They were in the corner of a harbor in the royal capital, sitting on a wooden box that had been placed there. It was a quiet place where the warm sea breeze and the hustle and bustle of the main street could reach them only slightly.
Krone was looking at Ain’s profile, and her cheeks were tearing up with happiness.
“I’m pretty sure it’s Katima-san’s fault…”
He said this while eating some bread he had stopped at a stall on the way and bought.
Seeing his slightly dissatisfied face, Krone said helplessly.
“Even Ain was playing pranks with her, wasn’t he? I, Martha-san, have heard about it from her, you know.”
“──Change the subject, but this bread is delicious.”
“Yes, I think so too. So, Ain was in cahoots with Katima-sama, too, right?”
“It seems I can’t fool you… We were indeed working together, but it’s like I was caught up in a cunning trap or… how should I put it…”
Unable to give up, Ain crossed his legs on top of the wooden box.
The fact was that the two of them were sitting on the same wooden box, and even light movement caused their bodies to rub against each other.
The two hips are so close together that they are almost in contact with each other, and their faces are clearly visible to each other.
…Resting his cheek in one hand, Ain looked out at the sea in the distance and closed his mouth in resignation.
“Fufu. You’re sulking.”
Amused by this, Krone shook both legs dangling from the edge of the wooden box.
She lowered her posture with her upper body in a crooked position, then looked up at Ain’s profile and smiled cheerfully.
“Don’t worry; I’ll make sure to say that it’s not Ain’s fault.”
“──Are you sure!?”
Turning to the side, Ain looked at Krone as she said.
“I’m sorry I made fun of you. I’m sorry I made fun of you. I was actually watching the situation, so I knew Ain was just caught up in the middle of it. I’ll let you off the hook for getting on board as a result.”
“H-huh…? So there was no need to escape from the castle like this…?”
“Right. You didn’t have to take my hand as we passed each other and ran away together.”
Krone wanted this kind of time because they had both been busy and working hard lately. So she had escaped from the castle with him, who seemed to be in dire straits, and had fled to the harbor.
Of course, the schedule had already been confirmed.
She knew that they were both free in the afternoon, so she kept her mouth shut in a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I was wondering why you decided to run with me, Krone?”
“Even if you ask me… I only ran with Ain because you suddenly grabbed my hand, you know.”
“I don’t understand it myself, but it’s good to have it occasionally. We haven’t had a chance to relax together lately, and I think it was just as well.”
The casual words make her so happy that her cheeks almost blush. But it helped that Ain brought his gaze back to the sea.
His profile was slightly blushing.
Either they are not being honest with each other, or they are just a novice. …Either way, it was still a mutually desired situation.
“What shall we do this afternoon?”
“I’m starting to feel like we don’t have to go home until nightfall.”
After repeatedly blinking, she controlled her body, which was almost trembling with joy.
Krone put his hand on Ain’s knee and leaned forward.
“There is a store I wanted to go to with you…!”
“Alright. Let’s go there then.”
Ain stood up and extended his hand to Krone. That appearance was just like inviting people to dance at a party.
Krone took his hand, but she could not just walk around the castle town like this, so she let go of his hand and smiled bitterly as if she was sorry to leave his hand.
But Ain quickly takes her hand back.
“I think we’ll be fine until just before we hit the street.”
“No, it’s nothing. I’m just so happy; I guess I got a little spaced out.”
She said lightly, in her usual tone of voice, which made him turn away.
Krone loved that little attention and leaned into his shoulder.
──The two of them then.
They proceeded on their feet as slowly as possible.
◇ ◇ ◇
When she woke up.
This was Krone’s office, and it was dark in the middle of the night.
Why am I here…? She rubbed her sleepy eyes and recalled what had happened after she returned from the Tower of Wisdom. As she remembered, she had woken up, listened to the conversation, and sent Misty and the others off.
But it would be foolish to leave everything to Misty and the others and do nothing.
There were still many people coming and going in and out of the castle, and Krone must have been working on her investigation.
But, despite this, Krone was still lying on the desk in her office.
She had fallen asleep for a little while because she had pushed herself too hard even though she had not fully recovered her strength yet.
“So that was….. a dream.”
She thought it was the day when she and Ain had gone to the castle town together.
Tears were about to spill from her eyelids because she dreamt of a time when she was happy, unlike now.
But she wiped them away strongly and slapped her cheeks.
“…..This isn’t the time for this.”
Then she looked at the clock and nodded.
She changed her mind, got up from her seat, and headed outside with heavier than usual steps.
──Even though Krone had only been awake for a short time, she walked resolutely through the castle.
First, she went to visit Katima and to check on the condition of Chris, who had not yet awakened.
After finishing her visit, she strode around the castle, busily dealing with those who came to her in rapid succession.
“Crown prince’s assistant-dono! I have the documents you requested!”
“Excuse me for disturbing you! The researcher whom you asked for is at the gate. What should we do about it?”
The volume of work was out of the ordinary.
But she was not rushed at all; she was relaxed. She responded to those who visited her without stopping her steps.
She must work harder. Her feet eventually stopped in a hall near the entrance to the castle.
Then all the busy people, moving about, immediately turned their attention to her.
Even though she was doing nothing, their eyes were drawn to the way she stood there.
“On behalf of His Excellency the Prime Minister, I will take care of the necessary office.”
Dignified and undaunted.
She announced while attracting everyone’s attention, looking over each and every one of their faces. In response, everyone, without exception, tried to kneel down.
It was also unconsciously,
…..A couple of a man and a woman were watching the scene from the stairwell on the upper floor.
The man who said this was Sylvird.
Laralua, who was standing next to him, looked at Krone and was surprised. It was strange, and for a moment, it looked as if she was about to kneel down.
“Now Krone looks a lot like Ain that night.”
It was the night of his first party in Ishtalika.
That was the night Ain had protected Krone and made the nobles recognize him.
“Everyone wanted to kneel like they did that day.”
“Yes. Just as you did just now.”
“That’s right. I almost kneeled down as if it were natural to do so, unconsciously.”
But Krone and Ain were definitely different.
It could be that Ain’s speech that night was very similar to the words of the first king, Gail.
There was also the indescribable dignity that he himself exuded. It can still be said that these were the very high spirits of a king.
A similar atmosphere was also in the air in Krone, but in her case, it was──.
“It is as if she were a queen guarding the absence of a king.”
The majestic figure is just like that.
Dignified and purified.
“──Ladies and gentlemen, please lend me your strength.”
Krone’s integrity, imbued with compassion, was full of receptivity that attracted everyone.
◇ ◇ ◇
Some time had passed since the Sea Dragon ship Leviathan left the port of the royal capital of Ishtalika.
Standing on the deck, three people were looking intently in the direction of the approaching Heim.
“It’s amazing. That thing.”
Yes, Arche muttered.
“That thing over there is an amazing monster. If someone told me that was God, I might be convinced.”
Despite her dazed look, her demeanor was serious. The eyes have regained their luster, and the power they wear is that of an awakened demon king.
But even such an Arche can feel it.
The strength of the existence on the far side and the fear of reaching here.
“I think I’ve already been targeted. Like a hungry beast licking its tongue, its roots are growing toward me.”
“Which means you’re a treat.”
“I don’t feel bad… about it.”
She shouldn’t have been pleased, but she was flattered to be called a feast of strength.
“Good grief, your effortless reply is still the same as ever.”
“…Mmh! If you say that, Onii-chan remains reasonable, and Onee-chan remains mean!”
“Ara. What do you mean?”
“Well, you were mean to that girl, weren’t you?”
“That wouldn’t have been mean if you knew her.”
Arche’s expression hardened for the first time when the conversation came to a close.
She closed her lips and opened her eyes, which had been half-open. She then put all her strength to the test, and a starry purple glow spread out around her.
“We’d better hurry, or it’s going to be dangerous. …Otherwise, in a few more hours, I think it will evolve into something we can’t compete with, even if we were all grouped together.”
Now Arche is said to have the strength of the Succubus of Jealousy.
Is that still not good enough?
Stunned, Ramza and Misty widened their eyes and exclaimed. No longer willing to spare a second, the two hurried to set sail.
──Soon, in the wheelhouse of the Leviathan, which had arrived off the port town of Roundheart, Arche informed Lloyd.
“Anchor a short distance from the port town. Otherwise, this ship will be destroyed.”
With Lloyd looking puzzled, Misty opened her mouth.
“It seems that Ain-kun’s power has increased more than we had imagined.”
“That’s what it is. I’ve been feeling like they’ve been staring at me for the last couple of minutes, too.”
“Hmm, I mean that. ──But, Onii-chan, Onee-chan. Do you have a plan?”
“Nope. To put it bluntly, the best thing to do is to attack with all your might. If it gets too tight, I’ll pull back and chew on a magic stone to recover.”
“Onii-chan… you are too appropriate.”
“If you want to complain, then why don’t you devise your own strategy? But look at it this way. What is the best strategy to attack that ridiculously large tree?”
“We carry weapons! I’ve heard that modern weaponry is amazing!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Weapons that can’t even match our own attacks are worthless.”
Ramza’s words made Arche’s face turn sour.
She put her hand on the windowpane, and her breath tinted it slightly white.
The view of the Kingdom of Heim from the sea was eerily silent, but it had such a strong presence that none of these things are of any concern…
Only the Gluttonous World Tree asserted its presence.
“Onee-chan, it’s a great light.”
There was an unnatural starry sky above the royal capital of Heim.
It looked like a multi-layered Milky Way, and the stars were too brilliant. The reason why everyone could see Heim even though it was night was because of this excessively bright starry sky.
“…What is that light?”
After finishing his instructions, Lloyd naturally opened his mouth and let out a few words.
“That’s a crystal of ridiculously condensed magic power. If you get close to it, it will take you to the other side without you having time to think about it.”
“It’s a magnificent thing, isn’t it? The world tree is indeed the existence that the elves worship as a god. Moreover, its existence has been elevated to the level of a demon king.”
It was not a real starry sky.
The tree was a mass of power that grew like a fruit on the branches of a giant tree.
Blue, green, purple, and white, it lit up in the twinkling of an eye as if to enchant the viewer.
It was fantastic in one word, but its contents were more terrifying than any weapon.
“Arche. Can’t you and the same rampaging demon king get along with each other?”
“If I approach it unarmed, I’m likely to be sucked out in an instant. Do you think we can get along?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a good idea to give up before you even try.”
“Yes, yes, both of you. It’s time to end this atmosphere. Let’s get this right.”
This was where Misty shares her wisdom.
“I’m going to rely on the dormant nature of the plant. It’s a defensive instinct to maintain life in poor and unfavorable conditions. For the time being, we will use it to stop Ain-kun’s movement.”
Creating a poor environment for the tree may be a challenge, but it has to be done.
“Misty will work on the roots, and Arche and I will work on the main body. That’s it.”
“So that’s it.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but can I ask you something?”
“What would we do if it didn’t have the instinct of dormancy?”
He wondered if the creature known as the World Tree, the Demon King, could be put in the category of common sense.
“I’ll think about it there. For now, just hope it doesn’t come to that.”
If it doesn’t, there was really nothing left but brute force.
And that was very difficult.
Just as Misty let such a hopeless thing slip out of her mouth, the hull shook violently. It was because it made contact with a tree root.
“This is the limit of what we can do here. We’re going to have to borrow a small boat.”
“And when we get off the boat, you’ll have to get a little further away. Otherwise, I can’t guarantee your safety.”
“Hmm! I’ll do my best!”
There was no other way now but to rely on these three people. Having seen them off, Lloyd continued to bow his head until the end, until he could no longer see them.
They moved into a small boat and continued on their way through the sea.
Nostalgia floated in Ramza’s cool profile.
“Don’t you remember the old days? The days when Misty saved me, and then we met Arche and traveled to many different places.”
“Hmm… together, we fought many, many battles.”
It was before the old royal capital was created.
The story before the Demon Lord’s territory was born.
“Yeah. I’m proud to be able to fight again with the three of us like this.”
Dullahan’s Ramza, the Elder Lich’s Misty.
And then the Demon Lord of Dreams, Arche.
They are the most powerful people ever seen in the history of Ishtalika.
“Let’s go. To end the last root of evil we have left behind.”
“…..I will fight with all my might.”
Hearing their voices, Ramza did not look back.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve fought together. Let’s do it with style.”
He looked up at the towering Gluttonous World Tree.
This is Yuki Ryo, the author of the book. Thank you very much for your patience with Volume 8. How was this story? I hope you enjoyed it!
Well, Ain’s “boyhood” was supposed to end with volume 8 and enter his “adolescence,” but because this volume 8 was unexpectedly larger than expected, volume 9 will be the last of his “boyhood…”
Ain, who has turned into the Gluttonous World Tree, and the three strongest people headed for him to stop him.
A girl who still thinks of Ain makes a move amidst the fierce demon king vs. demon king battle that begins.
──And the quintessential story of his admiration for the first king.
We are truly sorry for keeping you waiting for the culmination of the final chapter of “Boyhood…”
We are in the process of revising the web version and working on it so that you can enjoy the differences and additions that only a book can offer. We hope you will continue to follow Ain’s story.
Last but not least, Volume 8 was made into a book with the support of many people.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Naruse-sensei for the illustrations and everyone else involved in the publication, as well as to all the readers who have picked up this book.
──When the hydrangea blooms, I hope to see you in Volume 9, which concludes Ain’s “boyhood.”