This was not──the end.
“It’s only you left. Garland.”
“Oh… ohohoho… it’s disrespectful to just call me that.”
Garland’s previously quiet spirit was in complete collapse, perhaps because he was not dismayed at the sight of Shannon’s death, but on the contrary, he just laughed in amusement.
Ain sighed, moved his heavy feet, and stepped in front of the throne.
“This is really the end.”
One last stab through Garland’s chest, and the war would be over.
And that was supposed to be the end.
“(But first, I guess I’m hungry.).”
As Ain’s overlapping voices echoed, three ivy vines, the same ones that had gnawed at Grint’s arms, were born.
The ivy grew out of Ain’s back and in a straight line, biting the fallen Shannon.
The ivy aimed at her chest.
Entering the stab wound made by Ain’s sword, it proceeded to chew on Shannon’s magic stone.
The unpleasant sound of clink, clink stung the ears.
Then the ivy must have finished eating the magic stone and was satisfied. Then, without making a sound, it returned to Ain’s body and disappeared as if nothing had happened.
Stunned, Ain looked at the palm of his hand, and his eyes fell to the ground.
It was as if his body no longer belonged to him.
He tried to take out the tree roots, but he couldn’t, and he tried to make the ivy disappear, but he couldn’t.
Instead, each time the ivy chewed, the vitality returned to his body.
Here Ain recalled Shannon’s words, without figuring it out, in front of Garland, who laughed at the lack of tension.
“──The essence that lies deep within the body?”
It was one of the effects of Shannon’s curse, which she had mentioned on her deathbed.
She had uttered, “To the one who loved me.”
As one might guess, the curse of loneliness was not triggered unless there was a fondness for Shannon. If that was the case, it would be a question of whether the cursed Demon Lord Arche had a liking for Shannon, but perhaps the Demon Lord Arche did not have a liking for her from the beginning.
If that is the case, then…..
(She said, “Why wasn’t I charmed?)
The power to charm and the power to curse are two different things.
If that’s the case, it fits.
(Yes. My charm doesn’t work on you too, does it?)
(Ara, do you want me to use curses as well? If you wish, that’s fine, but it would be meaningless for you to come all the way here.)
When considering the reason why Ain was not charmed, the first thing that comes to mind is the effect of Toxin Decomposition EX.
If the power of charm is similar to the concept of poison, then it is understandable why it didn’t work.
(Then my body now is──)
He had no idea that he was attracted to Shannon, and he didn’t even like her.
(──No, that’s not it.)
But there was one reason why his body was being unusually tormented.
After thinking this far, Ain suddenly shook his head and pierced Garland’s body without hesitation with the black sword.
With a cry filled with agony, Garland ceased life activity as if shriveling up.
Lying there with a stench of decay, he finally died with a happy expression on his face. When the ivy finishes devouring his corpse, it finally disappears.
This was the end of the war. It was a victory.
It would have been a great victory if this had been the end of the story.
“I feel like a fool. I guess it’s because I’m too naive.”
Ain mocked himself.
“──If this was going to happen, I might as well have taken Krone’s reward first.”
The aftermath of the victory is infinitely zero, and all he cares about was the way something stirred inside his body.
Ain thus walked out and left the audience chamber with a dull sensation in his body.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Your Highness! It’s over, isn’t it?”
At the end of the corridor leading to the audience chamber.
Majolica, who had been waiting for him, noticed Ain’s figure and rushed to his side.
“Ara… of course, but you look tired after all.”
“I’m tired… Yeah, I think so.”
The truth is, it wasn’t, but he didn’t want to answer.
Though he thought it might be slightly cold, he simply changed the subject.
“Sorry, but I want you to run along and tell everyone that the battle is over. And then order the Ishtalikan forces to retreat to the port city of Roundheart.”
“Does that mean leaving Your Highness behind? As I said, I can’t agree to that.”
“Hahaha… I’ll be fine; I’ll take my time getting back. As you can see, I’m pretty tired. And, as a matter of fact, Warren-san has a lot of his men waiting nearby, so you don’t have to worry about me.”
Of course, the facts as told by Ain weren’t true.
(Sorry, I lied.)
Majolika believed his words more honestly than he expected. For Majolica, there was no need for Ain to come here and lie, and she didn’t think there was any possibility.
“Well then, I have no choice! I guess I’ll leave you to it!”
Thus, Ain sent Majolica on his way alone.
Considering what might happen in the future, he had everyone leave in a hurry.
“I have to go, too.”
His feet started walking naturally, strangely enough.
There was one last place he wanted to go in this royal capital.
◇ ◇ ◇
Ain walked alone to hide and proceeded to the desired building.
Even though it was ten years ago, he remembered it surprisingly well. While praising himself for his memory, he opened the gate at his destination.
──The Archduke Augusto’s mansion.
Once again, he went to this place where his destiny, which could be said to have begun on that day.
“Sorry to intrude… is there a battle going on? …It’s incredibly messy.”
Upon entering the building, Ain was surprised to see the halls in disrepair, unlike before. However, he was pleased to see that the path leading to the garden remained clean.
Despite the unpleasant pulsation, Ain walks there gracefully.
Archduke Augusto’s mansion, which held deep memories for him, was now surrounded by silence without a single soul, but at the time when the unveiling party was held, it was a luxurious and lively place to be.
“It was here that I met Krone, made an unexpected proposal to both my mother and Krone… returned to the port town of Roundheart, and then met Chris.”
He proceeded further through the beautiful-looking gardens, loving the memories.
Within minutes, he arrived at the place he had chosen for his final moments.
“It’s been a long time.”
Gently taking the Blue Fire Rose in his hand, he easily transformed it into a Star Crystal. He tries to recreate those days but was terribly sad that he was alone now.
Instead, he was frustrated by his fast-beating chest and wished he could hold on just a little longer.
“I’m a little tired.”
Succumbing to the weariness in his body, he sat down on a nearby terrace seat.
This terrace seat was also a memorable place when the three of them enjoyed an evening tea party together.
“Shannon. You probably thought you had lost, but the outcome was a draw.”
As soon as Ain sat down, numerous tree roots spread out from under his feet.
“I never had any feelings for you, and I couldn’t imagine having any after that. Even the power of charm didn’t work on me, but in the end, I was naive.”
It was never a fondness, but there had been a change in Ain’s body since the battle.
In other words, he was affected by the effects of Shannon’s curse. But Ain had not liked her.
The answer was because of Ain’s own naivete, as he mentioned.
“I never thought that even pity could make a curse pass through.”
There was only one emotion that he felt. Pity.
He could not ask about Shannon’s own past, but he could tell that something dark had happened to her. Hearing this, it can only be assumed that the fact that Ain felt even the slightest bit of pity for her was a factor leading to him receiving the curse.
After defeating Grint, the changes in his body did not stop.
It is a miracle that he could walk to this terrace, and he could no longer use his physical freedom at all.
“In the end, I didn’t understand the reason why she targeted His Majesty the First and me until the very end, but… it’s too late now.”
Wanting to think about something else, Ain let out a soliloquy.
“I think Krone was too generous. In fact, I would have been very happy if she had kissed me. It’s not like this relationship ended a few days ago, and I would have gone back to the royal capital in a heartbeat.”
Ain’s voice was joking.
“Of course, I may have been a bit shy myself. But, you know, I’m struggling to resist the scent and feel of Krone, and I wanted her to understand that, too. Of course, my mother’s kisses were also kind of awful in many ways. Thinking about it, the ritual I did with Chris before I went to the Demon Lord’s castle. But I still have that feeling of──What am I thinking at a time like this?”
The uncomfortable pulse increased.
He had avoided it by continuing to dwell on pleasant memories, but he was forced to realize it.
The tree roots crawling on the ground were already spreading out of Archduke Augusto’s mansion and were about to spread throughout the Royal Capital of Heim, so much so that the speed at which they were crawling was nothing short of abnormal.
The tree roots must be absorbing something somewhere.
Ain’s body began to feel fuller than ever before.
How ironic, though, that he had no freedom.
And yes… I feel like I’ve been somewhat indebted to Katima-san. As a percentage, I think I was the one who took care of her, but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt here.”
Several gems fall to the ground. The Blue Fire Rose spontaneously transformed, and all fell to the ground as Star Crystals.
Ain’s absorption was already working regardless of his will, and he continued to absorb the power around him.
“Well, everyone took care of me, didn’t they? Especially to my grandfather… yes. I’m rather sorry that I put him through too much hardship.”
He said, but did not stop laughing in a light tone.
“I really don’t have time for this anymore.”
He regretted that he should have killed himself, but there was still something he could do.
There is one very important skill that he inherited from a loyal knight.
“I think I can use it now.”
He thought strongly in his mind. The more he thought about it, the more he felt the magic power drain out of his body.
“They say, “Wipe your own ass.” I’ve grown up to be a good boy, haven’t I?”
He no longer had the strength to stand up.
“I thought the red fox would be the last boss. I thought that if I followed the theory, Grint would be the one standing in my way. Then, how could I remember the word last boss from my previous life…? That’s amazing.”
Ain then looked at the Star Crystal he had created with his own hands and smiled softly.
So Arche-san was called the Succubus of Jealousy, and I’d like to… have a cool nickname like that as well.”
Surprisingly, he came up with the name quickly.
The name of the race that Majolica had mentioned in the past, when Ain’s monsterization became a problem, floated in his mind, so he did it right away.
Then, following the name of the Succubus of Jealousy.
“──[The Gluttonous World Tree]”
How about that? He had a feeling it wasn’t so bad.
Soon after, he smiled lightly.
“I’ll leave the rest to you, all three of you.”
He felt he was no longer himself, which was the limit.
After Ain’s voice, three lights were born in front of him, flashing sadly and repeatedly.
The born lights jumped up and flew away to the royal capital and to the port city Roundheart.
It will be all right now.
Believing that those three would do something about it, Ain, who felt the heaviness of his eyelids, kept his eyes down.
“(…I’m so hungry.).”
With these words as his last, Ain let go of his consciousness.
Eventually, Ain’s body was enveloped by a tree, and the tree grew quickly. The tree did not stop growing, even after it had passed over Archduke Augusto’s mansion and the half-destroyed castle.
Ain von Ishtalika
[Job] The Gluttonous World Tree
[Physical Strength] 9999+α
[Magic Power] 9999+α
[Attack Power] ──+α
[Agility] ──+ α
[Skill] The Gluttonous World Tree / Poison of Enchantment / Curse of Loneliness