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The declaration made by the Gluttonous World Tree was carried out without missing a beat. Within ten seconds, the four fighters were down on their knees, and without exception, they had been driven to the verge of losing the battle.
“It’s so foolish. Unlike him, you are too weak. Why do you stand up again and again, knowing that you are not qualified to stand before me?”
Ramza squeezed out a few words when he was told that.
“Kuhahaha…..! I’m not a quitter by nature…..!”
Marco and Arche followed suit.
“I’ll rise again and again to defend my lord.”
“Hmm….. I’ve decided that if I’m going to die anyway, I’m going to die after trying hard…..”
The voices of the three irritated the Gluttonous World Tree. But it didn’t stop there. Finally, Misty opened her mouth with her proud robe blowing in the wind, propping herself up with her staff.
“When we die, we’re all in this together. Not just us, but you too.”
“Oh, you’re lumping me in with you people?”
“That’s right. If you say you are not, then tell me the difference. You are going to destroy everything, aren’t you? Then we are the same. You and I are just as vulnerable as livestock and winged insects──Guhh!?”
“Would you shut your mouth? I’m salivating at the thought of talking about it.”
The Gluttonous World Tree kicked Misty’s body away without hesitation and looked at those around it. Ramza was particularly outraged, but the three of them were collectively pushed down by the pressure of the magic and slammed to the cobblestone pavement.
Then, to Krone, who was the last one left.
It smiled a vulgar smile and closed the distance between them.
With the back of his hand, he smacked her cheek hard and sent her rolling away.
“I will end you only by my own hand. No matter what.”
The rolling Krone left Ain’s side.
When she tried to crawl back to his side on the ground, her body screamed with a pain she had never experienced before.
But she didn’t stop. She returned to normal and hugged Ain’s body again, brushing the hair from his cheeks, not caring that her own hair was in disarray.
“He will never wake up again. Unless I allow it, forever.”
“…..You sleepyhead. It’s morning already.”
“I told you, he won’t wake up!”
The enraged Gluttonous World Tree tried to close the distance once more, but Marco intervened.
He swung his great sword, but it was easily caught with one hand and crushed with a mere fist. It was followed by a roundhouse kick and he crouched on the nearby cobblestone pavement.
“Don’t touch that girl!”
“Stop…..! I won’t let you kill her…..!”
Ramza and Arche tried to attack in rapid succession, but the result was the same.
The two were defeated in a split second, with just a mere fist in front of them.
The Gluttonous World Tree then picked up a sword that had fallen nearby. It was a crude weapon used by the Heim soldiers, but it could easily take the girl’s life.
“Let’s end this.”
Seeing the Gluttonous World Tree walking away, everyone, except for Krone, put all their strength back into their bodies. They were desperate not to let it kill her.
However, their bodies have long exceeded their limits. Despite their will, they are not able to move their bodies.
Arche’s heartbreaking voice echoed through the air.
The Gluttonous World Tree, however, stood in front of Krone without stopping and raised its crude sword.
It’s no use. While everyone was saddened by their inability to help, Krone, whose life was about to be taken, smiled serenely at the four of them.
“Thank you for protecting us.”
Her lips moved, and she did indeed say so.
The deadly blade finally began to swing down──At that moment.
“──We meet again.”
The ear-piercing sound of metal clashing with metal.
After that, his voice emanated from next to Krone.
“──Gluttonous World Tree!”
Krone was holding him close to her, but now she was, on the contrary, being hugged by him protectively. The black sword in his free hand repelled the Gluttonous World Tree.
“You’re really, really….. late.”
Tears began to well up in Krone’s eyes, and she couldn’t stop them.
“I’m sorry. I’m late.”
“I’ll never forgive you. I will never, ever forgive you if you don’t come back to Ishtalika with me.”
“Yes, I know.”
Ain said softly and wiped Krone’s eyes.
Then he hugged her tightly and said,
“Just wait a little longer. ──I’ll start now.”
“Aaaaahhhh! Why? Why do you reject me?”
“I’m going to take it down!”
With the raging Gluttonous World Tree in the background, Ain declared strongly, and Krone immediately nodded in return.
The people around them wanted to say something, but when Ain pointed his black sword at the Gluttonous World Tree and stepped towards it, they closed their mouths. They could no longer meddle or touch it. There was nothing they could do in the face of a sword fight of a different dimension.
“There is no escape now! Gluttonous World Tree!”
“Escape? I was not running away! I am doing my best to satisfy my hunger and thirst!”
“Nonsense! You ran away from fighting me and tried to keep me in your mind!”
“Your sword is not sharp! What’s wrong with you!”
The Gluttonous World Tree avoided taking it head-on and ran up the trunk of the towering tree while dodging the black sword. Ain, who was in pursuit, also kicked the trunk and ran up, swinging his black sword as he passed through the branches.
The Gluttonous World Tree, which received the black sword, fiercely produced an illusory hand to prevent the sword from reaching.
The power of the ice dragon creates icicles around the area, melted them, and attacked from all directions by manipulating the ocean currents, but this was not the world in the mind.
“Everything. I’m going to take back everything you took from me──!”
At the same time, his original power─Toxin Decomposition EX and Absorption─was returned to Ain’s flesh and blood again.
Aiming at the gap created, the black sword closed in.
Each time a wound was carved into its body, its strength was drained away. Instead, Ain regained his original strength.
The battle, which took place while climbing up the trunk of the tree, eventually came to an end.
The two of them had climbed a giant tree in another dimension that looked as if it could look out over the entire continent.
“──It looks like it’s all over now.”
There was nothing left to do but to give up. Even if they fought any longer, the result would be obvious.
The two reached the top of the giant tree and looked at each other, but the Gluttonous World Tree had a resigned look on its face and raised its arms to the jet-black ball of light floating in the celestial sphere.
“Together, we shall end.”
“I will risk everything I have and unleash upon the world the greatest potential I could use.”
“You think I’m going to let you do whatever you want?”
“But I can’t stop now. Even if you kill the will that is me, you will not stop the Gluttonous World Tree that has been born.”
Everything was too late.
From the moment the Gluttonous World Tree determined to do so, it had been decided that this world would be covered by the curse.
The cracks in the jet-black ball of light grew even larger, and what lay behind them was embryonic for the time to come.
The rush of power that could be felt was filled with a calamity that could not be compared to the time when they fought in the mind.
(It seems as if it could destroy the world in an instant.)
He had never thought about how big the world was, but it seemed that way.
Yet, Ain remained calm.
As he stepped in front of the Gluttonous World Tree, he tightened his grip on his black sword.
“I’m the one who created you. So I will be responsible for you until the end.”
“Once again, you cannot stop me. No matter how much you try, you don’t have the power to stop such a force!”
The hideous laughter of the Gluttonous World Tree echoed in the sky of the royal capital of Heim.
There was no winner in the battle. Was the Gluttonous World Tree right when it said that? No. If the world was destroyed, even if its original goal was not achieved, it made no difference if the Gluttonous World Tree was victorious.
“We’ll just end up together──”
“No, it’s not. Only you will be the one to perish.”
The black sword was thrust into the chest of the tree, and Ain embraced it as if to comfort its body.
Even the tree had reached its limit.
When the black sword was pulled out, and the embrace was released, the tree began to walk with weak steps and looked up at the sky from a few steps away.
“You forgot one thing.”
“Yes. You forgot my power.”
It was shocked, but dismissed it with a smile, saying it was impossible.
“It’s impossible, even for you. You can’t absorb all of that.”
“All I can do is repeat what I’ve done before. The poison will be purified, and I will absorb it all. That’s all there is to it.”
The jet-black ball of light had a single vertical crack in it.
Once it cracked like an eggshell, numerous eyes would scatter into the sky.
Voices of men, women, infants, and the elderly echoed around this place and throughout the world.
Clouds would spiral toward the jet-black ball of light as if they were being drawn in from all over the world.
(It is as if it is trying to eat everything in the world.)
The jet-black light ball itself also began to emit a dazzling purple-black flash, directing everything at Ain alone.
Ain’s entire body was cursed in the blink of an eye. The burning pain and the pain that seemed to melt from the bones ran through the whole body, and at the same time, the skin was dyed black by the curse.
(It’s okay. I can fight.)
Ain took a deep breath and spread his arms out like wings, activating Toxin Decomposition EX and Absorption.
He gathered the purple-black flash into one body and sucked the power from the jet-black light ball. The particles of light generated between the two gradually and gradually dissolved into Ain’s body.
Then all the eyes looked down at Ain at once and emitted a high-pitched squeal that pierced the ears.
Whether they felt pain at being power-sucked, it was unknown, but it was also trying to escape… or even sentenced to ‘kill’ the man who absorbed it.
The power of the curse directed at Ain was increasing without abating.
The skin below Ain’s neck had already turned black.
“──I have something to say to you.”
The Gluttonous World Tree, which was watching from the sidelines, had no power left to stop Ain. It didn’t want to stop him in the first place, but he spoke to Ain’s back.
There was only a short time left to settle the matter.
The power of the Gluttonous World Tree that appeared in the sky had not retained its original spherical shape.
The eyes that had been glaring at Heim were now dissolved into mere magic power and absorbed by Ain underneath them.
The curse that was consuming Ain finally reached his cheeks, but it was too late.
“──If you eventually drown in your power.”
Then, I will be born again. That time I will become one with you and eat the world as a demon king who satisfies his gluttony.
The two communicated without words.
But Ain turned his back on it and said strongly.
“I will kill myself before that happens. You will never be born again.”
The tree knew it. It was the answer it had imagined.
That made it laugh, strangely and amusingly.
“Fufu….. Yeah, maybe you’re right.”
The body of the Gluttonous World Tree faded away.
Riding the wind, it assimilated with Ain’s body.
Soon after, the jet-black light sphere’s matured body was above Ain as it fell. Finally, it dissolved into his body with great force and disintegrated in a flash of silvery white light.
The light dispelled the gathered clouds in an instant and brought a dazzling morning sun to the ruins of the Heim royal capital.
The little human skin that was left on Ain was no longer around his one eye. But the flash of silver-white that dispelled the clouds also healed the cursed black skin in an instant.
──Ain lost all his strength and fell from the tree just before he lost consciousness.
In the process, he saw the entirety of the Gluttonous World Tree and smiled slightly.
…..You, aren’t you beautiful like this?
He muttered to himself as he looked at the large tree, which had somehow put on lush foliage, and quietly closed his eyelids.
◇ ◇ ◇
Krone gently brushed through Ain’s disheveled hair with her hand.
The sunlight shining through the leaves and branches was blocked by her head, but the wind swayed and shifted the space between them, illuminating his face.
Dazzling. As if to say so, Ain’s brow furrowed into a deep crease.
Krone saw this, put her hand to her mouth, and smiled, then made a small shadow with her own back.
The chirping of birds awakened him, and he slowly opened his eyes.
“Where….. is this…..”
When his eyes open, he sees the face of the woman he has longed to meet. Knowing that he was sleeping on her lap, Ain let out a smile.
Then she looked happy.
And yet, she opened her mouth as if she was joking around.
“This is where we first met.”
Her tears dripped down Ain’s cheeks.
“After that, Ain fell down from the top of the big tree and startled me. Ramza-sama and the others took care of Ain.”
Then there was a moment of silence.
Soon after, Krone said as she did at that time.
“──Hey, Ain? What will be the first line you will say? Has it been a long time? Or thank you for lending me your lap?”
Compared to that time when they met again in the port town of Magna, she has become even more beautiful and dainty.
Whenever he heard her voice, it was always pleasant, like the sound of a bell, and it passed through his ears.
──At the time, Ain remembered that the words came naturally.
And now Ain didn’t have to think about anything either. Because the words he was going to say had been decided from the beginning.
“I love you. Is it wrong to say that?”
Krone shed a single tear and stroked Ain’s cheek.
The precious words that had been kept waiting for a long time.
She put her hand on his cheek, nodded a little, and said.
“──I love you, too.”
The morning sun was shining, and birds were chirping.
The two of them are in such a private space, in this place where he handed her the jewelry.
The two of them naturally moved closer to each other, and their lips quietly locked together.
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