Re: Loving The Days Gone By Starting From Zero

Special thanks for providing this story: Devil, Ice, Phantaminum

Transcribed by: Paper, Devil

Proofread by: Paper

Translated by: Ringo17

My heartfelt gratitude to Paper for his immense hard work throughout this project. Not a word of this would exist if it weren’t for his continued efforts.

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Prologue

“First Cry”

 

 

 

 

——The moment she opened her eyes, what first dawned upon her was the doubt of『What Thing』her self was.

Enigmatically, she possessed knowledge. 

If she were to define it, then she was currently in a state wherein simply the receptacle for the soul had been prepared.

In order to initiate something, the receptacle plastered with foundation for knowledge and skills had been prepared, lacking only its pivotal content—— no, it had finally been inserted was what the condition was.

If she thought of being able to start walking, she could’ve walked. If she thought of being able to start talking, she could’ve talked.

However, the will that sought to perform those inevitabilities was also insufficient, and for that reason she was unable to move.

“————”

A room which had the impression of being queerly empty, with circles drawn on the ground glowing fleetingly. She understood it was a pattern for some kind of magic-esque technique, but she was ignorant as to what it specifically was.

The reason why her self was at the centre of this light, was because her self had taken birth here.

Her self, who was yet to be『Something』had been born, and without even voicing a first cry, was examining the state of her surroundings.

“————”

Straining her eyes in the dim indoors, what she could see were books tightly packed in shelves, and many kinds of materials scattered on the floor, affirming those, she finally took notice.

Of the shadow staring down towards her self, as she stood within the light.

“————”

Long, white hair, such transient beauty that would seemingly crumble upon a single touch, the lady garbed in black clothing running contrary to the impression of her hair, stood there wielding a definite aura of presence.

Why, was she not livened up by a person so beautiful and bewitching. The reason was obvious.

Just as light far too powerful could not be imagined, she had merely overlooked what was too great.

That was not anything so outwardly as her presence or her shimmering beauty, but that she was something meaning greatly to her self, who was yet to be『Something』.

——That she was someone irreplaceable to her self, who was not『Anything』.

“——Ah.”

Her lips tried to vocalise something, trembling weakly, they spilled out a sigh.

The embankment was destroyed at once, the collapse thereafter perceptible immediately.

“Ah, a~a~h…… a~a~a~h.”

Voice impossible of being vocalised overflowed, something warm trickled down from the corner of her eyes.

She possessed no means to halt her voice, halt her tears.

That which spilled out, that which trickled out, was the supernatant of the soul impossible of being contained within this receptacle. Shedding them in their entirety, finally, the soul matched oneself with the receptacle.

With this, at last, it shall all commence.

At last, her self, who was not『Anything』, her self, who had emitted her first cry, shall——,

“——Good morning.”

Suddenly, a voice that was not her own resonated, and raising her trembling chin, she lifted her gaze.

A blurred field of vision, the form of that person that had been vividly visible till earlier was no longer visible, and frantically rubbing her eyes, she searched, searched, searched for the figure of that person——,

“——You are, Beatrice.”

The voice told her, as a hand supported the cheek of the lost child.

Holding her breath, she gazed at the beauty before her eyes. That person, curved her lips in somewhat perturbation. With a delay, she realised it was a smile coming from this gauche person.

“——You are my, let’s see. Something akin to a daughter.”

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Chapter 1

“Chased By The Spherical Moon”

 

 

 

???: “Beatrice-sama, how did you formerly lead your life?”

The nonchalant question hurled at her, Beatrice slowly lifted her face.

This had been just about the time of awaiting supper, as she sat in front of the fire with an open book on her lap. Before her eyes, putting the hotpot on the fire was the one spending identical time on this land, Lewes.

A rare half-elf, the young girl conferred with an indispensable duty in the『Sanctuary』. Nowadays, Beatrice had been frequently acting together with her and spending time together.

This being per ordinary, they had been leisurely spending time of boredom together.

Beatrice: “……You, what is it that you intend, I suppose.”

Lewes: “Um…… was that a strange question on my part?”

Beatrice: “It’s not about being strange, in fact. Simply, for you to probe into Betty, just what are you plotting, I suppose. Confess with honesty, and you shall be let off without facing much, in fact.”

Lewes: “For me to be plotting something, that is out of the question……!”

Holding the spoon for stirring the hotpot close to her chest, with long pink hued hair, Lewes acted ashamed.

A young girl unsuited to secrets. She was docile when facing Beatrice as well, and the latter wanted to trust her when she said she was not plotting anything—— but she shan’t let her guard down.

Beatrice: “At any rate, Roswaal would stoop to any level if it is for teasing Betty, I suppose.”

Lewes: “Ah, so you were concerned about that……”

Beatrice: “There, that reaction! Your face says you happen to know something, in fact!”

She pointed a finger at Lewes, who seemed to consent, displaying a bitter smile. Afterwards, Lewes said “It’s a misunderstanding” and put the spoon back into the hotpot.

Lewes: “Just now, I simply thought that I certainly agree with Beatrice-sama’s thoughts. Because it seems Roswaal-sama finds Beatrice-sama to be so cute that he just cannot help it.”

Beatrice: “What a mistaken idea, I suppose. You are also blind to an astounding degree, in fact. He is just nasty, that is all, I suppose.”

Lewes: “Is that so? I believe Roswaal-sama thinks of Beatrice-sama as his younger sister……”

Beatrice: “D-Don’t say anything so repulsive, in fact!”

The book interposed in her lap, Beatrice grasped her slim shoulders as she felt shivers run through her body.

Lewes’ poor vision was also grievous. For her to say Beatrice and Roswaal were siblings.

Beatrice: “To begin with, Betty does have a more proper sibling…… Bubby, I suppose. If Bubby were also to be considered in furriness and cuteness, something like Roswaal wouldn’t even stand a chance, in fact.”

Lewes: “Bubby…… elder brother, you mean? Beatrice-sama’s? In other words, Echidna-sama’s?”

Beatrice: “Things are a little bit complicated when it comes to that detail, I suppose.”

Lewes’ question, as she rounded her eyes, likely alluded to whether Beatrice’s elder brother was also Echidna’s child—— in other words, if they were true siblings.

In that sense, realizing a sibling relationship with a Spirit’s disposition was difficult. However, in the sense of being born through the same technique and to the same parent, Beatrice indeed had an elder brother.

Beatrice: “That is, Betty’s precious Bubby, I suppose”

Lewes: “……What kind of a person is he? Please tell me as well.”

Beatrice: “Mgh……”

Her eyes twinkling, keenly interested, Lewes implored Beatrice.

This gaze of Lewes’ was Beatrice’s weakness. Above all, Beatrice being weak to gazes of this kind was not limited to Lewes’ alone.

Beatrice: “Geez, what a hopeless girl, I suppose. Such insolence, in fact!”

Lewes: “Well then……!”

Beatrice: “Before that! Be careful of the hotpot’s flame, I suppose. If you become engrossed in listening and burn the supper then it will be a problem to Mother, in fact.”

The dinner Lewes was preparing was to be given out to people involved with the『Sanctuary』as a feast.

Lewes’ cooking was actually the most delicious in this settlement. Everyone has their specialties. Though Spirits were not required to eat meals, they could comprehend taste, and could also reduce mana into food.

In secret, Beatrice had also been looking forward to the supper Lewes would make.

Beatrice: “So, don’t burn it, I suppose!”

Lewes: “I understand. Well then, what story are you going to let me hear?”

Beatrice: “How self-serving, in fact…… If that’s the case, then Betty will tell you about a while back, I suppose.”

A tale coming from the topic of her elder brother. If so, Beatrice shall talk about the days she spent with her elder brother.

Back when the『Sanctuary』had not been created yet, and she had not even met Roswaal, the time Beatrice had lived through, having been born as the daughter of the Witch, alongside her solitary elder brother.

And, the reason why Beatrice became such that she would look forward to suppers, like humans.

A short glance at Lewes, whose eyes were twinkling and cheeks dyed red in anticipation, and Beatrice sighed.

Beatrice: “That was, back when Betty had been entrusted with the house during Mother’s absence, in fact.”

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???: “Aaaow.”

She raised her voice and crouched down upon the impact that landed on the top of her head.

What had directly hit the area of the whorls of hair on the rear of her head was a single book that fell as she was pulling it out.

The indolence behind her claim of being able to obtain it from the upper row of the bookshelf without a stepladder gave rise to calamity, and as she stood on her tiptoes stretching for above, she ultimately had to catch the book which slipped through her fingers with her head.

???: “W-What a disaster, I suppose…… how audacious for a mere book, in fact……”

The book was quite a large one by itself, its impact had been nothing short of hefty. But, to admit that would mark the further increase of her own miserableness, the girl sourly refused to admit defeat before the book lying on the floor.

Above all, the faint tears accumulated in those large eyes of her’s lost her of any convincibility.

——She was a young girl in possession of characteristic eyes of a bluish tint and symbolic patterns resembling butterflies visible on them.

Big, round eyes along with prickly, unruffled, well-ordered facial features, possessing a face and figure of approximately ten years of age, the young child who gave the impression that she shall become a charming beauty in the future was garbed in an extravagant dress. Her pale hued hair carefully rolled, the girl’s figure was as though a princess from a picture book.

???: “Geez, you may be a book, but you lack the self-awareness of being Mother’s property, I suppose. That is why you brought this chaos upon Betty, in fact.”

The sweet albeit young girl picked the fallen book up and cleared away the dust on its binding whilst making excuses that went unheard by anyone. ——The book was one with black binding, with no title on its cover.

Its contents were unknown at a glance, but when the young girl put her fingers, which she had cleared the dust on the cover away with, and contemplated, a faint light gave rise to letters. It was the book’s title. Simply『Mana Ⅰ』was written on it.

???: “Letters written with dregs of mana…… though it is for the purpose of not being able to be read by those who do not have aptitude for mana, Mother’s watchfulness is per expectation, I suppose.”

Murmuring thoughts bristling with reverence, the girl opened the bulky book. Though within it were nothing but blank pages, letters appeared on them upon contemplation identical to how they had on the cover.

Magical books that could only be read by those who could utilise mana, were plentifully lined up in the shelf before her eyes—— no, in the infinite number of bookshelves that comprised the young girl’s environs.

A library packed with magical books of such nature, to those with no groundings they were worthless blank books.

Contrariwise, it was a mountain of treasure possessing inestimable worth for those qualified. The young girl harboured pride in having been given the right to freely enter and exit this library.

Just how many humans across the world would thirst for the key to this treasury of knowledge.

A sense of supremacy for having been bestowed with what could not be gained with ease, even upon wishing for it. However, it was simply natural she would be the object to this favourable treatment. For the young girl was——

???: “The one and only daughter, of the great Mother, in fact.”

???: “——Oh, in the midst of studying, are you, Betty?”

???: “——!”

As she puffed up her chest out of slight self-regard, the young girl’s shoulders sprung in astonishment upon hearing the voice. The book dropped from her hands once again, this time striking her tiptoes.

Shouting “Ukya!”, the young girl reflexively crouched on the spot.

???: “Ah, Betty, I’m sorry. All because I called out to you out of nowhere……”

???: “I-I-I……-It, doesn’t, hurt, I suppose…… ~hk.”

???: “Hm hm, you sure are a strong girl. Now, show me your foot.”

Tightly gnashing her molars, the young girl braved the pain. What gently descended whilst fluttering right before her eyes was a kitten of grey coloured fur levitating in the air.

The kitten lengthened its tail that was around the same length as its body and softly pointed its end towards the young girl’s hurting tiptoes. And, a pale light was emitted, its warmth gradually healed her pain.

???: “No~w, pain pain go awa~y…… did it go away?”

???: “…… It’s gone away, in fact. Thank you, I suppose.”

???: “All ’cause I surprised you, after all. Doing this much is a matter of course.”

The kitten accepted her gratitude with an affluent smile whilst putting a hand on its waist. 

Holding the fallen book in her arms once again, the girl stood up and looked into the eyes of the kitten.

Of a size enough to sit on a palm and capable of comprehending human speech was the kitten—— it was not precisely a kitten. To the utmost, its shape and form merely resembled a lovable cat, its true state was that of a further exalted being.

A Spirit living by using mana, the primal power swaying across this world, as a source of energy was what the kitten was.

But for the young girl, there existed a further appropriate name for it.

???: “For pity’s sake, Bubby sure is an oversleeper, in fact. It’s already past noon, I suppose.”

???: “Sorry, sorry. I accidentally got too much at ease. See, I resemble a cat, right? So, I fail to resist the instinct of wanting to laze around when I find a nice, sunny spot.”

The girl referred to the mischievously grinning kitten as “Bubby”—— big brother. An outsider may observe the kitten and the girl refer to each other in an odd fashion, but there was nothing uncanny about it.

The young girl and the kitten, were a recherché set of siblings born in the same manner—— for they were fellow Artificial Spirits, beings of paramount eternity albeit born from human hands.

——The girl’s name was Beatrice, the kitten’s name was Puck.

This was the identity of the siblings, who directed deep affection mutually toward each other despite completely unalike shape and form.

Puck: “I must say, Betty sure has a zeal for studying. Reading in the library again, are you?”

Glancing at the book Beatrice was carrying by her chest, Puck tilted his neck whilst gently brushing his whiskers. Subject to his gaze, Beatrice nodded in assent with a “Yes, in fact”,

Beatrice: “In order to gain knowledge befitting of what Mother’s daughter should suitably have, Betty is diligently devoting herself to studies.”

Puck: “Woah, very fine. But is it really needed? Though both Betty and I are Spirits born with a bunch of procedures omitted, mana’s usage is something instinctive, right?”

Articulating, Puck raised both of his tiny hands and ahead of his physical body generated a red and a blue light.

Each of the lights were conceived with fire and water mana respectively but for Puck, who happened to be a Great Spirit, this was as natural an ability as swaying his tail.

Of course, Beatrice was capable of the same as well.

Though she was capable——,

Beatrice: “Doing it per sensation and augmenting it with proper knowledge is different, in fact, Bubby. You and Betty are capable of it. But, that alone won’t suffice, I suppose.”

Puck: “Well well, you sure are a stern one, Betty. But why?”

Beatrice: “Betty being Mother’s daughter, and presently acting as proxy for the proprietor of this palace of knowledge are also factors that play into it, in fact.”

Stretching her dorsal muscles firmly, Beatrice inlaid strength into her chest with which she was carrying the book.

A mountain of books submerged in countless bookshelves, contained therein a vast expanse of knowledge yearning to yet unable to change the world. Suitable of being named as proscribed knowledge forbidden from being hauled outside by anyone.

The true proprietor of this palace, Beatrice’s mother was even capable of memorising it all.

However, Beatrice did not possess that extent of ability yet. But now that she had been entrusted in place of her mother, she must compensate with everything within the grasp of her effort.

Beatrice: “For that, Betty is studying every day, I suppose.”

Puck: “Hmm, how praiseworthy…… though, it must be tough. I mean, the title of that book is also『Mana Ⅰ』, right? The other book is also……”

Articulating so, Puck pulled out a random book out of the bookshelf. With mana concentrating on it, appeared on its front cover the title『Earth Ⅳ』, truly simple and concise.

The book likely had information about earth written within, and had no further information included. That was a problem not present in this book alone, but shared amongst almost all of the magical books submerging the bookshelves.

Puck: “It’s her bad habit. From the onset, she must be thinking only about reading and writing it herself, hence that it’d be fine as long as she alone understands it. The way the books have been arranged is a total mess as well.”

Beatrice: “M-Mother has her profound intents, in fact, Bubby! It’d be impolite to speak that way, I suppose. Even if it’s Bubby, Betty will get furious, in fact.”

Puck: “Hmm, you definitely are praiseworthy.”

Puck crossed his short arms watching Beatrice pout. Her cheek pressed by his long tail, Beatrice lowered her eyebrows as her pouting cheeks deflated.

Whatever she may have told Puck, Beatrice was greatly perplexed by the abstruse nature of the reading material as well.

Just as Puck had remarked, the proprietor of this palace was the proprietor of genius beyond the attainability of human intellect, and was moving per a peculiar principle that could never be comprehended by others.

The books’ arrangement was in identical state, making even Beatrice face hardship in finding the book of her choice.

Truth be told,『Mana Ⅰ』which she was holding at present was not the book of her desire either. Though it seemed interesting by itself and she wished to memorise its content via sedulous reading.

Puck: “Some books have the same title at times, the numbering is all slipshod too, yeah. There’s also the writing of memos on the back, procrastinating summarising them altogether, keeping organising them for another day.”

Beatrice: “Betty wants to hurry up, and become such that she can apprehend Mother’s ideas as well, I suppose……”

Puck: “I just think it’s simply sloppy.”

Beatrice: “Bubby!”

As Beatrice pouted her lips, the kitten spoke “Got it got it” and proceeded to levitate further upward. Then suddenly, Puck said “What’s this?” as his black eyes darted towards the room’s window.

Puck: “Betty, seems like a visitor is here. Pretty brave of him, to make his way to this mansion.”

Beatrice: “——! Oh no, in fact! Must prepare for the reception, I suppose!”

Jumping next to Puck as he gazed outside, she affirmed movement of the main gate of Beatrice’s palace.

The shadow, passing through the main gate whilst bewildered, was one with the qualification, having surmounted the multiple barriers for reaching this palace—— at present during her mother’s absence, it was Beatrice’s duty to welcome them.

Beatrice: “Bubby! Betty is going to go, in fact! The conversation resumes sometime later, I suppose!”

Puck: “Woopsie.”

Cramming the book she was holding into a bookshelf within her reach, Beatrice’s dress fluttered as she broke into a sprint. Giving a sendoff to the acutely panicking back, Puck proceeded to caress his whiskers.

Puck: “It sure feels like she takes right after her mother when it comes to this casually unorganised nature.”

Having rushed out of the library leaving these impressions of Puck’s behind, Beatrice headed towards the entry hall. Subsequently reaching the position immediately before, she adjusted her dress and hair, perfecting her personal appearance.

Beatrice: “Well then, about time, this is Betty’s duty, I suppose.”

She told herself before stretching her hand ahead.

Receiving her actions, the palace’s entrance—— the dual grand doors automatically opened gradually.

Cold wind conceived with the aroma of a clear sky wafted in. Accompanying the wind and sun rays descending from zenith, the red haired youth peeked into the palace through his astonishment.

Seeing his pupils frozen over in awe and nervousness, Beatrice contently straitened her eyes,

Beatrice: “Commendation for making thy way here. ——In Mother’s stead, thy visit shall be welcomed, hero, I suppose.”

Focusing on the opponent owning an astonished expression, with ample dignity—— at the very least, seeking to appear with ample dignity by her perspective, Beatrice declared calmly.

——The hero who had payed a call to the Palace of the『Witch』, was far too exceedingly thrilled by this reception to even swallow his breath.

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In this world existed beings having conceived special strength, regardless congenital or acquired.

All of them manifested odd talents improbable of being recreated by ordinary individuals, superhumans who interfered with the principles of this world. Even amongst them, the existences who possessed might that projected the brinks of humankind, isolated superior beings that let none other come close—— people called those, as the『Witches』.

Absolute personages who overcame the reason and principles of the human world, unbound by common sense, making no considerations for others. Hence, all feared, dreaded, shunned the『Witches』.

That was the ordinary state of affairs, and the common cognizance pertaining to the absolute beings named as the『Witches』.

Beatrice: “——However, Mother is the solitary exception to that, in fact.”

Taking pride as though a matter of her own, Beatrice put her hand on her puffed slim chest.

Beatrice: “Mother possesses a profoundly compassionate, magnanimous and honourable heart, I suppose. Hence, whilst wielding the most excelling power in this world, she is not troubled by actuating it for the benefit of others, in fact. You all are also to firmly engrave that in your minds, I suppose.”

???: “Haah, haa~h……”

Beatrice: “Engrave that in your mind, in fact?”

???: “U-Understood! I’ll engrave it in my mind, I’ll engrave it in my mind!”

The deferential youth’s shoulders bounced upon her pressurising gaze. His grateful conduct made Beatrice nod, satisfied.

This place was the palace’s parlour, where visitors received at the entry hall were shown around and made to have a seat.

Above all, the conduct of the visitor seated on the sofa lacked all composure. That was per natural, remaining calm when taken into the Palace of the Witch would be the abnormality.

Seeing fright toward that『Witch』personified was pleasant to Beatrice.

Beatrice: “It is correct to regard the name of the great Mother as exalted and noble, I suppose.”

???: “That is, a matter of course. After all, the Witch of Wisdom-sama’s name is renowned……”

Beatrice: “Yes! Yes, in fact! You certainly get it, I suppose. Will compliment you for that, in fact.”

Hearing greater admiration for her mother, Beatrice caressed the person’s head as her mood progressively became genial. The youth rounded his eyes upon her actions, as she peered into his blue eyes,

Beatrice: “So? Having reached the great Mother’s…… the Witch of Wisdom’s palace, what is that you want to ask, I suppose. What compelled you to approach the barriers of the Witch, in fact.”

???: “Barrier you say, that’s……”

Beatrice: “An exaggeration, you mean to say? To make it clear, this is no place one can just easily come to when he wants, I suppose. A mighty wish that would seemingly scorch your heart, that is what made you reach here, in fact.”

Speaking so, Beatrice pointed towards the exterior of the window—— the vast, extensive, entirely uninterrupted landscape. Though this was a remote location distant from human habitation, it was not merely some random remote location.

The summit of a tall, lofty mountain that verbatim pierced above the clouds. The ground underneath, impossible to be viewed due to the obstruction of the thick clouds, was populated by a dense, vast forest, and rich mana that could not be compared with any other land made nature grow to abnormal degrees. This derailed sense of direction, the forest at times freely altered its shape and form, a naturally strategic position which humans were not allowed to enter with ease.

Ahead of this rigorous environment lay this Palace of the Witch.

A resilient body that could travel by foot through the extensive, mighty forest, judgement that could overcome all kinds of obstacles interwoven by nature, a heart that would not get exhausted midway through the course, and, the serendipity of time.

With a concurrence of all of these, the qualification to finally reach this palace could be said to have been acquired.

Beatrice: “However, though it is important to have the mind and body remain strong at once, there is something more important than that, I suppose.”

???: “That being, the wish……?”

Beatrice: “In fact. You must also have an idea, I suppose. Regarding the wish that made you keep advancing, in fact.”

“————”

If a powerful flesh body and sharp determination were the requirements for tackling this forest, then a mighty wish that would seemingly scorch one’s body was precisely the condition for reaching this Witch’s palace, both of these prerequisites had been satisfied.

“————”

The youth, gaze cast downward and searching for words, was only about fifteen to sixteen years old. Age that indubitably constituted him as a young boy, on top of that, rough clothes with a satchel of fur, his old-fashioned tawdry sword and equipment were also meagre.

It could be told from his responses alone that he was abound in knowledge unsuitable for his age, and also possible to sense he was endowed with odd talents and ability rivalling the aforementioned『Witches』.

For him to have reached the Palace of the Witch meant——,

Beatrice: “It means, that you do have a wish unbefitting your stature, I suppose. Mother, welcomes those relying on the『Witch』for fulfilling such wishes unsuited to their vessel, in fact.”

???: “B-But, I have nothing that could be an offering……”

Beatrice: “——Do not belittle, I suppose. To begin with, Mother’s deeds are not so cheap that they could be recompensed by you all, in fact.”

???: “I-If that’s the case, then that’s all the more reason not to……!”

The youth’s face reddened upon slight provocation.

Beatrice narrowed her eyes upon the befitting immaturity of the youth and took a short inhale. Mocking banal humans this way was fine, but it was about time she fulfilled her original duty.

Acting as proxy for the proprietor of the palace—— that being, extending a hand of salvation to those who had stepped foot here in pursuit of wisdom.

Beatrice: “That is Mother’s—— the『Witch』Echidna’s compassion, I suppose.”

???: “——Ah.”

Beatrice: “You shall be asked again, in fact. What is your wish? What do you desire to know? How will you respond, I suppose. There is nothing which Mother does not know until the very edge of the edge of the edge of this world, in fact.”

Spreading her arms wide declared Beatrice, as if singing.

The youth unwittingly straightened his spine upon hearing her, and similarly Beatrice encouraged herself to an identical degree. Her mother presently absent, Beatrice stood as her proxy, thus it was only natural that her conduct be similar to that of her mother as well. 

No failure, error, blunder should happen. ——For certain.

The youth’s lips quivered a few times before Beatrice, who had abandoned her own nature, before long he solidified his cheeks as though having cemented his thoughts, and spoke.

???: “Please, teach me…… a way my childhood friend, won’t be taken away!”

Beatrice: “——. ————. ——Huh?”

Yes, Beatrice was taken aback, dumbfounded, as the youth declared with an expression exhibiting preparedness for death. 

Viewing Beatrice’s expression, the youth pitched forward pronouncing “Like I sai~d”,

???: “I want you to teach me. A way that my childhood friend, won’t get snatched away!”

Beatrice: “W-Wait a second, I suppose. Betty may have misheard, in fact. You just said, a way your childhood friend won’t get snatched away……”

???: “Yes! I want to protect my childhood friend, Remina!”

“————”

The youth leaned forward moreover with an intimidating attitude before Beatrice started feeling dizzy.

To rescue lands with crops failed due to droughts, to aid villages fallen into the predicament of frequent floods, to decontaminate grounds that stopped being approached by people due to dense mana storms, for solving such circumstances beyond human intellect the『Witch』had been relied on.

To think the youth would use this opportunity for his childhood friend, an apparent subject of his affection, to not be snatched away.

Beatrice: “T-This is, Betty’s first task as Mother’s proxy……”

???: “Um, so on that note, where might the pivotal Witch-sama be?”

The youth timidly asked before Beatrice awakened from her dizziness due to the unforeseen circumstance. However, with a “Wait, I suppose” Beatrice pointed her hand towards the youth,

Beatrice: “Mother is currently absent. Thus, Betty will entertain you and grant the wisdom corresponding to your wish…… your, wish……”

???: “W-What might have happened?”

Beatrice: “B-Betty didn’t exactly devotedly read through Mother’s vast collection of books, for the sake of some human’s love affair, I suppose……”

Knelt down, Beatrice cursed the misfortune befallen upon herself.

However, Beatrice was representing her mother, the youth before her eyes had stepped foot into this place having overcome the necessary trials. Hence, Beatrice must answer.

Even if this was some boundlessly worthless matter of some human’s love affair——,

???: “Now now, Betty, you mustn’t jump to conclusions. It is an important matter for this child, and you must properly listen to what more he has to say, you know.”

Beatrice: “Ah……”

Beatrice subsequently lifted her face at the voice descending from overhead whilst she mourned for her own self.

Present there was Puck, his tail in his arms, softly sprawling in the air levitating close to the ceiling of the parlour. This entrance of Puck’s made the youth holler “Eh!?” as he darted his eyes around.

???: “A c-cat…… no, could it be, a Spirit!?”

Puck: “Yep yep, I’m surprised you got it. Despite being so furry, I’m a Spirit. With the permission of that Mother, I’m living together with Betty. Nice to be with you~.”

???: “P-Pleased to be in your company……?”

Puck pointed his tiny hand towards the baffled youth whilst gyrating and descending. Perplexed, the youth exchanged something akin to handshake by picking Puck’s hand with a finger.

Puck: “I’ll ask in place of the depressed Betty, but what’s your name?”

Toska: “Ah…… I’m, Toska. I came from a village called Carnattse.”

Puck: “I see I see. I’ll say this, you sure are a hard worker, Toska. Betty also spoke of the same, but this palace really is no place you can easily reach. It takes many days if you travel by foot, yeah?”

Toska: “I, was anyhow just desperate……”

Puck: “Seems so. Um, Remina-chan, was it? Is she someone precious to you?”

Puck’s enquiry made the youth—— Toska falter a bit, but he then proceeded to give a deep nod.

Toska: “Yes…… Remina is my childhood friend, but, that’s not all.”

Puck: “Is that so is that so. If that’s the case then I’m rooting for you. I’m an ally to maidens in love and youthful youngsters, you see. So then, what kind of a guy is your romantic rival? Like the spoiled son of a distinguished figure in the village, a greedy nobleman who’s the tax collector, or if things are odd then there’s also the possibility of it being a relative……”

Beatrice: “……If a love affair is all that it is, then just run away at night or elope with her or whatever, in fact.”

The deeply breathing Beatrice threw water onto Puck and Toska’s heated dialogue.

Though she had surmounted the initial shock, Beatrice could not digest this with ease in spite of even Puck’s direction. The love affair of a man and a woman was far too lowly to borrow the knowledge of the Witch of Wisdom.

Beatrice: “Yet, why did he make it to the palace, I suppose…… the criterion for selection is excessively enigmatic, in fact. Betty laments her insufficiency of being unable to apprehend Mother’s profound intents, I suppose……!”

Holding her head, Beatrice earnestly surmised the true motives of her currently absent mother.

She must understand the intentions of her mother, voiced not in many words, lest she fail to fulfill her duty of being her proxy. Wrinkles forming by her lovable eyebrows, Beatrice groaned.

Witnessing Beatrice’s conduct, Toska stood up, having surpassed the limit of his endurance.

Toska: “Um! There really is no time! At this rate Remina will…… Remina will, become a sacrifice for the Blight Dragon!”

Beatrice: “——Wait again, in fact.”

Beatrice pointed her palm towards his muzzle as Toska earnestly implored. The exchange made Toska widen his eyes, vocalising a “Hm?”, but Beatrice paid no heed.

If anything, she commandingly glared at the youth taller than herself.

Beatrice: “Blight Dragon? Did you say Blight Dragon, I suppose? Your childhood friend was chosen as sacrifice for the Blight Dragon, in fact?”

Toska: “T-That’s correct! I’ve been saying that the whole time, haven’t I!”

Beatrice: “You didn’t say even the slightest bit of that, you enormous dunce!”

Toska: “O~w ~hk!?”

His tiptoes stomped, Toska jumped up and down with tearful eyes. However, considering how he had distressed Beatrice due to his dearth of explanation, he had earned that much.

He must have also had anxiety and nervousness after having reached the Palace of the Witch. She had considered that, but what a truly crude elucidation it had been. However, now she had a grasp on the matter.

Puck: “In other words, a Blight Dragon settled close to Toska’s village, and Toska’s childhood friend……”

Toska: “It’s Remina.”

Puck: “Right, Remina was chosen as the sacrifice is what the situation is. So, you can’t run away with Remina and let the village be brought to ruin by the Blight Dragon either, and are facing immense turmoil, is what it means.”

Toska powerlessly nodded as Puck encapsulated the circumstance. He hesitantly commenced reciting the situation surrounding himself, his childhood friend, and the village.

Toska: “Carnattse, is a small village with a population of about fifty people. Most households practice farming, including mine, and I am the second son…… Remina, is the same age as me and she’s also my neighbour.”

Beatrice: “Get this backstory of yours out of here, in fact.”

Toska: “Y-Yes…… um, anyhow, Remina says she’s going to become the sacrifice for the Blight Dragon for the sake of the village and just won’t listen. But, even if Remina were to become the sacrifice……”

Puck: “Once it has an empty stomach again it’ll demand the same thing. Dragons sure are classless.”

Hearing Puck’s impression gave no rise to a smile on Toska’s face.

His childhood friend who accepted the role of being the sacrifice was a valorous young girl, but Puck’s say was correct. Even if the sacrifice were to be offered, only a smidgen of peace would the Blight Dragon grant.

And, Toska did not want to lose his childhood friend in exchange for that smidgen of peace.

Beatrice: “So, you came here searching for a way to kill the Blight Dragon, I suppose.”

Toska: “N-No! I wouldn’t go that far……”

Beatrice: “Unnecessary appearances are a waste of time, in fact. Coming so far for the sake of hope, then dreading your wish at the crucial point, I suppose? That is unhinged, in fact.”

“————”

She affirmed precisely his wish, his desire.

To frantically cling to something, to wish whilst paying no heed to appearances, meant having reached the water’s edge. When there no longer existed any future, hope, potentiality, only to those who could earnestly put their life on the line did the gates of the Palace of the Witch open.

And Beatrice was one acting as proxy for the Witch who offered her hand to those drowning.

Beatrice: “Now, the Great Spirit Beatrice enquires, I suppose. What is your wish? Having arrived at the Palace of the Witch who grants wisdom, just what is it that you desire, in fact.”

Toska: “I……”

In response to Beatrice’s question, Toska’s voice became huskier, tinged with heat.

Nervousness parched the youth’s mouth, but he prevailed over that vexing thirst. The youth bit his lips, saturating his tongue with his own blood, his blue eyes gazing at Beatrice,

Toska: “……I want to kill the Blight Dragon, and save Remina.”

Beatrice: “Can’t hear you, I suppose.”

Toska: “——Teach me a way to kill the Blight Dragon! Remina, is someone precious to me!”

Blood streaming from the vicinity of his mouth, Toska powerfully beseeched with impetus as though truly vomiting blood.

Listening to Toska implore, Puck shut a single eye whilst hugging his tail. And Beatrice nodded, having heard the same implore,

Beatrice: “The Witch’s daughter, Beatrice, shall grant that wish of yours, in fact.”

She answered, with a smile she had done her best effort to learn from her mother.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Puck: “Nevertheless, so the opponent is a Blight Dragon eh~. A bit weighty for Betty’s first task.”

Their discussion straightened out, Puck gently broke the ice as he leisurely descended.

Vocalising a “Huh” Toska made a startled expression at the innocuous comment. As though awakening from a fever, he compared Beatrice and Puck with the eye,

Toska: “That reminds me, I got a bit carried away but…… what’s this about the Witch-sama being absent, or the Witch’s daughter, or a cat Spirit-sama!?”

Beatrice: “……No need to make such a ruckus, I suppose. It’s just as you heard, in fact. Bubby is a Spirit, and Betty is Mother’s daughter. And Mother, the proprietor of the palace, is absent, I suppose. Something about there being an unusual evil omen, she is currently on a trip to the eastern edge, in fact.”

Toska: “She’s gone out you say…… w-when will she be able to return!?”

Beatrice: “No specific clue, I suppose. She simply comes to observe the circumstances once a month, in fact. Generally, it’s usually the night of the full moon.”

Toska: “——~hk, we won’t make it then!”

Toska hollered, countenance pale and hands on his head. 

Toska: “Remina will be proffered as sacrifice on the night of the full moon…… only ten days remain till then!”

Puck: “Hmm hmm, exactly the X-Day Echidna returns on, huh.”

Toska: “Ekks……? Anyhow, we must return to the village before that day!”

Toska peered at Beatrice as though clinging onto her, his face yet pallid.

His gaze was urging her to somehow get in contact with Echidna, but there existed no such means. The tool Echidna had invented, the『Conversing Mirrors』were there, but she did not carry those with herself.

According to her mother, she was not one who liked to look at her own face——,

Beatrice: “It would be far too late should Mother’s return be awaited, in fact. Even for granting a plan instead, it would be onerous to complete preparations within ten days from now, I suppose.”

Puck: “Even if their hands are grabbed as they drown, there’s no way everybody would be saved, isn’t it~.”

Toska: “No way……”

Hearing Beatrice and Puck’s conversation, Toska’s head hung low, heartbroken.

Truly ironic. For him to have made his way to the Palace of the Witch seeking a hand of salvation, yet for it to remain ungranted due to the pivotal Witch’s absence. The outcome, he wasted the remaining few fragments of time he had with his childhood friend and must return empty-handed owning no other alternatives.

Rather, there was no surety whether he would even be able to make it back to that village by the next night of the full moon.

Beatrice: “……That is, unacceptable, in fact.”

Puck: “Betty?”

Puck’s ears quivered at her murmur. Looking upwards at Puck, the characteristic patterns visible on Beatrice’s pupils flailed.

Beatrice: “Just as Bubby is aware, this is Betty’s first task, I suppose. Mother entrusted Betty to attend during her absence, and commanded to fulfill the duties of the Palace of the Witch, in fact. Yet, to abandon the first hero who called onto this place due to an absence of means, are you fine with something like that, I suppose.”

Puck: “Hmm, admitting not being able to do what can’t be done is also a show of courage, wouldn’t you say.”

Beatrice: “But, it is Betty’s mission to be useful to Mother, in fact.”

Puck: “——Mission.”

Puck grimaced at Beatrice’s words as she firmly clenched her fist and touched her chest.

The word mission was a heavy one for Spirits—— Artificial Spirits, Beatrice and Puck. So incredibly heavy it was beyond any possible comparison, constituting the core of their selves.

Both had taken birth together, not naturally, but by the『Witch』, and their existences held purpose.

Beatrice’s did, so did Puck’s. That was——,

Beatrice: “As long as Betty is serving as Mother’s proxy, no hands seeking salvation shall be shaken off, I suppose.”

Toska: “Beatrice-chan……”

Beatrice: “Why would you suffix -chan onto Betty’s name there, in fact!”

Toska: “That hu~rt ~hk!?”

Toska was moved to see Beatrice be so ardent, only for her to downright step on his feet. 

However, she believed this exuberance made for the undone final push.

——The Blight Dragon extermination of Carnattse, as sought by the hero Toska.

Beatrice: “Mineself Beatrice, shall grant that wish in Mother’s stead, I suppose!”

“————”

Beatrice declared sonorously whilst vigorously beating her chest.

His eyes widened upon her pronouncement, Toska inhaled with the trodden foot grasped in his hands.

Toska: “Um, I do appreciate the sentimentaagh!?”

Beatrice: “Got tired of listening to your unneeded objections, in fact.”

With the toes of his other foot stepped on, Toska hopped on the floor with one leg at a time.

For Toska—— no, for outsiders to make light of Beatrice assuming from her outward appearance was as anticipated. However, that was immense imprudence.

Beatrice: “Betty is Mother’s daughter…… being lumped together with some random lacklustre Spirit is intolerable, I suppose. Besides, if Betty will go then Bubby will also come along without fail, in fact.”

Puck: “Well, that’s true. I’ve been told to look after Betty by Echidna anyways, and there’s only so far you can actually let your cute kid travel into the world.”

Toska: “Puck-sama aside, Beatrice-cha….. -sama, is also a Spirit?”

Tending to both of his feet whilst seated on the chair, Toska tilted his head as he visually compared Beatrice and Puck.

Toska: “I completely thought Spirits were like, either softly floating around like lights, or otherwise had taken the form of animals like Puck-sama……”

Puck: “Hm, that’s correct. Though on instances there are also some who specialise in taking the forms of humans, a great deal of Spirits’ original forms are animal-esque forms. Same goes for me, too.”

Beatrice: “For Betty, it is simply that this is the form Mother brought forth, I suppose. Of course, a Spirit’s might is not determined by shape and form, in fact. Even Bubby is so furry and lovable, I suppose.”

Puck: “Ehehe.”

Toska: “Well…… I don’t really know about that, but……”

The Spirit siblings held their heads high side by side, before Toska pronounced “Ah” and formed an expression of having noticed something.

Toska: “Spirits live far longer than humans, yes? Then could it be that the same applies to the two of you?”

Beatrice: “O-Of course, in fact. It would be trouble should you misinterpret this brimming majesty and intellect, I suppose.”

Toska: “I knew it! Um, may I ask what approximately your age is?”

Puck: “Both Betty and I would be around three years old, yeah.”

Toska: “You’re totally young!”

Toska exclaimed, his anticipation proven inaccurate, as Puck shrugged his shoulders. Levitating before the let down Toska’s face, Puck pointed his tail forward and remarked “Do you hear me?”,

Puck: “Don’t have any misunderstandings, okay. A cat’s three years, equate to around a human’s thirty years.”

Toska: “But still, that’s way younger than my old man, and going by that line of reason Beatrice-sama is…… woops!”

Beatrice: “Mgh, don’t conveniently dodge, in fact.”

Toska: “I absolutely will dodge!”

Toska evaded Beatrice’s heel, revealing his intent to not be stepped on countlessly. He then proceeded to gaze at the two, commenting “It’s no good after all”,

Toska: “I appreciate your sentiment. But, I cannot entangle children…… people who are younger than me, into something so perilous. I, will run back to the village……”

Beatrice: “You do not appear to be a fellow so laudable that you would then spend the remainder of your time together, I suppose. You intend to challenge the Blight Dragon for the sake of your childhood friend, in fact.”

Toska: “——~hk.”

Beatrice: “What an inconceivably colossal fool, I suppose. Something like tackling a battle that cannot be won is meaningless, in fact.”

His eyes cast down, Toska sunk his teeth into his lips upon Beatrice’s discernment, unable to rebut. For she had hit the bull’s eye.

For the sake of his childhood friend, he had endangered his life to pay a call to this palace, banking his dependency onto the Witch of Wisdom. Inversely said, it implied the absence of any allies who would fight with him.

Beatrice: “Now that you have come here, something like that won’t be allowed, I suppose. The Witch of Wisdom grants wisdom, in order to elevate those seeking salvation. Then, what can be accorded is not restricted to wisdom, in fact.”

Toska: “——Ah.”

Beatrice: “It shall be said once more. You seek a way to kill the Blight Dragon. And, Betty gave her word to respond to that. Thus, she shall respond. ——Betty will, with this life of her’s at stake.”

For might to dwell in her words, in these moments, set ablaze was a definite flame within Beatrice’s soul.

And that flame transfigured into an inferno, engulfing even Toska, gazing before her, within. Scorched by the blaze, Toska inhaled and deeply lowered his head as light sojourned within his blue eyes.

Toska: “Thank you very much. Prithee, fight by my side.”

No disputation necessary this time. ——Marking the beginning, of her first task.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Fastening the doors of the palace and arranging a parting letter for the time her mother returned during their absence, Beatrice, alongside Puck, exited the palace accompanying Toska with all preparations completed.

Beatrice: “The target time is the night of the full moon ten days from now…… Betty will make sure to reach, I suppose.”

Toska: “To be honest, I believe we will barely make it. Since the climb up to this palace was nothing short of extraordinary.”

Many set forth for the Palace of the Witch in pursuit of wisdom. But, the vast majority of them were filtered out due to scanty courage and ability. The prime reason being the mountain trail leading towards the palace.

So bedevilling it could no longer even be dubbed a mountain trail, cold sweat emerged on Toska through mere recollection.

However——,

Beatrice: “Relax, in fact. The hindering vermin up until the palace are only there when entering…… they won’t intrude when returning.”

Toska: “Really!? But, there’s also the rumour about the forest of no return……”

Puck: “Those kinds of rumours have been spread because if you come to the forest with scrappy feelings and ability, then you’ll only have a bad time, I think? Echidna’s a girl who does those sorts of things.”

Toska’s cognizance seemed to be enormously jolted by the impact of the truth he had been informed about.

And, seeing a rise in the number of humans conversant with her mother’s true form was something delightful yet slightly lonesome for Beatrice.

Beatrice: “Regardless, there is no apprehension for descending the mountain, in fact.”

Toska: “Yes. If we can just exit the mountain and the forest, then I’ll run while carrying Beatrice-sama on my shoulder the rest of the way. Puck-sama will……”

Puck: “I can keep up by flying so it’s all good~.”

Toska nodded as Puck responded with a relaxed pitch, waving his tail. Putting the two’s discourse aside, Beatrice looked back towards the palace and gently tapered her eyes whilst standing before the gates.

A parental home for Beatrice, forbye the palace of wisdom entrusted to her by her mother—— albeit momentarily, something stood out about being apart from it.

Toska: “Beatrice-sama, is it truly alright to be absent from the palace?”

Puck: “Well, only one or two people make their way to it in a year, and if they happen to reach it during the time of absence then they’re just unlucky I suppose so it can’t be helped, I guess. This is also the first time Betty is leaving her home, so let’s let her resolve her heart.”

Toska: “Huh, it’s also the first time she’s leaving the palace?”

Puck: “Is it something to be surprised about?”

Puck caressed his own face with a hand before Toska opened his eyes wide,

Puck: “Even animals live their entire lives within their territories if they can defend it, right? If there never rises a need to go afar, then you too would live all your life inside that tiny village of yours. It’s the same thing.”

Toska: “If you say so, that’s true…… I suppose?”

Puck: “Betty’s thing is also important, but I think you’d be better off worrying for yourself. There probably won’t be any time to take breaks between this place and your village, so are you fine with the way you’re prepared?”

In accordance with Beatrice’s assessment of it being meagre, judging Toska’s equipment to vastly fall short of the minimum necessary standard would be correct.

Despite being congruous with him being a son of a farmer, it would inescapably be termed as unsuitable for a wayfarer undertaking long travels. His garbs, his footwear, even the sword hanging on his hip, all were paltry and of poor quality.

Puck: “This is coming a bit too late, but I’m surprised you made your way to the palace. It can only be categorised as love and courage making up for it, isn’t it?”

Toska: “But, only as compensation…… also, my body’s been burlier than others’ since long before, so that may be the reason.”

Puck: “Burly…… that sort of a Divine Protection, I wonder? Well, it’s gotta be at least that much or it’d be impossible, yeah.”

Toska answered whilst scratching his head as Puck made sense of it, surmising it to be something in such wise.

And, making end of her brief farewell to her parental home, Beatrice regrouped with the two.

Beatrice: “Sorry for the wait, I suppose. It’s time to depart, in fact.”

Toska: “Understood…… Beatrice-sama, your luggage?”

Even Toska, who sported lightweight equipment and clothing for tackling the towering mountain, was stupefied by Beatrice’s travel outfit.

For nothing about it had altered since the time they had their dialogue in the parlour.

Beatrice: “Betty is certain to have told you, I suppose. Betty is a Spirit…… this outfit and even physique are moulded with mana, in fact. Betty has total freedom over changing clothes and refashioning…… hand luggage is a mere hindrance, I suppose.”

Toska: “Then, what about water or food?”

Puck: “Mhm, unnecessary for us. We’ll take ’em if you give ’em, but simply gobbling up the mana suspended in the air is sufficient. That’s why, I’m also empty-handed, and naked.”

Beatrice: “Bubby has natural fur, which is just the best, in fact.”

Beatrice light-heartedly nodded as she rubbed cheeks with Puck who perched on her shoulder. Hearing this interchange made Toska say “Is that so~” in admiration,

Toska: “If that’s the case then I, a human, am looking to be the most burdensome……”

Beatrice: “Hmph. Now that Betty has decided to follow through with it, it is her duty to pull you along, I suppose. Through the course of the journey she will provide you with water, and even help with hunting if necessary, in fact.”

Puck: “We can also give rise to a tailwind, and level the ground to make it easier to run. More than satisfactory, wouldn’t you say?”

Wind blew with a swing of Beatrice’s hand, ground was smoothed with a swing of Puck’s tail. Beholding this with his own two eyes, Toska cleared his throat and was yet again allured by the two’s might as Spirits.

Furthermore, he learnt that acting with queer restraint pertaining to the two’s might would be discourteous, as well.

Toska: “——. I understand. I shall borrow the power of you two! Prithee, make haste toward the itinerary to the village first!”

Beatrice: “Agreeable, I suppose. Now, well then, you’ll have to carry Betty in your arms, in fact.”

Nodding with a “Yes!”, Toska’s hands reached for Beatrice, both her arms outstretched. And, he scooped her up and coiled his arm around Beatrice’s waist, carrying her by his side as though carrying firewood.

Toska: “Alright…… agh, it hurt ~hk!?”

Beatrice: “Don’t go alright-ing, I suppose! What, in fact, is t-this humiliating way of carrying!”

Toska shrieked with tearful eyes, with his armpit pinched by Beatrice whom he was carrying.

Truly, just what did he regard the exalted Spirit as. Toska’s conduct lacked the natural forethought towards even a lady, prior to Beatrice’s honour. 

Beatrice: “A peasant after all, I suppose. Wield more delicacy, the daintiness of carrying a baby, in fact.”

Toska: “A baby…… I-I understand. Al, right.”

Beatrice: “……Hm, no problems, I suppose.”

This time gently carried in his arms like a child, Beatrice pardoned Toska’s insolence. Puck threw himself down on Beatrice’s chest, and the standard stance of the three departing on the journey was now contrived.

Toska: “Alright then, I shall run straight ahead. Please let me know if there is ever any issue.”

Beatrice: “Well, you can keep running without care, I suppose. This side will handle the earth flattening, I suppose.”

Toska: “Understood. Well then——,”

Firm strength pouring into his legs, Toska then broke into a sprint, Beatrice still in his arms. Her entire frame basking in the acceleration and wind, Beatrice left the Palace of the Witch for the first time.

As the palace slowly, steadily faded away into the distance, she attempted to look back onto it in a final display of longing and valediction——,

Beatrice: “——W-Wha!?”

Toska bolted at a velocity infinitely greater, the palace had already become invisible in a matter of seconds as the forms of the three raced down the hilly road and vaulted into the dense clouds.

Within the clouds, with no longer present the white titans of ice that functioned as impeding obstacles in the paths of those with their sights set on the palace, as if verbatim flying over the bare rock that made for an unfavorable foothold, Toska hurtled downward.

Beatrice sensed no room for the assistance of magic in his unwavering momentum and speed.

Truly, momentum akin to a gale.

Toska: “No hindrances when returning……! Seems like that was true!”

Beatrice: “Ababa, ababa, ubababa……”

Toska: “If this is how things are then it looks like we’ll be able to descend the mountain in half a day. We’ll make it, I’ll make it, Remina!”

Toska, exhilarated, shan’t notice the gruelling condition Beatrice was in, within his arms. On Beatrice’s chest, Puck caressed his whiskers whilst pronouncing an “Ah~”, being rocked similar to her.

Puck: “I did think it was weird since he managed to climb up the mountain, but this kid also wasn’t normal after all, huh.”

So he whispered, his expression utterly drained.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

——Blight Dragon, was nothing but a convenient name for Dragons harbouring enmity toward humans.

Identical to how the Spirits that yielded harm onto others were labelled as Blight Spirits. However, unlike Spirits who for the most part did not leave their birthplaces, Dragons sought to expand their turf by their own accord.

This resulted in the birth of their conflict with people who originally lived there, subsequently starting to be designated as Blight Dragons.

Beatrice: “In other words, Dragons being regarded as Blight Dragons is solely a matter of humans’ point of view, in fact.”

Toska: “I see…… then, the Dragon who showed up on a mountain close to the village is also.”

Beatrice: “It means it is one who literally spread its wings wide in order to expand its turf, I suppose.”

Puck: “In these times even the Dragons are all worked up due to their population having risen too much~. They’re likely troubled themselves, seeing the places they could use as dwellings become smaller and smaller.”

The time was one of total darkness, Beatrice elucidated about Dragons whilst hewing the campfire.

Half a day since their departure from the Palace of the Witch, Toska’s swordsmanship had exemplarily exited the montane forest and they had successfully escaped the mountain as well as the forest of the Witch. Nothing existed for Beatrice to draw a comparison with, but by Puck’s word his accomplishment was akin to monstrous.

Toska: “Monstrous you say, that is an overappraisal.”

Puck caressed his whiskers as Toska presented a humble response to the evaluation. What his round, black eyes glanced at was not the modest Toska, but his background.

——Behind Toska, lying on the ground was a titanic, ferocious-looking lion.

Black fur similar to wires, endowed with sharp fangs and claws, the quadruped possessed brutishness kindred with its fiendish appearance but its eyes had already lost their light, the thread of its life severed.

And the one to inexorably bring down this titanic brute was nobody but Toska.

Puck: “I guess it’s a Guiltylowe? Not very intelligent, but their might speaks for itself. And you tidied it up so easily. You know, are you sure you don’t hunt mere Dragons and stuff even without us being there?”

Toska: “Please stop, Puck-sama. You’ll know once you see any actual Dragons…… They’re, not like this stupid dog. For my body to tremble non-stop during a confrontation, has happened for the first time ever since with big brother.”

Swiveling his sword with an accustomed way of wielding, Toska dissected the titanic brute he had brought down. Peeling its skin, chopping the spouting organs and blood into casual sizes, he held it on the bonfire concocted on thin woods.

Beatrice: “Will other animals not gather due to the scent of grilling meat, in fact?”

Toska: “Please be at ease. This guy surely has the white horn on its forehead. Other animals don’t come close to animals with this horn. It also serves as an animal repel if you carry its blood.”

Beatrice: “……You seem familiar with this, I suppose.”

Beatrice sighed as she gazed at his cooking, upon Toska’s display of practical knowledge. 

Though in truth, Beatrice’s plan had been to flaunt her ability and make Toska sing her praises like “As expected of the daughter of the Witch-sama!” by the time of having reached up to this point.

Beatrice: “Betty’s plan failed because you’re a monster, in fact.”

Toska: “Now you too, Beatrice-sama! Believe me, I am no monster. I can just move my body a very teensy bit more than other people…… I do not compare with a Dragon.”

A bitter grin, Toska vanished his smile and fixed his pupils onto the flame.

His eyes conveyed a certain longing, that he truly should have been a monster. Had Toska been a monster that could prey even upon a Dragon, then he could have protected his childhood friend without having to depend on anyone.

Toska: “No matter of how many of these stupid dogs I hunt, it is nothing worth taking pride in.”

Puck: “That itself makes it a pitiable show for this child who got hunted…… Well, it’s said they don’t have anything in their minds aside from attacking humans, so I guess it’s only fair. Seems these types of animals are called Witch Beasts, yeah.”

Beatrice: “Witch Beasts…… Like Blight Dragons, they’re not called Blight Brutes or something, I suppose.”

Puck: “Well it is pretty hard to pronounce. Blight Brute. Like beetroot. Blight Brute.”

Puck blew a breath onto the grilling meat of the Witch Beast whilst uttering. That instant, the cleaved fat begot an aromatic scent before Toska’s belly gave rise to a large grumble.

Toska: “Frankly, their meat doesn’t taste good at all.”

Puck: “Huh, I see.”

Toska: “Because of bad stuff being stockpiled in their bodies or something, the village headman had said. Can’t be called anything extravagant either, I’ll eat, though.”

Articulating so, Toska proceeded to pick up a skewer and heartily dug in. His expression then observably clouded, with a disconsolate look on his face he put down the skewer.

And,

Toska: “Beatrice-sama, would you like one as well?”

Beatrice: “Why, did you think Betty would accept it after seeing your frown just now, in fact……?”

Toska: “No, I just thought there should be more casualties……”

Beatrice: “Just where did you drop your respect for Betty, I suppose!?”

Beatrice nailed her rage onto Toska, who offered her another skewer. A half-joke, Toska obediently drew back the skewer as well.

Puck: “Then, guess I’ll take it in Betty’s stead. Chomp.”

Beatrice: “Bubby!?”

Puck: “Gobble gobble, gobble gobble…… mhm, it’s disgusting! One more!”

Toska: “One more you say, managing to eat it alone is a feat.”

Declared Puck with a frown, having snatched the skewer from Toska’s hand and munched the meat. Considering how small his bites were, fully eating one skewer worth of grilled meat alone was an immense task for Puck.

Laughing at Puck’s conduct, Toska gorged on whatever remained of the first skewer. 

Guiltylowe’s body was large, plenty of edible portions were still left. A number of skewers were being grilled on the flame, and Beatrice’s gaze intermittently glanced toward them.  

She was a Spirit so it was improbable for her to become hungry. It was improbable, and yet——,

Puck: “Eating a Witch Beast is also a good way to cover for the knowledge you lack, Betty.”

Beatrice: “B-Betty was thinking the same, in fact. No doubt even Mother would not have experienced eating a Witch Beast, I suppose. It is an opportunity to be useful to Mother, in fact.”

Even the studious Echidna surely mustn’t have ensnared herself in this order of bizarre eating.

Her sense of purpose of being useful to her mother, amalgamated with the inquisitiveness for the unknown before her eyes, Beatrice nervously took one of the grilling skewers in her hand.

And, with Toska and Puck’s watchful eye over her, took one bite of earnest heartfelt desire.

Beatrice: “——It’s disgusting, I suppose!”

The instant she took a bite, she felt the noxiousness characteristic of carnivores fill her mouth. Furthermore the meat itself was rigid beyond chewing, and the oozing flesh fluids upon each crunch were bitter like mud.

Truly, flavour akin to chewing sand.

Beatrice: “Taste of hell, in fact…… S-Shouldn’t have eaten it, I suppose……”

Puck: “On top of that, this thing’s super filled with bad mana, so it’s poison for us. What the village headman from Toska’s place said was correct.”

Beatrice: “Ueh cough! Cough cough, in fact!”

Beatrice spat out what she once had in her mouth in tremendous fluster. Let her be termed as ill-mannered, but she did not possess the courage to swallow poison. And even if she did, that would amount to nothing but foolhardiness.

Beside her, Puck also spat out the flesh into the flame with a cough.

Puck: “That’s how it is, so I don’t really recommend it to you either, Toska? Even if you’re not a Spirit, bad content may start accumulating if you eat too much.”

Toska: “Is, that so? ……But, I killed it, so.”

Puck: “Must eat the life you’ve taken, that type of thinking eh? I think that itself is praiseworthy, but don’t you get into pretty rough spots if you apply that to everything? You seem like you could even eat some venomous insects.”

Toska: “Uh…… even I, would prefer not to.”

Though an argument quite extreme, it seemed to have sufficient effect on Toska.

Informed of the possibility that his body may get eaten into from within, even Toska lowered the skewer in his grip. However, his eyes yet remorseful, were contemplating the Witch Beast meat cooling down.

Beatrice: “Why are you fussing over that piece of meat, I suppose. To think you would get that hungry, humans need to put some limits on their inexpediency, in fact.”

Toska: “It’s not that I’m hungry…… It’s just that, big brother had once earlier said that I’d get stronger if I ate strong creatures, so just out of habit.”

Manifesting a bitter smile, a sigh leaked from Toska as he released the grilled meat into the flames.

Beatrice felt a queer sensation jab her chest, beholding Toska’s expression. The expression of powerfully yearning for something, very much resembling that of pursuit for an unattainable wish.

Puck: “Big brother you say, you have an elder brother? That reminds me, you did say you were the second son, yeah.”

Toska: “Yes. I have an elder brother who is slightly older than me…… though he is so strong, you wouldn’t believe he belongs to this world.”

Beatrice: “……Well well, if that isn’t another overstatement, I suppose. If he is so strong, then you should’ve left the Blight Dragon extermination up to your so-called big brother, in fact.”

Toska: “——. Big brother, has gone out of the village, so.”

His words were not the echo of a younger brother lamenting the absence of his dependable elder brother. 

Something far more convoluted, like the mud named a long span of time having sedimented in a water well. All one could do in order to draw the water therein was to remove the mud aside and pray for the fortune of the water well having not dried up.

Beatrice: “But, Betty wants none of that dismal nonsense, I suppose.”

Toska: “Beatrice-sama?”

Beatrice: “Don’t be irresolute, in fact, human. No matter how much you lose heart, you cannot become your siblings, I suppose. That is a matter of course, in fact.”

Pruning away the ashes on her footwear, Beatrice looked downward towards the mute Toska. Hands on her hips, as though launching a kick into the melancholic youth’s back,

Beatrice: “——But still, you will save the village, I suppose.”

Toska: “——Ah.”

Beatrice: “You didn’t give up, searched for what you could do and aimed for the palace. Though Mother is absent, Betty and Bubby have mobilised your wish, in fact.”

No miracles befell upon those who undertook no action. No rains blessed upon those who simply looked towards the heavens.

In a world where all simply withered unless one kept moving forward, the will to advance was utmost sacred.

“————”

By the point of this declaration, Beatrice noticed her own heated temper. Toska’s gaze at her now rapidly altered into a source of embarrassment.

Beatrice: “A-At any rate, that’s how it is, in fact! Must wake up early tomorrow as well, so sleep right away, I suppose! You’ll have to run while carrying Betty in your arms tomorrow as well, in fact!”

Beatrice swiftly articulated whilst concealing her embarrassment, cheeks tinged red. She subsequently lied on the ground blanketed by leaf litter, in the rear of the fallen tree being used as substitute for seating.

She was not reluctant to lie on the ground either, for the impurities on her dress were erased each time she shifted positions. Though she was anticipating the disgrace saturating her face red to rob her of her sleep——,

Beatrice: “——Nn.”

Her insecurity needless, mind and body exhausted by her first travel to afar, Beatrice’s consciousness reaped the allurement of deep sleep.

“————”

Beginning to hear her quiet breaths of sleep within a matter of seconds, Toska exchanged a glance with Puck.

Puck: “Looks like she was tired, after all. As you saw, she’d been in pretty high spirits.”

Toska: “Looks to be so. Since it was also apparently the first time she left her house…… To think she would devote such efforts for my sake, when we’ve just met.”

An intent gaze at the wavering bonfire, Toska put one hand on another and closed his eyes.

All kinds of intricate emotions pirouetted within the depths of his chest. Gratitude towards Beatrice and Puck, longing for the childhood friend he had left behind, love and despise for his elder brother absent from the village during such crucial times, apprehension whether the choice he made was the correct one or not, illimitable and unceasing.

All of them, thorns incessantly tormenting Toska since he had reached the Palace of the Witch, and since they had departed. However——,

Toska: “I will save the village……”

Puck: “Hehehe, Betty said so, yeah. I also think it’s correct. It was hasty and careless to rely on the Witch for the Blight Dragon extermination, but it was right that you abided by your intuition.”

Toska: “Is that, supposed to be a compliment?”

Puck: “Of course.”

Puck nodded, though the Spirit’s words were every so often mingled with an unknown language.

Though his own illiteracy was distressing, had he truly yet chosen the best out of the attainable options.

Puck: “That is, something Betty and you will prove going forward, isn’t it.”

Astonished by the words as though his innermost heart had been read, Toska then beamed a wry smile.

Putting the lovely young girl over there aside, he could not possibly rival the easygoing, floating kitten over here.

That admission in his mind, Toska picked up one of the skewers that had been grilled to burns. Rather than crisp, the meat had about halfway turned into ash, though the flavour of the raw ingredient may now have vanished instead.

Matters will remain busy tomorrow onwards as well. Regardless however meagrely, he must fill his stomach however much possible, subsequently biting into the burnt meat.

Toska: “——I guess, Witch Beasts aren’t stuff to be eaten after all.”

Grumbling a quibble, Toska chewed the meat stuck onto the bones until the very end.

 

 

 

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

 

Next day onwards resumed the journey of the three, lasting for shorter than ten days.

Beatrice: “Neither tailwinds nor earth flattening are needed for you, to be honest, you’re disgusting, I suppose.”

Toska: “Isn’t disgusting going a bit too far!?”

Toska hurtled, Beatrice up in his arms, at a velocity enough to receive the reward of such aspersion.

His sprint was so excessively swift that to a bystander Toska’s legs would appear as invisible, and any Witch Beasts or stray dogs that attempted to pounce and halt him were all deserted behind, their opportunity galloping past them.

Puck: “Hmm, not disgusting, but it is uncanny. Could it be that everyone in Toska’s village is a monster like you?”

Toska: “Old man, mum, Remina and the others are all normal! ……No, I’m telling you I’m normal as well!”

Beatrice: “Rattles of denial coming from a guy who himself is aware, in fact. Quite loose-lipped, I suppose.”

 

Toska: “When I’m eating nothing but Witch Beasts, you two have a grim look in your eyes at the time of campfire, so I tried catching fish in the river today……”

A peculiar fish washed by the riverside floundered, as Toska looked at the two whilst basking in the splashes of water.

Beatrice and Puck, identically soaked due to the waves evoked by the peculiar fish, commented on the gargantuan peculiar fish of a length that all three of them could be lined side by side and its tailfin would still remain revealed.

Puck: “For something that was hunted to be eaten, it’s way too big. Wonder if he doesn’t know how to hold back?”

Beatrice: “To begin with, the repulsiveness of its appearance is identical to that of a Witch Beast, in fact. Despite being a human, does he not know that not just flavour but appearance is also important for meals, I suppose.”

Toska: “I can hear you, the two of you!”

 

Puck: “Who would’ve thought that fish was the lord of the fishes in the river feared in the nearby village, pretty big coincidence.”

Beatrice: “Not a quantity that could’ve been disposed of, so it was correct to hand it over to the village in fact.”

By having brought down the lord of the nuisance fishes and handing it over, they had been amiably welcomed by the residents of the village. Because those peculiar fishes had become an obstruction in fishing, they had seemingly verged on drying up, allegedly.

They were badgered to sojourn in the village and partake in the banquet to be conducted, but——,

Toska: “I also, must save my village, after all.”

Puck: “Hm hm, commendable commendable. But, the one you want to save is moreso your childhood friend than the village, yeah.”

Beatrice: “That village headman implored to give his daughter to you, I suppose. What a waste, in fact.”

Toska: “No matter what you say, Remina is the only one for me!”

 

——Their journey had been a smooth one, but on occasion perilous circumstances paid a call to them.

“————”

Melded with dusk, the claws of a titanic brute ambushing them from the shadows, Toska skilfully warded them off with the sword he wielded and the rebounding blade beautifully bisected its beefy throat.

Sable blood spouted, the entire body of the red haired youth bathed in it with no shift in expression.

Repugnance, shirking, were luxurious albeit moreso futile and needless sentiments in the midst of battle.

Letting those not perturb his mind, Toska braced his paltry sword forward to the next, free from neglect.

“——Kiyuryursheeah!!”

A ferocious, truculent roar echoed, jolting the parched night of the wasteland was a Witch Beast assimilating shadows.

The Witch Beast that had assailed the troupe on the first night as well, members of the  Guiltylowe species—— that too, a horde of them.

Perhaps due to negligence of having become accustomed to the journey, they seemed to have inadvertently entered the hunting ground of the horde.

Though Toska too had acted tough and contrasted the opponent with Dragons as nothing but animals.

Toska: “But if they’re large in numbers, then it’s definitely rough……!”

Chased by the opposition against the impertinent continued linkage of Witch Beasts, Toska too felt his composure whittle. Increase of wounds caused by the grazing claws and fangs, the scent of his flowing blood roused the Guiltylowe.

“————”

Beatrice and Puck watched over Toska’s labours from afar.

They had not erased their presences or concealed themselves. The Guiltylowe had simply put the young girl and kitten for later and prioritised opposing the menace before their eyes, Toska.

Conceit conveying that a small, frail creature could be turned into a dish later on as well.

Puck: “To be neglecting us, guess they really aren’t very intelligent after all. Regardless, Toska is putting up a pretty good fight over there…… so Betty, what do we do?”

Beatrice: “——. Betty will.”

Puck: “I see. OK, got it.”

Snuggling under Beatrice’s hair, Puck proceeded to emerge following her brief reply.

Puck’s tiny frame then headed above the battleground of whirling blood. By that point the vigilance of the Witch Beasts, who had made light of the Spirits as trifle articles, turned toward him.

They brandished their claws overhead towards Puck, who was easily within their grasp upon a single leap——,

Puck: “Such casual mistakes unfortunately aren’t going to get you any gold stars.”

The following instant innumerable stumps of ice stitched the horde of Guiltylowe to the ground.

The Witch Beasts simultaneously bellowed, their limbs and torsos lunged, having been verbatim shot through by the glaciating impact. However, the solatium for erring the enemy’s war potential was a heavy one.

Before long, ice spread from the mouth of the wounds birthed by the icicles, congealing even the throats relinquishing their death wails as the Witch Beasts transmuted into ice.

With this, concluded the battle of tonight as well.

Toska: “Puck-sama……”

Puck: “No need to thank me. I’d been having it pretty easy up until now, after all.”

Toska: “No, if you’re this strong then please provide assistance more quickly……”

The injured Toska gave a wry smile to Puck, blood cascading from his cheeks and forehead. His correct articulation made Puck raise his eyebrows with a “Woops”, whistling away in an attempt to varnish the topic over.

The frosty sculptures of ice afterwards shattered, destroying the Witch Beasts down to their finest.

Puck: “Now then, coming to Toska’s wounds……”

Beatrice: “Ah…… Betty will heal them, I suppose. This is nothing, in fact.”

Beatrice secured the duty for herself before Puck commenced his treatment. She zoomed over, hand aloft, and a pale light started healing the wounds Toska bore.

The mild sensation briskly and gently closed up the wounds, Toska sighed in relief as well. And once all of his wounds were closed, he briskly stretched his back.

Toska: “Alright, the pain’s all gone too! Thanks, Beatrice-sama.”

Beatrice: “Your gratitude vaguely seems to lack respect for Betty, I suppose……”

Her expression austere, Beatrice averted her eyes away from Toska and murmured. Beside her, Puck groaned a “Hmm” with a troubled expression whilst viewing the shattered ice sculptures of the Witch Beasts,

Puck: “Feels wei~rd. Self-assertive kids like these don’t often flock together with others.”

Toska: “On top of that, it is strange that we encountered them over here. It’s normal for people to come and go by this path in this area, even if they’re Witch Beasts they never expanded their turfs or anything, yet……”

Beatrice: “……Then, the answer is simple, in fact. They were driven out of their original dwelling, and were in the midst of escaping, I suppose.”

Beatrice’s theory gave rise to a staggered expression on Toska. Seeming to have reached an identical conclusion as Beatrice, Puck nodded with a “Yeah~” whilst caressing his whiskers.

Puck: “If the promised night of the full moon is the limit of the Dragon’s hunger, then it must be starting to get into a bad mood now. That may have agitated the atmosphere, which is why the Witch Beasts are also running away.”

Toska: “……It’s about time, isn’t it.”

Puck, devoid of nervousness, contrary to him was Toska, taut with pressing emotions. Imposing on herself as much nervousness, Beatrice too ascertained what lay ahead of the highway of night.

Exactly nine days since they had departed from the palace—— the faintly waned moon of the night sky, would surely fáilte a purely round, spherical full moon void of any impurities tomorrow.

Beatrice: “Somehow made it in time, in fact. ——The promised, night of the full moon, I suppose.”

Beatrice muttered, Puck and Toska consented whilst maintaining silence.

——The journey, Beatrice’s first albeit a short one, its end was imminent before their eyes. 

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

 

Chapter 2

“Night Of Stars’ Descent”

 

 

Beatrice: “And so, Betty and Bubby, along with the foolhardy human, reached the end of the journey which lasted shorter than ten days and arrived at the crux, in fact.”

Lewes: “I-It certainly is a tremendous adventure……”

Despite only having unwillingly grumbled in the beginning, once she gained the momentum of reciting, words escaped her as though brimming over.

Stirring the hotpot with a spoon whilst listening to this, Lewes intermittently revealed the nail-biting tension she felt via facial expressions and utterances, a truly excellent listener.

Thanks to this, Beatrice unwittingly indulged herself in reminiscing as well.

Anyhow, the story now arrived at the critical Dragon extermination, but——,

???: “——Now that is a really interesting tale. What happens next?”

Beatrice: “Yuck, I suppose.”

Before she could resume narrating, Beatrice grimaced upon hearing an unpleasant voice. Though the voice came from behind, she need not turn back. For he came around to her beforehand.

???: “Yuck doesn’t make for a greeting, does it. Won’t you allow me to join in on your story?”

Interposing so and inclining his body, the individual somewhere between a youngster and a man, his navy blue hair stretching long, clad in dodgy devilishness was peering at Beatrice’s visage.

His entrance had Lewes smile in Beatrice’s stead.

Lewes: “Roswaal-sama, are you finished with your business?”

Roswaal: “Yes, it all went quite smoothly. It helps that the people here are all so cooperative. By their aid. It’s ought to have made for another step closer toward the realisation of Teacher’s dearest wish.”

Lewes: “I am elated to hear so…… Beatrice-sama, you mustn’t hang your head low.”

Eyes clear blue, the grinning youth—— Roswaal’s entrance impelled Beatrice to scowl further, subsequently giving up on keeping her gaze cast downward for how futile it held.

Beatrice: “Got it, got it I suppose. Defeat accepted, in fact…… you, from where had you been eavesdropping, I suppose. So distasteful, in fact.”

Roswaal: “Eavesdropping, that’s a nasty way to put it. To begin with, it had been decided that we would be having dinner here. If you’re to start reminiscing in a place like this, then it’s only a matter of course it’d enter my ears.”

Beatrice failed to pronounce even an “Ugh” as Roswaal shrugged.

——Not pertaining exclusively to the time within『Sanctuary』, meals were to be had with everyone as much as possible.

That was a precept established by the『Witch』Echidna, a decree neither Beatrice nor Lewes, nor even Roswaal could flout.

Although, just about the only one to feel tormented by this precept was Beatrice, being opposed to having to give company to Roswaal.

Lewes: “Roswaal-sama, would you also happen to harbour any interest in Beatrice-sama’s prior life?”

Roswaal: “Of course. It’s a shame Beatrice doesn’t talk much about her past. Since we’re often compared, I had heard about the presence of her so-called older brother, but……”

Beatrice: “You aren’t something worth even a comparison with Bubby, I suppose. Don’t be conceited, in fact.”

Roswaal: “Welp, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”

Taking a path around the hotpot atop flames, Roswaal then boldly seated himself immediately beside Beatrice. Even when Beatrice shifted away, he consistently got that much closer and covered the distance in between.

The man possessed no other intent but to wholeheartedly make Beatrice boundlessly groan.

Roswaal: “It’s a chance to get closer to the enigmas of your Bubby. It also makes me really curious how your first adventure concluded, Beatrice.”

Lewes: “I am also incredibly curious about that. Will Toska-sama be able to protect his childhood friend?”

Finding an ally in the naive Lewes, Roswaal’s odious pupils gawped at Beatrice. 

Of course, she did not have the option to not tell the rest after having come this far, but if that were to mean delighting Roswaal, it was simply human nature for her to fail recounting enjoyably.

Beatrice: “……Betty is an exalted Spirit, so human nature isn’t the correct term, I suppose.”

Roswaal: “There’s no need to fuss over such minute semantics. Now then, considering how I’m not even worth comparing to him, what feats will your splendid Bubby make I wonder?”

Beatrice: “Do you hold something against Bubby, in fact? So pigheaded, I suppose.”

Beatrice furrowed her brows in dubiousness, his speech coming off as strangely thorny in essence. But Roswaal provided no answer, as Lewes smiled bitterly, expression convoluted.

Beatrice: “It feels vaguely uncanny, but moving on, in fact. ——After approximately ten days, Betty and the others arrived at Carnattse a day prior to the night of the full moon.”

Lewes: “Then, Beatrice-sama and the villagers worked together, and the Dragon extermination…….”

Beatrice: “——Did not come to be, in fact.”

A thought dearth in appropriate vigilance toward the circumstance truly befitting of Lewes, but the reality did not unfold in identical vein.

With the gazes of the two listeners in mind, Beatrice returned to that night once again.

Beatrice: “The reason why he came to Betty and everyone’s place, was because he had no allies in the village, I suppose.”

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Toska: “——Why, won’t everyone try to stand up!!”

An enraged bellow, in company of a mighty kick to the floor by Toska.

Having assessed him as the owner of a fairly composed personality for his age by dint of their meeting and journey, Beatrice was substantially astonished upon witnessing Toska’s exasperated form.

However, what astonished her furthermore, were the reactions of the dwellers of Carnattse who welcomed Toska.

A night preceding the promised night of full moon with the Blight Dragon, Toska had returned home bringing help from the Palace of the Witch. It would be appreciable should they be delighted about not having to sacrifice a young girl from the village.

In that case, despite feeling piqued by having to depend upon others, their purpose would have surely been fulfilled.

However, the responses they attained in reality ran counter to any such conjectures and expectations.

???: “What a foolish thing you’ve done, Toska. Went to the Witch of Wisdom’s place, and brought back the daughter of the Witch from there…… how will we ever be able to pay any such recompense.”

A white-haired grandsire, the village headman mithered so with trembling vocals whilst solitarily facing Toska in his home.

Hearing this, the redness of Toska’s visage incremented further,

Toska: “I don’t mean to have everyone from the village shoulder the debt I’ve incurred! I arbitrarily went to the Witch-sama’s place. That’s why, I’ll pay for the recompense.”

Headman: “That’s only natural! Your actions were self-indulgent. However, it would’ve been better had that made for borrowing the Witch’s might……”

His words befogged midway through, the village headman’s cynic eye darted towards Beatrice and Puck. 

His glance was unpleasant, but not to an unanticipated degree. Beatrice had simply an unamused expression. However, it was Toska who could not pardon this discourteous gaze.

Toska: “I implored Beatrice-sama and Puck-sama to come with me. Please do not direct a gaze of this kind towards them. I will, work together with the two of them and……”

Headman: “——Rescue Remina, you proclaim? Will you be able to oppose that fearsome Blight Dragon?”

“————”

Headman: “Foolish. Truly foolish, Toska. Why, did you leave the village? Had you remained in the village, you could’ve spent identical time with Remina albeit for a scant ten days.”

Articulating with pity, the village headman’s eyes turned to outside of the building. Beyond the window, visible far away was something akin to a shrine, the wooden door comprising its entrance tightly fastened.

Headman: “Remina is inside of the shrine. Preparing for tomorrow, she has commenced her ritual for purification. You shan’t even be allowed to meet her.”

Toska: “Remina……”

Headman: “Oh Toska, why must you have departed from the village. Should you have remained here, you would have made time and memories with Remina. The same way as you, Remina regarded you with fondness……”

Whether he set to chide him or was simply hopelessly inconsiderate, anyhow, the village headman’s remarks violated Toska’s fury which mustn’t be disturbed.

Toska glared at the village headman, canines bared,

Toska: “Remina! The one Remina loves, is not me, but big brother……! As Remina’s dad, shouldn’t you be the one who knows that the most!”

Relinquishing this assertion behind, Toska stormed out of the village headman’s home.

His tail jolted by the vigour of the fierce gale birthed by Toska, Puck exchanged a look with Beatrice. Beatrice drew her jaw in before Puck glided through the air and pursued the vanishing figure.

And, with Toska and Puck’s departure, the only ones left behind were Beatrice and the village headman.

Beatrice: “……Betty too, finds that to be quite witless, in fact. But, his judgement to depend on the Witch of Wisdom was correct, I suppose. Betty, is none other than the proxy of the Witch, in fact.”

Headman: “However, the pivotal Witch-sama remains in absentia. Is this not what epitomizes being deserted by fortune.”

Beatrice: “Right when you have a chance, do you intend to forgo the life of your own daughter, I suppose?”

Headman: “In exchange for the village!?”

Glowering at Beatrice, the village headman nailed his fist to the floor, giving rise to a report.

The rage and awareness dwelling in his gaze were proof of having compared the scales of his own daughter and the village, and having deliberated earnestly.

Henceforth, he had simply chosen his position as the chief of the village over his position as a father.

Headman: “……Toska was rash in his demands. By all means, please return.”

Beatrice: “Blight Dragons…… Dragons use mountains as dwellings. That remains unchanged, let it be labelled a Blight Dragon or not. It will settle on the mountain visible in the south of the village, I suppose. ——The sacrifices, won’t end with one, in fact.”

“————”

Beatrice: “As uncouth as the name suggests, I suppose.”

Dusting away the hem of her dress, Beatrice chose to excuse herself from the village headman as well.

By the very end as Beatrice was on the brink of exiting, she heard the village headman murmur “Remina……”, yet Beatrice did not halt her steps.

However, from her exchange with the village headman and the villagers who shyed from showing themselves, she could tell.

Beatrice: “Not everyone, seems to have the mettle to battle the Blight Dragon, I suppose.”

By the point of Toska’s arrival at the Palace of the Witch all by himself, she had foreseen this to a certain extent.

Primarily, tackling the Palace of the Witch was standardly done after forming a clique. Setting about with a group of more than ten, yet the ones to reach the palace were a scant one or two, that was the class of trial it was.

Yet, Toska fulfilled it by himself. That did not allude to the aspect of his exiguous mobile ability and power of will alone, but also portended the negative of isolation.

Toska had no allies. ——Nobody, was seeking to settle matters with the Blight Dragon.

Toska: “……I apologize for showing such a pathetic sight to you.”

Beatrice was being guided to the rear of the shrine, having departed from the village headman’s home and followed Puck’s responses. There, Toska bowed and apologized, leaning on the fences enclosing the village.

Levitating beside him, Puck hugged his tail with a “Hmm”.

Puck: “Was it pathetic? I feel like you’re the only one not being pathetic in this village, though.”

Beatrice: “Betty agrees, I suppose. For a human, you’re on the better side, in fact.”

Toska: “……Haha, that way of putting it would be a bit……”

Receiving Puck and Beatrice’s comfort, a smile recrudesced onto Toska’s expression.

Of course a mere bravado, but being cheered up meant being cheered up. Before it dwindled away, they must have the conversation they inevitably ought to.

Beatrice: “——It doesn’t seem like there can be any allies found in this village who will assist you in battle, I suppose.”

Puck: “Yeah, there’s little hope. Seems everyone is so scared of the Blight Dragon that they’ve shut themselves in.”

The village was a small and confined one. All within the village must have hearkened Toska’s voice when he roared inside the village headman’s home. Yet nobody attempted to come forth.

And Remina, isolated within the shrine calling the ritual for purification upon herself, was no exception.

Puck: “Won’t you call out to her?”

Toska: “——. After having yelled the pinnacle of patheticness just now?”

Gazing at the shrine, Toska responded to Puck, who tilted his neck.

His pessimism was only natural, considering Toska’s remarks shortly earlier. For the childhood friend he wished to rescue, Remina, the one she loved was not him but his elder brother.

Though judging solely from the hearsay they had learned here and there through the course of their journey, he seemed to be quite the unprecedented sort of personage.

Toska: “Had big brother been over here, we wouldn’t have had to worry about Remina becoming a sacrifice for the Dragon. I’m sure neither the village headman, nor the folks of the village, would’ve been afraid of the Dragon.”

“————”

Toska: “——But, the one over here is me. Me.”

She thought he would yet again itemize words lamenting his own powerlessness, gaze cast down. However, before the silent Beatrice and Puck, Toska marked brief words comprising the impetus to look forward by his own volition.

Toska bit his lips, clenched his fists, and mightily, powerfully, gripped the handle of the sword on his hip.

Toska: “So what if it’s a Blight Dragon. As if I’m ever going to hand Remina over to just a big lizard like that…… Fighting with the Dragon, is way better than big brother’s knuckles.”

Beatrice: “That comparison is just weird, in fact……”

Puck: “But, gotta say, he’s got quite the boyish expression right there.”

Whether promising or pathetic, Beatrice slumped her shoulders seeing the way Toska resolved his determination. Yet Puck seemed to hold a different view, somehow appearing thrilled.

Beatrice: “Well, this is better for Betty than having to lend her strength to a coward, I suppose.”

She did not spend nine days and came all the way here in order to watch humans’ dispute. It was for the havoc enkindled by a Dragon—— its breakthrough, and to prove.

The hand of salvation of the Witch of Wisdom sought by humans across the world, its definite might and promise.

Beatrice: “Betty and Bubby don’t have the option to withdraw to begin with, in fact. You will be held accountable for the responsibility of having brought us outside of that palace, I suppose.”

Toska: “……You’re truly unsparing, Beatrice-chan.”

Beatrica: “You…… mgh.”

When she attempted to rebuke him that this was no time to interrupt, Toska’s mien intercepted her.

An earnest gaze and expression were a show of resolution. If referring to Beatrice so casually coincided with that in exchange, then she could overlook it at least this one time.

Beatrice: “However, you won’t be getting a second chance, in fact.”

Toska: “I am aware……. It seems, we must work out a plan. Had we gotten more allies from the village, we could have charged into the Blight Dragon head-on, but.”

Puck: “You had such a thick-headed strategy? I’d say it’s a bit reckless against a Dragon.”

Even Puck was slightly astounded by a policy so erratic and haphazard. Same went for Beatrice, but now was the point in utmost need of『Wisdom』in this time’s situation.

Per Puck’s statement, challenging a Dragon head-on destitute of other measures was akin to suicide rather than simply being a poor plan. 

As a matter of course, an ambush was necessary.

Beatrice: “Tomorrow night, what’s the arrangement for presenting the sacrifice going to be like, I suppose.”

Toska: “——? Halfway up the mountain in the south, Remina will be taken there and to the Blight Dragon”

Puck: “She will get proffered. Hmm hmm…… Betty, think of anything?”

Beatrice visualised the programme for presenting the sacrifice within her mind, a hand positioned onto her chin. Taking a minute to ponder, the conclusion Beatrice subsequently reached was——,

Beatrice: “From your childhood friend’s house, bring clothes deeply fragmented with her scent, in fact.”

Upon Beatrice’s instruction betraying expectations, Toska responded as though having forgotten his resentment and restlessness.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Toska: “——Once this ends, would you look at me a bit more instead of big brother?”

Before commencing action, Toska did not have any exchange with his childhood friend.

Simply leaning on the shrine’s wall, he unilaterally cast a wish.

No answer came to it, and even if it did, Toska surely did not wish for it to enter his ears. Thus, this was solely a rite necessary for the final push of his resolution.

Beatrice and Puck spoke naught, deeming that pointing this out would be boorish as well.

And the three mobilised action a night before the full moon—— in other words, the very same day.

Beatrice: “……This mountain is a small, shabby, remote one, I suppose. Doesn’t seem to be much of a sacred ground either, it’s a mystery why a Dragon powerful in itself is still making this a part of its turf, in fact.”

Puck: “Might be that there’s a serious shortage of mountains. From what I heard, there’s also Dragons who abandoned mountains for dwellings and are staying in castles after driving humans out of them. It’s just hijacking at this point.”

Beatrice: “What a savage thing to do, I suppose. They are just lizards with wings after all, in fact.”

Puck: “Woah, go off Betty.”

Puck voiced a restrained chuckle, the tip of his tail at his mouth. Tickling Puck’s scruff, Beatrice moved her body and shifted her hips.

Parts of her body stiffened if she were to remain in the same position for long. ——Beatrice had been crafted by her mother, a『Witch』, but such encumbrances of her body were no different from humans’.

Neither could she unfasten her body and slip into the mana in the air at will like Puck. The only reorganisation permitted to Beatrice was solely the dress and hair comprising her guise.

Toska: “I say this again…… but you two, seem to get along really well.”

Toska murmured, somewhat nervously, watching the two siblings’ frolic from close.

Even during the journey, Beatrice and Puck’s laughs and teasing did not peter out. Had he been an impatient youngster, he must have indisputably detonated on some point midway through.

Or perhaps Toska was able to withstand such circumstances due to personal experience.

Beatrice: “Just as you can see, I suppose. And it looked like a lot of stuff happened with your real brother on your end, in fact.”

Toska: “Not at all. It’s just that big brother is someone who attracts people’s gazes, and I always stood stuck behind him. It’s because of that I wasn’t able to even get into the sight of the girl I like, that’s all.”

Puck: “Mmm, smells like bittersweet youth.”

Toska: “Yooth? I get what you mean by bittersweet though…… I wonder if I’m yet immature.”

Toska’s query as he scratched his cheek made it difficult for Beatrice to answer with a “So immature!”.

She was aware of being incomparably more profoundly and richly abound in terms of knowledge than Toska, but in outline, Toska stood above Beatrice in terms of true age and years of experience.

Besides, she recalled problems in the sphere of love and affection having troubled and distressed even her mother.

Beatrice: “Betty will anyhow say nothing regarding the relation between you and the childhood friend…… Betty also loves Bubby, but it appears it’s different from that.”

Toska: “When you say the two of you are siblings……”

Puck: “When made by the same person using the same technique, I’d say it counts as siblings by that point. Though me staying in that palace with Betty is like a period of preparation before I live independently.”

Beatrice: “Live independently……”

Puck’s indifferent say plunged Beatrice into solitude.

One day, Puck will depart from that palace and leave to search for something solely his own. She had heard about that before, and as long as it was concerned with Puck’s mission, Beatrice couldn’t impede either.

For the crafted lives that were Artificial Spirits, the meaning for being born was the weightiest, most exalted and valuable of all.

Toska: “The meaning for being born, is it……”

Beatrice: “You all are different from Betty and Bubby, I suppose. For how short lived you are, search for it with the utmost of all your might, in fact. Tonight, Betty will make time for that, I suppose.”

Not for a conferred mission, but they must determine the path to walk on, to live on by oneself.

It could be that the path remained beyond discovery, and they very much lost their way. Beatrice regarded them, who walked such thorned paths, such unilluminated nights, with commiseration.

It was for this reason that the doors of the palace of the Witch of Wisdom reigned open to those harbouring any wishes——.

Toska: “Beatrice-sama……”

Beatrice: “Hmp, still too early for gratitude, in fact. Even if you’ve been overwhelmed with emotion, save it for after everything’s been cleaned up, I suppose.”

Toska: “No, no that, your elbow’s touching me and it hurts, would you mind shifting aside a bit?”

Beatrice: “You really have a serious lack of respect for Betty, in fact!”

Beatrice yelled, just when she thought what it was that he was about to say with such a meek tone. Toska expressed a wry smile to her angry remark, but the distance between her and his face was bizarrely close.

That was a matter of course, at present, Beatrice and Toska, along with Puck, were so to speak glued together. They had all gotten inside a single laundry basket, their breaths concealed—— were in the midst of concealing, fundamentally.

Utilising the laundry basket which the sacrifice had been in as camouflage, they shall ambush thereon. That was the entirety of the Blight Dragon extermination operation.

Puck: “It’s simple, but there’s no need to make things complex. Betty and I don’t have scents like ordinary creatures, so it won’t come off as odd even if we’re with Toska.”

Toska: “When I was told to go steal Remina’s clothes, and when I was glutted with cold water, I was beginning to doubt what all you were making me do but…… makes sense.”

Beatrice: “Erasing your personal scent and overriding it with the childhood friend’s scent instead, I suppose. Women’s scents are acute, the Dragon will surely get beguiled too, in fact.”

All they had to do was to await until eventually it negligently drew near in order to ascertain the laundry basket’s content.

Should they win the minimum of its unpreparedness and opportunity, the rest would then be Beatrice and Puck’s stage. Should it come close enough to enter a sword’s range, then Toska’s sword strikes would also attain a window.

Sooner or later——,

Toska: “I hold no objections, but the way you phrased that……”

Puck: “Now now, Betty is thinking in Toska’s best interest…… That being said, getting into a laundry basket and awaiting a dragon, not a monster. I fee~l like there was some folktale like this.”

Toska: “Folktale? Of what kind would that be?”

Inside of the tightly packed laundry basket, as though averting his eyes from the amplifying insecurity and nervousness, Toska bit at the chitchat Puck proposed.

Puck: “Ermm~, it’s pretty similar to our current situation. An evil monster settled beside a certain village, and made a ruckus demanding a sacrifice to be offered. And so, it welcomed not only the sacrifice but also booze and stuff, and when the monster completely fell asleep like a baby they perfectly sliced off its head.”

Toska: “……It would be great if it all were to go so smoothly.”

The circumstances certainly resembled each other significantly, but the fashion in which Puck narrated it insinuated it to be a fable for children. The wryly smiling Toska seemed to have reckoned the same. On the other hand, Beatrice wielded a separate impression.

Beatrice: “Betty does not know of that story, I suppose. Bubby is so well-informed, in fact.”

Puck: “It’s just a matter of chance, a matter of chance. I don’t really remember where I heard it from that well either. But isn’t it a bit reassuring to think there’s been predecessors?”

If someone had succeeded in monster extermination in an analogous situation, then their plan will surely go well too.

Such optimistic views of Puck certainly heartened Beatrice and Toska.

“————”

Thereon their dialogue diminished, as they awaited that moment to pay a call.

It was a night prior to the originally promised one. They possessed no proof the Dragon would come to inspect this laundry basket. However, if this mountain had become the Dragon’s turf, then it would come to ascertain the foreign object set by its footstep.

For that was the attribute of the creatures who placed the world under their reign, called as Dragons.

Whilst awaiting the Dragon’s visit, Beatrice incidentally thought. ——That should this first task of her’s be wrapped up safely, would her mother even commend her.

Puck: “If you lend this much of a hand, then it will have gone slightly astray from her policy of self-help endeavours, after all.”

As though having read through Beatrice’s heart, Puck’s pinpointing stung sharp to her chest.

The『Witch』Echidna who granted wisdom, her policy fundamentally was to present a solution before those who reached the palace and for them to apply it as the problem’s resolution by themselves.

In a majority of cases, humans sought immediate solutions to problems. However, focusing entirely on reliance they did not wish for growth, and lost sight of means to rescue their own self was her mother’s idea.

Beatrice endorsed this idea, very much so, and believed normally resolutions must be won by the diligent endeavours of the party concerned, but——,

Beatrice: “This time is an exception, a special case, I suppose. There won’t, won’t be a second time, in fact.”

Puck: “Hehe, hope so…… Betty, Toska.”

Followed by a short laugh, Puck’s faintly lowered voice called Beatrice and Toska.

The instant they received it, Beatrice and Toska’s nervousness elevated to its topmost. And simultaneously,『Its』arrival was sensed by their instinct before any of the five senses.

——Since time immemorial,『It』descended from the skies high above.

Flapping those potent wings, the monarch of aerial creatures that monopolised the sky.

The being fated to be a ruler by birth, its valiant advent.

[————]

An absolute being that hustled aside every other, whose presence alone jolted the atmosphere. Conjecturing it was immediately close through its pressure and the tremor caused by it stepping foot onto the ground, Beatrice halted her breath. 

Had Beatrice possessed a beating heart, it must have undoubtedly simmered vehemently like a hotpot verging on exploding upon sensing this existence up close.

Through their journey, they had purported them as mere lizards with wings and fools who wallowed in their own strength, and though these had been their genuine beliefs, they were also simultaneously a bluff and part of their unwillingness to admit defeat. 

They needed to coax themselves into believing Dragons were trifling beings, because they knew if they did not do so they would be rendered immobile when meeting the real one.

Inside the same laundry basket, Beatrice could hear Toska’s heartbeat.

Toska, cheeks stiff, perspired sweat through his whole body without pause. Status akin to all biological responses of the body except for the heart having simultaneously come to a halt.

Prior to dying, the body had commenced conscious preparation for『Death』.

She could understand that feeling painfully well. She need not know what the ache of which part would be like——,

Puck: “——Betty.”

In the midst of such delirious entanglement of consciousness, a tender voice connected with Beatrice’s earlobe.

A quick glance to the side, there present was Puck nestling by her cheekbone. Her tender brother, his black eyes narrowed, enquired Beatrice.

Puck: “Do I do it?”

The question was one she had been asked countless times throughout this journey.

And on every instance of this question, Beatrice presumed upon Puck’s heart——,

Beatrice: “Thank you, I suppose, Bubby.”

She mustn’t presume upon Puck anymore.

This was something Beatrice had started, and something Beatrice must fulfill.

For this was a trial incumbent to accomplish the mission Beatrice had been born with.

And——,

Beatrice: “——Minya.”

Accepting the push of resolve, Beatrice chanted.

The polished mana meddled with the world, the alteration thus born instantaneously derived results.

Light, was emitted out the laundry basket and laid a direct hit onto the opponent.

Toska: “——~hk.”

She felt Toska gulp a breath, right beside.

However, she had not the time to be mindful of his astonishment. She solely bid to decimate the opponent with her all.

Beatrice: “Minya, Minya, Minya, Minya.”

Materialised with each shout were lethal stakes shimmering in purple brought forth by Yin magic,『Minya』.

Manifest as purple crystals, they were a category of forbidden curses that froze the target’s time, attenuating their existence itself and shattering them—— an attack before whom no flesh body, no matter how robust or able, held any significance.

Dragon’s scales which not even steel could scathe were no exception, the only options to counter being either to dodge or to be clad in mana firm enough to withstand any intervention of magic.

However, negligence lost the Dragon of both said options.

Beatrice: “Minya, Minya!”

Puck: “Betty, calm down.”

Beatrice: “Minya! Minya! Minya! Minya~!!”

Puck: “Betty!”

Beatrice cannonaded magic with undivided attention before Puck clung to her face. Her awareness robbed by the soft sensation, Beatrice returned to composure.

She had been attacking toward the gargantuan silhouette before her eyes, entirely absorbed. A disgrace. Should the opponent rebrace its stance and counterattack, her eyes would fail to even spot it.

However, Beatrice’s such anxieties were nothing more than needless.

Puck: “It’s over, Betty. The Dragon isn’t moving anymore.”

Beatrice: “Eh……”

Once Puck moved aside from Beatrice’s face, her breaths hoarse, her field of vision opened.

A beat later, the sound akin to thirsted frosting entered Beatrice’s ears as well. And what was reflected in her now opened gaze was the majestic stature of the Dragon looking down upon the laundry basket——,

Its height enough to direct gazes upward, at a distance of about ten metres close. Closely packed scales shrouding its whole body, enormous wings that pirouetted its gargantuan build in the air. Its claws and fangs so fiendishly sharp they could tear into an iron armour like candy, befitting of a species counted as standalone cataclysms.

However, never again would anyone be tormented by this cataclysm.

For the Dragon’s frame had sustained the stillness of time, having transmuted into purple crystals.

Toska: “This, easily……”

Puck: “This is how fights where one side is lying in wait fully prepared go. Striking with the greatest possible strength and crushing the enemy in one go. Betty’s plan was the correct answer by far.”

Sermoning the dumbfounded Toska, Puck gently levitated away from the partly destroyed laundry basket. Going further upward, Puck positioned himself still before the now crystallised Dragon.

And, gently caressed the Dragon’s muzzle with the tip of his stretched tail.

——The following moment, crevices formed from the point he caressed and the entire frame of the Blight Dragon shattered and dissipated.

Only glistening fragments remained, for the end of a Blight Dragon who tormented many, an exceedingly short demise and no other way to describe it.

Puck: “Flawless performance, Betty. Toska too, thank you for your hard work.”

Toska: “Um…… I’ve done, nothing…… truly, absolutely nothing, so.”

Both Beatrice and Toska identically felt how anticlimactic this was.

Of course, it was not as though they wished to play a fierce skirmish with the Blight Dragon. The primary factor jeopardizing the village now gone, they had attained a perfect victory with not as much as a scratch, the results were in fact to an unforeseen extent.

Henceforth, they had not been particularly pitched into a state of ecstacy either.

Toska: “I’ve truly, done no……”

Beatrice: “——Without losing heart, you sought salvation from Mother. It can be said however many times, but that is your achievement, in fact.”

Toska: “Beatrice-sama……”

Insisted Beatrice to Toska, who failed to escape his astonishment.

Beatrice’s mind too was steadily, gradually reorganised, giving rise to comprehension. That they had safely succeeded in subjugating the Blight Dragon, and fulfilled Toska’s purpose—— Beatrice’s mission.

For the first time ever since she was born, she exited the palace, embarked on a journey, and, killed a『Living Being』.

 That her first kill was a Blight Dragon was quite the gallant record she had etched in her own history.

Beatrice: “A weak human depending on wisdom and connection to defeat a strong enemy is not a bad thing, I suppose. However, it’s no good to become completely reliant, in fact. Don’t get carried away and think you’ll have another chance hereon, I suppose.”

To have this presumed upon and be depended upon each time something occurred would run counter to her mother’s policy. Neither did Beatrice wish to save a human of such nature, either.

Thus——,

Toska: “——. I understand. But, thank you very much. Thanks to the two of you, the village, Remina, was saved.”

Thus, Beatrice deemed Toska’s disposition, this being his answer, to be on the good side for a human.

His smile was yet powerless, and needed to digest a lot, which she could sympathise with.

Even so, Toska nonetheless looked forward.

Beatrice: “Well, say your thanks not to Betty but to the proprietor of the palace, Mother, in fact. To the utmost, Betty is only a proxy for Mother, I suppose.”

Puck: “You can never be honest hu~h, Betty…… Anyhow, it was pretty unexpected. I had braced myself thinking it’d be a bigger, more powerful Dragon.”

Looking down onto the shattered fragments of the Dragon, Puck swayed his tail by the point its shattered cranium had been. Upon Puck’s words Beatrice glanced a quick view of the fragments and furrowed her brows.

Exactly as Puck’s words, it all felt a bit too fast regardless of the ambush’s success. The Dragon was an individual too, so it was possible this one was a special faux, but——,

Beatrice: “——Could it be.”

Yes, the foreboding that erred Beatrice’s mind was synchronous with the situation’s alteration.

Toska: “——ah.”

Eyes dilated, frozen motionless, Toska stepped back whilst looking up to the sky.

Following the course of his gape, Beatrice and Puck also comprehended what made him harbour this terror.

——Ahead was, a silhouette calmly airborne in the night sky soaring toward them.

Beatrice: “……It all did seem a bit too easy, in fact.”

Beatrice reaffirmed, had she possessed a heart it must have been pounding with vehemence once again.

A small Dragon under its command, the Blight Dragon who truly placed Mount Carnattse under its reign—— a Dragon boasting scales of silver.

That was what slowly descended before the immobilised three.

 

 

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

 

Taking gigantic laps around Mount Carnattse, what steadily descended to take foot before them was a Dragon of silver.

Prior to the beauty of its scales or remarkable pupils adorned with erudite intellect, came its gargantuan size.

If the Dragon they had defeated was ten metres in length, then the one before them now was easily more than thrice its size. Dragons thirty metres huge could only be seen on notably sacred mountains.

However, the Silver Dragon was enshrined before Beatrice and the group’s eyes, as a being of reality.

Toska: “——Wo, ah.”

A groan escaped Toska’s throat, engulfed into the Dragon’s majestic dignity and the glint in its eye.

He was not the slightest of a coward. Bearing in mind the heroism and valour he had tackled the palace of a nebulous Witch for the sake of his childhood friend with, he could forthright be labelled a prominent hero even amongst all of humanity. For the same Toska, the Silver Dragon bore overwhelming spirit that mutilated sanity.

And sustaining pressure identical to Toska, Beatrice attained a certain realisation.

“————”

Judging from Toska’s reaction the Dragon before their eyes was none other than the true Blight Dragon that demanded sacrifice from the village.

However, never did Toska inform them that there were a plurality of Dragons. Look to him at the side and it could be understood with ease that he did not know that either.

Multiple Dragons, that too of this colossal size, had established a mountain so tiny as their base.

The circumstances veiled on the flip side, their answer was evident.

Beatrice: “You all, had destroying the village as your purpose from the very beginning, I suppose……!”

???: [——Thou killed mine brethren, didn’t thee, oh bawbling ones.]

The deep, grousing voice of the Dragon descended upon them as though ridiculing Beatrice’s mutters.

Having lived through umpteen years, the Dragon in acquisition of intellect could comprehend human speech. ——To go back on that, the origin of which amongst humans, Spirits or Dragons first began talking in words would also be something of immense interest.

That was how overwhelmingly daunting the Silver Dragon was, impelling one to rend their thoughts with such escapism.

???: [Thou killed mine brethren, didn’t thee. Oh bawbling ones.]

Beatrice: “……You’re audible loud and clear, no need to repeat yourself, in fact. Your purpose is to”

???: [Then, we has’t only one behest. To exact retribution upon the fallen scales of mine brethren.]

The Silver Dragon’s voice, abounding in dignity, was chaperoned by profoundness rather than conceiving might. Feeling as not the wind after drenching downpours, but the sensation of plummeting toward a bottomless seabed.

Coincidentally, Beatrice realised they had granted it a pretext.

The Dragon they had initially ambushed had been the opponent’s trap itself. ——Beatrice, had given the Dragon a reason to take revenge.

Amongst Dragons existed rare cases who had formed pacts with humans, probing for a path of coexistence. However, should retribution be heiled as a just cause then even they would make no attempt to readily mediate.

She shall straightforwardly admit they got trapped inside a scrupulous scheme. However, she bore a doubt.

Beatrice: “Why do you go so far to target this village, I suppose. Judging by a glance, it’s just a remote village with nothing special, in fact.”

A sacred mountain of no sizable worth, and a village too small to scramble for.

Blight Dragons who simply enjoyed persecuting the weak were not few, but the Silver Dragon before their eyes demarcated a line from paltry Dragons like those.

Upon Beatrice’s question, the Silver Dragon aimed its crystalline golden pupils upon Toska.

???: [It is patent. ——Destroy that redhead’s lineage.]

Toska: “……M-Me?”

Abruptly elevated onto the stage, Toska was acutely bewildered.

The Silver Dragon’s leer directly lanced Toska. That Dragon, would not jest. Hence, if so, then the Silver Dragon’s aim lay neither in the village nor in the sacrifice, but in Toska.

Puck: “Lineage, so precisely Toska’s kin I’m guessing? I don’t really get what it means, though.”

The Silver Dragon’s glare focused on him, Toska’s breathing plunged into disarray, devoid of any such idea. Puck descended to his shoulder and caressed his cheek in an attempt to calm him, whilst beside them Beatrice embraced identical dubiety.

What was there that could grant significance to its aim being Toska’s family.

???: [——The other day, Amangam of the east hath fallen and weyrs of Silver Dragons splintered in every direction. We too art a weyr splintered hence upon losing our pillar.]

Beatrice: “Amangam…… the one who controls eastern lands, head of Silver Dragons? It fell, I suppose!?”

???: [——Precisely.]

Beatrice was staggered by the words the Silver Dragon communicated.

Dragons formed weyres throughout the world on all kinds of lands, but they had factions therein and any representative ones that spearheaded them were famous across the world.

The『Amangam』who controlled the east which the Silver Dragon had spoken of, was one who spearheaded one such weyre. And, if the downfall of the head of Silver Dragons was the genesis of Toska’s family being aimed after.

Beatrice: “Could it be, do you mean that this man’s family is involved in the fall of the head of Silver Dragons, in fact!?”

???: [——Following the blood, hath reached this land. Nay err.]

That it was a contention of the Blight Dragon—— no, the proud Silver Dragon, meant this was a deed of conviction.

And whilst Beatrice digested this truth, behind her, Toska lost strength in his legs. Puck still atop his shoulder, Toska kneeled, stupefied with his eyes fixed onto the ground,

Toska: “……It’s big brother.”

He whispered, his tone one of despair.

Puck: “Big brother…… you mean that older brother of yours whom you frequently mentioned, Toska?”

Catching his utterances Puck enquired back, to which Toska nodded. He then moved his lips, quaking in fear, and wrung out a voice pronouncing “That’s how it’s always been……!”.

Toska: “Always getting into trouble and being a nuisance…… at last, just when I thought he arbitrarily left the village, this time he killed the leader of a group of Dragons, and they’ve come to take revenge on me and the village…… w-why, for what……!”

The fierce elder brother whom Toska had often brought up.

It had seemed as though he had distorted a sense of inferiority in Toska pertaining to his elder brother, enlarging his idolised image, but it appeared that the matter was not so simple—— no, not so complex.

Toska, did not doubt that his elder brother killed the head of Dragons which even the Silver Dragon before their eyes obeyed.

And much to their dread, neither did the Silver Dragon repudiate Toska’s ideas.

It was simple. Toska’s tellings until now had all been fact, and his elder brother was a monster exceeding norms. For it was that monster who felled the head of Silver Dragons——,

Beatrice: “As retribution for the fall of their leader, the Silver Dragons targeted the culprit’s family…… Truly straightforward and unheeding to appearances, I suppose. The name and reputation of the Dragon clan will weep, in fact.”

???: [Speak per thy liking as long as thou art unacquainted with that being. That being shalt fell all what is nowise human. Oh Spirits, thou art nay exception either.]

Puck: “It’s enough to hold Dragons in crisis, it’s really no matter we can just laugh off as an exaggeration, you know?”

Beatrice and Puck, the Dragon chimed a warning bell for the two who were Spirits as well.

Was that how tremendous the might of Toska’s elder brother was. Potency to which even Dragons yielded, he may possibly qualify to count as an absolute personage ranking on par with the『Witches』.

The feeling of one’s heart being daunted before far too inordinate an existence was something Beatrice could empathise with too.

Beatrice: “But, sad to say. If it is to kneel before someone identically inordinate, then that person has already been decided, I suppose.”

???: [——Regrettable.]

Hearing Beatrice’s caustic remark, the Silver Dragon honed the glint in its eye, surmising they wouldn’t withdraw.

Its golden eyes that conceived brimming intellect steadily transformed into ones enveloped in rage and bellicosity, synchronously the atmosphere quaked, the ground agitated, and rained the premonition of『Death』upon the opposition.

Swallowed by the pressure of this Silver Dragon, before the battle even commenced Toska became unable to——,

Beatrice: “——Stand in fact, Toska!”

However, Beatrice’s voice powerfully smited the shrunken, unmoving Toska.

Toska elevated his visage, looking at Beatrice with eyes startled.

Beatrice had turned her eyes away from the fearsome Silver Dragon and was staring in Toska’s direction. The Dragon’s intimidation piercing the side of her face was dreadful, even inducing the hallucination of her entire body being whittled.

But, she gnashed her molars and withstood it, glaring at Toska.

Beatrice: “Voice your wish I suppose, Toska. ——Betty is Mother’s proxy! The daughter of the『Witch』Echidna, who grants means to fulfill the frantic wishes of humans, in fact!”

Toska: “I, am……”

Beatrice: “Now, it is time to fulfill your wish, I suppose!!”

Beatrice held her hand out, pointing towards the Silver Dragon before their eyes.

Beholding this, Toska gnashed his molars with force. Light rebounded to his blue eyes which had forfeited their strength, gripping to the handle of the sword by his hip, the youth stood up, his hair so red as to be set ablaze.

Toska: “I am…… I am! I am, going to take Remina as my wife! I’ve loved her since long before!”

Beatrice: “You-, the wish-…… agh! Even that works at this point in fact!”

Toska: “I’ll protect the village! Even if nobody fights alongside me, they split food with me when I felt hungry! They sheltered me when I cried after big brother hit me! I, love everyone!”

Beatrice: “More! More I suppose!”

Toska: “As if I’m ever going to give up, because of some nuisance big brother brought with him! You bloody, damn, shitty little big brother! The next time you come back, I’ll have you hold your nephews or nieces in your arms!!”

Hollering, Toska drew the sword from his hip.

A tawdry, crudely made sword, nevertheless in these moments shimmered with the hero’s spirit.

As Toska braced it straight ahead, by his side Beatrice and Puck exchanged a glance.

The opponent was Silver Dragon, a herculean individual thirty metres in size, Beatrice was a novice who had just experienced『Killing』for the first time a couple of moments ago, a three person troupe with no coordination or anything.

However, through these nine days, they spent their days and nights together, their bond albeit transient and brittle, was definite.

Consequently——,

Toska: “——Come at us, lizard bastard! I’ll turn you into a wedding dinner!”

Receiving this proclamation, the Silver Dragon lightly widened its eyes.

And——,

Fargall: [I, art one who shalt avenge the head of Silver Dragons—— Fargall.]

“————”

Fargall: [——Though a misdirected retribution, I shalt destroy adversaries of mine family by blood.]

Blood relative of the fallen head of Silver Dragons, the Dragon—— no, Fargall unfurled its wings.

A violent current furiously blew, the shockwave cleaved the earth, swallowing the three within. But, the pressure of that gale and tremor immediately vanished.

Puck: [Didn’t I tell you? That I’m an ally to maidens in love and youthful youngsters.]

Ahead of Beatrice and Toska, that which instantly expanded his presence—— no, his mass and transfigured his body into one on par with the Silver Dragon’s, was Puck.

Having transformed his adorable outward appearance into a ginormous beast, Puck commanded a view above even the Silver Dragon.

Puck: [It’s just that I’m still practicing it. So I can’t make it last for too long.]

Fargall: [——Spirit.]

Beatrice: “Understandable, but you’re going to regret it if you fall for Bubby.”

Thus blew a gale glaciating the world, amidst the white that chilled even the Dragon, Beatrice made her move as well.

Purple arrows infinite were nocked in the environs, and the battle of the『Witch’s』proxy——,

——The battle of the Silver Dragon subjugation, commenced.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Fargall: [——Gyaaaas.]

The battle began with a dragon breath, a misapprehension of the world being rocked intermingling within.

She had entered the battle after quite the grandstanding but Beatrice’s combat ability was by no means great.

Despite abounding in disposition and talent, her lack of experience in real battling shan’t turn traitor to victory or defeat. In this battle against the Silver Dragon, Beatrice possessed not a single decisive blow up her sleeve.

However, that did not make for Beatrice being luggage unable to battle.

Beatrice: “El Minya~a~a~a—— ~hk!!”

Lightening the weight of her body, Beatrice fusilladed a hail of purple arrows whilst dancing in the wind.

Unlike the Dragon taken out in the ambush, Fargall’s scales were clad in powerful mana. They impetuously diminished the might of magic, a firm armour that shielded its body.

Beatrice’s bombardment thwarted by the armour, not even as slight as a single strike connected.

However——,

Puck: [Hiya~a~a~a~a~a~a——!!”

The star beastified Puck’s enormous forelimbs placed a firm hit onto the Silver Dragon’s trunk. The Dragon in a matter of moments attempted to brace its legs but the ground below its feet crystallised and shattered.

Minya stopped time of not just living creatures. Inorganic substances could be its targets as well.

Its brace proving to be fruitless, the Silver Dragon directly received Puck’s robust arm. The gargantuan build akin to an amalgamation of multiple gigantic trees was thrown into the air as though weightless, and the blizzard toward that direction intensified.

The rampaging wind clad itself in blades of frost and charged towards the Silver Dragon imprisoned therein.

The might of the minor tempest was immense, some offhand Dragon would have gotten trapped within the instant it got touched, its body minced to a million shreds.

However, the opponent was no offhand Dragon, its pedigree and existence as an individual were all of the highest order.

Fargall: [——Gyaaaas!!]

Smashing through the tempest via the current birthed upon unfurling its closed wings, the following moment, a heat ray varnished the world in silver.

The heat wave released by the Silver Dragon approached Beatrice, killing even sound. ——No, Beatrice simply happened to be in its trajectory. However, it was sufficient to rob her life in the aftermath.

Within that juncture, as Beatrice stood ready for『Death』, Puck swooped in ahead and accepted the heat ray.

A groan escaped the depths of his bulky throat before Beatrice instantly clung to the feet of her elder brother. Clinging to his long fur, she cheered her elder brother withstanding this agony with her all.

Potentially that bore its fruits, Puck forcefully turned his frame and escaped the heat ray, looking back to Beatrice who grasped his fur and then swung down his gigantic arm.

Synchronised with the movement of his arm, multiple house-sized floes of ice drew towards the Dragon. 

The Silver Dragon countered them, some were repelled by the heat ray, others by the Dragon’s wings or dragon claws, and attempted to launch a pursuit towards Puck.

However——,

Toska: “——A~a~a~a~a~argh!!”

Flew out a bloody Toska, having slipped into the smashed ice floes.

Amidst the unheeding decisive battle of human and Dragon, bearing innumerable wounds throughout his body, Toska nonetheless did not allow for his fighting spirit to falter and assailed the Silver Dragon head-on.

A silver flash swung, a strike composed of all his might afflicted upon the Dragon’s bulky, burly neck.

A strike of utterly perfect timing and sword technique. ——What was lacking, was defence.

Toska: “——~hk.”

A shrill note resounded, by the point the edge of his sword was rammed into the Dragon’s neck, it fractured.

Toska’s beloved sword that had supported the battle until now had been a single tread lacking in slashing the Silver Dragon’s scales. As is, the Silver Dragon narrowed its eyes toward the mid-air Toska, now rendered defenseless.

The subsequently launched dragon claw, was perhaps an attack lacquered with honour and respect toward the warrior.

However, no matter what sentiment those claws were imbued with, it meant no change in the consequence they yielded. A singular claw was large enough to rip the body of a human.

In but a blink, the existence named Toska altered into a spray of blood——,

Fargall: [——What?]

In the midst of battle, there existed not even the scope to spin words of significance.

This applied to both the Dragon and them, yet the Dragon’s unrest for the first time quaked the atmosphere.

Fargall ought to have seized Toska in the claw strike, and brought his existence to complete ruin. However Toska, who ought to have perished, fluttered through the air via fearsome impact, not dead nevertheless.

Beatrice: “——Murak.”

A hand upraised, Beatrice casted magic towards Toska the second he was going to be attacked.

Not a consequence foreplanned, but the optimum solution complying with the situation derived instinctively.

When he was about ensnared in the claws, she made Toska’s body light like fluff and the wind pressure and impact of the claws escaped him from any fatal wounds.

The result, Toska barely managed to cling to his life.

Fargall: [Regardless——!]

Despite eluding it once, the consequence named『Death』was inexorable.

In order to prove this, the glint in Fargall’s eye arrested the airborne Toska. Gaping its mouth wide open, the setup to fire a heat ray was completed in the span of a breath.

The inferno that scorched the world silver, paid no heed to the weight of the target to be scorched to ruin.

The tip of this ruin trivialised Toska. ——It was on the brink of doing so, when.

???: “——Toska!”

A clamorous voice, not belonging to anyone present here.

The voice of someone Beatrice, Puck and even Fargall were unbeknownst of.

A voice that solely Toska, hovering in the air, knew whom it belonged to.

——Remina.

Toska’s lips moved so, as his blue pupils discerned the form of a slender young girl underneath trespassing onto Mount Carnattse, now a battlefield.

The girl grasped crude steel unbefitting her hands. Holding it aloft, with all her strength, she flung it in Toska’s direction. 

The whirling object was same as one that had fractured earlier, a tawdry sword——,

Fargall: [However, I shan’t allow it to reach——]

Puck: [I wouldn’t be so sure! I’m an ally to maidens in love, after all!]

The Silver Dragon set to deliver the finishing blow before the sword reached Toska. Its oral cavity attempted to heave the heat ray, when an impact from below overbearingly shut it close and misdirected its aim.

The silver inferno lost of destination exploded within its mouth, and the Silver Dragon greatly recoiled from the impact.

His entire body scorched, smeared in wounds, it was Puck’s attack—— no, that was not an attack, he simply enlarged by the Dragon’s feet, a mere vigourless body collision. However, the hero plunged into the priceless interval it nonetheless bore.

Toska: “Wo-woa~a~a~a~a~a~a~ah——!”

Receiving the hurled katana, Toska dropped towards the Silver Dragon’s direction after having turned his body.

Innumerable sword strikes struck the Dragon’s scales, repelled by their firmness, gouged them, repelled yet again, repeating this cycle he resumed to etch a gash.

Its flesh and blood gouged, the Dragon shrieked. A rigid sound reverberated, the katana snapped from the middle yet again.

However, toward Toska who lost his sword——,

“Toska——!!”

The voice calling him was accompanied by a successively hailed rain of identically dull katanas.

Look there and stood beside the girl who had hastened to this place, the entire strength of Carnattse with the village headman standing first. In other words, the sum of hurled katanas was fifty,

Toska: “Hirya~a~a~a~a~a~a~a~a~a—— ~hk!”

He caught the katana thrown toward him in his right hand and drove in lethal slashes whilst his left hand caught the next one. Turning his body, each time resounded the echo of shattering steel, Toska gripped a new sword in his hands and abraded the scales of silver.

Born there in a trice was a transcendent swordsman who manipulated swords as extensions of his limbs.

Fargall: [——Oh kinsman, of red hair!]

Eyes dilated, the Silver Dragon Fargall aimed at Toska’s build whilst its own was being hashed.

The golden eyes until the very end, fumbled for a way to guard the Dragon clan——,

Beatrice: “——Minya.”

The purple stakes Beatrice fired pierced the Dragon’s widened golden pupils from the front.

Its eyes unprotected by scales crystallised and vision that renunciated its duty lost sight of Toska.

——A silver flash, severed the Dragon’s burly throat till the middle, determining the outcome of battle.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Looking down onto the hunched Silver Dragon, Toska exhaled a white puff, drenched in blood.

Towards Toska came running the young girl who had first rushed here. She leapt onto him, both collapsing within the Dragon’s blood together.

Beatrice: “Ah, quite the foolhardiness that girl caused, I suppose. She has him wrapped around her finger, in fact.”

Puck: “Could be. Nonetheless, this means love wins in the end.”

Whilst viewing Toska and Remina exchange words within a fountain of blood from afar, Beatrice shrugged as a shrunken Puck came to her.

The exhaustion that came with undoing star beastification seemed rather intense, his form now about twice as smaller than usual.

Beatrice: “That’s how adorable Bubby is, I suppose. Betty is madly in love at this point, in fact.”

Puck: “Ahaha, though if I’m this small it’s trouble in a lot of ways so I’m quite the troublemaker~. Nevertheless…… hm, I guess it’s all possible.”

Beatrice quietly assented to Puck’s words as he nodded a couple of times.

On the other side of the frolicing couple lay a powerlessly collapsed Silver Dragon, decapitated. A fearsome Dragon who truly possessed herculean strength. Victory would have been beyond their reach had they lacked even a single person on their side.

This included the villagers who mustered their courage and hastened here wielding swords midway through.

Fargall: [——Splendid, oh children of men.]

Toska: “——~hk! Stand back, Remina! It can, still talk huh……!”

Toska exercised vigilance toward the possibility of the victory they had caught hold of after crossing a brittle tightrope being jolted. However, Fargall appeared to be on the verge of death even from an outsider’s perspective, and was not going to persist for long.

The Silver Dragon had been bested in the struggle for survival, and shall fall without exacting revenge on the enemies of its kin.

Beatrice: “A wrongly aimed revenge at that, I suppose. It’s on you to have pulled an unnecessary stunt and lowered the Dragon clan’s numbers, in fact.”

Fargall: [Certes…… It was, splendid. However.]

Beatrice: “……However?”

She thought it would act as a poor loser, however, the Dragon shan’t do something so low. Then what did it intend, the moment she conceived this doubt, its answer arrived a moment later.

Puck: “——They got us.”

Murmured Puck, looking up to the sky.

Lured by his voice Beatrice raised her countenance as well, and gulped a breath upon witnessing the identical spectacle.

It was, menace that rivalled the time when Fargall had earlier appeared—— no, a spectacle exceeding that.

Shouldering the final fragment which the white moon lacked before becoming a full moon, silhouettes drew close whilst flapping their wings.

Though their size was not on par with the Silver Dragon before their eyes, their numbers unveiled despair. Above ten, above twenty, above thirty, not even fifty but nearly a hundred in count, a weyr of Silver Dragons.

This was the raid of the weyr of Dragons who sensed crisis upon the future of the Dragon clan after the fall of the head of Silver Dragons of the east.

Beatrice and team, who had just brought out and exhausted their all, couldn’t possibly ever oppose them. 

Puck: “What do we do, Betty?”

Beatrice: “……Only thing possible is for Bubby and Betty to buy time, I suppose.”

Puck: “We might be able to. If in that window Toska is able to take the villagers…… or in the worst case scenario, just Remina away, would it count as our task being done?”

Puck’s usual attitude before the weyr of Dragons close to a hundred in count was exceedingly heartening. Following the example of the ever composed and optimistic stance of her elder brother, Beatrice pressed and ceased her knees from shivering.

However——,

Toska: “Please wait. I cannot cause you any more trouble. “

It was none other than Toska to impede upon the two’s resolve.

Making Remina stand, Toska, his entire build bedaubed in Dragon’s blood, shoved her in Beatrice’s direction and,

Toska: “The Dragons’ aim are big brother’s relatives…… they will never overlook me. If anything”

Beatrice: “You’re telling us to leave you here and escape with the childhood friend and villagers, I suppose. That’s, that’s absolutely never going to happen, in fact!”

Toska: “For what reason! You two, have no reason to stake your lives here……”

For the sake of a village they were unassociated with, she staked her life upon a mere request.

Toska bayed that he could not comprehend this attitude of Beatrice’s, his visage verging onto crying. To his question Beatrice laid a hand on her slim chest, and responded.

Beatrice: “——That is, Betty’s role. To devote her all for Mother, that is Betty’s mission.”

Puck: “My mission is a bit different from Betty’s, but it’s for my cute little sister.”

Asserted Beatrice, and beside her spoke Puck with his unchanging attitude. Hearkening the two’s response, Toska widened his eyes and hung his head down for a bit.

However, his vacillation amounted to only a couple of seconds. With an unbroken sword in his hand, he positioned himself and stood beside Beatrice.

Beatrice: “The opponent is a weyr of one hundred Dragons, I suppose.”

Toska: “If it is my sanity that you’re questioning, then I have been brain-dead after big brother hit me in the head since long before. ——It would be unhinged if I were to run away, when I was the one to start this.”

He says quite cool things, Beatrice appended a novel evaluation to Toska’s side profile.

And as though emulating this spirit of Toska’s, Remina and the villagers turned towards the Dragons.

People who had once backed down and renounced resistance, now resolved their determination to oppose their hopeless destiny.

“————”

The humans’ unyielding stance made Beatrice strongly, powerfully clench her fist.

It felt mortifying that the only one present here was her impotent self. Had the one here instead of Beatrice been her mother, been the『Witch』Echidna, then.

Had her likely distant mother, been kind enough to be here, then——,

???: “——Al Chario.”

Beatrice: “——ah.”

A feeble note escaped Beatrice’s throat upon hearing the abrupt voice from behind.

The chant had neither been Beatrice’s, nor Puck’s. It was improbable for it to be Toska, who knew not even the ‘m’ in ‘magic’, nor the powerless humans of the village.

That was the chant of one who was au fait with magic, and was utmost informed about it in this world.

As though some dream or illusion, Beatrice turned behind, flustered. The sight reflected within her bluish eyes, the one leisurely ambling toward them was an absolute personage wielding pigment of naught but the dual contrasts of white and black.

——The『Witch』.

???: “When I returned to the palace, you two were nowhere to be found beyond having left a parting letter, after all. It just so happened that the Dragon of the East was said to have fallen recently, so I was quite worried……”

Beatrice: “Moth, er……”

???: “Your first task seems to have become rather grandiose beyond anticipated. No scope for negligence or interlude.”

Called by Beatrice’s quivering voice, the lady, garbed in black and hair stretching long in white, leisurely halted her gait. Hearing her call, Toska froze, his eyes dilated.

He had knowledge of only one person whom Beatrice referred to as mother.

Toska: “Could it be, you are the Witch of Wisdom-sama……?”

Beatrice: “Yes, yes in fact. Your head is up I suppose, human. Prostrate yourself right this instant……”

???: “Beatrice.”

Beatrice: “Eek!”

Deeming Toska’s bearing as irreverent, Beatrice alerted him whilst correcting her own posture. Her mother’s hand placed atop her slender shoulder, Beatrice bewailed upon her touch.

However, mother—— the『Witch』Echidna faintly loosened her lips,

Echidna: “You persevered well during my absence. However, I cannot close my eyes to that tone.”

Beatrice: “T-T-That, was, t-to educate this man, o-on what courtesy is……”

Puck: “Well well, it’s alright, Echidna. You also know Betty’s a hard worker and has no ill will, yeah?”

It was Puck who advocated for the humbled Beatrice, seated on her shoulder other than the one Echidna set her hand onto. A carefree exchange, failing to read the air Toska insisted with a “P-Please wait!”, his voice brimming with fluster.

Toska: “Um! It is a great honour that you came all the way here, Witch-sama! But, the weyr of Dragons is still……”

Beatrice: “……You, what are you acting so frightened for in fact, disgraceful.”

Beatrice glared at Toska as she snuggled with Puck, his form now the original, adorable one, by her cheek. However, he seemed to not comprehend whatsoever, hastily darting his eyes about.

Looking at Beatrice, Puck, and subsequently Echidna, Toska then gulped his saliva and,

Toska: “W-Witch-sama? Um, what does……”

Echidna: “Hm, it’s not anything particularly convoluted. The events transpiring are simple.”

Said Echidna with one eye closed, facing about toward the imminent weyr of Dragons. Lured into her movement, Toska identically viewed the sky, and took notice.

Beatrice and Puck also gazed at the Dragons perfusing the sky, and pitied them.

——Discerning Toska’s brother as a hazard and the stance to resist their downfall was unerring, yet.

Beatrice: “It is your greatest misfortune that you went against Mother, I suppose.”

In Beatrice’s field of vision as she whispered so, the Dragons that perfused the sky finally detected the menace.

However, they wouldn’t make it in time by the time they detected it.

Echidna’s chant,『Al Chario』set forth its efficacy and destruction manifested in the world.

Al Chario, the force it brought forth was——,

Fargall: [……Inconceivable.]

The dying Fargall distended its eyes upon the preposterous scene.

Hearing the voice of that Silver Dragon, Echidna raked her fingers through her white hair,

Echidna: “——Should there be any Dragons that survive through those falling stars, I shall listen once again.”

The sky which Dragons reigned, from which far, far higher above, descending from beyond was an onslaught of stardust.

Assailing upon the weyr of Dragons with velocity and might that rendered any defence or evasion impossible, within the destruction kindled by stars they were scorched. Scorched. Scorched.

——This was the true end.

——True ruin brought forth by the absolute personage, the『Witch』.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Echidna: “Going forward, I shall put Carnattse under my supervision. If anyone has any objections, let us have a thorough debate. Should that not suffice, you are free to exercise force.”

Who on earth could defy this ordinance coming from a『Witch』who had dropped stars.

The weyr of Dragons who had advanced towards Carnattse intending to bring ruin to Toska’s kin—— much of the Dragons close to a hundred in totality had fallen, with only four remaining.

One of them being Fargall—— injuries healed by Echidna’s hand thus managing to hold onto its life on the brink of perishing, it was the young leader of the weyr of Silver Dragons.

The Dragons who attempted to fight in order to escape downfall exhibited no purpose of resistance before definite ruin, and hanged the heads of their gargantuan bodies low and pledged an oath to Echidna’s words.

Fargall: [——We comply. Dragons born from the eastern sky, shalt not lay a finger upon the redhead’s kin again.]

Echidna: “Eastern sky, huh. I do feel your attitude in surrendering is somewhat unfavourable, but that cannot be helped. On my behalf, I understand…… Young man, what shall you do?”

Toska: “M-Me……?”

Asked by Echidna to whom the Dragons submitted, Toska was at a loss for answer.

Making the Dragons surrender was Echidna’s feat, but the one to defeat the mightiest Dragon had unequivocally been him. It seemed that had not fully hit him yet, but——,

Beatrice: “Don’t be so stumped, stand upright, in fact. Saving the childhood friend and the village was not your elder brother’s but your own deed, I suppose. Your elder brother was instead the main reason behind this impending ruin, in fact.”

Toska: “——. Beatrice-chan.”

Beatrice: “Why are you saying -chan again I suppose.”

Beatrice violently stepped on Toska’s foot, feeling she was being made light of. Toska howled “That hurt!” upon the affliction, smiling wryly with tears in his eyes. 

He subsequently took a deep inhale, slapping his cheeks with his own two hands,

Toska: “Echidna-sama, I hold no objections either. All I did was try saving my childhood friend…… Remina. I do not wish for the Dragons to be felled.”

Echidna: “So he says. Rather too kind hearted for the side who was made to confront imminent ruin without any dialogue or discussion, wouldn’t you say?”

Hearing Toska’s reply Echidna gazed at the Dragons, a single eye closed. The survivor Dragons upon receiving that『Witch’s』gaze bowed to Toska, his expression now altered.

“——I thank thee.”

The Dragons’ brief words, marked an intermission to the havoc enkindled by Dragons that had assailed upon Carnattse.

And——,

 

“——Now then, let us commence the wedding between the village’s hero, Toska, and the one selected by him, Remina!”

“Hurraaaah!!”

With the village headman’s exuberant greeting, the villagers cheered, each holding a cup of wine. And in the core of the whirlpool of thus arising unbridled enthusiasm, stood the dressed up duo of Toska and the young girl.

First and foremost, all dressed up meant was Toska had changed into rough clothes of etiquette, his head now crowned with a festival ornament made out of animal bones. The one truly dolled up was the lovely, sweet young girl beside him, her cheeks slightly tinged—— Remina.

Remina, now garbed in a wedding dress, was originally supposed to have lost her life as sacrifice to the Dragon by now. For her fate had been changed, there was no way she had not found happiness.

Beatrice: “How rich, in fact…… Won’t go along with humans’ merrymaking, I suppose.”

Puck: “E~h, really? I’m really fond of auspicious atmospheres and seeing people get drunk and be stupid, though.”

Beatrice: “Bubby’s generous outlook is yet far too undoable for Betty, in fact.”

Passing on a slice of meat to Puck atop her shoulder, Beatrice sighed.

The oath pledged between Toska and the Dragons became an ever inviolable covenant with Echidna being its overseer. Thus, Toska had truly become a hero.

And, heroes were rewarded, and the reward he asked for was the young girl beloved to him.

As a result, a celebratory banquet was held and Toska’s dearest wish had come true.

Beatrice: “The girl was not against it either, I suppose. It was just his overthinking……”

Viewing everybody’s bustling back and forth, Beatrice however did not feel appeased.

Toska having Remina as his bride was a respectable reward. However, the villagers attempted to sacrifice Remina without any attempt for resistance against the Dragon, did they not.

Echidna: “——A rather joyless expression you have there, Beatrice.”

Beatrice: “M…… Mother……”

Beside the sullen-faced Beatrice, Echidna gently lowered her hips.

Through the course of the feast, there had been an endless number of villagers coming to greet Echidna, who had saved the village in essence. Apprised of words of reverence and gratitude from the villagers, her interactions had now finally arrived at a pause.

Beatrice bit her lips upon Echidna’s glance, feeling her innermost heart had been peeked into. However, her mother did not press her further.

In the end, unable to withstand the silence, Beatrice spoke up.

Beatrice: “Betty…… thinks nobody except Toska, has the right to be joyful like this, I suppose.”

Echidna: “Their village was saved, and they did not have to lose their family or neighbours. You proclaim they don’t have the right to celebrate that felicity?”

Beatrice: “Yes, in fact. After all…… after all, the one to persevere in the beginning was only Toska, I suppose. Nobody lent an ear to Toska’s words. Toska, had no allies, in fact.”

Even Toska must not have chosen the『Witch』all of a sudden among the options he had at first.

He must have scrambled for a way to confront the Dragon in his own way, consulted the villagers, and even considered taking the childhood friend away from the village. The reason why he nonetheless did not abandon the village, was because he was a virtuous human and a coward who could not sacrifice many.

If that coward had brought forth the miracle of protecting what he cherished to the end, then——,

Beatrice: “——Miracles, ought to be a reward bestowed upon those who persevered, I suppose.”

“————”

It was to Beatrice’s whispers, her expression one of vexation, that Echidna faintly widened her eyes. Echidna’s rare surprise, eluded notice by Beatrice who glared down to her own hands.

Instead murmured Puck, “Reward for perseverance……” whilst atop her slender shoulder.

Puck: “You sure are kind, Betty. That’s why you don’t like people who persevered and people who didn’t being treated the same way.”

Beatrice: “……It might just be pettiness, in fact.”

Puck: “Nah, that’s not true~. ——Besides, Betty’s words just now made me feel I’ve recalled what I need to do too.”

Beatrice: “——. Bubby?”

Softly levitating from her shoulder, Puck stretched its tiny build mid-air. Caught into his remark, Beatrice raised her eyes up to the tiny cat, her shoulders slumped.

Upon Beatrice’s gaze, Puck laughed whilst caressing his face with a hand,

Puck: “Miracles are rewards for those who worked hard…… then, I’ve gotta work hard too. My stopover has gone on for a bit too long.”

Beatrice: “Huh, huh, huh?”

Echidna: “——. Are you leaving, Puck?”

Puck and Echidna’s dialogue proceeded, deserting the bewildered Beatrice behind.

Echidna enquired, her eyes straitened, to which Puck nodded with a “Mhm”.

Puck: “I have a mission I was born with. Though that doesn’t go for me alone, mine’s a bit more precise and weighty than others’. I’m leaving in order to fulfill that.”

Echidna: “I see…… I shall not impede. However, you mustn’t act contrary to the contract.”

Puck: “Hahaha, that again? Seriously, that’s all you…… you guys are all about.”

Laughing like a human, Puck then proceeded to descend before Beatrice. Puck gently brushed the bewildered Beatrice’s nose with his tail. 

The sensation swaying her eyelashes, Beatrice vocalised “Bubby……” and called her brother.

Beatrice: “Bubby, you’re going to go away, I suppose?”

Puck: “Mhm, sorry, Betty. I’ll be parting ways for a bit. But, it’s not for always. Once I find what I’m searching for, I’ll come back. Even if I don’t, I’ll look through till every edge of the world then come back.”

Beatrice: “——ah.”

Indifferently informed, the feeling of wanting to stop him clogged up to her throat.

However, Beatrice was identical to Puck, an Artificial Spirit—— she could empathize to a painful extent with Puck, who wished to fulfill the mission he was born with. Therefore, she could not stop him.

Born before her, her elder brother in its truest sense. ——The only two Artificial Spirits in this world.

Beatrice: “——. Take care of yourself, don’t catch a cold, in fact.”

Puck: “You’re right, I’ll be careful I don’t throw my blanket off while sleeping. You too Betty, get along and don’t quarrel with Mother, okay.”

Waving his tiny hand, Puck elevated himself from Beatrice’s frontage up toward the night sky. At the same pace, his form as he swayed his lengthy tail proceeded to diminish, before long he was engulfed within the night sky, and disappeared.

In the night embellished with stars, Puck’s form was no longer there to be seen.

Although for an instant she anticipated this to be a joke and he would come back down to her, but——,

Echidna: “……So he’s gone, huh. It was known that this would happen, but how truly unemotional. Must be to a significant extent if I’m the one saying this.”

Her mother’s words, by her side, repudiated all possibility for this to be a joke.

Ever since she had been born, she had spent greater than half of all these months and years alongside her elder brother. Beatrice’s heart was scourged with loneliness, desolateness, that Puck was gone.

Toska: “Huh? Beatrice-chan, where is Puck-sama? Took up any more tasks?”

Abruptly came today’s lead actor Toska towards Beatrice, whose eyes were cast down in lonesomeness.

He restlessly surveyed the environs, and touched on Puck’s absence with a sense of dissonance.

However, Beatrice firmly shook her head,

Beatrice: “Bubby is gone, I suppose. For his mission, he embarked on a journey.”

Toska: “Embarked on a journey you say, in the midst of this banquet? There’s no way something so bizarre……”

“————”

Toska: “——Is that, true?”

His cheeks tinted in red, likely due to wine, Toska froze and distended his eyes. Beatrice did not refute his doubt. Shoulders ducked inward, she nodded.

Beatrice: “True, I suppose. Well, it cannot be helped, in fact. Bubby has something he must do, and was just on a stopover during his journey, I suppose. So……”

Toska: “Beatrice-chan, are you fine this way?”

Beatrice: “W-What do you mean fine, of course Betty is fine in fact. It’s Bubby’s, duty I suppose……”

Toska: “But, your expression really says you’re about to cry……”

With this pointed out to her, Beatrice touched her cheek. Fortunately, no tears had flowed, but this gesture alone made for sufficient basis to legitimize Toska’s words.

Toska: “Echidna-sama! Echidna-sama, did you not stop him?”

Echidna: “He couldn’t have been stopped, you see. Just as this child said, he departed on a journey in order to fulfill his duty. This was a stopover in his journey…… the journey’s adjournment and resumption, are all by his volition.”

Toska: “But, Beatrice-chan looked so very lonesome. Because she had been with Puck-sama, she had only barely managed to hang on, so……”

Toska clung to Echidna, delineating as though having surmised Beatrice’s innermost heart and feelings.

To this subject Beatrice reddened her cheeks, and stood up.

Beatrice: “Don’t go on saying things per your own convenience, in fact! Betty is, alright I suppose! Even if Bubby isn’t there…… Betty is going strong, in fact.”

Toska: “Beatrice-chan……”

Beatrice: “Bubby left to fulfill his mission…… to work hard and persevere, I suppose. He decided to work hard in order to invoke a miracle, in fact. That cannot, be obstructed, I suppose.”

She shall admit it felt lonely. No lies in that.

But, someone else’s heart could not be judged to be chained using one’s own lonesomeness as pretext.

Toska failed to vocalise anything before Beatrice as she averred so, and just looked on at her with eyes abound in compassion. Beatrice attempted to snarl at his gaze right away——,

Echidna: “Beatrice, is it true that you feel lonely?”

Beatrice: “T-That’s…… that’s, um, alri……”

Echidna: “——Beatrice.”

The strength she wished to bluff, was whittled with only a call of her name.

Beatrice: “……It feels lonely, in fact. Mother leaves often, I suppose. It would be trouble should something like today happen again, so Betty knows she must guard your absence, in fact. But”

Echidna: “I see, I neglected that on my part. You would feel all the more lonely with Puck gone, huh…… If that is the case, then perhaps the timing is quite right.”

Beatrice: “Right timing? Mother, whatever may that mean, I suppose?”

Echidna: “The other day, I found a child suffering from mana periods. Though a human nobility…… I wish for him to learn magic. Thereupon, I intended to have him take lessons in the palace until he’s made progress.”

Beatrice was petrified by her mother’s dissonant and, yet again, unconsulted words.

Quite the explosive proposal when she reckoned days of lonesomeness would befall with Puck’s egress.

Mana periods were akin to periods wherein mana that could not be released damaged the body from within.

It was a condition that generally occurred only in demi-humans or Spirits that utilised massive quantities of mana, but the same could rarely occur with humans blessed with potent talent.

Toska: “Thank god. That means Beatrice-chan won’t be alone, isn’t it.”

Beatrice: “Tch, why would you feel relieved, in fact! It has nothing to do with you, I suppose!”

Toska: “No I mean, Puck-sama left for his journey with the impetus of my request and if Beatrice-chan were to become lonely because of that, I wouldn’t know how to hold responsibility for it……”

Beatrice: “Nobody asked you to hold any responsibility, in fact!”

Whether it be about the elder brother or the Dragon, Beatrice was utterly flabbergasted by softhearted Toska’s attitude.

Though it may be precisely because of this tactless honestly of his that he even resolved to fight the Dragon with the sole will to protect his childhood friend——,

Beatrice: “Keep this up and you’ll suffer one day, I suppose. Hereafter you’ve got someone to protect, so take proper care of yourself and don’t act rashly, in fact…… Betty is, well, she’s alright I suppose.”

Toska: “Beatrice-chan……”

Beatrice: “As much as you can, celebrate your short human life and become happy, in fact. Mother’s benevolence and protection will magnanimously shelter and shield you all going forward as well, I suppose.”

Toska widened his eyes upon Beatrice’s words, then subsequently placed himself into a deep kneel. 

The respectful bow, a gesture of gratitude, was directed not toward Echidna but Beatrice.

Beatrice: “Huh…… you, that respect belongs to Mother, in fact.”

Toska: “Of course, I am also grateful to Echidna-sama. But, you were so kind as to listen to my request in the beginning, and lent not just your wisdom but even your strength. I, wish to show gratitude to you.”

Beatrice: “————”

Toska: “It is you who is my saviour, Beatrice-chan. One day, for certain, I shall repay this debt.”

In face of Toska’s terribly humble statement, befitting of identifying as a pledge, Beatrice turned to her mother, to Echidna in search of an answer.

However, Echidna did not unveil an answer in her intellectual, black eyes. She solely jerked her chin, telling her to face Toska.

Beatrice deliberated much. It would detriment her image both as the『Witch』Echidna’s daughter and as a Great Spirit to provide an offhand answer here. 

Therefore, Beatrice focused her gaze directly into Toska’s blue pupils,

Beatrice: “Your vow was certainly heard, I suppose. It shall be placed in some corner of Betty’s mind with no expectations set upon it, in fact. You too, can brace yourself just to that meagre degree, I suppose.”

Toska: “——Understood. But, I will repay the debt I’ve incurred on this day back to you, for certain.”

Beatrice: “You aren’t even trying to get it at all, in fact. This is why humans invite trouble, I suppose.”

So she accepted the youth’s vow, his hair an incandescent red, without ever allowing herself to be honest with herself.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

——Several days had passed since the Dragon catastrophe of Carnattse and the sudden parting with Puck.

That day, the palace of the Witch of Wisdom, Echidna, for the first time welcomed a human not possessing a wish to be carried to the『Witch』.

Halting the vehicle pulled by Grim Oxen—— Farrow, a vast amount of baggage by his feet, was a seemingly ill-healthy skinny youth, his hair stretching long in navy blue.

Concealing the nervousness of meeting someone for the first time behind a composed visage, Beatrice ascertained the features of the youth who looked toward her that she had been informed of.

Long slitted blue eyes, an orderly countenance. The initial impression of him being ill-healthy did not diminish, but the youth had an expression devoid of anxiety and fear in a world wherein existed extraordinary principles which he set foot upon for the first time. Such was his visage.

And upon noticing Beatrice standing there to receive him in the entry hall, the youth respectfully bowed. The carefully conscious etiquette up until his very fingertips was proof of him having received the finest tutelage.

The youth aimed his blue eyes directly towards Beatrice who perceived this, and,

???: “Today onwards, I shall be under the care of Teacher…… Echidna-sama. My name is Altair Mathers. ——Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Naming himself so, he presented a smile with an expression of cheerfulness that looked up towards the hopes of future.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Beatrice: “……And so, thus concludes the bittersweet story of Betty and Bubby.”

A hand before her chest, Beatrice marked the cessation to a long, long reminiscence.

From the very beginning till the very end, Lewes had been experiencing the joys and sorrows of the story. She put a hand on her mouth and timidly glanced toward the side, seeking an answer to the final twist.

Lewes: “Um, Altair-sama would be……”

Roswaal: “Ah, it refers to me. In our house, generation after generation, the head of the household succeeds the name Roswaal. Before I expelled my parents and siblings, my name had been Altair.”

Lewes: “A-Ah, I see…… Altair-sama……”

Dissonantly divulging his name change, Roswaal made a nostalgic expression. These events must have occurred multiple years ago, as Beatrice then grimaced.

Beatrice: “Infuriatingly enough, he changed his name right after coming to the palace, I suppose. Back then Betty started doubting what kind of a prank it was, in fact.”

Roswaal: “Calling it a prank would be quite the exaggeration. Since back then I had been yearning to be useful to Teacher as soon as possible, you see. That’s why it was necessary for me to be in a position where I could freely utilise my house’s authority. The name succession came as a result of that.”

As one who loved her own, Beatrice could not possibly comprehend being dispassionate regarding one’s own name.

Above all, that too was significantly because the one to give her this name had been her godparent, her mother, and she believed the same could be said about Roswaal.

What granted foundation to something’s worth, was also significantly because of who it was that had given it.

Just as Beatrice cherished the name given to her by Echidna, Roswaal too surely cherished anything given to him by Echidna without letting go.

Lewes: “But, listening to this story, I have grown very much fond of Puck-sama. I would love to meet him once as well.”

Beatrice: “Hmhm, that’s a matter of course, I suppose. Bubby’s cuteness and furriness can’t be expressed in words, in fact. Should you actually see him, it’ll be life-changing, I suppose.”

Lewes: “T-That much so…… gulp.”

Gulping saliva, Lewes nervously imagined the arrival of that time. Watching her spirits, Beatrice pondered she might have uttered something a bit too aggrandized.

The girl, who had been visited by a multitude of misfortunes until reaching『Sanctuary』due to her bloodline, could not leave this land for now.

Because they were in the midst of constructing and acclimatizing a technique connected with the soil and the inhabitants’ blood.

Lewes: “You do not need to worry yourself, Beatrice-sama.”

Beatrice: “Mgh……”

However, her heart was read by none other than Lewes. The girl slowly shook her head, touching her ear slightly lengthier than usual people’s,

Lewes: “There is much that I do not know or have not seen. So, it makes me happy to be told of so many things by Beatrice-sama like this.”

Beatrice: “……Well, then it’s fine, in fact. Betty wasn’t bothered by that at all, I suppose.”

Feeling uneasy, Beatrice averted her gaze. Lewes let out a small laugh seeing Beatrice, with the latter miraculously not being displeased by it.

Roswaal: “At any rate, Teacher was magnificent in your story earlier. Who would’ve thought she would drop stars and repel the weyr of Dragons…… it means even the skies abide by Teacher’s word.”

Beatrice: “Quite the good phrasing in fact, Roswaal. No choice but to compliment you for that one, I suppose.”

Roswaal: “In terms of words that extol Teacher, there’s no thing that stands equal with me, after all.”

Beatrice whirred to Roswaal’s phraseology, to which he bowed in a dramatic gesture. Lewes watched over the two’s exchange with a pleasant smile, when——,

Echidna: “——My goodness. I was wondering what it was that you all were talking about.”

Beatrice: “Mother!”

Roswaal: “Teacher!”

At the spot where arrangements for supper were being made, Echidna joined them after finishing her business.

The belle Witch with characteristic black outfit and white hair, closed an eye to the gazes of her beloved daughter and her beloved pupil, 

Echidna: “Talking about Puck is rather rare…… That child doesn’t show himself oft either. I do not believe he perished, but how truly cold-hearted.”

Beatrice: “Bubby must’ve also entered an age where a lot of stuff becomes problematic, in fact. Betty wouldn’t worry about it, I suppose…… Putting that aside, it’s time for dinner, in fact! Mother, please have a seat beside Betty, I suppose!”

Roswaal: “No, Teacher, beside me. I had some doubts I wished to ask you regarding『Earth Ⅳ』just about now as well.”

Beatrice: “That’s just an excuse, in fact! To begin with, Mother abandoned writing『Earth Ⅳ』midway through, so even reading it would amount to just feeling unsure, I suppose!”

She snarled at Roswaal, who took out the book and attempted to draw Echidna’s interest with that as pretext. Receiving her words, Roswaal shrugged with a “My, my”,

Roswaal: “You certainly wouldn’t pull such a shambolic stunt when it comes to Teacher at least, yes. If you think it has ended midway through, then doesn’t that mean you simply lack the knowledge to imagine what content would be written afterwards?”

Beatrice: “Galling, in fact. Quite audacious of you to say this before Betty, I suppose!”

Roswaal: “Woah, you wanna go at it?”

Beatrice: “Exactly what Betty wishes, in fact!!”

Leaping over the book’s content, they then jumped to guessing the author, Echidna’s intents. The two’s quarrel subsequently overheated, and the two finally came down to utilising force.

Away from the bonfire, the two ardently headed toward open ground.

Beatrice and Roswaal’s tussle—— it was wholly Beatrice who got heated up, but it was a usual affair for it to aggravate and outburst into a contention of magic.

Lewes: “Ah, ah Echidna-sama, what should we do…… the hotpot will get cold……”

Echidna: “You seem to be more accommodating than what I anticipated as well. I am relieved. I shall keep an eye on those two.”

Raising her hips which she had just seated, Echidna proceeded to watch over the dispute between the toilsome two. When, Echidna vocalised “That’s right” and halted her steps.

Echidna: “You are having to persist remaining here, but I hope you aren’t facing any inconveniences. Beatrice has become quite attached to you as well. Should there be anything you need I would like to be as open to it as possible, but……”

Lewes: “B-By no means. Besides, I enjoy being with Beatrice-sama as well.”

Echidna: “I see. ——Lewes, please get along with her.”

Upon a rare request coming from Echidna, Lewes couldn’t help but be petrified, eyebrows raised. Consequently, Echidna’s figure proceeded to distance away without hearing any answer.

Lewes: “Um! Yes, if I suffice! Kindly allow me to get along with her!”

Before her figure subsequently dwindled, Lewes cried, erasing her thoughts. Echidna did not halt her gait upon hearing it. She simply waved her hand, slightly.

With the alias『Witch』came all kinds of hazardous histories and rumours.

But by Lewes’ word, who was acquainted with the genuine『Witch』, a majority of those baseless rumours were false and groundless, there existed only one thing which she could not refute, that too something superficial.

A gauche and kind lady, simply wielding might that transcended human intellect.

Lewes: “Both Beatrice-sama and Roswaal-sama love the same person, and yet…… although, Roswaal-sama pokes a bit too much fun at Beatrice-sama.”

Even to an outsider’s eye, it was clear as day that Roswaal doted on Beatrice. The reason why this was not conveyed to the pivotal Beatrice was because his way of expressing his love was exceedingly childish.

Roswaal: “——Well well, what’s the matter, Beatrice. Messing about even when Teacher is watching?”

Beatrice: “You! That’s it, you’ve really, really infuriated Betty now, I suppose! Won’t forgive you no matter what, no matter absolutely what in fact!”

She could hear the distant voices of the cordial two, frolicing. Lewes’ lips unwittingly gave way to a smile, and reckoned Echidna must have conceived an identical emotion.

The queer relationships of the『Sanctuary』, relationships that definitely did not comprise family, nor were they not a relationship of benefit.

Though not Roswaal, she wished for bonds not inferior to the elder brother Beatrice had affectionately spoken of to henceforward be nurtured here and tied together.

Whilst musing so, Lewes scooped a bite out of the hotpot with a spoon, and tasted the supper.

Lewes: “——Mm, delicious as always.”

She was excited to see once the contention of magic came to a halt and the three returned, how they shall all react.

Roswaal, who queerly preferred simple flavours, or Echidna, who did not feel quenched until she had analysed everything about the particulars of the ingredients used, or Beatrice, who exceeded her bounds and attempted to finish everything served.

Experiencing a multitude of meetings and partings, Beatrice shall certainly prevail alongside the『Witch』. Lewes lovingly surmised about the gallant girl, that happiness lay ahead of that road.

——She prayed, wishing for there to be fortune, felicity upon that road.

※※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Epilogue

“Crying Voice”

 

 

——For long, for much too long, this expanse teemed with silence.

Everything beyond its time became poison, encompassing even silence. Silence, resounding as a cacophony to ears, was deadly toxic birthed by stagnation eating into the human heart.

Moreover, it steadily, mercilessly and without pardon, ate into even the heart of one not human.

Within the tempestuous silence, faintly reverberated the timbre of grazing paper. Atop her petite lap, turning the pages of a voluminous book, her eyes dimly illumine with a fleeting luminescence, chased the letters in pursuit.

Only the notes of this reprise jolted the air of the library reigned by silence—— the『Forbidden Archive』.

For long, for too long had this evermore, forevermore subsisted—— when.

“————”

Long eyelashes laced with her eyelids quivered, her blue eyes were elevated lento. Parting her gaze from the book, her sight focused ahead onto the room’s gateway in a long time.

Her focus about concurred with the door unfastening with a creak.

Beatrice: “……A visitor in a long time, in fact. Roswaal too, quite the obstinate chap, I suppose.”

Leaking a languorous, enervated whisper, the proprietor of the room—— no, the librarian entrusted with this room by its proprietor, received the first visitor to arrive at the Forbidden Archive after a span of ten years with a gelid voice.

In days long, long bygone, she used to await someone’s call. However, her duty had since changed, the librarian’s role was to await the visit of the『Awaited One』.

And, a long time had since elapsed, bearing witness to no visit by the『Awaited One』.

During this time, a few had succeeded in reaching this『Forbidden Archive』, but they all were inapposite to be the『Awaited One』. The same certainly went for this grey haired grandsire.

Beatrice: “So? What did you come here searching for, in fact. A means to heal all kinds of illnesses? Art of conversation to amplify your fortune and fame? Or truths concealed in history, I suppose. No matter what it is……”

???: “——ebt.”

Beatrice: “……What?”

Interposing in the midst of her speech, she failed to grasp the grandsire’s scant words. The librarian thus asked again, and the grandsire, taking a step toward her, pierced her with his blue eyes unabating of radiance.

The librarian took an instant and furrowed her brows, gulping a faint inhale. For the possessor of those eyes, was——,

???: “I have come, to repay my debt to you. ——Beatrice-chan.”

Beatrice: “……Toska?”

The librarian whose name was stated—— Beatrice, dazed, called the tottering grandsire, the posture of his back bent.

This could not be, she thought. However, no refute was evinced by the grandsire, as he loosened his cheeks into a wry smile like once before. During that journey which lasted shorter than ten days, this was the expression he used to display the most.

Beatrice: “I-Impossible, in fact. After all, it’s been more than a hundred years since……!”

Toska: “Erm, yes, that’s correct. This year marks the hundred and fiftieth.”

Beatrice: “You’ve lived for way too long I suppose! B-Befitting of a human, you should’ve celebrated your short life, and……”

Words escaping her, Beatrice was astounded by her own faltering speech. By merely this alone, she had surpassed the amount of words she had spoken in the past however many years.

But, that was the scale of her astonishment. ——No, her astonishment was illimitable. What did he say, just now?

Beatrice: “Repay, debt……? What in the world, does that……”

Toska: “I heard, you have remained here alone for long. Spending your time in far more solitude, than a bit prior to a hundred years ago.”

By a human’s scale, a calculation error of thirty years is not ‘a bit’, she failed to vocalise even this interjection.

The aged, tottering grandsire lapped with naught of the youth in Beatrice’s recollection, save for his eyes. However, she was astounded by the certitude alone that his eyes had not changed.

Beatrice: “……A hundred years, is not a short period, I suppose.”

Toska: “Of course. I…… I, also went through a lot. I had children with Remina, who in turn had their own children, who then also had their own children…… living for long is not something that can be overdone. I did not imagine I would live longer than my great-grandchildren. But——,”

Then severing his words, Toska took another step walking up to Beatrice.

Toska: “Thanks to that, I made it in time for today…… Beatrice-chan, won’t you please leave this place?”

Beatrice: “That’s……”

Toska: “This place, is far too lonesome for you to live in by yourself, all alone.”

Beatrice’s heart was staggeringly swayed, witnessing the wrinkled hand offered before her.

She had deemed her heart as frozen, having decayed the frailty to be swayed due to the stagnation that prevailed for long, but that had been fallacious. Her self was frail, brittle, akin to leaves swaying in nonchalant wind.

Beatrice: “B-Betty will……”

Whispering, Beatrice reached not for the offered hand but below her hip. By the footing of the sitting stepladder, was a single book veiled by her skirt.

Hauling it out in dismay, she ousted the book atop her lap for it and spread it open. Spreading it open, spreading it wide open, frantically attempting to pursue the words that shall hereinafter be inscribed——,

“————”

——Before the blank-paged book void of anything ever recorded therein, Beatrice closed her eyes.

Toska: “Beatrice-chan?”

Beatrice: “I cannot, take your hand…… no, I will not, in fact. I will not, I suppose.”

Juddering her head, Beatrice rejected Toska’s hand, senescent over a century.

Upon hearing so, Toska widened his eyes. However, his focus immediately rebounded with a “Why”.

Identically valorously as the day he had gripped the sword before the Dragon.

This gallantry of the hero, unchanging despite the elapse of a prolonged period since, seemed dazzling to her.

Beatrice: “Betty, was entrusted this archive by Mother, in fact. This is an exceedingly important, profoundly significant task, I suppose. Betty can never do something, as to abandon it, in fact!”

Toska: “But, it’s already been…… it’s already been over a hundred years! Time until someone made children, those children had children, and even their children died! During all this time, you were all alone!”

Beatrice: “This is Betty’s mission, I suppose! Betty’s meaning, for being born in fact!”

Taking another step ahead, Toska attempted to get close to her so that he could reach her hand. Beatrice halted him, with a hand other than the one the book was set atop.

His aged legs paused as though his path was weaved closed, and instead upsurged a wind.

Wind to drive away any parties that threatened the peace of the archive, as the librarian that guarded the『Forbidden Archive』.

Beatrice: “Return I suppose, Toska. Live your last moments surrounded by your children and grandchildren, in fact.”

Toska: “——Beatrice-chan!”

Beatrice: “……Thank you, for remembering, I suppose. This suffices, as your repayment of the debt.”

Placing a hand other than the one outstretched onto her chest, Beatrice smiled.

Many people apprised her, that she was not honest. Everyone saw through Beatrice’s sighs, but this time alone did she wish to lie convincingly.

In her life of about a hundred and forty years, for the first time, Beatrice wished to be a genius at lying. 

“————”

Expelled out of the room, the aged Toska straggled on the hallway, gazing up to the ceiling.

A building precisely identical to the Palace of the Witch he had once seen—— however, time had passed, things differed from back then. His self had changed, the world had changed, anything and everything had changed.

Toska: “Yet, you haven’t changed at all since then……”

His eyes moistening from vexation, the grandsire clenched the overlong thirst of his cheeks with tears.

How long had it been, since he had cried like this. ——Never could he forget. He had previously cried, when he heard of his elder brother’s demise. The man who cried not even when he bid farewell to his wife, his children, his grandchildren, now let fall tears.

He could not reach. His self was insufficient. Was he too late. Or, was he too early.

Purely, his self had not been the one. He could not become her, her kind self’s,『Awaited One』.

Toska: “Someone……”

Someone. Anyone. ——No, the one who was utmost kind in the entire world.

Someone, please save that kind hearted girl. Please, bury the solitude she had lived.

If this is the Palace of the Witch reconstructed, and if she is the proxy of the『Witch』, I shall wish until my heart scorches.

Toska: “Someone, please save her…… She is, my, saviour.”

——At the end of his life, the grandsire wept. Wishing for her happiness, he kept crying.

——He kept on crying.

 

???: “——No good, huh.”

The silhouette watching the grandsire shed tears from the corner of the hallway, sighed so.

One glance at his state was enough to discern his failure. Having hoped that if it’s him, then he might be able to take the girl out of the『Forbidden Archive』, but it all fell in vain.

???: “Reminiscences dating prior to a hundred and thirty years ago, miiiiight’ve been too slender a thread to rely on.”

Knocking the temple of his forehead with a finger, he recalled the olden, faraway, distant days.

Having swapped bodies thrice now, hence had increased memories he could no longer recollect. However, those days in the『Sanctuary』shan’t grow dim, never could he forget either his emotions or his regrets.

However, that was his personal circumstance. ——He could not possibly let her get involved within, he believed.

???: “But, Beatrice…… you will also uphold your promise with Teacher, yes.”

The black books left by the『Witch』to the two of daughter and pupil—— that book which indicated its owner’s future, was the solitary possibility for him, and befittingly his guide to a demonic conclusion.  

In order to realize his purpose, it was necessary for him to renounce being human.

Therefore, his self renounced being human, and initiated deeds with the resignation of falling into the pits of hell.

However, at least before that, he wished to keep solely one person, solely her away in safety, but——,

???: “Not everything goes well, isn’t it, Teacher. At least…… at least, the future that shall fittingly arrive, those final moments, for her to welcome them with full contentment, I pray.”

The『Witch』who continued to grant the wishes of people, her pupil enunciated a prayer.

Upon the fair cheeks to offer this prayer, his wish trickled down in the shape of a singular warm droplet.

——The grandsire who tied together an old bond, and a kindred soul who relinquished his body to the clownery of fate, shed tears.

Unbeknownst of such happenings beyond the doors closed, Beatrice slowly lowered her hand.

The book atop her knees was an unchanging white, indicating naught of her future.

Beatrice: “……But, one day.”

One day for sure, one day for certain, one day for absolute, will arrive the time letters shall be scrawled upon these blank, white pages.

『They』whom her mother told her to await, shall arrive seeking the knowledge of the archive entrusted to her by her mother, before the Spirit whose mission was to devote her all for her mother.

Beatrice: “Mother, Bubby, Juice, Toska, Roswaal, Lewes……”

Amidst the days she lived for long, she whispered the names possessing magnitude within her heart. Ache constricted her chest upon the whisper of a single name, hugging the girthy black book into the same chest, the girl cast her gaze down.

Someone cool would be nice. Knowledgeable, well educated, elegant in conduct. A master in all kinds of martial arts upon wielding a sword, someone who rumbled heaven and earth upon using magic, it’d be nice if a superhuman like that were to be『They』.

And, if that was overambitious, then——,

Beatrice: “——I’d be happy, if it were to be someone kind, in fact.”

One day, if there were to be someone who opened these doors and took her hand, then she wished for it to be someone kind.

Whilst wishing so, Beatrice faintly wailed, and cried all to herself. 

 

——The End.

 

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Translator’s Notes: 

  • The spacing of paragraphs may seem different from WN chapters, but this is how it originally is in printed format, which I have decided to remain faithful toward.
  • Any randomly italicised words you may find in Puck’s dialogue have been spoken in English in the original.
  • Toska: “——Understood. But, I will repay the debt I’ve incurred on this day back to you, for certain.”

Here, Toska changes the pronoun he uses to refer to Beatrice to “君/kimi” which suggests far more closeness and cordiality, along with informality.

  • “Toska: “Of course. I…… I, also went through a lot.”

Here, Toska switches his pronouns from “私/watashi”, which is used by aged people, back to the casual “俺/ore” that he used to use back when he met Beatrice.

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