“…… I see. So that just now was the last boss…… I guess?”
So I muttered to myself while still sitting heavily on the ground.
In front of my eyes is the splendid behind of Leiha, who has taken up a stance in front of me as if to protect me from the now headless corpse of the Mystic that I see further in front.
My left arm is still clamped by Claura in a vice grip.
The thing that had been inside the Mystic’s head but is now skewered to the wall courtesy of Leid’s greatsword — let’s call it a Shadow Demon Bug for now — shrinks while gushing out smoke until it finally disappears altogether.
“…… Seems like it’s alright now.”
As Claura is petrified in the position of keeping her gaze firmly directed at the ground, I murmur to her while patting her back in what I hope comes across as a gentle (and not indecent) manner.
At which she jumps away from me as if repelled by a magnet.
“That thing is gone. It’s fine now.”
“Ah, i-, is that so?”
Claura’s face is noticeably red as she looks around, but upon noticing the wretched remains of the Mystic, her face once again grows ashen.
“You should probably get some rest.”
“I, think so too…… ah-”
Her busy face turns red again as she lets go of my robe, which she had been strongly clutching up until now.
“H-, how unbecoming of me, to be so flustered…… I am so, so sorry?”
For some reason, she is using both hands to smooth out the wrinkle in my robe that she had caused.
The sight is somehow so charming that I can feel the fear in my heart fading away. Who would’ve expected Claura’s character to include the healing factor?
The ‘Voice’ of the Shadow Demon King was indeed terrifying, but with the contact cut off , its effect is dissipating very quickly. If I’m to make an analogy, it’s like jumping awake after seeing a nightmare.
Leiha begins to wipe away the Mystic’s blood and brain matter that had gotten onto Claura’s hair and clothes. How attentive of her.
Is it just my imagination, or has Leiha been prioritizing Claura over me in regards to daily life as of late? Though as the person who had accepted her vow of fealty offered while in a half-brainstormed state, I am glad that it means she’s beginning to recover her free will.
As I was nodding with satisfaction while musing over such thoughts, Leid kicks my back with the toe of his military boots in irritation. Ugh, don’t you think you kicked a bit too hard there?
“What are you making a carefree face for? Wasn’t there something that you understood right before this guy died?”
“Shadow Demon King, you say. Actually, there is indeed a rumor that something like that exists somewhere.” (Leid)
“A rumor, huh……” (Gio)
After tasking Castle of Fortitude’s jailer with the disposal of the body, we have gathered in a different room.
The Mystic’s words that I had read through the ESP Medal, the images that had flashed into my mind at the end, and the ‘Voice’ that I had heard from the depths of his consciousness.
After listening to the very end, Leid mutters a few words.
“Aah. Perhaps the Council of Elders would know more about this.” (Leid)
He scrunches up his handsome face into a surprisingly deep scowl while crossing his arms.
This thought had come to my mind before, but it seems that there really is some form of hierarchy between the War Tribe’s upper echelons and their actual task forces.
“So does that mean that that Shadow Demon King or whatever is behind all the Demonists scattered everywhere?”
“Was it also this being that had been controlling us of the Heikreuz clan?”
“In all likelihood, yes to both. Furthermore, it seems that this Shadow Demon King knows my name and is targeting me specifically.”
With this, I have finally become certain of what had previously remained a vague hypothesis in my mind.
If the Shadow Demon King had gained knowledge of me from Baron Koval and the Priest that had been with him, and then ordered the Shulz to kill me through their Mystic, then everything makes sense.
“…… Which also means that the Miko’s prophecies that Kanbelis had mentioned……” (Leid)
Leid could not finish his own sentence.
Indeed, if the Shadow Demon King is capable of affecting anybody throughout the world, then it is very possible to make the War Tribe’s Miko believe that I am a Focal Point.
The fact that Leid had brought this up before even I did is a happy miscalculation for me, though I do feel a bit bad for him.
“In the first place, the particulars of the concept of the Miko’s prophecies is itself unclear. The possibility of interference from the Shadow Demon King cannot be simply dismissed out of hand.” (Gio)
As someone who had been fighting against Shadow Demons under the Miko and the Council of Elders, both of which he had known as absolute existences, this is definitely a huge shock for him. However, he is successfully pressing down his feelings. What a man.
But in spite of all this.
“…… I don’t really want to admit it, but this is definitely a tough opponent.” (Claura)
Shadow Demon Bugs are most likely something like a tool for controlling subordinate Demonists. Though we now know that, it can also be said that this is the only thing we know. Real identity? Location? Actual purpose? All of that still remains unclear.
Worse case, every single person in the world has a Shadow Demon Bug planted in their brain, such that a Demonist army can be raised anytime and anywhere.
But in spite of this, Claura only said “tough” opponent. Not “frightening,” not “unbelievable,” but simply “tough.”
I can see that Claura’s lower jaw is currently very stiff. She is probably clenching her teeth.
She is also putting too much strength in the fingers gripping her other arm’s upper arm.
Her usual cool beauty is filled with tension and fear and fighting spirit.
“Tough opponent indeed. However, for sure there must be a way to victory.” (Gio)
So I immediately assert in response.
This girl who is almost like a daughter to me is putting up such a strong front. Of course I have to answer to that.
“Speaking of which, my lord, do you have any clue in regards to the true identity of the Shadow Demon King? You mentioned “las-” something earlier?” (Leiha)
“Oh, no, that word just means something like ‘the greatest enemy that we must defeat in the end.’” (Gio)
“I-, is that so.” (Leiha)
Of course, I have no guarantee that there is a way to defeat that being.
However, after having recovered from the initial confusion, I find myself strangely calm.
The immature thought that ‘there is no last boss that cannot be defeated’ definitely lies somewhere in my mind. The more than 10 years of being a TRPG player is not just for show.
However, there have already been multiple occasions where I’ve been reminded that this world is not merely the stage of a game. But still, in a reverse logic sort of way, it doesn’t seem realistic to me for beings like Shadow Demons and Shadow Demon Kings to exist without a method to defeat them also existing.
To be honest, this is my very first fight where I have absolutely no guarantee of victory.
But on the flip side, this could also be interpreted as me finally standing in the same place as my companions.
In that case, this is no time for me to be scared.
The fighting spirit that I had felt several years ago when I had gotten caught in the crossfire of a power struggle within the company and was slapped with a project that had been proposed with the expectation of failure.
The challenger spirit that had appeared whenever the last boss appeared during those two years of campaign scenarios during my student years.
I feel all of that coming together inside of me and surging up.
“…… Eventually, we will win. But before that, there is still much to do. First of all, let’s start with destroying the [Nest] in Garden of the Gods.”
According to the images that I had been shown by the Mystic, I think that Dianu’s mother had become the [Nest].
Is there any way to save her mother?
There are still many things that I need to take care of before returning to Jiiteias Castle.