Chapter 8 – Gluttonous World Tree Ⅰ
Soon after the power of the king’s sword was awakened, the false Ishtalika royal capital vanished.
The sky seemed to shatter, and everything in sight quickly darkened. Although Ain had the strange sensation of drifting through the air, before long, he was standing under a blue sky.
This was a peaceful plain with fields of blue fire roses all around.
The man was there.
He stood alone on the plain, with his back to Ain, waiting.
“Someone is disturbing me. I can feel my power being repelled.”
“What do you mean? Opening your mouth first and preparing your excuses?”
“Not really, but oh well. ──Now, I can’t say that my wounds have healed, but I think I’ve got the strength to stand in front of you.”
The man continued, keeping his back against Ain.
“──The power of that sword was my only concern.”
“Yes. I thought so.”
“But I could not find it. I couldn’t find it in the power I took from you, and I couldn’t find any sign of it in the black sword outside by your body.”
He turned around with a wry smile on his face as he said this. He looked graceful, with an air of composure about him.
“I understand. The power of the sword had already assimilated with you.”
“I thought you were careless.”
“Don’t be a fool. I was not the least bit careless to become one with your consciousness. But, as I said before, the reason I could not fight you directly was because I was not recovered.”
The atmosphere that the man wore changed. In the face of the intense pressure that almost overwhelmed him, Ain continued to hold his stance without moving an eyebrow.
“Either you will become one with me, or I will be defeated by you. ──You know what? I’m desperate, too.”
“Then I’ll end it here.”
With Ishtar in hand, Ain began to move forward on his feet.
The distance between the two was still far.
“No need to identify yourself?”
“Why don’t we just say our names as bravely as you did when you killed your father?”
“It doesn’t make sense anymore, does it? We know each other so well.”
“Oya? I never said my name, though.”
“I’d be lying if I didn’t recognize you after all this time. Besides, your name is the one I gave you.”
The man laughed. Unlike Ain, whose face was calm and clear, the man smiled happily.
“I’d like you to call me by my name for once.”
“I intend to. It’s hard for me to talk to you otherwise.”
Ain disappeared after he had finished.
A gust of wind blew through the area, and the next thing he saw was the man behind him.
Silver light and fire burst from the tip of his sword, which was about to pierce the man’s neck.
The black sword that Ain knew so well faced Ishtar, who was aiming at the man’s neck. With a glance at the guy who turned around, they met face to face and shouted out the name.
“──Gluttonous World Tree!”
Silver and black combined to form a vortex of two colors of magic power. Eventually, it exploded, sending up the blue petals of the Blue Fire Rose.
“I feel good! I finally got you to call me!”
“I regret it! I wish I’d never thought of a name!”
“Don’t be so sad! We will soon become one and truly become the Gluttonous World Tree!”
Their swordsmanship was absolutely equal. It was as if Ain was dealing with a shadow of himself.
It was not strange considering that the other party was a being born and evolved from him. Even so, the sight of him fighting with a black sword clutched in his hand irritated Ain.
Also, he gradually came to understand.
Their sword skills are indeed equal, but Ain’s physical strength was inferior to his enemy.
“As expected, it is a big burden to deal with you only with sword skills.
The Gluttonous World Tree, saying so, produced an illusory hand from the empty air. It attacked Ain several times, but Ain cut them down as Gail did.
Ain calmly observed the situation while dealing with further attacks.
(I knew it.)
There was no doubt. The Gluttonous World Tree could use all the power that Ain could use. He mocked himself for having such a troublesome set of skills.
“I was born when you evolved into the demon king.”
“Oh… so that’s it.”
“From that moment on, I became the demon king. But don’t be mistaken. It is I who have the power, not you. Only I, who became the demon king, have most of the power that you had.”
He said that all the power that was necessary to reach the demon king was in the hands of the Gluttonous World Tree.
“The only thing I couldn’t take away was the dryad’s power. Apparently, it is impossible to take away the power that is so intimately connected to you.”
Just like a bird has wings. The power that was closely related to its existence was the same.
“──If you took away my power, there would be no need for you to become one with me!”
The power of the ice dragon filled the area.
Ain used Ishtar to dispel the cold air that almost froze his skin and closed the distance between him and the Gluttonous World Tree.
“No, I still have to become one with you. Otherwise, I won’t be able to use all my powers at will.”
Ain raised Ishtar. A blinding sword flash scattered the hellfire, drowning out the cold air of the illusory hand and the ice dragon.
A swing of divine speed approached one arm of the Gluttonous World Tree.
It was blocked with a dull metallic sound.
──Dullahan’s hand armor.
It was jet black, and it was a robust fortress produced by magic power. But it shattered in an instant when it was struck by Ain’s sword.
“…..Good grief. Is it too much to take on that power?”
The Gluttonous World Tree sighed, seemingly knowing exactly what to expect.
On the other hand, the sword of the demon king’s inevitable destruction in which the power of the heroic king resides. The threat was still the same and could not be ignored, even if it was a powerful demon king that has gone out of control.
“As expected of the man who created me.”
“──This is not the end!”
The sword of Ain, which was in pursuit, was approaching. This time, he was sure to cut him down, and he was certain it would pierce his throat.
However, the Gluttonous World Tree remained the same.
Even with the sword of the demon king’s destruction in front of him, his face showed a certain composure and──.
“I want to ask you one last time.”
There was a pity.
He thought about what he would have to do to Ain from now on.
A pity that told him he already knew the outcome.
The jet-black magic power was released, and Ain was pushed away. Covering his face with his hands, Ain was pressured, and the distance between them widened.
“Become one with me, and let’s eat everything.”
“Kuh….. what’s it for…..?”
“Hunger. As you named me, I am a glutton. I want to devour every living being and see if I can fill my belly.”
“Beyond that is nothingness! You want to boast of your power in an empty world?”
The Gluttonous World Tree laughed from the bottom of his heart for the first time.
“──Fufu. I am not trying to be stronger than anyone else. I just want to see if I can satisfy this hunger after I’ve eaten everything.”
“No way, you──.”
“That’s all there is to it. It doesn’t matter if I eat up all of it and become lonely. I am willing to be alone if it satisfies my body at the end of it.”
Knowing that no one else would understand.
The Gluttonous World Tree spoke proudly.
“Come, O hero. Be one with me and devour all the world.”
The jet-black pressure stopped, and Ain’s movement was halted with only a moment’s pause.
Countless illusory hands covered Ain’s back. Without turning around, he knew they were there. One by one, they grabbed Ain’s limbs. The blue fire roses at his feet froze white and crystalline ice encased him up to his knees.
Waiting for a response, the Gluttonous World Tree thrust his black sword at Ain’s neck.
The Gluttonous World Tree sighed deeply.
“You’ve been so wise up to now, and yet here you are making the wrong choice.”
“Yes, I have matured compared to the past.”
But the illusory hand was easily drowned out by the silver wind that Ain’s body emitted.
The ice at his feet melted in the fire, and his free hand held Ishtar right next to it.
“But you know what?”
There’s one other thing to remember.
“You know I’m stubborn!”
He shouted fiercely.
The step that closed the distance to the sorrowful, Gluttonous World Tree once more was even faster than before, with a blinding, god-like speed.
The problem was that the tree reacted lightly to this divine speed.
If it were possible to defeat a man with just swiftness, there would be no difficulty, but the fact that the effect was so weak, even made Ain grimace.
The World Tree seemed to be in a slightly better mood after easily receiving Ain’s sword.
“I don’t feel bad. On the contrary, when I think I’ve come to understand you even better, I can’t stop the inexpressible joy that wells up inside me. ──Oh, it’s really not that bad!”
“And here we are! That I am crossing swords with you!”
“What’s wrong….. with that?”
The sword fight was the strangest thing Ain had ever experienced.
The illusion of swinging a sword in front of a mirror was still the same, but all of them were slightly superior to his own—the strength of his muscles, the swiftness, everything.
“Ah, your voice, your face! I’ve seen many of you in you! But I’ve never seen you so desperate and hateful toward your opponent as you are now!”
“If you’re aware of it, then it’s worth acting like that!”
“That’s what attracts me so much! I even think it’s adorable!”
The momentum of the sword fight only increased.
But with the words that it was limited to the Gluttonous World Tree.
“Now──let me pierce your body with your sword!”
Ain was knocked off his torso and dropped to one knee on top of the blue fire rose.
On the other side, The tip of a black sword aimed right between his eyes.
His hands and feet were bound to the jet-black tree roots like chains, leaving no room for escape. But Ain’s eyes were sharper than those of the black sword.
“Did you think it would be easy?”
“I had high hopes.”
“Then you’d better change your mind.”
From Ain’s Ishtar.
The wind of white flame danced and burned the roots of the jet-black tree in the blink of an eye.
The pressure repelled the black sword of the Gluttonous World Tree, and the hand holding the hilt laughed.
“──Don’t be conceited. Gluttonous World Tree.”
The body trembled. The mouth of the Gluttonous World Tree was trembling with joy.
The high spirits that were drifting from Ain, who was still standing up, were not waning but were increasing.
“I will not let it end.”
“The end will come someday. There is an end to everything, even if it is sad.”
“If there is, it will only be when you die.”
“Oh….. you really are….. lovely, aren’t you?”
They were equally good with the sword.
Even if the other was inferior, things were not so easy.
The Gluttonous World Tree who fought Ain realized this in his bones, and while he rejoiced in Ain’s bravery, the eyes glaring at Ishtar in his grip were not honest and were tinged with a slight hatred.
It was not long before the Gluttonous World Tree looked annoyed for the first time.
“But──things don’t seem as bad as I thought.”
His cheeks immediately broke out into a smile again.
Ain, on the other hand, was upset and his face went rigid. His face became rigid with agitation.
(It should be him who is at a disadvantage.)
Absolutely, for sure.
Since Misty and the others, the familiars that Ain had summoned, were also monitoring their movements outside, the Gluttonous World Tree could not focus its attention only on the battle here.
In addition, the Ishtar in Ain’s hand was a particularly effective sword against the demon king, the World Tree.
“It doesn’t look like a well-founded confidence to me.”
“If you are concerned, look around you. The world is collapsing, isn’t it?”
As they crossed swords, he looked around and noticed that the edge of the plain, which he thought stretched on forever, was beginning to be swallowed up by darkness.
──It is the same with the blue sky.
The end of the world was eroding away.