Editor: Ghost Ape
I thought the world was ending. Rather than some Demon King, a much more realistic and close to me fear had at last manifested itself.
“Uuu… I wonder just how can I apologize to mankind…”
Blown away by the gale and toppled upside down, I was weeping softly. I tried to do my best, but in the end I didn’t manage to set Rēko in the right direction.
If that’s how it was meant to be, I should have solved her misunderstanding right at the very beginning, when she came to the cave. If I would have done that, this tragedy wouldn’t have―― No, thinking about it, I’ve explained more than enough. In spite of that, this was the conclusion.
So exactly what the heck should I have done?
“Oi, Rēvendia. You can cry and lament all you want, but could you get off me first?”
When I stirred to the unexpected call out of nowhere, trapped under me and covered in dust Ariante began to crawl out.
“Yikes, sorry. I didn’t notice you were buried under me.”
“I don’t mind. After all, it’s the result of me immediately using you as a shield, so we’re even.”
“I don’t think you should deliberately say things like that. Depending on the circumstances, it might worsen your relationships.”
Turning a deaf ear to my warning, Ariante removed the dust from her armour.
“However, we’re lucky it was merely the wind pressure of her wings. If that was a genuine attack, everyone here would have been dead.”
“R-Rēko wouldn’t have done that, would she? Despite looking like that, she has her gentle side――”
Thus, I decided to recall the good deeds Rēko had done.
She had released people captured by the bandits. (Because she judged them unsuitable to be used as slaves) In order to keep the town safe, she purposely wanted to take the whole territory under control. (With willingness to cause an all-out war)
“―― Erm, deep down, that is. Deep down I think she’s a gentle child. Just her common sense is a little…”
“Oi, you’re trailing off there… Anyway, because she’s influenced by the berserk magic power, her original character doesn’t matter. You better think of the person standing there as a literal Evil Dragon itself.”
Ariante pointed with her sword at the sky. After gulping loudly I turned my gaze upwards. There was a silhouette floating on the red dusk sky with her black wings spread wide. Emitting an ominous aura from the whole body, her eyes were filled with blue brilliance of madness, as if intent on obliterating everything she sees.
“At any rate, do I really look like that in her eyes? Quite a shocker if that’s true.”
“What are you saying now? You look pretty evil when you’re big. There’s no helping it she turned out like that.”
“I think it really isn’t okay to judge people based solely on their looks.”
While glaring contemptuously upon us Rēko still maintained her inaction. In that case, I knew what could be done.
“How about running away till she cools down? Wouldn’t she return to normal after exhausting her magic power?”
“Please don’t――! During that time this town would disappear――!”
Like a geyser, Lady Saintess gushed out from the ground in a half-liquid state. And then, as soon as she had returned to her human form, she caught my head shaking it around and repeatedly calling “Please do something!”
“Cal-, Lady Saintess, calm down…”
She let go, crumpled down on her knees and covered her face. She had completely broken down.
“Uuu…. I can’t believe Lady Rēko would turn out like that… If that’s how it is, I should have plunged right into the festival, revealed my true form and have been spoiled to my heart’s content…”
“Saying such tasteless things, would the people really recognize you as Lady Saintess?”
I felt they’d have been all the more angry instead. Or rather, it was too soon to give up. If Ariante, Lady Saintess and the soldiers were to combine their strength, they should be able to at least hold out until she turned ba――
And yet, one part of hope was already lost. As expected of the town’s professional soldiers, their judgement had been more precise than mine. Convinced they had no chance of winning no matter how much they struggled, they started running away with amazing speed.
“It’s okay! If we take shelter in the town, Lady Saintess will surely do something!”
“That’s right! We still have Lady Saintess on our side!”
But it was unlikely they’d have supposed that the support for their escape, their guardian, was useless. The Lady Saintess in question was throwing a tantrum like a child and expressing her unfulfilled desires before the impending death. Mainly how she wanted to be pampered. I guess I couldn’t expect much here either.
“In that case, Ariante. I can count only on――”
Ariante had straddled her favourite horse intending to tug the reins any time now.
“Wait, what are you doing! What about your pride as a knight?!”
“Please stop apologizing in such a serious manner. The sense of impending doom will just get worse.”
“No, there’s really nothing we can do here. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone called that a Demon King.”
Demon King’s reputation was cheap. If one could become a Demon King with just their wrong impressions, wouldn’t the world become filled with them?
“… Err Ariante, I’m going to ask just in case, but you won’t be able to stall for time, will you?”
“I could buy some time if I had about 50 people and carried out all the necessary preparations.”
“In other words it’s impossible now.”
“Even so, you shouldn’t decide to run so quickly.”
As I laid flat down and clutched my head, Ariante looked up at Rēko.
“That’s because even though I’ll forsake this town, I’ll have to work out some countermeasures for later. Her using up her strength and turning back would be the best outcome, but in the worst case scenario she may be swallowed up by the Evil Dragon’s magic power and will remain like that her whole life.”
“Even so…” she continued, “she has been strangely quiet after flying up. Maybe she still has some self-control left?”
“Eh? Really? Rēko’s amazing, doing her best and not giving in.”
Soundlessly floating mid-air, Rēko was intently looking down on the surface. Looking closely, she was actually repeatedly opening and closing her mouth.
It wasn’t a distance where I could hear anything. However, Ariante read the movements of her lips and conveyed the fragments she inferred.
“Saintess. Water demon. Destroy. Unforgivable. Vegetable scraps. Branding as pet. Tear apart. Death by burning. Must be punished. She’s just repeating words like that.”
Oh my goodness. Lady Saintess’ self destructive behaviour had made a full circle and came back as an advantage, buying time while Rēko took a lengthy consideration trying to decide the means of execution. Intending to protect the town even at the cost of self-sacrifice, she certainly was a paragon guardian.
But for some reason, my tears wouldn’t stop. Please, somebody save this child. Due to the excessive terror caused by the phrases she heard, Lady Saintess clung to my legs with her teeth chattering.
“That’s a godsend, I say. It’d be great if she would just continue hesitating like this forever…”
It seemed Ariante didn’t possess a human heart. Considering a method of this continuing endlessly; Lady Saintess would just die emotionally, wouldn’t she? Having said that, making a wrong move and breaking this risky equilibrium was out of the question.
“E, e, e, eiyaa――――!!”
Ah. Not being able to bear the figurative rope slowly strangling her, Lady Saintess ultimately set out on her futile struggle. She faced Rēko and released a surging water current like an upside down waterfall.
Even Rēko had a reaction to that. Still not moving her body even an inch, she inhaled deeply―― then spouted scorching, deep blue flames dazzling the eyes. As soon as the water current, trying to swallow Rēko whole, came into contact with the flames, it evaporated completely, not even leaving behind mist. Without losing its vigour, the breath of hell fire continued in a straight line aiming for Lady Saintess.
Honestly speaking, even when I looked back on it later, I still couldn’t say clearly what I was trying to accomplish. I might have been scolding Rēko, or I might have been chiding Lady Saintess’ rash counterattack. Or I might have simply screamed in turmoil.
What I did accomplish amidst the fright and unrest was to cover Lady Saintess, who had utterly frozen before my eyes.
Simultaneously with Ariante’s scream, the heat touched my back. As a matter of course, these flames which could even melt steel, wouldn’t be stopped by the likes of my scales――
Since I didn’t feel any pain or heat, when I timidly raised my line of sight from the ground, the flames disappeared before I knew it.
“A-ah? Did Rēko stop it in time?”
“No, she didn’t stop the attack till the very end.”
Ariante denied my suspicion. Sheathing her sword, she made an all too serious face.
“Well then, why…”
“The instant the flames came into contact with you, disregarding that child’s will to attack, they vanished. I see―― so that’s how it is. Though slim, there’s a glimmer of hope.”
“Eh? What do you mean? Don’t just grasp it yourself and explain so that I can also understand.”
“In short it’s like this.”
With her hands free after sheathing her sword, Ariante firmly clutched my tail.
“Clench your teeth!”
This time Rēko swung her right hand, launching a slash of light in the form of a claw. Roughly the same time I recognized it visually, my body was lifted up into the air in a wide arc.
Gripping my tail, I was swung as hard as she could. While raising a mute scream without any time to clench my teeth, I collided with the light slash.
The outcome was that the slash attack vanished, not leaving even a scratch on my skin.
“That child’s attacks―― will work on anyone but you. On the master, “the Evil Dragon Lord”, that is.”
Ariante said so, brandishing me like a sword.