frozen over, reflecting the flashes of the lightning strikes. Frost clung to Liza’s breastplate, and several burn marks had damaged Liza’s dress. Both of them had begun to pant.
Ganelon lifted Durandal and brought it down towards Elen. In response, she had Arifar clad its blade in a wind current. But, despite doing so, Elen didn’t even try to take on Durandal’s blade directly, crouching down on the spot instead.
Lim released her flames, Sofy deployed a new barrier, and Olga lifted her ax overhead after having stood up.
A thunderous roar shook the atmosphere. The invisible barrier was blown apart in an instant, and only with the combined effort of Lim’s swords and Olga’s big axe, they barely managed to stop Durandal’s mighty blade.
It was at that very moment that Elen raised Silver Flash overhead, “──Tear the atmosphere apart!”
The big storm blade wasn’t aimed at Durandal, but the wrist of the hand holding Durandal. The storm-like shock wave from a point-blank range pierced through the wrist formed out of miasma, hollowed it out, and devoured it up to halfway.
Elen screamed out a war cry. Performing several leaps in quick succession, she soared towards Ganelon’s right wrist, brandishing Arifar. A sound similar to the splashing of mud reached Elen’s ears. The wrist was severed, causing fine particles of miasma to scatter into the air. The miasma hand holding Durandal dispersed and vanished with just the Sword of Invincibility stabbing itself into the ground after rotating around its own axis several times.
“I told you, didn’t I? Stupid amateur.”
After landing on the ground, Elen revealed a triumphant smile while putting her breathing in order. Her words weren’t mere provocation, but her evaluation of his way of sword handling. Receiving Durandal’s slashes twice, Elen had seen through the gaps in the giant’s defense.
『I see. But──』 Ganelon laughed derisively. Immediately after the wound on his right wrist started to wriggle like some living being, his lost hand was instantly recreated. Watching this, Elen and the others couldn’t help but to swallow their breaths. 『I guess nothing has changed by the number of Vanadis having increased by one, huh?』
Just when Ganelon commented so…
『──That’s not true』.
A female voice tinged with a bewitching timbre rejected his words. A single girl slowly walked over with a calm, slow stride. Elen looked back towards the source of the voice, just to become puzzled.
Right after muttering that, Elen immediately denied her own words.
She’s Titta, but then again not. That body definitely belongs to Titta. But, the one dominating it isn’t Titta’s soul, but something completely different.
Her outfit of wearing a cloak on top of reddish, thick clothes hadn’t changed. However, her chestnut-colored hair, which used to be bound into a ponytail, had lost its hair band, thus spreading widely. She was slightly floating up from the after-waves of the overflowing power. Her hazel eyes released a crimson gleam, and her delicate body was wrapped in a golden light emanating divinity and sinisterness at the same time.
What shocked Elen above all was her expression. Titta’s usual sweetness and brightness was gone, replaced by a smile possessing a shadiness grounded in darkness and beauty.
Ganelon’s face warped in hatred, and he croaked, 『You bitch…』
A large amount of winged monsters gushed out of the giant’s abdomen. They numbered 20 in total. Receiving Ganelon’s order, the monsters flapped their wings all at once. No sooner than crossing far above the heads of the Vanadis, the monsters swooped down on Titta while screeching.
Titta moved her eyes, looking up to the approaching monsters. Then she giggled. In the next instant, the monsters, which were about to sink their fangs and claws into Titta, were blasted apart into smithereens. Transforming into black dust without a single monster surviving, their remains melted into the atmosphere, and disappeared.
“…Tir Na Fal, I assume?” Elen asked with trembling lips to get clarity.
That, which was manipulating Titta’s body, nodded slowly, and gently placed her right hand on her chest.
『Ever since the start of this battle, this child has prayed to me aaall the time, saying, “Please save Tigre-sama and everyone else. If it’s for that sake, I shall yield my body to you.”』
Upon those words, Lim unconsciously nodded with an expression tinged with sadness. She knew that it’d be just like Titta to do so. After all, she was a girl who worried about making her cherished lover sad not being able to be of use to Tigre rather than lamenting over the bad luck of being present in a place like this.
『So, you bitch used that girl’s prayers to take over her body so that you could manifest, eh?』 Ganelon looked down on Tir Na Fal, scorn dyeing his face. 『Very well. Just like the demonic Tir Na Fal, I’ll make you mine by devouring you as well』
『I don’t have any intention to fight』
The goddess dodged his provocation so readily that Ganelon actually looked disappointed.
『I cannot afford to break this child’s body, otherwise I’ll get scolded by that boy. I have come here as a replacement for the seventh who isn’t present right now. They told you, didn’t they? There’s meaning in the number of Vanadis increasing by one more』
Tir Na Fal smiled, and looked back. Elen and the other Vanadis had been looking at her. So had Ganelon. Thus, all of them were startled.
Being supported by Gaspal and Damad, the youth with the dull red hair ─ Tigrevurmud Vorn ─ walked over this way, obviously dragging his feet. His left hand held the Black Bow while his right hand held onto a single arrow.
“The seventh… So that’s the idea, huh?” Sofy muttered, her face strained with tension.
What Tir Na Fal meant was probably the idea of adding the power of the Vanadis to Tigre’s Black Bow. In other words, the goddess would fill the place of Ezendeis.
Mila and Liza exchanged a silent look. They knew about the power of Tigre’s Black Bow, but they wondered whether that power would really allow them to defeat Ganelon. However, the Snow Princess of Frozen Wave immediately revealed a wry smile, and the Flash Princess of Thunder Swirl shook her head. They had realized that it bore no meaning to think about it and that they simply had to devote all their power while trusting him, just as they had done up until now.
Tigre firmly planted his feet on the ground, looking up to Ganelon. The after-effects of the goddess having descended into him still remained. This entire body screamed at him through intense pain, and his limbs were as heavy as lead. He was in a condition where he’d lose consciousness as soon as he relaxed his attention. And yet it had become much easier for him if compared to the time right after the goddess had been devoured by Ganelon.
He had been allowed more than enough rest. While watching how everyone else was fighting. For this reason he had to move himself as well. As long as he could hold a bow. As long as he could nock an arrow and draw the bowstring.
On the other hand, Ganelon silently stared at Tigre without a single stirring. He didn’t move because he was wary of Tir Na Fal.
Certainly the might of the 『Human Tir Na Fal』 falls far behind me right now. This must be the difference between having followed the proper procedures and not having done so, Ganelon judged.
On top of having performed the correct ceremony for the 『Demonic Tir Na Fal』, whom I’ve devoured by now, I’ve allowed her to descend into the Black Bow holder. However, the same can’t be said for the 『Human Tir Na Fal』. She has simply descended on the surface after responding to the prayer of a single girl. Still, she’s probably capable of exhibiting a power equaling several Vanadis if she unleashes her full might. But, she has said that she’s going to restrain her power in consideration of the body she possesses.
──It looks like she’s been telling the truth.
Very well, Ganelon muttered soundlessly. I’ll humor you people.
Right now it’d be an easy feat for Ganelon to crush Tigre without allowing him to shoot his arrow. But, Ganelon chose to not adopt such a method.
──It means the King of Magic Archery is going to become a hero.
Ganelon didn’t like that word. Only one hero was more than enough, so it was impossible for him to approve of any other heroes.
──I’ll deny you. You’re no hero. You mustn’t be a hero.
The Vanadis and Tir Na Fal had positioned themselves in a way as if they were encircling Tigre. For the sake of protecting the youth. For the sake of exhibiting their will to fight on his side.
The only exception was Elen. She stood next to Tigre, staring at Ganelon. Gaspal and Damad were behind the Vanadis. In case of whatever situation might occur, they had to protect themselves first and foremost.
“Stay strong, Tigre.” Gaspal lightly tapped the youth’s shoulder, and Damad nodded silently.
After the two fell back, Tigre tightly grasped his Black Bow and fixed his eyes on Ganelon. The arrow he had been holding in his hand dropped to the ground as Tigre had concluded that this was the wrong item for the occasion.
“Thanks, all of you.” He spat out words of thanks while heavily breathing out at the same time.
Fight spirit dwelt in his black eyes – and also, a firm promise that he’d undoubtedly answer their trust.
He readied his Black Bow. Pain ran through his left arm, but he endured. He drew the bow string back to the limit, and created an arrow made entirely out of power between his hands.
──Please. Please borrow everyone’s power. All of it. For the sake of defeating the man in front of me.
Elen’s Silver Flash, Mila’s Frozen Wave, Sofy’s Light Flower, Liza’s Thunder Swirl, Olga’s Mad Roar, Lim’s Luminous Flame, and Tir Na Fal’s raised palms; all of them released bright radiances, shining onto the Black Bow. The arrow, which used to be jet black, instantly changed its color, resulting in Tigre and Elen being illuminated by rainbow-colored light.
A creaking could be heard from the Black Bow. Tigre’s eyes widened. Up until now the Black Bow had never screamed in such a way. It was clear proof of just how much 『Power』 had accumulated.
At the same time, Tigre was assailed by a staggering pressure. While enduring with his teeth clenched, the youth tried to keep his left arm up. His left hand began to feel numb, causing the Black Bow to sway to the sides. A sheen of sweat formed on his forehead, single drops streaming down his nose and cheeks. Dread and nervousness disturbed his breathing.
At that moment, Elen gently placed her left hand on the youth’s left hand. Her warmth got transmitted to him, mysteriously softening the pain in his hand.
“Can you do it?”
Tigre nodded. The gathering of seven radiances transformed into a golden light, and changed Tigre’s arrow into a cluster of light. With each instant, the light became more intense and powerful, allowing the youth a hunch of what formidable shooting force it’d contain.
──But, it’s still not enough. This amount is no good when it comes to defeating Ganelon.
As the light became even stronger, Tigre’s visual field dyed white. The youth closed his eyes. He focused his mind so as to not waste even the slightest amount of the 『Power』 that was gathering in his right hand.
The skin on the fingers of both hands was torn, and the blood stained his hands crimson. The right hand fixing the arrow to the string and the left arm holding the bow were burdened to such an extent that it seemed like they’d be ripped to pieces any moment. It was such a tremendous pressure that Tigre thought his arm might be blown away at the root.
Tigre could properly hold the Black Bow. Because he could feel the breathing and heat of his lover. That allowed Tigre to muster all his remaining strength.
This arrow will undoubtedly be capable of piercing through all creation.
He looked up to Ganelon and let go with his right hand. The bowstring vibrated as the arrow rushed off.
The giant thrust out both its hands, deploying a defensive membrane made out of miasma.
Raging as the atmosphere became a tempest, a flash of light pierced through space. Light arrow and defensive membrane collided, fighting each other so as to extinguish the other. The battle between both sides seemed like it might continue for eternity, but in reality it didn’t even take the time to count to ten. The light burst open, and the miasma scattered. The released particles of 『Power』 swirled, turning into a storm.
The light arrow had erased the defensive membrane. But, that was its limit, and it didn’t reach Ganelon. Within the stormy maelstrom, which was so powerful that no ordinary person would ever be able to remain standing, Tigre resolutely stood on his two feet, glaring up to Ganelon. On the youth’s side, Elen supported him.
However, Tigre’s next action must have been unexpected for Elen as well. The youth picked up the arrow he had dropped earlier, nocked it, and drew the bowstring back. Elen definitely heard the faint sound of the bowstring vibrating, even though it should be drowned out by the storm’s howling, deep inside her ears.
The distance between Ganelon and Tigre was less than 30 alsin. No matter how brutal or violent the wind, it would pose no problem whatsoever to Tigre. As if weaving its way through the squalls, the arrow flew, drawing a magnificent parabola. And then it stabbed into Ganelon’s face which was poking out of the giant’s forehead.
Ganelon didn’t even twitch. With the arrow still embedded in his forehead, he looked up to something with a blank expression. At the end of his line of sight lay the black sky, but Ganelon stared at something only he could see.
『Ooohh… Charles…oh, Charles!』 Ganelon addressed someone who wasn’t here. 『I’ll repel the demons. I’ll suppress the goddess. I’ll destroy the adherents of that place』
Ganelon continued, his voice full of joy.
『Now, come and pull your beloved red horse…to the end…of the land…』
His voice broke off at that point. Countless flashes surged out from within his abnormal appearance. The raging light turned into a globe, completely enveloping Ganelon. Ganelon had his existence erased as if dissolving into the light.
Everyone swallowed while fixedly watching the spectacle. Because Tigre’s eyes had been dazzled by the light, colors still hadn’t returned to him, but he still fully perceived how Ganelon kept disappearing.
In the next instant, the light engulfing the abnormal creature shot up straight into the sky, transforming into a huge pillar that connected heaven and earth. The pillar got rid of all miasma, and even blew away the clouds hanging in the sky.
When Tigre’s visual field recovered, Ganelon was nowhere to be found anymore. Only the traces of immense destruction hinted at his existence. Maximilian Bennusa Ganelon had died as a human. Through an arrow fired by Tigrevurmud Vorn, a human.
Olga looked up into the night sky and yelped lightly, causing everyone to follow her line of sight with their eyes.
This murmur could have come from anyone.
A rainbow-colored curtain stretched over and over again as it gently undulated, covering the night sky. While peacefully shining, swaying, and dancing, the thin film of light changed its color and shape with each passing moment. Winding, surging, and arching, it gave everyone the impression that it might turn into a rain of light at any time and pour down on them.
It was such a fantastic spectacle that it stunned all of them speechless.
──The Goddess of the Northern Lights…
Tigre recalled the story of the goddess Sofy had told him about.
Without anyone knowing how much time might have passed, the light, which had dazzlingly illuminated the sky, began to fade. One-by-one the light particles quietly melted away, vanishing. As if trying to return to heaven. And, as if to announce the demise of the unusual phenomenon.
『──It’s time for me to go as well』
When Tigre looked back towards the source of that voice, something like black fog rose from Titta’s body. She limply heeled over like a doll that had its strings cut, almost falling to the ground. Tigre quickly caught Titta in his arms.
The fog, which had taken the shape of a person, softly coiled itself around Tigre as he breathed a sigh of relief.
『Farewell, my dear child. Very likely we’ll never meet again』
“Is it because we destroyed the Demonic Tir Na Fal…?”
The goddess seemed to laugh at Tigre’s question.
『That woman just went back to where she belongs. Many things are necessary for us to descend on the world. A long, long night, a domain of darkness, lots of death… When all these things are assembled again, you and even your children likely won’t be alive anymore』
All Tigre understood was that it’d apparently take an extraordinary amount of time. Complex feelings showed themselves in Tigre’s eyes. Shaking his head, Tigre looked straight at the black fog.
“Thank you, Tir Na Fal. Goddess who rules over the night, darkness, and death, as well as goddess who loves the people and the current world. We were saved thanks to you. Not just me, but everyone present here is grateful.”
Each word was overflowing with his sincere feelings. Tigre couldn’t abandon his reservations towards the goddess right away. But, he decided to forget about them for this moment.
The fog flickered, gently caressing Tigre’s face. At this point its human shape had already started to become indistinct, but it looked as it overlapped its lips with Tigre’s. And its whispered voice tickled Tigre’s ears.
When Tigre furrowed his eyebrows quizzically, a gust of wind scattered the fog. He looked to the left and right, but the black fog had completely dissipated. Tigre guessed that the 『Human Tir Na Fal』 had once more returned to the place she belonged.
“Wha-…!” Suddenly Elen cried out in surprise.
She stared at Silver Flash in her hand with a shocked expression. The longsword, which was always clad in wind and tinged with a silver gleam, had lost its color. Now it was dyed gray from the pommel up to the blade as if it had been cut out of stone.
Seeing that, Mila reflexively shifted her eyes to her own draconic tool – and swallowed. Her Frozen Wave had gone through the same change. The cold air, which had always surrounded Mila’s body as if to protect her, was gone as well.
This phenomenon wasn’t limited to their draconic tools. Sofy’s Light Flower, Liza’s Thunder Swirl, and Olga’s Mad Roar had transformed into gray stone works as if they had been just like that from the very beginning. None of them could hide their confusion due to the terrible shock they had experienced. Standing stock still, they kept looking down at their draconic tools.
And then, Lim’s two swords left her hands by themselves, and floated up into the air, just to soundlessly vanish after being wrapped up in a faint light. Lim’s eyes were filled with bewilderment as she repeatedly looked back and forth between her hands and the space where the draconic tool had vanished. As might be expected, she couldn’t understand what had happened.
“──Everyone.” Tigre called out to the Vanadis while holding Titta who was still unconscious.
Worry other than the one triggered by battle had surfaced on his face.
“Right before she disappeared, Tir Na Fal told me that I am the reason.”
“Tell us the details, Tigre.”
Olga walked up in front of Tigre, tightly clasping Mad Roar which was as big as a hatchet. She might not have recovered her composure yet, but no hint of her blaming Tigre could be found in her voice or her expression. Still, faint anxiety flickered in her eyes as she looked up to Tigre.
After looking at her and nodding, Tigre surveyed the other Vanadis, and then began to speak.
“Tir Na Fal said following: 『The Bow ended up turning six blades into empty husks. Their brilliance shall return when you welcome the seventh night of a full moon』.”
“I can roughly grasp the meaning, but she phrased it in a very annoying way.” Holding Frozen Wave under her arm, Mila spat out in irritation while pressing her left hand against her hip.
Tigre bitterly stared at the Black Bow he clasped with his left hand.
“I demanded more 『Power』 than usual. This guy heeded my request, but…”
The Black Bow might have gathered 『Power』 from the six draconic tools, going beyond their limits. Because of that, the 『Power』 ended up completely gone from them.
“Seven times a night of the full moon means they’ll recover in seven months, huh?” Sofy placed a hand on her cheek, sighing.
By then half of summer would have passed.
Elen readied Silver Flash, and said “Wind Shadow.” Usually Arifar would have fully wrapped up her body with wind, but right now not even a soft breeze blew. Even the stout-hearted war maidens couldn’t avoid looking at each other due to this.
Tigre stared at Elen who had pursed her lips without uttering a single word. If he was honest, he wanted to crouch down on the spot while holding his head and avoiding eye contact with anyone else, but he couldn’t afford to act so unsightly towards the girls.
“You mustn’t look at us like that.” Liza walked up to Tigre, and softly cupped the youth’s left hand with her right hand. “It’s certainly a serious situation, but…we fought a goddess. You can be proud of the downsides being limited to something like this. No, hold up your head high and be proud. Otherwise, I won’t forgive you. I’m older than you, after all.”
“You being older doesn’t change a single thing, does it?” Mila butted in while rolling her eyes
The blue-haired Vanadis faced Tigre with a gentle look, staying rooted to her spot.
“I share her opinion. You did what you had to do. Just like until now, you acted like yourself and as we know you. I’ll be troubled if you don’t feel prouder of that than anyone else. Please don’t feel depressed over something like this.”
Olga didn’t say anything, but she pinched the hem of Tigre’s overcoat, and nodded.
Tigre’s stiff face slightly loosened up due to the encouragement of the three Vanadis. Even the atmosphere, which was about to become gloomy, brightened up somewhat.
“Hey Tigre,” Gaspal stepped forward after having watched the course of events in silence so far. “I don’t understand the significance of the situation as much as you and the ladies. But, I can tell that the Vanadis are cherishing you. If you feel apologetic, it might be the best option to return the favor through actions. You should be capable of that. I’ll also help out if you want.”
“Even if you tell him to return his debt through actions, I think he has already done so.” Damad said with a sour look next to Gaspal.
“Because you defeated that monster, the things you called fairies and ghosts all disappeared, no? Stories about such things appearing on the continent are hard to believe, but it’s a fact that we saw them at various places in Zhcted. I’m sure they must have also popped up in the territories of the Vanadis. You got rid of those things. I think it’d be even fine for you to go as far as demanding a reward. At least I would do so.”
Damad’s remark sounded sketchy and rough, but you could sense his own way of caring from his words. Tigre recalled David and Lena. And the many other people he had encountered when he had gathered information in the capital.
You can’t bring back the dead. But, I might have been able to save the people praying for them to rest in peace. Looking at it like that, it’d be fine to be proud of it, just like Liza and Mila have been telling me. And, following Gaspal’s suggestion, I should return my debt of gratitude to those I cherish with my future actions.
At last Tigre was able to show his usual, gentle smile.
Noticing that her lover had apparently gotten back on his feet, Elen walked up to Lim who stood slightly away from the others. Lim had been dumbstruck right after she lost her two swords, but worrying about Tigre more than herself, she had been watching the youth with a worried expression.
“How about calling out to Tigre as well?”
When Elen teased her, Lim looked at her best friend, and shook her head, “The others have already told him the things I believe should be said. Besides──”
She lowered her eyes, looking at her right hand, and added with a feeble voice, “──Right now I wouldn’t be able to say it smartly… Just what happened here?”
Elen lightly clapped her shoulder, and then grasped Lim’s right hand.
“I saw the same when I nursed Sasha. How Bargren was wrapped up in that kind of light and disappeared.” Elen answered while being well aware that her words were cruel.
Giving it a pause of around one breath, Lim allowed the following words to slip out of her mouth, accompanied by a sigh of disappointment: “So Bargren didn’t acknowledge me as a Vanadis after all.”
“To be honest, I don’t know.” Letting go of Lim’s hand, Elen revealed a grumpy expression while continuing, “It’s certainly true that we were in a situation where we wanted to have as many Vanadis with us as possible. No, without you, we’d have lost. But, I don’t think Bargren would have lent you his strength if you didn’t possess any qualification as Vanadis. Maybe it’s because of me.”
Lim furrowed her eyebrows at that comment, showing that she couldn’t quite follow.
“Why would that be the case? I mean, for you to say that it is your fault, Lady Eleonora…”
“That’s what I mean, Lim,” Elen ransacked her silver hair while continuing with a troubled look, “Because I’ve been heavily depending on you, you have completely gotten accustomed to the thought of being my adjutant. Vanadis bend their knees only in front of the king, and otherwise share a relationship of equals. Of course there will be differences between them as rulers and warriors, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Do you get what I mean?”
Lim became dumbfounded even as Elen hadn’t finished speaking yet. And then she let her eyes wander around meaninglessly as if unable to process the confusion welling up within.
Certainly, during the battle I had mostly forgotten about being Elen’s adjutant. I only thought about what I can do as a warrior, and moved in order to fulfill my own role. Even when Bargren manifested in front of me, I didn’t think about anything else but him allowing me to fight side-by-side with everyone else.
“Now that you’ve mentioned it, it would definitely be a problem if I believed myself to be your adjutant after having become a Vanadis myself…”
In the battle against Figneria, Legnica had lost against Leitmeritz. However, it wasn’t as though Legnica had become a vassal principality of Leitmeritz. Even from now on, it’d need to confidently get along with the principalities of the other Vanadis as another independent principality. Considering that, the current Lim would be inadequate as its Vanadis.
“Having said that, it’s a fact that Bargren lent you his power. Based on that, I think there might still be some hope left. How about leaving Leitmeritz and serving at the royal palace once things have calmed down?”
“You’re right… I will give it a thought. After we have cleaned up the currently outstanding issues.” Lim replied, finally smiling.
There still seems to be some hope, when she thought about it like this, a feeling of exaltation surged up inside her. Of course it was also possible that Bargren would find another girl as new Vanadis. No, it might be better to expect that to happen, Lim told herself. But now Lim could feel pride in having been able to temporarily hold the 『Twin Blade of Demon Slaying』 and use it to help her friends.
“Did you finish your difficult talk?” Sofy walked over to the two while holding her gray staff in both hands.
With a sidelong glance at Tigre, Elen asked Sofy curiously, “Are you fine without saying anything to Tigre?”
“I thought it’d be better to leave it to others this time. There exist other means than words to encourage and console men, right? In addition, we’ve also got other things we need to think about.” After making sure that Mila and the others were focused on Tigre, Sofy suddenly erased her smile and continued a lot more quietly, “After leaving this place, we’ll have to fight Valentina. Without our draconic tools.”
“Yeah, her draconic tool didn’t become like ours…” Elen spat out bitterly. She had also lowered her voice like Sofy.
Deliberately showing a smile, Sofy answered, “She hadn’t been present here, after all. But, I don’t think that she had calculated things to this extent.”
Valentina’s aim had likely been Tigre and the others expanding their powers by duking it out with Ganelon. That wish of hers came true in an extremely ideal shape for her. Ganelon perished, the world wasn’t remade, and Tigre’s party had been drastically weakened.
“First and foremost would be for her to not realize that our draconic tools ended up becoming like this. But, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s almost impossible to hide this.”
No Vanadis would step in front of her soldiers without carrying her draconic tool. However, it was impossible to walk around with draconic tools that had basically turned into slabs of stone. If things went south, it was quite likely for people to suspect that they might have lost their qualifications as Vanadis.
“Even if we’re going to prepare some fakes, it’ll require time and effort. So, what are we going to do?”
“It’s dangerous, but we do have a hand to play.” Sofy said while looking at Tigre. “It’d be to reveal it actively from our side, and justify it with a reason that’s convenient for us. For example,” Sofy further explained, “we could tell the people that there’s a traitor next to the king, and that our draconic tools lost their powers because of that, thus riling up the people to kill the traitor. And after the traitor has been killed, we would tell them that our draconic tools would regain their powers in due time.”
“Traitor as in Valentina?” Elen knitted her eyebrows.
Sofy shrugged her shoulders, “It’s just an example. This method would heavily depend on how many people we can incite in the beginning. But, honestly speaking, it’s no method I’d want to use if possible.”
Elen and Lim exchanged a look. They perceived that even Sofy was apparently unable to come up with an effective method on the spot.
At that moment, Tigre walked over together with the others.
“Lim, we were saved because you were there.”
Those were the first words the youth said. His face beaming with the desire of wanting to cheer up Lim.
Lim smiled kindly, and answered, “Lord Tigrevurmud, I am happy that I could be of service to you.”
Relief spread on Tigre’s face. He shifted his look left and right, looking at Elen and Sofy. Elen smiled proudly whereas Sofy nodded to affirm him that she was alright.
“Alright, let’s go then, Tigre. We can’t stay here forever.” Elen declared and left Zagan together with the others.
Leitmeritz and Lebus’s armies had set up camp at a location six days by foot south from Zagan. After arriving there, Tigre’s party could finally catch a breath.
Being told about Aram’s death in battle, Tigre consoled Rurick while clapping his shoulders. For Tigre Aram had been a precious friend. Back when he was a prisoner in Leitmeritz, Aram had become very close to Tigre alongside Rurick.
Tigre had sat down on the carpet inside the tent assigned to him. His silver-haired lover was sitting next to him while leaning against his shoulder. Both of them only wore tunics.
As might be expected, Elen was depressed about her draconic tool having turned into stone. In front of the soldiers she had acted resolutely with the intent to hide this fact from them, but when alone with Tigre, it was unnecessary for her to pretend.
Tigre comforted her with words, joined hands with her, and gently stroked her hair. Desiring each other’s warmth, they kissed and stared at each other with blurred eyes. But they didn’t want to stop. Or maybe it was just that they wanted to affirm each other that they were alive and that they had survived by looking at their reflection in the eyes of their lover.
Even after settling down, the two remained sitting side-by-side, enjoying each other’s body temperature as it was transmitted through their arms.
Tigre absently gazed at the lamp hanging down from the ceiling, but suddenly something cold was pressed against his cheek, causing him to yelp in surprise. Looking in the direction, he spotted Elen staring at him with a teasing smile while holding a porcelain cup in her hand.
“Want a drink?”
Having it held out to him, Tigre accepted the cup with a wry smile. It seemed to be water. Emptying the cup in one breath, the cool water felt pleasant as it passed through his parched throat.
“By the way, is that place really okay?” Tigre’s eyes were pinned on his sweetheart’s abdomen.
That place was wrapped up with several layers of bandages. Elen laughed and stroked her left side.
“If you like, I could show you? The wound has mostly closed up by now. However, it’s bandaged so heavily because Lim is such a worrywart.”
“The more I hear about what happened, the more I can understand Lim’s feelings on this.”
Tigre had heard from Elen and Lim what kind of battle they had to fight against Figneria. Thus Tigre believed it only natural for Lim to be worried.
“It’s times like this where you should be on my side.” Elen said and leaned against Tigre’s shoulder.
For a while now, the two were spending time together in such a manner. They’d be staying glued to each other, feeling each other’s warmth, and every once in a while, they’d converse as if they had remembered something.
Elen, who had been staring at her empty cup, briefly started, “Things are going to become hectic, starting with tomorrow.”
They had to join up with the armies of Olmutz and Polesia to march together on the capital. There they’d need to free Eugene and confront Valentina. That might also be the reason why the two were seeking out each other right now. Lim had also turned a blind eye for them while organizing Leitmeritz’s army in Rurick’s stead.
“──Elen.” After letting silence precede, Tigre said her name while embracing a certain decision. Staring at Elen who had turned her face towards him, the youth spun his words as if to ascertain his own will, “Until now I intended to only move for the sake of Brune. But, I think I’ll also try to move for my own sake and not just for the country.”
Unable to grasp her lover’s intention, Elen tilted her head to the side in confusion.
Tigre went on, “If I manage to obtain some kind of accomplishment during this whole matter, I’ll try to talk with His Highness Ruslan or Lord Eugene. ──That I want you.”
Elen’s eyes turned into dots out of surprise. The word rushing out of her mouth first was the following:
“…You think so?”
“Obviously. In the worst case, you could lose everything. Including the things you might have obtained after returning to Brune.” Elen dished out without any mercy while glaring at her lover, who was ransacking his hair with a troubled expression.
But, Tigre didn’t pull back.
“However, although I feel bad to put it like that, this is going to be the first and last chance. Once this matter has been resolved, I’ll go back to Brune, just as you’ve said. I won’t be able to come to Zhcted that easily anymore either. Above all, I might be forced to limit our meetings to places where others can’t see us.”
“…But, be it His Highness Ruslan or Lord Eugene, both are definitely going to refuse.” Elen objected while pouting.
Elen was a Vanadis. This was a position said to not allow her to bend her knee to anyone but the king. It was unthinkable that the marriage with someone from another country would be approved.
“It might be natural for me to be turned down. But, I’ll start from there and keep looking for the very best path to make it happen.”
Elen was at a loss for words. Even though he had obtained many things, Tigre didn’t fear losing all of them. All he desired was her. Her cheeks turned red, and tears accumulated at the corners of her eyes. Elen cast her eyes down and buried her face in Tigre’s chest.
In response, Tigre gently hugged her.
Both remained like that for a while.
The crescent moon coldly shone with the night sky as its backdrop. Around the time when Tigre informed his sweetheart about his decision, Sofya Obertas walked outside the camp of Leitmeritz. She wanted to spend some time alone to think about how they should handle the information that they weren’t able to use their draconic tools. She could think of several plans, but feeling that any of those plans had flaws and advantages, she couldn’t quite make up her mind which to use.
Grassland sprawled out beyond the camp, and no villages or settlements were to be found nearby. When the chilly wintry wind swept across the plain, the short grasses faintly rustled. Sofy wrapped her arms around herself as if to hug her own body. She wondered whether winter was something so cold without the power of a draconic tool.
──I guess I should head back before I catch a cold.
Just when she was about to turn on her heels after having decided so, she sensed the presence of someone within the darkness. Sofy turned around while bending herself forward. Her beryl eyes were filled with tension as she stared into the darkness.
“──I suppose I got spotted.” A beauty appeared alongside a familiar voice and the sound of grass being trampled down.
Bluish-black hair and a pure-white dress adorned with roses. And a jet-black and deep crimson scythe that she was shouldering. It was 『Illusory Princess of Hollow Shadow』 Valentina Glinka Estes.
Sofy pondered while taking several steps backwards.
I can’t call my draconic tool, and I wonder whether I’d be able to make it all the way to the camp after putting my opponent on guard by screaming. It’s also unclear how long Elen’s group and the soldiers would need to come running for me.
“Why don’t you ready your draconic tool?”
Sofy tried to sprint towards the camp before Valentina finished speaking. But before she could do so, a heat traveled diagonally down from her left shoulder to her right flank. The blood that splashed out dyed her white and green silken outfit crimson.
Sofy collapsed with a shocked face. She felt like she could hear someone’s voice in the distance.
Valentina swiped off the blood clinging to her scythe’s blade, and expressionlessly looked down at the blond Vanadis.
(To be continued)
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