Chapter 4 – Old Memories and the Black-Haired Demon King
While exploring what he could do in the burning former royal capital, Ain stopped in his tracks. He fell to his knees with an intense headache that came all of a sudden.
He laid down with his hands on his head, gasping from the constant pain.
He thought that the three people he had summoned had suffered a defeat, but the pain receded unexpectedly quickly. Then he stood up, keeping a wary eye on his surroundings, and the scenery changed dramatically.
──The furniture and carpets were different, but the room had the same structure as his grandfather’s, which was familiar to him.
As he looked around curiously, he noticed a man sitting up on the bed. He wanted to approach him, but he could not walk.
The only thing Ain was allowed to do was to stand by the side of the room as an onlooker.
“I want to sleep in my hometown at the end of my life.”
A voice similar to Ain’s came out of the man’s mouth. However, the bed canopy did not allow him to see the man’s face.
The only other thing he could recognize was the presence of a woman sitting next to that man’s bed. It seemed that the man was talking to her.
“But first, I have something I need to do.”
“Are you going to fight again?”
“No. I have to leave something behind.”
After saying that, he stood up and went to the window at the back of the room, where Ain could see him.
“I want you to let me leave the castle for a couple of weeks.”
“….. That’s a terrible thing to say. You said earlier that you wouldn’t last another month. And now you want to take half of that time away from me?”
“Are you angry?”
“I won’t be angry if you stay with me until I die.”
“Oh….. So you’re saying that I wouldn’t be able to escape from your anger?”
He said jokingly, but the woman was quivering as she sat down.
Even her breath seems to be laced with sobs.
“For the sake of our children, I hope you’ll forgive me.”
“──This is so unfair, Gail.”
The woman said──the first queen, Raviola, in a trembling voice.
◇ ◇ ◇
His vision darkened, and the scenery changed.
It was a forest, and plants that were familiar to Ain surrounded the area.
(Is this the road leading to Sith Mill?)
As he looked around, Ain noticed one more thing that was different from before. His legs, which should have remained immobile, were moving.
He was happy to be able to move of his own free will. But immediately after, the sound of leaves and branches being stepped on started coming from behind him, and Ain hurriedly turned around.
“….. I’m almost there, aren’t I?”
Walking a few steps behind him was Gail.
He was walking alone, gasping for breath, using his proud sword as a walking stick. Seeing that he had quickly passed by Ain, Ain followed him without saying a word.
“No one is ever allowed to enter our forest──”
Further, into the sun tree, which bore glowing fruit, the elven warriors appeared from behind a tree.
They were wary at first but then panicked when they realized that the visitor was Gail.
“I’m sorry to startle you. Is that girl here?”
“Please, come this way! If it is the chief, she should be in the back!”
Gail continued, supported by the warrior’s shoulders.
After walking for a while, they arrived at a place where the elves’ houses were lined up, but compared to the Sith Mill that Ain knew, there were few buildings, and even if there were, they were simple ones.
Still, the large stump where the chief of the elves resided remained unchanged. When entered, the familiar structure continued.
“──Your Majesty! Why are you here?”
The elven chief who greeted Gail inside the house was astonished, and her face was stained with shock. Her face was younger than Ain knew, and she looked like she was in her twenties.
“I’m sorry to come on such short notice, but I was wondering if I could stay here for about ten days.”
After the Great War was over, why did the person who was supposed to be in the royal capital suddenly come to stay here? The chief, who had her doubts, looked at Gail’s body and kept her eyes down.
Elves living in the forest are sensitive to the subtleties of people. This was especially true of the chief. She understood Gail’s condition at first glance and shivered, just like Queen Raviola.
Without looking up, she beckoned Gail toward the back of the house.
But Gail declined and pointed to the back of the house.
“It is not that I want you to let me stay in this house. I’ve got some things I need to do, so I’m going that way.”
“──I’ll go with you.”
“It’s all right. I think I can manage on my own.”
“But I can’t leave Your Majesty alone right now!”
“I know my body better than anyone. Don’t worry. I can still manage.”
“Please don’t say that! There may still be a way to save you!”
Gail laughed and closed his mouth as if he was troubled.
The elven chief, who looked as if she was about to burst into tears, clutched her hand and held it stoutly. She turned her head down, but Gail, after patting her head, turned away.
“I haven’t been getting enough exercise lately, and that’s just fine.”
“The war is over, so it’s just fine that you haven’t been getting enough exercise. …By the way, is there anyone accompanying you?”
“I’m here in secret, so I’m the only one who left the royal capital.”
“Why did you do that──?”
“I must keep my death a secret until the very last minute. Otherwise, the country, which has just begun to settle down, will be shaken.”
The elven chief finally let out a mournful voice when she heard the word “death.”
On the other hand, Gail regretted saying it out loud and said it in an apologetic voice.
“I’d better get going. I’ll be back by sunset.”
“…..Please take care of yourself.”
“Yeah, thank you.”
After parting, Gail walked out alone in the same way as he had come and walked to the back of the house. Perhaps because the paths in this area are relatively easy to walk on compared to those in the forest, a faint smile appeared on Gail’s cheeks.
A few moments later, Gail stood in front of the wall separating the sanctuary from the surrounding area and slowly walked inside. This transparent wall, which prevented all but qualified people from entering, was also the work of Gail himself, the creator of the sanctuary. Ain followed him and entered the sanctuary, which was also colorless.
After passing through the fog that had settled around the sanctuary, a large rock──split in two came into view. At the top sits a shrine.
(The shrine is still brand new.)
According to what he had heard, this shrine was built before the great war.
At that time, the area around Sith Mill was overrun with many monsters, and many different races of people were troubled by the threat. He remembered hearing from the elven chief that the shrine was built by Gail together with the elven chief──in order to solve this problem.
Suddenly, Gail fell down in a big heap with great vigor.
Before the bridge to the sacred green stone, he casts his eyes down, listening to the sound of the waterfall. He seemed to be trying to relieve some of the fatigue of the long journey.
However, no restful moment came to him.
“Aaah! You are sleeping here!”
“It’s so weird!”
Appalled by the voice, Ain hurriedly looked in the direction of the voice.
Two light balls flew toward Gail.
“It’s been a long time.”
“Why did you come here? Are you free just like my sister?”
“I came here because I have something to do.”
“Hmm… it’s weird that you sleep when you have things to do!”
“But you look tired! I’ll cheer you up just a little bit!”
There is no doubt. Those were the tree spirits.
The tree spirits that Ain also met on the way to the sanctuary suddenly appeared and were interacting with Gail in a light tone.
As soon as they said they would cheer him up, they shook their wings and rained glowing sand-like scales on Gail. After being exposed to this, Gail’s face seemed to regain some of its vitality.
(T-they knew each other!?)
The fact that there was a friendship between Gail and the tree spirit made Ain forget to be surprised by the effect of the mysterious scale powder.
While he was surprised, the three exchanged words regardless.
“Now, can you give me some more?”
“This is all we have! I’ll share it with you later!”
“That would be great. ──Well, then. Do you two want to go with me then?”
At Gail’s suggestion, the tree spirit sisters nodded quickly.
The two stood up, flew happily around Gail, and crossed the bridge together. Ain, who had been surprised, hurriedly walked out and followed the three of them.
When the three arrived in front of the entrance to the shrine located at the uppermost level, Gail easily opened the door by simply standing in front of it without unsealing it as Ain and Chris had done.
Easily stepping inside the shrine, it was just as Ain knew it to be.
“Hey, hey! Why do you have a painting on display?”
“It’s sad that there are no decorations. The spirits of the dead are sleeping under here, so I decorated the scenery of Ishtalika for them as well.”
“Heh, you are so kind!”
The three of them walked down the stairs as if taking a stroll while conversing.
As they passed through the staircase decorated with numerous paintings and rooms leading to the lowest floor, their feet never stopped, even as they faced the mechanism that Ain and Chris had both worked so hard on.
It was only natural since Gail was the one who had built this shrine.
Within no time at all, Gail was standing in front of the door that led to the deepest part of the shrine.
Only one door remained. Walking with the tree spirits, Gail started down the celestial path leading to the great mausoleum.
“The view from here is over the whole of Ishtalika. It’s a nice place, even if it’s an artificial view.”
“It’s so high! It’s so, so, so high!”
…I have to go too. Ain had no idea what it meant to be shown this scene, but he was keenly interested in what Gail would do here.
But──He couldn’t proceed.
The reason why he couldn’t move was because there was a hand on his shoulder that was preventing him from moving.
“Are you satisfied?”
Behind him was the man he had met in the burning former royal capital and who had left just because the three of them had arrived.
“Do I look satisfied?”
“No, you don’t.”
“…..So why did you show me this view?”
“It wasn’t me who showed it to you. You were just looking at the man’s memories on your own.”
“Why did you come to stop me?”
“There’s been a change of plans. I can’t go out there and fight.”
“What? You lost to them all?”
“Yeah, unfortunately, they held me down. I had just been born, and it was difficult for me to take them all at the same time. …..Good grief. If you had become one with me, I could have won single-handedly.”
“Since I don’t intend to, I don’t have a choice.”
The man returned to the main topic while looking at Ain who raised his eyebrows.
“I told you, though, that the plans have changed.”
“…..Did you come to steal my consciousness forcibly?”
“Yeah. I couldn’t wait any longer.”
“I don’t understand. I wonder why you didn’t do it before.”
“I never thought about it, but unfortunately, your will is so strong that there is nothing I can do about it. But it became necessary to unite as soon as possible. I am worn out, and I can no longer pretend.”
Then the man’s expression turned somber.
“It’s a shame.”
The man’s hand, still on Ain’s shoulder, was filled with physical strength.
There was no way to resist.
Ain didn’t have the strength to resist, so his body was thrown out into the sky of the temporary continent of Ishtar that spread out below this road.
“I hate those who turned their blades against me. ──It saddens me. I would have ended them with my own hands, but I have not yet regained enough strength to fight them.”
With that, the man disappeared.
The wind blowing against his cheeks never stopped informing him of the momentum of the fall.
Eventually, Ain’s body was going to be thrown to the sea or the ground. It was at such a high altitude. It went without saying that he would be in a lot of pain. He was proud of his physical strength, but as expected, he did not expect to fall from such a height.
He wondered if he could somehow land on his feet using his skills, but──.
“…..I can’t use my skills?”
He couldn’t use all of his skills leading up to the thick fog, let alone his illusory hands.
The only thing he could do was to bring out the tree roots, and the situation was so bad that it made him start to laugh.
“Most of my power is already in his possession──!”
After a while, the shock that rushed to Ain’s body, which had been warned that it would be slammed hard somewhere, was too weak to be expected. Prior to being surprised, Ain hurriedly rose to the surface of the sea, feeling the coldness of the seawater rushing over his entire body and the taste of the tide entering his mouth.
As he spat out the salt water in his mouth, he looked around and saw that he had fallen onto the sea, a short distance away from the port of the royal capital of Ishtalika. And it could be confirmed that the royal capital was not the royal capital of the past but the modern royal capital where Ain spent his time.
…..What should I do from now on? As he looked at the royal capital while keeping an eye on his surroundings, he couldn’t help but get a bit emotional.
He knew that this was not the time to be impressed by a view he had not seen in a long time, but it was impossible not to be so in front of his beloved royal capital.
But even Ain was startled when he looked behind him.
His own battleship was sitting so close that he could reach it if he swam for a dozen seconds or so.
When had it been here, he wondered, though he couldn’t see it as he fell? …In any case, there’s no point in thinking about it here. Ain swam closer to Leviathan, creating tree roots from his side and climbing up.
…..Even so, how can the tree roots be produced?
Maybe it’s not something he absorbed; maybe it’s a different kind of power that he was born with. It felt surprisingly fitting to think that the power identical to the existence of Ain was not taken away.
“I must hurry.”
After having reached a point of understanding, he hurried his body.
Proceeding along the structure made from the scales of a sea dragon, he passed the deck and headed for the top of the streamlined roof. Here Ain finally sat down and wrung out his clothes, which had become heavy from absorbing water, to lighten them. It was only at this point that he realized he was carrying a black sword at his waist.
He looked up at the sky, gasping for breath, and noticed that the clouds had not moved an inch.
It’s a made-up scenery, and as Gail said, this world was probably fake, but it made him feel a little sad.
…..It’s so quiet.
If he were to believe that man’s words, he would be on his way to kill Ain from now on.
If so, it’s foolish to be idle and do nothing. As he was thinking this, the world finally began to move.
The distant sea shook, and bubbles boiled up from two places.
The supposedly quiet ocean suddenly transformed.
Ain pulled out his black sword and held it low in the ready position.
Looking at the sea with both eyes, he saw whirlpools in several places and irregular currents taking over the waters around the area.
Ain’s chest rumbled with discomfort.
A moment later, the surface of the sea in the distance swelled and rose──exploding and sending seawater soaring.
The voice of the king of the sea shook the sky, and its vibration pressed against Ain’s cheek.
And there were two of them.
The second, which appeared late, emerged from beside the first, glaring at Leviathan near the harbor and at Ain, who rode atop it.
“I hate those who turned their blades against me. ──It saddens me. I would have ended them with my own hands, but I have not yet regained enough strength to fight them.”
I see, so he’s going to kill me with the power he took from me, Ain thought.
“You think that’s going to make me give up?”
If he had no power and was even more desperate than he was now, he would have been heartbroken, but he knew he could use the power he was born with.
If he could produce tree roots, then he should be able to use Toxin Decomposition EX and even Absorption.
Two sea dragons ran across the sea. They aimed at Ain in a straight line.
Don’t worry. There is nothing to be afraid of. All I have to do is fight like I did that time when I saved Chris. Now that I have grown up, I can do even better than I did back then. That’s what Ain thought.
The white wind suddenly started to drift across the ocean as Ain, who had a strong heart, waited to intercept the sea dragon.
“──I knew this would happen as soon as the sea dragon appeared.”
The sudden coldness of the air turned his breath white.
The earth was shaking and echoed through the air. The worst situation could easily be imagined in response to the ever-increasing coldness.
The surface of the sea was freezing.
Something leaped from the royal capital and flew above Leviathan’s head, creating a shadow.
And then it arrived.
──The roar of the king of the ice fields.
A stiff arm was raised in the air. The Upashikamui was coming closer to Leviathan, following gravity as it was.
Meanwhile, the sea dragons were also approaching Ain’s front, easily shattering the frozen ocean.