Some time had passed since then――
As I was walking up the Stairs of Guniel, I saw Reno ahead of me.
She was carrying an iron watering can in both hands, walking up the stairs like she was skipping.
I called out to her, and she turned around.
“Hello. Are you headed to the flower garden as well, Anosh?” (Reno)
I walked up next to Reno, and we both climbed up the stairs.
Hmm. It’s rare for Shin not to be by her side.
I should seize this opportunity and interrogate her.
“I’ve got a question. Once a spirit is born, is it possible for them to become a different kind of spirit while keeping the same name?” (Anos)
“Eh…? Hmm… I’m not sure. As rumors and legends change, spirits change accordingly. But they’re most greatly influenced by their first rumors and legends, from the time of their birth.” (Reno)
Reno thought deeply about it and answered.
“For example, I’m the Great Mother of All Spirits. Being the mother of every spirit is the basis of my existence. And so, if a rumor about the Great Mother of All Spirits Reno not being the mother of the spirits were to spread, it would cause me to disappear in the distant future.” (Reno)
“You mean that rumors that contradict a spirit’s foundational rumors only shorten the spirit’s lifespan?” (Anos)
“Yes, that’s right. Unlike demons and humans, spirits don’t reincarnate. They’re not reborn, and they don’t come back as a different spirit either. But in return, as long as their rumors persist, they won’t go down easily.” (Reno)
I thought I could do something about Avos Dilhevia depending on her rumor and legend, but being the Demon King of Tyranny was the basis of her existence. Which meant that this part was impossible to change.
“But any rumor and legend that suits the concept of the Great Mother of All Spirits can have an impact, even if it’s only made up later on. Take the tear flowers for instance. In the past, the legend about my tears giving birth to new spirits didn’t exist. However, that legend was eventually created, and because it didn’t contradict with the original rumor of the Great Mother of All Spirits, I gained the power to do so.” (Reno)
Well, even if I came up with a good strategy, it would be meaningless without spreading some rumors and legends.
“Does it have something to do with Lena?” (Reno)
“Who knows. It could be related to her, but I’m not sure yet. I’m still looking into it.” (Anos)
“I see. Let me know if you find out anything.” (Reno)
Reno arrived at the invisible door and opened it.
On the other side, Misha, Lena, Lay, and Shin were in the tear flower garden.
With her eyes on the latter’s back, Reno called out to him with a smile.
“Shin, let’s water the flowers!” (Reno)
Shin slightly turned his eye toward her while still facing forward.
“One moment, please. I must finish things up with this one first.” (Shin)
Facing him was Lay, holding his unique sword at the ready. As he promised, he was retrying to land a blow on Shin before returning Siegsesta to him, but he seemed to be struggling. As far as I knew, this was his seventh attempt today.
“Aww. You always spend your time facing Lay. It’s not fair!” (Reno)
“Watering flowers does not suit me. I would only cause them to wither anyway.” (Shin)
Reno found his remark to be offensive.
“Why are you saying that!? You promised you’d do it! And I know you’ll do just fine! You jerk! Shin, you idiot!” (Reno)
Shin caught a glimpse of Reno frowning.
“How troubling.” (Shin)
Seeing the two of them, Lay whispered.
“Mind if I give you a piece of advice?” (Lay)
Shi cocked his eyebrow.
“What is it?” (Shin)
“If you tell her that you’ll make this a quick one for her, she’ll cheer up.” (Lay)
If Lay hadn’t been here, Reno and Shin would’ve never had this argument. He made this suggestion so the past would be as unaffected as possible.
“Wouldn’t the result be the same regardless?” (Shin)
“It’s the same as with a sword. For instance, even if you can’t use it to cut something, between one slashing technique that leaves a chip in the blade and one that doesn’t, it’s easy to realize which one is more advantageous, right?” (Lay)
For a moment, Shin remained silent.
“You make a good point.” (Shin)
As Shin pondered that matter, Lay broke into a rush and swung his sword.
“――You’re wide open! …HAH!” (Lay)
The sound of their swords clashing echoed.
Shin parried Lay’s Siegsesta with one of his thousand swords, the Edgeless Sword Cadenareios.
Reno responded to Shin’s words with a slightly pouting look on her face.
“I will end this quickly, so please wait for a bit.” (Shin)
At that moment, Reno’s expression relaxed.
She now had a smile on her face.
“Okay, I’ll wait.” (Reno)
Both of their swords clashed in succession.
Shin was parrying all of Lay’s high-speed sword slashes.
“I am surprised.” (Shin)
“That was the point. I thought I’d consider a slightly different approach.” (Lay)
The moment their unique sword and edgeless sword collided, the two blades overlapped as if they were adhering to each other. Lay magnetized his sword and attracted the edgeless sword to it.
“No. What surprises me is the pace at which you improve.” (Shin)
Lay rushed at once, and put pressure on Shin with his sword.
“Every time we fight, you assimilate more of my swordsmanship. I feel like your skills are much different compared to when we first met.” (Shin)
His nickname, Shin of the Thousand Swords, referred to his possession of a thousand demon swords, but it could also refer to his multiple sword techniques.
And Lay was assimilating them terribly fast.
“I think it’s about time I give this sword back to you.” (Lay)
Lay put all of his power into his unique sword. The moment Shin tried to step forward, Lay turned off the magnetism of his blade, and fended off the edgeless blade.
For a fraction of a second, Shin lost his balance.
Seizing this opportunity, Lay swung Siegsesta down.
He was completely cornered. Lay was convinced of it, which was why he couldn’t believe his eyes the next moment.
Having completely anticipated the trajectory of his unique sword, Shin managed to avoid it with minimal movement. There was only one millimeter between his body and the blade.
“Allow me to show you.” (Shin)
At the same time as he spoke, Lay was left astonished.
Shin’s magic power had vanished.
He had completely disappeared, without even leaving so much as a ripple.
Magic power was something passively emitted by everybody’s source. Completely erasing it without using magic to hide it was an extraordinary feat. And the more powerful the magic power, the harder it was to pull off.
The next moment, the magic power of the edgeless sword increased to an incomparably greater extent than before.
With a chirping sound, a wildly enormous amount of magic power rose up from Cadenareios.
He held the sword with both hands and pointed the tip at Lay.
He spontaneously moved his feet and swung down his demon sword with all his might.
In a flash, Shin’s blade disappeared from this world.
But Lay managed to react in time and ready his sword.
A metallic sound echoed, and the flowers in this garden flew through the air.
“That was too close, but――” (Lay)
The moment Lay uttered this, he collapsed to his knees on the spot.
“…Wha…!? Guh…!” (Lay)
A deep cut appeared from his shoulder to his navel.
Lay was slashed by the sword he had clearly blocked.
“Ugh… What was… that…?” (Lay)
“The first secret of the edgeless sword, .” (Shin)
Rei tried to stand up, but he couldn’t muster the strength to do so and fell where he stood in the flower garden.
He tried to heal his wound with recovery magic, but it didn’t seem to heal very well.
“…So my body was already cut way before you brought down your sword on me…” (Lay)
Shin nodded quietly.
“Cadenareios may be an edgeless sword, but it makes up for it with its unparalleled weight and strength. But the true power of this demon sword can only be awakened by working on its source. The blade of the edgeless sword does not exist in the present, as it always cuts its target somewhere in the past.” (Shin)
At the moment Shin swung down the edgeless sword, the blade of Cadenareios went back in time and slashed through Lay a few moments in the past.
Therefore, the blade ran through him before Shin actually swung it down.
“…Was it to unleash the true power of your demon sword that you suppressed your own magic power?” (Lay)
“Indeed. And this is not limited to the edgeless sword. All demon swords and holy swords possess their own hidden powers. They’re referred to as sword secrets. No matter how much you increase your magic power, this will never allow your sword to manifest its true potential. Physically becoming one with your sword is not enough. You must empty yourself, grasp the source of your demon sword with your own source, and become one with it. Only then can you uncover your sword’s secrets.” (Shin)
Lay, lying on his back, stared at Shin in amazement.
“…Did that move work on the Hero Kanon?” (Lay)
“Sadly, this is a technique I discovered after I lost to him.” (Shin)
Shin stored his edgeless sword back into its magic circle, and turned on his heel.
“If it’s you, you may one day uncover the secrets of the demon sword you left behind so far away.” (Shin)
“…Who knows. I wonder if I could ever achieve a state where my magic power is erased.” (Lay)
Even as he said that, Lay was practicing the erasure of his own magic power.
Shin smiled just a bit at that.
“I am grateful to have found someone to show it to before my reincarnation, as I may have become unable to master that secret again upon my rebirth.” (Shin)
Shin may have wanted to pass down his swordsmanship to someone else so it would still persist.
Since source magic wasn’t his forte, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to reach the same level of skill after reincarnating. Nevertheless, Shin was still determined to go through with it.
In order to become stronger, or so I thought.
But maybe Nosgalia was right, and Shin wanted to grow a heart.
Then even if he were to lose the swordsmanship he was so proud of, and get even weaker, he would still seek love.
But in spite of this, Shin didn’t reincarnate in the end.
“My apologies for keeping you waiting, Reno.” (Shin)
“Wait, Shin! What happened to this?” (Reno)
Reno was holding a stone shield in her hand.
The lower half was cleanly severed.
The Titi were flying and floating all around Shin and Reno.
“That’s the shield we made.” (Titi A)
“We tried to make one.” (Titi B)
“We thought we’d play with Mr. Swordsman.” (Titi C)
“And he cut it in one second.” (Titi D)
“Cut it in half.” (Titi E)
The Titi looked a little sad, but they kept talking anyway.
“They made a shield and said they wanted to play with me, so I used my sword on it.” (Shin)
“You’ve not supposed to use your sword on them for real! When they say they want to play, they mean playing a game of make-believe, like a fake sword fight! Wouldn’t you be sad if something you worked so hard to make was sliced in half?” (Reno)
“You’re right. It is a pity, considering how easy it was to cleave it in half.” (Shin)
“That’s not what I meant by that!” (Reno)
Reno puffed her cheeks in irritation.
“As punishment, do something about this shield.” (Reno)
“What exactly do you mean by that?” (Shin)
“I mean, fix it, or think of a different use for it, or whatever.” (Reno)
“A use for a shield broken in half?” (Shin)
Reno nodded widely.
“You’re the one who cut it, so it’s only fair that you figure it out.” (Reno)
Shin stood still and pondered.
“…May I have a moment of your time?” (Shin)
“Yeah, sure. But let’s water the flowers first.” (Reno)
Reno handed Shin a water can and magically filled it with water.
The Titi jumped around and shouted happily, “Water,” “Water,” “They’re gonna wither again,” “The flowers will go extinct,” and so on.
“The Titi are right, the tear flowers will wither.” (Shin)
Shin watered the flower garden with his watering can as he said that.
The flowers withered in no time at all.
And yet, Reno was gazing at him with delight.
“Why aren’t you scolding me?” (Shin)
“Huh? Well, because I told you to do it.” (Reno)
“You were furious when I made the tear flowers withered on my first try.” (Shin)
Reno smiled in response.
“That was my fault. Because I didn’t know anything about you, Shin. But things are different now. You’re trying your very best to water the flowers. And I think that’s your way of giving them love. So I guess I’ll have to come to grips with it.” (Reno)
While coldly staring at the withering flowers, Shin said the following.
“Without love, they wither, do they not?” (Shin)
“Yes, but you see, these are flowers born from my tears. So if I learn to accept your love, I’m sure the flowers will bloom properly.” (Reno)
“…Is this part of your legend?” (Shin)
“Nope. I just hope that’s how it goes.” (Reno)
Shin watered the flowers in silence.
Except this time, he tilted the watering can only slightly, perhaps for fear of killing them.
“I see.” (Shin)
Shin suddenly closed his eyes while continuing to water them. Then, he put his hand in front of his eyes and moved it as if stroking something. This was probably where the Hidden Wolf Gennul was. Judging by Shin’s reaction, I could tell that Gennul was playing with him like a dog
I moved over to Misha, who was idly watching the scene.
“Did you notice anything strange?” (Anos)
“Same as usual.” (Misha)
I could see Leana a short distance away.
She was sitting down and watching Shin and Reno.
A small figure suddenly passed in front of my eyes.
It was the fairies, flying in our direction.
“It’s Anosh! Yoohoo!” (Titi A)
“The entertainer boy!” (Titi B)
“Do an impersonation!” (Titi C)
“Of the Demon King!” (Titi D)
Then Misha, who was standing next to me, looked at me while cocking her head.
As if to ask me what we should do.
“We’ll show them.” (Anos)
After I said that, Misha created a throne using the spell.
I sat down on it and spoke ostentatiously.
“Make me mushroom gratin for dinner. What? It’d be bad for my image, you say? Then what do you think the Demon King should eat? Humans? As if I could eat those, you fool!” (Anos)
The Titi laughed happily.
“You say I devoured all the mushrooms in Dilhade? I see. I suppose if the Great War continues for this long, the mushroom harvest will be poor. This leaves me no choice.” (Anos)
I stood up and spoke in a resolute tone.
“I have come to a realization! That conflict leads to nothing! On the contrary, it will deprive us of mushroom gratin! Of world peace! If it’s for this, then I, Demon King Anos, am ready to lay down my life!” (Anos)
The Tit flew around in full force and burst out laughing.
Misha turned her emotionless eyes my way.
“…A true story?” (Misha)
“Of course not, I made it up. Not even I would risk my life for mushroom gratin.” (Anos)
Misha blinked her eyes.
“I believe you.” (Misha)
Then the Titi flew to me and landed on my head and shoulders.
“Hey, you know what?” (Titi A)
“We’ll tell you something.” (Titi B)
“Something interesting.” (Titi C)
“The story of the headless demon.” (Titi D)
The girls were talking in succession.
“We saw them the other day.” (Titi A)
“Walking in Aharthern.” (Titi B)
“With no head.” (Titi C)
“Freaky.” (Titi D)
Now they were shaking.
“A headless demon?” Misha asked while cocking her head.
“Hmm. Wasn’t that the body of the Conflagration King?” (Anos)𝘧reewℯ𝚋noѵ𝒆l. cｏ𝙢
When I asked, the Titi crossed their arms and thought.
“The Conflagration King?” (Titi A)
“The guy who barged in the other day?” (Titi B)
“And was cut down by Mr. Swordsman?” (Titi C)
“What was he like again?” (Titi D)
“Could’ve been him.” (Titi E)
As usual, they were talking gibberish.
“So where did that headless demon go?” (Anos)
The Tit leapt from my body and landed on the flowers.
“The other side of the wall.” (Titi A)
“He left Aharthern.” (Titi B)
“Did he go home?” (Titi C)
“Maybe” (Titi D)
Hmm. I see.
Nosgalia was defeated by Shin, and probably half-dead.
However, considering what happened in the present, he would somehow survive afterwards.
And Eldmed was also still alive, somewhere in that body.
He was in league with Nosgalia.
Surely he knew something.
Although, I still couldn’t tell whether that headless demon was Eldmedd or Nosgalia.
“I guess I’ll go.” (Anos)
“Where?” Misha asked.
“To Dilhade. If Lay, Sasha and the others stay here, we can keep an eye on both sides. Either way, we can’t intervene no matter what happens, so there’s no problem.” (Anos)
Misha erased the throne she created, and pointed at herself.
“Can I come along?” (Misha)
Thus, Misha and I decided to leave the tear flower field, and head to Dilhade.