Krone’s chest, which had been hugging him, suddenly struck a rapid beat.
It was because.
She saw his fingertips move feebly.
Ain’s fingertips certainly regained their strength, gripped the talisman magic stone he was holding between his hands and intertwined his fingers with Krone’s.
“That’s the talisman.”
She spoke to him with a soft smile.
But tears spilled from the edges of her eyelids and wet her cheeks.
“I’m so happy right now.”
She rubbed his fingertips, which moved a little.
“I’m very, very happy to be here with you in this memorable place. ──But…”
That’s not enough.
“But I know I’ll be even happier when you wake up, Ain.”
Unable to bear it, tears fell onto the back of her hand.
Even though she knew it was more painful for Ain than for herself, she couldn’t stop herself from revealing her thoughts and feelings.
“…You’re a good-natured boy and a little bit shy.”
Ain was that kind of boy.
“…And sometimes you can be optimistic and unpredictable.”
“──You’re the worst person in the world for grasping my feelings.”
Krone loved the time she spent with Ain and gently stroked his cheek.
“I know you tried to end it all alone. But I will never let you be alone, you know.”
She looked at him with her eyes closed and concluded.
Then, it wasn’t a misunderstanding.
Suddenly, his fingers grasped Krone’s hand back.
◇ ◇ ◇
He went to the place where he found Raviola’s magic stone, took it in his hand and tucked it away in his pocket.
“I know you tried to end it all by yourself. But I won’t let you be alone, you know, Ain.”
In his head, the voice of his beloved reached him.
“──Even if you’re angry at me for putting myself in danger. I’ll stay here until you come home.”
The shaking, sad voice of Krone shook Ain’s heart strongly.
He stood up, clutching the magic stone of Raviola, and put it away in his pocket to catch his breath.
“The Gluttonous World Tree. I’m sorry, but I have to take you down as soon as possible, no matter how long it takes.”
He had to remember that if he spent any more time, he would be in a straight line of defeat.
At that time, Raviola’s magic stone in his pocket shone.
Ain, illuminated by the glow, felt the power flow into his body.
──I didn’t absorb it.
The possibility could not be dismissed that Ain, like when he was a young boy, followed his survival instincts and unconsciously triggered the absorption.
──Or was it a coincidence?
It was a coincidence that Krone brought it to him.
This in itself was not strange.
And just as Ain was about to be convinced, Raviola’s magic stone pulsated loudly!
──What in the world was that just now?
What he remembered was that this was the magic stone that was in the process of being absorbed.
He remembered that he had unknowingly triggered absorption as soon as he received it from the elven chief, but a lot of magic power remained in Raviola’s magic stone, and it remained a beautiful blue color.
It was thanks to that azure magic power that Ain was able to move as he did now.
As he remembered this, this time, Ishtar’s radiance shimmered at the edge of his vision. It was the sword that Raviola’s husband, Gail, held in his hand.
The first king and his queen.
A fairy tale of two people coming together to combine their powers came to Ain’s mind.
“Could it be…”
“Could it be what?”
The Gluttonous World Tree tilted its head and continued its furious attack.
Numerous illusory hands, the cold air of the ice dragon.
Even though the dryad’s power and roots constantly attacked Ain, he cut everything down easily with a half-stunned look on his face.
──If he fails, he might die.
──What if it doesn’t work in the first place?
──No, this is not the time to think about it.
Numerous words were snatched from his mind. Questioning himself.
The conclusion was immediate.
Ain lowered his hand, holding Ishtar.
“Have you given up?”
The Gluttonous World Tree scrutinized one of its eyes.
He reached out one hand, palm outstretched, and turned it ruthlessly.
“It’s a stupid end.”
It said with disappointment.
“I had hoped to be one with you, and it is true that I was frustrated by your resistance.”
Once again, numerous illusory hands emerged from the back of the Gluttonous World Tree.
All of them were trying to reap the life out of Ain’s body.
“But to be shown in such a lethargic manner──”
It was disappointing.
It was about to continue.
But then, it got to the point of despair.
“──What do you mean to be shown?”
The illusory hand had all but vanished.
It was never cut down by Ishtar. After reaching Ain’s face, they disappeared into particles of light without notice.
“You must have reverted to being a mere impotent Ain! How could you have drowned out my attack?”
“That’s right. I was just Ain, a powerless Ain; that’s all I am. But you know what I mean. Even I still have some skills left.”
The skills he absorbed before becoming a Demon King belong to the Gluttonous World Tree. However, there was one skill that he acquired after becoming the Demon King.
The Gluttonous World Tree should have known that, but the tree and Ain quickly dismissed it from their consciousness as unsuitable for combat.
“That’s uninteresting nonsense──!”
The illusory hand gained momentum again and headed toward Ain, but with the same end result.
Ain slowly breathed in a deep breath.
Far away, out of this world.
Thinking of his homeland, which cherished the white silver, he stood up against it.
“Fine──! I will pierce your body with this sword I hold!”
The Gluttonous World Tree soon abandoned the use of skills without any understanding.
All it took was to take the black sword in hand and use it to overwhelming effect.
(I have repeated history, and I have to take responsibility for it.)
In contrast, Ain maintained an unusual calmness in the face of the black sword that was so close to his flesh.
“──I, as the heir to the white silver of Ishtalika, will put an end to this causality!”
As the swords overlap and the jet black and silver lights flew around the area, it was Ain who won the contest.
The silver light overpowered the jet black, further erasing the blackness surrounding this world. The sunlight shone through the sky, and it was as if morning had arrived.
“How did you get so much power?”
Ain has not regained any of his power.
The proof was in the speed of his movements and the strength of his muscles, which had not changed until just a few tens of seconds ago. Despite this, the difference in power was soon equalized and finally overturned.
“Power! The speed! So is the silver that burns me!”
“Do you still not understand? Gluttonous World Tree!”
“Kuku──I don’t know! I thought you were helpless again….. but no matter how much power the hero king has given you, you were never meant to be my equal!”
The Gluttonous World Tree, seeing the raised Ishtar, held up the black sword with a fierce look in its eyes.
“This time, I’m going to take it head-on. I will twist down──the power of the hero!”
“…..I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I want to say a word!”
The silver light was filled to the brim. Conquering the jet-black.
“Don’t misunderstand me! I am not a hero!”
The swords crossed each other.
“I am the Demon King! I am the only Demon King who is more──than the hero king!”
The head-on rivalry was fierce.
The Gluttonous World Tree was scorched by Ain’s magical power, but Ain was also cursed by the magical power that the Gluttonous World Tree released throughout its body.
Silver and jet-black overlapped each other.
The jet black was overwhelmed, and the silver began to dominate.
The Gluttonous World Tree frowned and tried to put on Dullahan’s armor, but it was too late──.
“Why….. why won’t it appear?”
It couldn’t be put on. In fact, there was no sign that it was even possible to summon it.
Ain did not miss the opportunity.
With Ishtar in his hand, he slashed at the shoulder of the Gluttonous World Tree.
The black blood that leaked from the deeply carved wound soaked the ground and finally made the tree kneel down.
“Where the hell did your power come from──?”
The Gluttonous World Tree began to think, and the line that Ain had spoken just a few minutes ago came back to its mind.
“That’s right. I was just Ain, a powerless Ain; that’s all I am. But you know what I mean. Even I still had some skills left.”
For a moment, it didn’t seem possible, but then it found it too persuasive to dismiss.
“You have indeed awakened. But that’s not all, is it?”
The Gluttonous World Tree took a defensive posture with its black sword in a kneeling position in front of Ain’s oncoming pursuit.
The two swords overlap, and a shockwave sweeps through the area, and then the Gluttonous World Tree stated the answer it had come to.
“I myself have become weak──and therefore cannot use the power I took from you! Is that what you are saying?”
Ain didn’t answer the question but simply smiled back at it.
“Kuh… Ridiculous! Are you saying that you risked everything on such a farce?”
“Yes, it was a bad bet! But I won the bet! The fact that the ‘weakening’ worked on you, too, proves it!”
The last skill left for Ain is “weakening.” This was the skill he got from the magic stone of the first queen Raviola.
“I don’t know if it’s because this is the world in my mind or if it’s because of the inseparable bond between you and me! But whatever it was that affected you too!”
The weakening was known to affect only one’s own body, as Ain has confirmed before. It was literally a deadly gamble to see if it would work on the Gluttonous World Tree, which was connected to him.
Failure would only weaken him, and that would be suicide.
It all depended on how much of a connection there was between Ain and the Gluttonous World Tree.
But it must not be forgotten that Ain himself would also be affected by the weakening. If that had happened, it would have been impossible for him to fight as he does now…
“Abominable… the power of that hero king!”
It was due to the power of the hero king Gail, that Ain was able to gain the upper hand in the battle.
Since this was not Ain’s power, it did not matter if his body was weakened.
In other words, the weakening also affected the Gluttonous World Tree, and thus Ain, who had the power of hero king Gail, was able to surpass the Gluttonous World Tree.
(I stand here with the help of His Majesty Gail and Raviola-sama──!)
He thought that the combination of their power was like a fairy tale.
Now that it has become a reality, Ain’s heart was raging like never before.
“This is the end…!”
The Gluttonous World Tree lost sight of Ain.
The next time it saw Ain, it was just before he reached into its belly and raised Ishtar.
“Die──Gluttonous World Tree!”
As Ain raised Ishtar, he shattered the black sword that was prepared to catch it──and pierced the chest of the Gluttonous World Tree at the end of it.
Jet-black fresh blood trickled down Ishtar and dripped onto Ain’s hands and the ground.
The Gluttonous World Tree let out a sigh of sorrow and looked up at the sky.
“──Is this what it feels like to have your hopes end?”
The Gluttonous World Tree noticed that the joints of its body began to turn into grains of magic power and said in a resigned tone.
Hearing this, Ain did not launch a pursuit.
The intense sword fight, which had left no time to catch his breath, had come to an end.
There was almost no magic power that could be felt from the Gluttonous World Tree. Confident of victory, Ain stepped back and opened his mouth.
“It’s my win.”
“…..No. I’m afraid you’re wrong.”
Ain felt a chill in the air go down his back.
The masked smile on the face of the Gluttonous World Tree gave off an eerie feeling that could not be explained by logic.
“Sad to say, there is no winner in this battle.”
“…What do you mean?”
“You take my word for it. Oh no, the winner of this battle is definitely you. You can be proud of that, but after all, it’s in your mind. The battle outside is something else, isn’t it?”
Then, suddenly, the Gluttonous World Tree pulled out a black sword from out of nowhere.
“You don’t have to be prepared. I’m not going to fight anymore.”
Then why the sword? The answer to his question arrives shortly.
Suddenly, the sword blew itself out.
In front of Ain’s eyes, it pierced its own throat with its remaining strength.
“Win or lose; it doesn’t change where we’re headed. I regret that I could not unite with you, but I want to satisfy this hunger as much as possible before it comes to an end.”
“Wait! What are you doing?”
“Fufufu….. Well, we couldn’t become one, but we will meet our end together…!”
Then it disappeared completely.
Ain involuntarily lost strength and fell to his knees, but he looked around with a sense of urgency at the words left behind by the Gluttonous World Tree.
How could he wake up?
He must hurry up and go after that guy.
“Kuh….. is it because that guy is still alive?”
He was trapped in a mental cage with no way in or out. There was not enough room to run around and look around. The world was still on the verge of collapse.
But then, suddenly.
The Blue Fire Roses, which had withered away, regained their lush foliage, and in no time at all, beautiful flowers bloomed.
However, not all the flowers were revived, and they only created a path made of flowers in front of Ain’s eyes.
“──It’s a door.”
Ahead of him, there was a familiar door.
It must be the door leading to the Great Temple.
Then the door opened to the left and right.
──The vast space that appeared behind the door was unmistakably the Great Temple.