“Arche. Have you noticed?”
The ivy and tree roots were coming at them from the front, back, left, and right. The two were deftly conversing while avoiding them.
“The opponent’s momentum is subsiding.”
“I’m so busy attacking that I don’t know what’s going on!”
“Just take a good look at it.”
Then everything that had been spreading around them was cut down.
“──You’re right. This is our best chance.”
“Darling! What happened to Marco──”
“I’ll explain later! All you need to know is that he’s on our side!”
When Ramza rushed to the scene, Arche was glad to hear that. Perhaps she felt that Marco had already abandoned her, so she expressed a deep sense of relief.
Ramza tightened up the tension in Arche’s heart.
“Now is the very last minute! If we don’t hurry, there will be nothing to stop it!”
Misty unleashed her magic, Ramza fought back with sword fights, and Arche attacked with the power of Succubus of Jealousy.
Unlike when it was just the two of them, Ramza’s presence made them all ready to go at once. The three of them were beginning to show signs of fatigue, but the same was true for the Gluttonous World Tree, whose momentum was subsiding.
“What are we going to do after we put Ain… into a dormant state!”
“We’ll have to figure that out later! All we can do now is let him sleep at whatever stage we can manage!”
“I see. I don’t like it when it’s so easy to understand!”
The three of them began to fight together, and as they gained momentum.
The rose creatures sprang up from the front.
The Gluttonous World Tree itself was protected by an even greater number of fangs.
The one who was best suited for these creatures was Ramza.
His sword was sharp enough to cut down a sea dragon in two.
With a single flash of the side cleave, they were cut down in a flash.
“The two of you continue to attack with all your might! I’ll work on Ain-kun’s roots and force him into a dormant state!”
“Onee-chan! What if I kill him by really trying?”
“Don’t worry, even if you do it with the intention of killing him, you won’t be able to kill him anymore!”
Hearing this, Ramza immediately started running toward the trunk.
The distance between Ramza and the trunk was getting closer, and both of them called Ramza in a strong tone.
“──Take a good look, Ain. This is the full force of the one who taught you swordsmanship.”
With the momentum of running, Ramza dropped deeply to his waist and took a large swing with his greatsword.
Every time the jet-black great sword moved, the air cracked, distorting space as if the great sword had a gravitational pull.
At this time, the surrounding air was drawn toward the World Tree──or more precisely, toward Ramza’s great sword, creating a gust of wind all around. It was so strong that waves were crashing violently in the direction of the royal capital to the port town of Roundheart. Mouch darker than black, a flash that seemed to devour the light went into the Gluttonous World Tree.
A mournful voice echoed around the area, making even the three of them want to cover their ears.
The owner of the mournful voice was the Gluttonous World Tree.
The deep cracks created in its trunk were proof of its destructive power.
But the joy was short-lived. When they saw what appeared in the crack, they were all horrified.
“…That is the disaster that is created when the Gluttonous World Tree is allowed to grow to its full maturity.”
“Oh, it would have made a ridiculously powerful demon king who could destroy this continent in an instant!”
Inside, several huge eyes were wriggling around, and a black, sloshing liquid was filling the surrounding area, leaking out of the trunk through a crack, the sight like falling tears.
For a moment, only a split second, their eyes met, but Arche couldn’t stop her body from shaking, and she gritted her teeth in awe as the awe struck her entire body.
“It scares me, but…”
Thinking that she could not let something like this go, she put all her strength into her body with a single thought.
“You’re something that shouldn’t be allowed to come out. So….. go already!”
Turning both hands, Arche hurls a torrent of power into the Gluttonous World Tree.
It was a full-bodied wave of even stronger and more concentrated magic than the first blow she unleashed after coming to the royal capital of Heim.
It was shot like a spear into the scar, and just after it landed, there was silence for a moment.
──There, Arche’s magic exploded from the inside of the Gluttonous World Tree.
Ramza called out to Misty as he cut through the ivy and roots that continued to gather around them, making sure not to miss the opportunity.
Misty held her staff in both hands and held it horizontally in front of her face──.
“I’ll seal the entire tree!”
Elder Lich Misty. The magic she unleashed was powerful.
As the ground and the earth crystallized around the staff, the tree roots that had been raging on the surface stopped moving as if asleep, and at the same time, the ivy and rose creatures died out.
The crystallization reached the base of the great tree. It transformed the trunk like a polished crystal from below, but its speed was unexpectedly slowed.
The crystallized ground cracked, and the great tree shook.
Yes, it did not reach the point of sealing.
“Once more! I’ll make an opening! The three of us can handle it!”
But the magic from earlier couldn’t be used over and over again.
Misty’s brain was almost filled with thoughts of failure as she wondered if they could buy enough time for her to release it again.
“──No, it’s the four of us.”
After fighting separately with Ramza, Marco finally joined up with them.
Seeing this, Arche opened her mouth without thinking.
“…..I have something to say to you later, Marco, for worrying me so much.”
“I’m sorry. Arche-sama. I will speak to you as soon as things settle down, so please forgive me for this moment.”
The arrival of Marco, a force to be reckoned with, did not make the situation any easier──.
As soon as they joined forces, the situation around the area underwent a further transformation.
The sky trembled, and a purple electric storm of magic power roared around the Gluttonous World Tree.
The earth cracked, and warm breath came from it.
The ivy creeping out from the broken ground was thicker than the main street of Ishtalika, and its visible length alone was several times that of a sea dragon. The thorns covering its surface were longer than the entire length of a battleship, and at the tip of the ivy was a mouth just like that of a rose monster.
They surround the royal capital in layers.
Roots of jet-black trees filled the earth all around.
“It seems that the Gluttonous World Tree has come to decide the battle, too.”
Ramza said calmly, but sweat was running down his neck.
Having spent too much time in the battle, the Gluttonous World Tree had grown even more.
The newly emerged ivy was robust, probably due to the fact that it was covered with the unique magic power of the Gluttonous World Tree.
Neither Ramza, who had boasted of his absolute compatibility with it, nor Marco, who also wields a sword, could now pass through it.
Ramza cleaves his great sword horizontally.
But it was unable to cut through, and only a drop of jade liquid dripped from the surface wound. Ramza shouts in surprise.
“This is indeed a strange plant! I’ve never heard of a plant with bones!”
He could see the core of the ivy.
What was inside was not the tissue that makes up a plant but something rugged like the spine that supports the back of a giant monster. If it were just bones, he would have no trouble. The problem was that this was produced by the power of the Gluttonous World Tree.
Because of this, it was impossible to cut them off as easily as before.
“──Oh, thank you!”
When Marco’s sword was struck again, one of the vines was finally cut down.
But it was only one ivy.
New ivy would soon break through the earth, and if you count the number of ivy that have appeared so far, it’s enormous.
Back and forth, up and down, left and right.
It was no longer necessary to discuss where the attack was coming from.
“You should think that each one is much stronger than that sea serpent.”
“Sea serpents──if you are referring to the sea dragons, that’s information I didn’t want to know!”
The sea dragon was known as a national disaster or calamity in modern-day Ishtalika.
Even though the sea dragons that appear every hundred to two hundred years were the kings of the sea that have taken many lives throughout history, all of the ivy that broke the earth and appeared here was more robust than that.
“──It’s the worst.”
Misty muttered, looking in the direction of the port town of Roundheart.
“What on earth is going on!”
“If we don’t do something quickly, the attack’s aftermath will reach Ishtalika!”
“Oh──this is a damn busy time!”
“Understood! Misty-sama! Leave the vanguard to us!”
“Yeah! Misty, just think about casting your magic!”
Ramza cut open a large flower at the tip of the newly attacked ivy. The flowers that fell to the ground instantly withered away, releasing a dense miasma that made even the two of them raise their eyebrows.
“Aim for the face!”
“Yes! Apparently, that makes it easier!”
The process is clearly faster than attacking a solid bone fortress.
As with many creatures, it seemed that aiming for the head was effective. Then the story changed.
They avoided and sometimes used their swords to deflect attacks.
The tip of the sword aims at the large mouth of the blossoming tip of the ivy.
“But it doesn’t work that way…..”
The magic crystals that have grown on the branches of the towering Gluttonous World Tree exploded as they rained down on the tree. Several glints of light intricately intersected in midair and pierced Ramza and Marco’s armor.
“Guohh….. If it has grown so much….. By the magic we just saw…..”
“Bear with it──! It’s stronger than it was a few minutes ago!”
“Both of you!”
Misty, who had been formulating her magic, gave out a sad voice.
She was about to run to them.
“Stay away from us! This is the job of the vanguard!”
Ramza said in a strong tone and made her stay.
“Keep working on your magic! There is another job for Misty!”
“Y-you mean besides casting magic?”
“Yeah! You know what I’m talking about! You can’t use the same power of magic as before against an opponent that’s been strengthened this much!”
“Just back off! Don’t waste time until we set the stage!”
Time is wasted by exchanging back and forth.
Misty, who was told strongly and believed the last words attached to her, rushed to leave.
“Arche, stay by Misty’s side! If Misty falls, there is no way to win! Never leave her!”
“Nn! I understand!”
The remaining Ramza and Marco endured the pain of their wounds and looked for an opportunity to counterattack.
But there are too many light glints. The ivy could be cut down by swinging the sword, but it was difficult to deal with a literal string of attacks at the speed of light.
Before long, the number of wounds on their entire bodies had increased to the point where they could no longer be ignored.
Marco stood in front of Ramza before he reached his limit.
You come here and try to protect me? Staring at his back, Ramza’s heart burned, and he was frustrated.
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Yes…..! I will always be with the royal family of Ishtalika──.”
“Not so. I know that your loyalty has never changed, Marco. ──What hasn’t changed is the story about me being pathetic.”
Ramza, who, like Marco, had been pierced through his armor and was bleeding, grabbed Marco’s shoulders tightly with his increased, rather than diminished, muscles and forced him to step back.
There was pain. But more than that, his heart ached with disappointment.
“Marco is Marco, and I know you regret that you were unable to protect Ishtalika during the Great War.”
But it was the same for him, too, as he thought about that time and expressed his regrets.
“I let my son kill my sister, so I don’t deserve to be protected.”
He had no intention of being protected in the first place.
“──Watch carefully. You are the unrivaled sword king.”
These words are not just words of advice. They are words to inspire, a chant to use force.
“──Watch closely. No one is allowed to stand in front of you.”
Only his whereabouts repelled all of the numerous glints of light that came and went.
The great sword raised once again distorted the atmosphere and called forth a wind of jade.
“I’ve been exposed as nothing but a pathetic figure. You can ridicule me as a man who couldn’t protect his family. You can call me an incompetent commander who only gave you a mission and then died before you could complete it.”
Marco knew he could not lie and say such a thing.
Looking at his back made him realize that he had done the right thing in following him.
“I shouldn’t be protected because of all the ugliness I’ve been exposed to. I must fight for my life and save him from captivity.”
Ramza then turned his face back a little.
“And what does a man like that have to say about all this?”
The slightest glimpse of a cheery, smiling profile made him seem human even amid a hopeless battle.
Just looking at it, one could feel a sense of dependability.
Ramza’s face transformed just as the glow was about to reach them in less than a second.
A moment later, he turned his face forward, clothed in high spirits of the sword king.
“──Don’t you dare make light of me, Gluttonous World Tree.”