Chapter 5 – In The Defiled Throne Room
After using a royal decree to get everyone to leave, four people were left in the audience room.
The four remaining in the audience room were Ain, Grint, Shannon, and Garland.
“With this power, you’re no match for me. Let’s resume, you monster!”
The power that surged through Grint’s strengthened body was more powerful than ever before. Immersed in the sense of omnipotence, Grint raised his sword and flapped his wings without a hint of discomfort in his transformed body.
He closed the distance faster than the blink of an eye and then got behind Ain.
Grint roared, raising his sword, golden magic creating a whirlpool of wind and swinging it down.
Ain’s body did not even turn around, and his body was not even moved when the black sword was brought to his back to protect him.
“I told you I would go all out.”
“Let’s get this over with──Grint.”
The floor of the audience chamber cracked, and the walls crumbled. The air screamed and screeched.
Then Ain, raising his black sword, flicked it at Grint’s body.
With only a moment to spare, Ain raises the black sword in front of Grint. The blackness darker than the night drifted in the air, clad in dark magic that distorted the scenery.
In a sudden moment, the pressure that assaulted the surroundings subsided. Everything was drawn in as if absorbed by Ain, and then there was a sudden silence.
The Demon King declared loudly in front of Grint, who was speechless and thought aloud.
“If you can block it, block it. If you can avoid it, avoid it. ──And if you give up, then pray to God!”
Grint saw it.
He saw the black death approaching him.
“Wha──!? Uugh… ugghh…!?”
The pressure emitted by the black sword, which he was supposed to have caught, did not subside.
His vision cracked as if the entire space had been ripped open.
“This is… No way…!”
From the outside, the abnormality of the situation could be clearly seen. The dazzling magic that Grint wore, is peeled away to reveal his bare skin.
The gleaming wings were shedding feathers and the skin, which resembled ceramics, began to crack. Each time the most dazzling light overflows from the cracks, his own strength is drained from his body.
“Lies. No matter how much power Dullahan has, it can never penetrate the power of the Heavenly Knight──”
No, it’s more than that.
The aftermath of Ain’s attack has not yet subsided.
Finally, Grint, showing his willpower, spread his wings wide and let out a burst of light.
Ain was intimidated by that, and he took his distance…
The cost of a counterattack now is infinitely greater.
“Hah… hah… you…!”
The appearance of the Heavenly Knight was incomparably more shabby than before.
His proud body was half-destroyed, and his wings had no shine.
Then, Grint vomited blood.
A gap in his crumbling, ceramic-like skin revealed an aged skin that was far from his age.
Looking at Shannon, who didn’t seem flustered by it, it was clear that it was to be expected.
If that was the case, the flaw caused by the power of the Heavenly Knight is probably.
(Is it consuming a concept like life force… or life span?)
Self-destruction, this word reminded him.
The instantaneous power was so powerful that Ain, who had become the Demon King, had no choice but to take it seriously, but the cost was greater than imagined.
Ain felt this way when he saw Grint on his knees and continuing to vomit blood.
“Am I going to lose… You monster!”
What if all the skin collapses?
What will happen to Grint?
Let’s get this over with quickly.
Ain readied his sword once more and stepped forward.
…..His body was light.
Grint was not the only one who felt the body on the boil.
Naturally, so did Ain. Both when stepping in and when raising the black sword.
It was full of power.
“It’s not my habit… to fall down like thissss!”
The falling feathers attack Ain, riding on the wind caused by the flapping of the wings.
Ain flipped it lightly, but all of this had a special effect on the Demon King.
It hurt. It hurt so much that he wanted to scream. But more than that, the craving that arose in his brain prevailed.
(I have to win, you know.)
And he would put an end to fate.
With this thought in mind, he plunged through the wind of feathers.
Grint lifted his wings.
The mere wind that soared up also tormented Ain and disturbed his breathing.
…..It’s hard, but I’m not going to let this defeat me, Ain said to himself.
Then, a pair of wings attacked Ain. Ain thrusts his black sword at them and runs up, cutting them down.
When he jumped above Grint’s head──.
Grint covered his body with his remaining pair of wings. The wings then flew in unison and caressed Ain’s body.
The holy radiance took the Demon King’s life, revealing the mystery that lived up to the name of the Heavenly Knight.
It hurts. It was so painful that he wanted to run away right now.
The things that happened in the sanctuary floated behind his eyelids and encouraged him.
“I’ve been entrusted.”
Gail didn’t say much, but he knew what he was entrusted to do.
“To defeat you!”
He uttered a voice and swung his black sword down in a single motion.
Then, without any hesitation.
The silvery white snow that had fallen in the sanctuary and recently in Birdland, and now here, in the audience chamber of the Heim castle.
A moment after touching it, Grint’s feathers melted as it flew.
The silvery white snow fluttered down before the black sword.
It fell on the wings of the raging Grint. And cracks appear in his ceramic-like skin.
Finally, the black sword swung down and sliced both of Grint’s wings in half.
The ceramic skin shattered by the impact of the black sword gradually regenerates. The cut-off wings also attempted to regenerate, but the parts touched by the silvery white snow did not seem to heal.
“Gah… Aaaah… You monster…!”
When Ain tried to follow up on Grint, who unconsciously tried to take a step back.
“──Right. You are repeating history. The crown prince of Ishtalika──No, the new Demon King.”
As if frozen, Ain’s movements stopped.
At the same time, Shannon’s eyes flashed a pale gold.
Her voice, strangely clear, made the two who had been concentrating on the battle listen.
Grint was a little flustered at the mention of the Demon King, but his attention was more focused on catching his breath.
Then a voice comes from deep within.
(Don’t just rely on me.)
It was his own voice, but it was a blunt voice as if it were not his own.
“Gail killed his entire family? Didn’t you know that?”
“Wait… Shannon! I’m fighting him right now!”
Shannon didn’t stop talking, even as Grint tried to speak to her.
Don’t listen to her. Don’t listen to the red fox.
Ain understood in his mind, and he knew he had to get this over with as soon as possible, but his body was heavy in the face of an invisible compulsion.
Perhaps the exhaustion of this battle was beginning to take its toll on him.
“You, a dryad, must be aware of this. To take root is one curse. But there were those who were able to use that curse. That was Elder Lich Misty. The curse she brought upon her family ended up killing them all.”
“──Stop. That’s enough.”
Not wanting to hear the rest of the story, Ain told Shannon to stop.
But Shannon continued with a wry smile on her face.
“Gail delivered the finishing blow to Arche. And then, voila. Both Ramza and Misty lost their lives, as did Arche. …That would be the same as if Gail had killed his entire family, wouldn’t it?”
More than the words, Ain’s vision dims as his heart is shaken.
His breathing became erratic, and his mind’s emotions transformed into a thick blackness. His mind was more unsettled than ever.
“You──” “Are you saying that I’m the cause of it?”
She chuckled, and the color of her eyes darkened even more.
“It was Arche who killed the people, and it was still Gail who killed Arche. Because of that, he killed his whole family, and you are his descendant. And you killed Logas-dono, didn’t you?”
“Why are you talking so high and mighty when you are the cause of all of this…!”
Then, something begins to happen to Ain’s body.
Slowly but surely, as the dryad roots grew underfoot, Dullahan’s armor gradually eroded. It was only at his feet, and the roots soon withered away, but Ain felt a sense of discomfort.
“Don’t be so arrogant. Just because you tricked the Demon Lord once.”
Even so, Ain’s state of mind was not at ease.
He blamed himself… and he did the wrong thing. He felt a strong sense of remorse.
He found that his pulse was also quickening.
“What a weak-minded man you are…!”
Perhaps because he was stunned, his reaction to Grint was delayed for a moment. This caused Ain to defend against Grint’s sword with his cuirass,…
“Hah! What is it? You’re at your limit, too, aren’t you?”
Ain’s cuirass shattered.
Grint was elated when his shattered skin was restored.
But he swung his sword while leaking blood from the corner of his mouth.
From the second attack, Ain easily defended himself, but here, too, a problem arose.
(A crack in my armor… Oh no, why…?)
After hearing Shannon’s words, a sense of discomfort flooded his entire body.
It is as if the body does not belong to him, and his senses are somehow dull.
(Don’t just rely on me.)
A voice echoed in his mind.
What in the world does he mean by (Don’t just rely on me.) He shook his head and tried to change his mind, but the voice kept reaching him.
(Don’t just rely on me.)
He felt a strong headache at the words (Don’t just rely on me.) that filled his mind.
“Stop it! Shut up… and stop!”
He swung his sword with force.
Unaware that Grint, on the other hand, was deeply wounded, he was unmoved.
(Don’t just rely on me.)
His armor does not stop collapsing.
The battle situation was still in Ain’s favor, but the restlessness of his mind was different.
Here, out of the corner of his eye, Shannon’s eyes glinted bewitchingly.
Realizing by instinct that he should not keep them in his field of vision, Ain tried not to look at them, but even the faintest glimmer of light would cause his peace of mind to disappear, and the voice telling him (Don’t just rely on me.) increased.
“That parricide! Is there still strength left in him…?”
“No, Grint-sama. He’s nearing his end.”
Suddenly, two lights reflected in the window.
“Please bring the parricide to justice.”
Indirectly, his eyes met hers.
He immediately closed his eyes, but the color of her eyes and her deep, lustrous smile burned into the backs of his eyelids and wouldn’t go away.
His chest pulsated loudly.
“…..I don’t intend to lose.”
Ain pierced his own thigh with the black sword, the pain drowning out the voice telling him (Don’t just rely on me.).
He looked up to see Grint closing in on him, just one more breath away.
He found himself surrounded by wings flying in the air, and the situation was critical.
“It’s over! Ain!”
He had to intercept with whatever power he had available to him.
After thinking, Ain came up with the idea of using his Ice Dragon skill to stop Grint’s movement.
(Therefore, don’t just depend on me.)
A much louder voice echoed in his head.
Not understanding the reason, he still tried to use the Ice Dragon.
“(Yeah, I won’t be dependent on you.).”
Echoing through the audience chamber was the voice of Ain, overlapping in two.
I won’t be dependent on you. A thick ivy appeared at his feet as soon as Ain uttered these words. The ivy had a mouth with sharp fangs at its tip.
The mouth bares its fangs and bites into Grint’s arm, dripping sticky saliva.
The ivy stretches and crawls through the air, slamming into walls and hitting the ceiling. It swung its mouth wide with sharp teeth.
Making a sticky sound, it bit off one of his arms.
Red blood leaked from its mouth, and when it finished eating, it returned to Ain’s feet with a satisfied look on its face.
“That was… why is such a thing coming from my feet… ah, guuu!”
Ain falls to his knees, clutching his head in a headache.
Although Grint had lost one arm, he didn’t miss the opportunity while enduring the pain.
He moved more quietly than before but closed the distance in front of Ain’s face at once.
Then, he easily pierced through the chest of the unresisting Ain.
He had a perfect response, and with the way Ain looked at him, there was no doubt that he had avenged his father.
He was happy that he had avenged his father’s death and proved that he had defeated his brother.
But then, not long after.
A gleam of red light flashed in Ain’s ear, and the gemstone shattered.
“What is that stone?”
“──No way, that stone──.”
Shannon must have had a memory of it.
Yes. What shone was the red jade of the earth that Ain had received from Sylvird.
“Shannon? What’s wrong?”
As Grint turned around, he heard the sound of footsteps.
“You really are stubborn──.”
A stubborn bastard.
That’s what Grint wanted to say. But he couldn’t finish it, and his body was cut in half.
The eyes that were looking for something to say would rest for a long time, and as soon as he fell to the floor, his whole body turned into sand.
Shannon looked at this and let out a satisfied smile.
“Hahaha! Right! After killing your father, now you’re killing your brother!”
“…Hah… hah… So what?”
“So what, you say? Wow, you really have become just a monster, haven’t you? There is not even a trace of humanity in you.”
Ain looked at the mouth at the end of the ivy moving at his feet and said.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The one who toyed with us so much is now playing the victim?”
Compared to before, Ain seemed to have come to his senses.
Not sure if she didn’t care or if she just didn’t remember, but she was incensed without mentioning the ivy that had been shown just a few minutes earlier.
“Did you say I was toying with you…?”
Shannon’s face then lost its liveliness.
“Who was the first one to toy with me…? You treated me like an object; you defiled me like you wanted to! Who was it? You didn’t even help me!”
It is a bad memory, but there was a place called the cursed room in the Demon King’s castle.
Shannon’s words matched the ones he had heard about the cursed room in the castle, which the red fox had created.
“I don’t know your past. Maybe you were sad and wanted someone to help you. But I can’t let that go. I can’t allow you to behave the way you did.”
Ain pointed his sword at Shannon.
Perhaps it was a past worth considering, but he could not forget what she had done.
Even Ain, who is aware that she has a sweet disposition, said that this was different.
“What a pity. Killing your father and brother. But, hey, how did it feel? Was it warm? Did it feel good? Hey, will you tell me?”
“Enough. Let’s just end this.”
“Will you tell me? How was it?”
She laughed, showed her white teeth, and looked at Ain with her red, swollen eyes.
Then she approached Ain with nimble steps.
“Hey, tell me…?”
Ain held his sword straight up.
Shannon was poised to stab herself if she went any further, but she did not stop but embraced Ain and laid her body on top of him without screaming at the black sword that was plunged into her body.
“…Come on. Tell me.”
Shannon did something he had never expected to do at any time.
Their lips were in close contact.
Ain’s body stiffened for a moment, not knowing why, but he strongly pushed Shannon’s chest to distance himself from her.
“Wha… what are you doing all of a sudden?”
Wiping his lips, Ain thrust his sword at Shannon, who fell to the floor.
“I know you’re at your wits’ end…? I understand…! I know how little strength you have left in your body and how restless your mind can be… I know it…”
She says falteringly and painfully.
“If only my blessing had worked… even you, Demon King… by now…”
“Your blessing is really a curse. It is not a blessing at all.”
“Fufu… No, my blessing is my love… One that empowers the one who loves me… and… gives me strength in return… It enhances the essence that lies deep within your body… Any difference in interpretation is… trivial…!”
The very nature of the blessing is the curse of loneliness.
Ain thrust the sword further into her body even as he heard her words.
A warm, bright red liquid flowed out.
“…Why… why weren’t you charmed… by it? You are just like those two… Misty, and… Ramza…”
“I would never be charmed by the enemy. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
“Is that… so? I’ve had enough of… everything and anything… When I saw you again, I thought this time… I could kill you…”
Her words lose their power.
Though uncertain of the meaning of her words, Ain didn’t even try to understand them.
“This world… I really hate it… you know…”
Shannon’s voice was sad and somber as if she had given up on the whole thing, and she finally stopped.