The reception room of the Francilt mansion was quiet, as if time had come to a stop.
Victor and the others looked surprised, and Vitora smiled meaningfully, as if to say, "They have finally arrived".
Following this, Victor's face, which had been filled with surprise, turned grim all at once.
Irisdina took a step forward while pa.s.sing the indignant glare directed at her from her own father.
"I am very sorry for the sudden intrusion of your meeting, but we sisters would like to join you here."
"This place is off limits to anyone other than those who are authorized to be here. Mena, take these girls outside now."
Despite his anger, he did not raise his voice, which could be said to be a good thing.
However, his low voice, which sounded as if he was trying to stifle his anger, was filled with heaviness and anger that seemed to resonate in the pit of his stomach.
"Isn't it fine? The girls were originally involved in this. And those determined eyes. Very much to my liking."
The vampire princess stopped Victor and the others as she smiled with amus.e.m.e.nt.
Her gaze was already on the two girls who had interrupted this meeting, not on Victor.
Perhaps under the influence of Vitora's magic, the fire in the reception room's fireplace had already gone out, and it was as cold as it had been outside.
"Hmm, I probably don't need to ask this now, but I will in case I do. Why did you come here?"
"We're here because of the new agreement between our family and Vitora-dono."
"I see you have been listening to what we've been talking about. I understand what it means."
"Wait! I refuse to approve this!"
Victor's mask, which he had been desperately trying to wear, came off.
"Yeah, your resolve is good, but unfortunately, your importance dropped when these girls arrived here."
Victor's rage was so intense that it seemed as if it would blow away the freezing cold. But even his anger was being brushed off by the vampire princess with a thin smile and a grin.
Her gaze was fixed on Irisdina and Somia. But they both noticed that Vitora's gaze was fixed on another human being through them.
"And I a.s.sume you are aware of this, young girl?"
"Yes, you are not looking at us either. He is the only one you are looking at."
"Yes. My main interest is that Dragon Slayer. I honestly don't care about anything else."
At the mention of the word "Dragon Slayer" clearly from Vitora's mouth, Irisdina's expression turned grim.
"... As I thought, you knew he is a Dragon Slayer."
"Yeah, your political enemy, ...... or whatever it's called, well, his aide, a woman named Mekria, told me about it using a familiar."
"So, what did she want from you, in exchange for that?"
"None. She only told me that Nozomu Bountis is a Dragon Slayer and that he was the one who had defeated my best retainer."
The vampire princess easily disclosed the information regarding the one who informed her about the existence Dragon Slayer.
Vitora glanced at Rugato, and the old butler bowed his head in affirmation of his master's words.
"Dragon Slayer. If such a being exists, I can't help but want to confirm it ... fu, fufu."
Wind-like magic power blew out from the Demon Princess's body, causing her beautiful, l.u.s.trous silver hair to flutter in waves. Glittering ice particles clung to her wavy silver hair as they floated through the air.
"Oh, no. I can't help but get excited when I think about Nozomu Bountis. It has been hundreds of years since I've had such an uncontrollable feeling."
Vitora soliloquized with deep emotion. Her white skin, reminiscent of a dead person, has turned into an ecstatic shade of vermilion, and her empty eyes trembled like those of a girl who has fallen in love for the first time.
"Well, this is my first time. The "real" Dragon Slayer, like the legend says. It's impossible not to have expectations..."
The next moment, a particularly violent gust of magical power blew. The furnishings in the reception room were blown away, and the wind, imbued with power, sc.r.a.ped away the wallpaper.
The peeled wallpaper instantly froze and broke into pieces, scattering like powdered snow.
"Ah, pardon me, I'm not doing this on purpose. This is normal for me. It seems I've been thinking about him so much that my shackles came off."
Even though she said she was sorry, Vitora did not try to suppress her power.
No, she no longer has any desire to suppress her power. When Irisdina and Somia arrived here, there was already no need to do so.
"I was born with a power unmatched by any vampire in history. Just by being alive, I can affect my surroundings in an uncontrolled way. You see the snow still falling outside? That too is the effect of my power."
An overwhelming presence. From Irisdina's point of view, the intimidating presence of Vitora was comparable to that of Zonne and Azel of the dragon race.
A raging, extremely cold magic power. But Irisdina sensed the presence of another force in the storm, one that was not magic.
"This is not just magic power..."
"Yeah, it's the power you call elements. My late father used to tell me, 'You are a progenitor'."
"A monster, isn't it? Fufufu..."
Her red mouth distorted as if it were about to split open, and Vitora laughed in a sinister manner.
A crimson crescent moon was engraved on her doll-like face. Her appearance was both terrifying and beautiful, so much so that one could not take one's eyes off of her.
"Well, let's begin then."
"Mena, help me get them out of here!"
As Vitora was about to step toward Irisdina, Victor rushed toward the Demon Princess of Death in a leaping motion.
Mena followed his actions and moved as well.
But even in the face of such a father and attendant's actions, Vitora would not even give a glance.
Rugato moved in response to the calm call that echoed from the devilishly beautiful form.
With swiftness and precision like flowing water, he quickly drew up a formation and activated his magic. He restrained Victor and Mena, forcing them to crouch down on the spot.
"With this, we won't be disturbed. Then, let's begin."
Finally, Vitora stood before Irisdina and Somia.
The vampire princess looked into the eyes of the sacrificial daughters once again, and then contorted her upturned mouth even further, as if in amus.e.m.e.nt.
"Hmm, interesting. I see no fear or resentment. Even those of my own people harbor no small amount of awe and fear..."
"For we have made up our minds. We have decided how we are going to live our lives, how we are going to use our lives."
Even in the face of being confronted with Vitora's true nature, Irisdina remained resolute.
The fear should have been so intense that her legs could have collapsed, but the voice coming from her mouth was surprisingly clear.
"In the end, I can't bend my way of life, because if I do, I won't be myself. That would probably be worse than death for me."
Irisdina's hand reached up and scooped up a strand of her own hair, which had turned completely white. It was the link between her and the man she thought of.
A smile of contentment and relief appeared on her mouth, so calm that it was hard to believe that she was in such a precarious situation.
The suddenness and unexpectedness of this expression made Vitora's eyes widen and she momentarily lost herself.
Irisdina continued speaking, regardless of Vitora's turmoil.
"There were ways to escape. But I decided not to run away. So whatever happens from now on, I will accept it."
"...~, alright. If that's the case, then I have nothing to say."
While inwardly admiring the human girl who had taken away her sense of self, even if only for a moment, Vitora did as her impulses urged and plunged her own fangs into her neck.
A s.p.a.ce of nothing but white-tinted light. In this strange place, where neither above nor below is known, Nozomu let out a bewildered voice.
"Where is this..."
"Nice to meet you. Nozomu Bountis."
Nozomu turned his eyes to the direction from where he heard the sudden voice. What he saw there was a hair ornament that shone brightly.
The ornament shone brightly, and the intensity of its light increased, forming a large ball of light that eventually transformed into the shape of a human being. And when the light subsided, there stood a handsome man.
"Mikael. I'm a former companion of Tiamat's that you took in. And thank you for taking care of my daughter-in-law."
Prince of the White Dragon. With a resolute bearing and a soft tone of voice, Mikael introduced himself to Nozomu.
"It may be a little late for this, but I wanted to talk to you. You, who carried her in your body, and who, while holding the flame of retribution in your heart, took a different path than we did."
Mikael. The white dragon that appeared in Tiamat's memory. The one she hates the most.
It was Nozomu's own wish to talk with him, but when they actually met, Nozomu felt an indescribable emotion welling up from deep within his chest.
"You wanted to know about her, about Tet and her powers, didn't you?"
"Yes ... how can I control Tiamat's power?"
"... First of all, no matter how much that elf girl may support you, it will be almost impossible for you to use Tet's power as spirit magic as we do. Perhaps it might be possible after a long time, but the fact is that you don't have the necessary skills to do so."
In response to Nozomu's request, Mikael paused for a moment in thought, and then said, "The possibility of you being able to use spirit magic is absolutely nil."
"That's why, you have no choice but to use Tet's power as it is, as your own power. Her pure power, stained with the screams and hatred of the spirit of destruction, has become the bane that destroys all things."
In response to Mikael's words, Nozomu gave a small nod. The fact that he himself had no apt.i.tude for this kind of contracted magic was something that Nozomu understood.
However, the fact that it was not totally impossible meant that there was a slight chance that it was possible.
At the same time, he also said that this was due in part to the efforts of the elf girl.
"Therefore, you should be the one to control her power."
Nozomu took a deep breath upon hearing Mikael's statement.
Shina's shy smile came back to his mind. And then Irisdina's smile as she danced happily.
Looking at his hands, he saw the hair ornament he had prepared for Irisdina and the mithril bell that was left as a spare.
A slightly pretentious ornament with artificial purple Crowea flowers, a white ribbon, and the promised bell. A renewed sense of determination welled up in Nozomu's chest.
"So why does Tiamat consider you as an enemy? As I recall, you and Tiamat were friends, weren't you?"
"Yes, indeed it was. But our country was destroyed. The cause, well, ... in a nutsh.e.l.l, we all had pushed the wrong b.u.t.tons."
Mikael then proceeded to tell his story.
"Alharant did indeed become prosperous, an ideal country where man, beast, and spirit were in harmony. But at the same time, it became a great threat to others, because there were other human countries besides the one we had created."
And Mikael went on.
"The people of Alharant became drunk with the power they had acquired, too."
"But they were in harmony with spirits and beasts, weren't they? How did everything go wrong?"
"In the beginning, we were really in harmony. We shared each other's perceptions and respected each other. But it was nothing more than harmony within Alharant."
Aside from Dragons and other powerful spirits in fairy tales, ordinary spirits are often weak-willed and tend to be easily influenced by others.
Those of their own kind who are not in harmony with the spirits and beasts. The humans' animosity turned to contempt, and the beasts and spirits who were in harmony with them gradually became influenced.
And before long, the three who were in harmony came to believe that their own values were absolute.
"Within their own small community, humans, beasts, and spirits made the world smaller by separating themselves. They became independent of each other, intoxicated with power, and came to believe that their values were all that mattered."
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Nozomu gulped as he listened to Mikael's story, which he told with a wry smile, as if it were the penitence of a sinner.
One after another, Mikael revealed the secrets of Irisdina, Shina, and the others which they had been desperately trying to keep hidden.
As the facts. .h.i.t him like a raging torrent, they stirred up Nozomu's thoughts like a whirlpool.
"The ritual that the elf girl performed for you was in essence their marriage ceremony, a ceremony to connect souls in a deeper place and create a bond that will last until death do they part. And for you, she gave up the power to fulfill her own dreams."
A blood covenant ritual. The most sacred ritual for elves, and originally supposed to be a marriage ceremony.
It was a form of the elf girl's desire for him and her wish to help him.
"The gray-haired girl decided to separate you, who are essentially unrelated, from a bad situation. She believed it was the best she could do for you now."
It was a thought that she, a n.o.ble woman, could not compromise. It was the strength that he had admired in her.
At the same time, it was also a form in which she had suppressed another of her own feelings.
Nozomu's thoughts, having been knocked into a whirlpool of confusion, quickly turn to anger. It was anger at himself for not knowing, or not realizing, what was going on.
Mikael looked at Nozomu somewhat enviously as Nozomu bit his lip and stifled the urge to scream.
For him, even such feelings of anger had long since ceased to be felt.
In this white s.p.a.ce where he could not feel anything, he merely existed as a vital part of sealing Tiamat.
"Now, I will show you another way to control Tet's power that you really want. That's how you kill me here and absorb me."
"The current me is the key to sealing Tet. If you kill me and absorb me, it will be easier for you to control her power. Father must have had that in mind when he handed me to you."
Even if his form has changed, he is still a dragon. Therefore, if Nozomu were to kill him, the transfer of his power and memories would take place without any problem.
In the face of Mikael's resignation, Nozomu's hot head cooled down at once.
Confused, Mikhail spread out his hands and looked downward at Nozomu with eyes that had given up on everything.
"Come on, break me, so you can control her power. Then you will be able to help them."
Nozomu found himself holding his beloved katana in his hand.
The blade that paved the way to his enemies and the path that had been closed to him. The dull gleam of the blade posed a question to Nozomu.
He looked at Mikael once, then looked down again at the blade in his hand.
Then he closed his eyes, exhaled, and spoke to Mikael.
"Tell me ... how do I get back to Arcazam?"
"You won't crush me?"
"Certainly, I've been dying to do something about this power. I have always wanted to do something about it. But I didn't pick up this katana because I wanted to kill, nor did I acquire this power because I wanted to take revenge."
Once again, Nozomu looked back on his life.
Despite wishing to support Lisa's dream, he was kicked down by his best friend and spent unhappy days.
He spent his days running away from his life, unable to change anything, and still he did not leave this city.
He met and parted with his master, met and was supported by Irisdina and others, and finally managed to get back on his feet.
Because he has been supported by others and encouraged by others, he has been able to stand up even when he was broken.
That was the reason why Nozomu thought:
"My dream can't be obtained by killing you here. That's what I think."
"Is that so ..."
Slowly, he put the katana back into its scabbard. Seeing Nozomu, Mikael smiled a gentle smile that was different from the resigned smile he had on his face a moment ago.
"Thank you for telling me about Tiamat."
"The same goes for me. Thank you for listening to me. I've been keeping my mouth shut, but maybe I just needed to talk to someone..."
"Yeah, I know that feeling. I used to think that way too."
The stagnation acc.u.mulates and sinks deep into one's chest as one keeps silent. Everyone has times when they want to let it out. This is true whether it is a dragon or a human being. Nozomu smiled wryly at the surprisingly human-like spirit.
"To go back, you have to break this mirror. It connects this s.p.a.ce we are in with the outside world, so if you shatter it, even if only temporarily, you open the way to the place it reflects."
"I see ..."
Following Mikael's words, Nozomu stood in front of the mirror.
"I wish you good luck."
Nozomu put his hand on the hilt of his katana, which he had once sheathed, closed his eyes, and repeatedly took deep breaths. Over and over again, he exhaled and exerted himself to the utmost limit.
As he exhaled and relaxed, his mind became clearer and clearer.
All the distractions faded away, and what remained were three scenes from the past.
Lisa, with whom he had made a promise in his home village; Irisdina, weeping before the death of her sister,; and Shina, devastated in the face of a demon beast.
And underneath it all, there was a certain feeling.
"Oh, I see ... It's just as Anri-sensei said, it was there all along."
It was the first feeling he ever had.
A signpost, which he was able to find because he had overcome the present by facing the past that he had been running away from.
He had no more doubts.
"Let's go ..."
He pulled his katana.
The mirror in front of him was slashed and shattered, and Nozomu threw himself into the vanishing fragments.
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