Chapter 180: Finished product


Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama


「Can’t he brighten this place up a little?」

「I don’t think he has a choice.」

We had received a letter from Warwick telling us to visit him at his ‘workshop’. The collar had finally been fixed, and we decided to head there to collect it on my rest day. Lyla was all for it, but I still had my own reservations about sealing her powers again.

「You might need to help someone one day.」

「I don’t care. People like that simply want to be backed by the Demon King. With great power comes great potential for conflict. If my powers can be sealed away, then be sealed they must.」

I found her ideas to be sensible. Instead of going by the underwater route, we opted for the drier route that Dee and Rodje had apparently used the previous time.

「Will you continue to act as my ‘collar’? I was never a match for you, so if anything happens…」

「I don’t have that kind of time, and I have no stakes in what goes on in the demon realm anyway.」

That wasn’t the case for Lyla, of course — not only was her father over there, but a large group of loyalists as well.

「That’s good. You can have ninety-nine worries, but don’t let the impending suppression of my abilities be one of them.」

She was rather optimistic about the future.

「Aye, Roland-kun. Oh, if it isn’t the Demon King too, in the flesh」, said Warwick when we arrived.

「How long has it been since I met you in this form, Warwick?」, replied Lyla. 「It’s certainly been a while.」

She lifted her skirt gently in a curtsey, using her other hand to thread her crimson hair. What would have made the average person look like a laughing-stock worked for Lyla due to her unwavering confidence.

「I’m not a subject of yours, so don’t expect me to prostrate myself in front of you.」

「I know. I must thank you for helping to fix my collar.」

「…」

The vampire looked a little confused.

「Roland-kun… this is not the Demon King that I know. She felt like a monarch. The ruler of everything. The way she walked, the way she talked… merciless and sharp. Would slip you into a trance.」

「You can think of her as a masochist who enjoys having herself collared.」

「Egads.」

「Excuse me!?」, yelled Lyla, stamping her feet on the ground. 「Your uncalled-for input will sully my good name!」

「Am I wrong?」

「Uguh…」

Warwick chortled.

「So even the ruler of everything becomes but a maiden in front of the man she loves.」

「Guh…!」

Lyla fell silent, her face turning red.

「Suit yourself!」, she finally sputtered, starting to pace around the workshop.

She had definitely been interested in such things since long ago, I thought.

「What caused the Demon King’s downfall in the end was not justice or hatred」, said Warwick through barely contained laughter. 「It was love. Quite the irony.」

「Not a word to anyone else about Lyla.」

「I understand. I prefer to remain in your good books, anyway.」

「Meaning?」

「Your arm. It’s a terrible, terrible shame for someone powerful enough to defeat the Demon King to have only one arm.」

「I’ve said this before — one arm is enough for what I do now.」

Lyla cleared her throat.

「I find the collar to be an intriguing accessory」, she muttered.

「What an adorable character」, commented Warwick, misunderstanding her intention. 「Was she always like that?」

「About this matter? From the very beginning. She maintains that she’s interested in the collar as an accessory.」

「To make the Demon King fall for you… that’s unsettling in itself.」

「I was stronger than her. But it’s not like I had to use much of my strength.」

「Well, that’s not what I meant. Raw strength alone will never achieve this.」

Never mind, said Warwick, changing the topic.

「Think of the creatures that live out their lives from cradle to grave without the slightest idea of the potential locked away within themselves. That’s why I started researching methods to increase monsters’ power — to evolve them, or achieve something similar to evolution.」

Which culminated in the development of that incantation, I thought. The Armored Tortoise and Spiky Saurian were results of years and years of research.

「And the same can be said for you, Roland-kun.」

「Because I am no longer as strong as I used to be?」

「Precisely.」

「As a guild employee, I have no need for such power. One arm suffices.」

「…And other lies you can tell yourself.」

That took me by surprise. I was not expecting him to see through my facade so easily.

「What makes you think that?」

「I, too, am part man. All of us seek strength. To become stronger. To transcend ourselves.」

「With great power comes great potential for conflict」, I said, quoting Lyla.

「To be fair…」

If Lyla is willing to have her power sealed away, then I don’t even need the one arm I have. Neither of us would need strength anymore.

Think about it, urged Warwick, handing me the finished collar.

「It works the same way as its previous iteration. I looked into why it broke, and it seems that the gradual weakening of its physical structure had a big part to play. It’s been two hundred years since I made that thing, after all. And it was experimental to boot. To prevent that from happening again, I applied two additional incantations to it — one that prevents wear and tear, be it physical or magical, and one that prevents general degradation due to time.」

It looked identical to the previous one upon examination. But it’s a new ‘accessory’, all right.

「It won’t come off or break, and time has no effect on its physical integrity. Is that correct?」

「Yes.」

Placing the collar into my breast pocket, I shook the inventor’s hand.

「Thank you.」

「It’s an honor to be thanked by a hero like you — the man who slayed the Demon King and flipped the bird to the demons. And the Demon King wants the collar on her because you’ll be by her side. But if you really wish to express your gratitude, then let me examine your body.」

「My body? Sure, I guess.」

「Really?」

Lyla, who had been poking around the workshop, peered at us from afar.

「I think she’s tired of this place. Next time, maybe?」

「Shame. Come again sometime.」

We left the workshop and returned above ground.

「Well, here’s your collar.」

「Let me have a look.」

I passed her the collar, and she started examining it from various angles. She wasn’t particularly interested to hear how it had been improved.

「In short, it’s more effective than before?」

「Yeah…. Lyla, you don’t have to put the collar on now, you know? Do it when you feel that it’s necessary.」

「Hm.」

「No annoying subordinates have come looking for you yet. In your present state, though, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell before they even show up.」

「I guess that’s true.」

「And if you want to be a cat, perhaps?」

「Being a cat is convenient. If I want to go anywhere, I can just hop in your bag. It’s easier for you too, isn’t it?」

「That’s one benefit of being a cat.」

I realised that we were holding hands, but I made no attempt to disengage.

「I’m happy.」

「Why?」

「All that stuff you said about the collar is because you were worried about me.」

「That makes you happy?」

She nodded without a reply.

There was nobody in sight, so she tiptoed and brought her face close to mine. Our lips met and parted, the sound ringing across the silent path. We continued walking, holding hands as if nothing had happened. From the side, though, Lyla’s expression was much more relaxed than before.



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