A boy who had once been solely a tool for murder.
The first time he smiled was about a month after we first met.
The two of us having newly arrived in this world, we sought to gain a greater understanding of the labyrinth – the Magna PortaGreat Gate. To that end, we hid our identities and ventured forth.
One day, we happened upon an untried adventurer, under attack by a Void Beast, whom we saved. He thanked us endlessly, and as we saw him off, I turned back to look – the edges of the boy’s lips had curled just a little.
“…You just smiled!”
The smile disappeared, and he watched me in confusion.
“I guess you weren’t aware of it, huh? Well then, what you just felt right here——”
I tapped him on the chest.
“That is a ‘sprout.'”
“Yes, the sprout of feeling. You need to nourish it and help it grow.”
He looked even more confused than he’d been a moment ago.
His expression was so adorable I laughed aloud.
From that day on, we put an end to many Void Beasts, saving countless lives in the process. The people gave the boy the name “Snow Blade King,” and he was revered as a hero.
——That was the moment where it all began, when a “tool” took its first step toward becoming a “human.”
From that time forward, the two of us continued forward, together.
Unbound, as we were, by the chains of time, we truly believed those blessed, joyful days would never end.
——What fools we were.
“Well, work is work,” the dark-skinned young man – Jahar – said with a smile. “——It’s just that, to be honest, this is a bit of a pain, you know?”
Deep within a temple of the Shinki, in a section cut off from the rest of the world, was a room with a throne.
Currently, this room held three people: the master of the room and her attendant, as well as a visitor, Jahar.
“While the reward is certainly great, would you mind sharing with me the ‘reason this has to be done,’ O ‘Shinki who Scatters the Stars’?”
“The reason? ‘Because it’s necessary’ – is that reason not good enough for you?”
“Necessary according to whom?”
“There’s no need for you to know any more than that, Duelist of the Moon,” the girl seated on the throne answered calmly.
She looked to be about fifteen, and boasted a sort of prim beauty, as well as an air of haughty willfulness.
“Both the reward and the task itself are beneficial to your master, the ‘Shinki Crowned with the Moon.’ You’re nothing more than a pet – for you to insinuate that there’s more to my goodwill than appears is the height of arrogance.”
“As luck would have it, I happen to be something of a wild dog that delights in biting people. Manners and what have you – I’ve never bothered with those things.”
Jahar’s light tone seemed strange given the Shinki’s contemptuous tone – if he hadn’t also pulled the huge red claymore from his shoulder. The atmosphere quickly grew tense——
“I’m hoping that comment about biting was just an analogy, Jahar-san, because if you really tried anything like that, I’d have to respond in kind.”
The words were intermingled with a dry laugh.
Alongside the “Shinki who Scatters the Stars,” Elfriede, stood an upright young man. A quick glance revealed him to be unarmed, and not the slightest hint of bloodlust could be felt from him.
“Anyway, it’ll be quite problematic if you take everything Elfriede-sama says seriously. The way she speaks is rather biting; there’s something seriously wrong with her personality. Even if what she says makes you mad, don’t take it to heart.”
“Is that so? You see, the problem is that I’m the kind of person who takes everything to heart; I’m quite fond of heart-to-hearts, you know? If you ask me, that way of doing things is a bit easier on me.”
“That makes things a bit harder on me then, Duelist of the Moon. ——Also, Kai – shut your mouth.”
“As you say. My apologies,” the man said with a smile.
“If you agree to my request, then you will be amply rewarded with either money or Reliquia according to your preference. Moreover, I will aid you in restoring the Moon’s Oath Legion, which in turn, will allow you to gather divine energy once more. What do you say? Will you help?”
“I will, but I have to ask – what do you stand to gain from all this?”
“I would prefer to avoid a direct confrontation with the other Shinki at all cost. An alliance is rather beneficial in that sense. ——In any event, accomplishing the task I have set before you benefits you more than anyone else.”
“…The problem is my Shinki. I can’t see her liking this, and convincing her will be problematic.”
“That’s not my concern, now is it? If you refuse now, then our relationship ends here. Forget the reward, your position will be a very dangerous one.”
“On the other hand, if you do this thing, then I will continue to protect both you and your Shinki, even though it must be said that we will eventually become enemies sooner or later. ——Now then, consider this: do you two really have the leeway to turn me down?”
Elfriede’s expression revealed a confident expression befitting the one holding all the cards.
“To be honest… no.”
Although he wasn’t happy to admit it, the fact of the matter was that her words were indeed irrefutable.
“You’re much more suited to the struggle for victory than my Kaya-chan. If we were partnered together, then my chances would be so much better.”
“If you ever feel like leaving behind that crybaby and coming over to this side, I’d be happy to welcome you. A Duelist’s power is to be appreciated.”
“Then what about me…?” Kai asked with a stiff smile.
Elfriede watched her Duelist through slanted eyes.
“…Unfortunately, Duelists can’t be swapped. Just focus on protecting me, Kai; I know better than to expect anything more from you.”
“Alright, alright. I understand,” he replied.
“When it comes to switching sides, you’ll have to give me some time to think.”
Jahar flipped his hair back as he spoke.
“Nonetheless, I’ll take the job. Our interests happen to coincide this time, after all.”
“Is that so? I’ll leave it to you, then. ——Repeat our request in full once more, if you would, Kai.”
“Very well. According to the information shared by the ‘Shinki Crowned with the Moon’ and her Duelist, the former Duelist known as the Snow Blade King as well as the Sixth Shinki, of ambiguous origin, now reside within the city. With regards to the aforementioned parties, the ‘Shinki who Scatters the Stars’ requests the following of the ‘Shinki Crowned with the Moon.'”
Kai paused for a second before continuing.
“You will execute both Yuuki Takamigahara and Albertina at any cost.”
Translator notes and references