The same night that Raidou and Falz talked for the first time in a long time.
It is raining heavily.
Deep inside a forest that nobody would come to at night unless they had a specific objective.
There is a single silhouette, drawing breaths that are delicate, yet desperate.
In this forest where not even moonlight could reach, her faintly glowing body stands out in the darkness.
It is a female hyuman, basking in the rain as if washing herself with it.
It is Sofia Bulga*.
Sofia, who was defeated in the kingdom of Limia after taking an attack from the devil, Raidou.
She is lying in a nameless forest on the outskirts of Asuta, the royal capital.
「Raidou, that shitty brat...!」(Sofia)
Her body stirs.
With frail movements that nobody would expect to see from her, she presses her back against a nearby boulder that is taller than her own body.
She possesses nothing but her own naked body. Not even having any clothes to put on, her body is being struck by the rain.
「Mitsurugi is definitely dead this time and they completely destroyed my weapon... At least they probably haven’t noticed that I used Night’s Cover as my trump card to escape death. What the hell is that monster...?」(Sofia)
Continuing to curse Raidou under her breath, she begins concentrating to restore her power as fast as possible.
She is definitely an experienced adventurer.
Because Root, the name of her final target was mentioned, she pressed a fight with Raidou that she should not have stepped into. However, it seems that she has regained her composure.
「As annoying as it is, I have to find a way to fight Root while avoiding that. That is an opponent I can’t face. For now... I guess hunting the Muteki* dragon in the wastelands is my first priority.」(Sofia)
「How unfortunate. That will not happen.」
There should be nobody here but Sofia, yet the indifferent voice of a man rings out.
Despite the fact that her body has not recovered yet, she forces it to move quickly, shielding herself by putting the boulder between her and the direction the voice is coming from.
In her hand is a sword made of light.
This was originally Mitsurugi’s ability.
「Hmm. Your movements are not bad. But compared to when you were fighting Makoto-kun, they’re like those of a tortoise.」(Mysterious voice)
「Are you one of that guy’s allies?! Where are you!」(Sofia)
Getting a rough idea of the situation, Sofia focuses her senses on the darkness of the forest.
Makoto, Raidou’s real name.
There is no way Sofia could forget that name.
She also understands that someone else who knows that name is unlikely to be her ally.
She cannot take a prolonged fight, so she concentrates on forming a plan in her head to finish it quickly.
「In the end, Lancer did not teach you the perception and senses of a dragon. That just shows that your relationship consisted of nothing more than using one another.」(Mysterious voice)
A young, silver-haired man appears from the darkness.
Wearing a cynical smile, he looks completely out of place in this forest.
「Am I correct to assume you’re an ally of that devil?」(Sofia)
Sofia questions the young man, keeping her body hidden in the shadow of the boulder.
「Ally? I guess I could say that I’m a dragon that would like to become one, but won’t be accepted.」(Young man)
「I continued to watch after giving up on him, and because of that, I’m also a fool who is now indebted to him.」(Young man)
「Indebted... You, you can’t be...」(Sofia)
「Your intuition is even sharper than Makoto-kun, huh. I’ll introduce myself again. I’m Root. I’m the one you have been searching for, the Harmony Supreme Dragon.」(Root)
Sofia opens her eyes wide.
A completely unexpected encounter.
And under the worst circumstances.
「What’s wrong? I’m sure you’re not the kind of girl who would say that she can’t come out because she’s naked. I came out here like this because I wanted to have a final little chat, you know?」(Root)
From that word, Sofia knows what will happen afterwards.
She slowly comes out from the shadow of the boulder.
「Root, you...?! You’re the real one?」(Sofia)
「You can think what you want. Do you want to be killed by the fake one, or do you want to be killed by the real one? I’ll leave that for you to think about.」(Root)
Immediately following Root’s words -
Sofia instantly produces eight swords of red light, with the intent of melting the ground beneath his feet. But Root snaps his fingers, and all of these lights disperse.
「Is that enough proof for you?」(Root)
Sofia’s ears are filled with the sound of her grinding her teeth.
Because now she understands that this is the real one.
And after seeing him effortlessly nullify her perfectly timed surprise attack, she realizes just how powerful her opponent is.
「A piece of the ambition that I held in the past. It starts to breathe again, just as I remember. At first, well, it was fun to watch.」(Root)
「My blood has become thick in the people it is mixed with, as if they were my own children. The two lives I created in a whimsical experiment. Both of whom are related to me. To think that both of them would meet in the same time period and join forces.」(Root)
「You know the truth about me, don’t you.」(Sofia)
「Of course. I’m also the head of the adventurers’ guild. I’ve known since you were registered in the guild. When you found out about your blood’s lineage, when you gained your ambition. When you became a woman, when you experienced heartbreak, I know everything.」(Root)
「... Including the fact that I have been looking for you.」(Sofia)
「Of course, I knew. I had no intention of meeting you at all, though. You should be thankful to Makoto-kun for this. After all, thanks to him, you have accomplished your objective of “meeting” me.」(Root)
(Although, you can also say that thanks to him, everything else has gone horribly wrong.)
In his mind, Root silently adds these words to his statement.
「You! You knew everything about my movements! You’re saying that despite knowing all that, you did nothing about me, about Mitsurugi?!」(Sofia)
Sofia’s voice is shaking in rage.
If he knew, there is no way he could have left them alone.
The reason for that being that Sofia and Lancer were aiming to take Root’s life.
That is why Sofia had thought that Root was unaware.
At the very least, the two of them had thought that Root was unaware of anything beyond the fact that they were making unusual movements.
「I could see your objectives and I could see how it would end, that’s why. I didn’t think I needed to even face you. And I knew you two couldn’t defeat the Sazanami* and the Muteki in the first place.」(Root)
「Don’t fuck with me! The Sazanami and the Muteki, I have enough power to defeat them both!」(Sofia)
「Power, maybe. But if you can’t even face them, then it makes no difference. You might have a one in ten thousand chance with the Sazanami, but the Muteki is in the furthest depths of the wastelands. And the Muteki is the kind of person who would find it too troublesome to fight properly. Ignoring the fact that you misunderstood the prerequisites, I knew that you couldn’t even meet them, so what need did I have to interfere in your meaningless efforts?」(Root)
「What, what misunderstanding...?」(Sofia)
「About the idea that you could defeat me if you absorbed six superior dragons. It wouldn’t be difficult to strip that power from you. I don’t know what Lancer told you, but the power of absorption that you possess is only a fraction of mine. Even considering the fact that you’ve deeply inherited my blood, there is no way that you can use the ability better than me.」(Root)
「That’s how it is. In the end, it was actually quite troublesome. I regretted leaving you alone. You can have a toast in the other world to celebrate the fact that you caused me just a small amount of regret. Ah, Lancer can’t go there so you’ll be having that toast alone, though.」(Root)
「... Leaving your blood in a world where people live on a whim... Creating dragons that didn’t exist before and adding them to the superior dragons on a whim. All of this, you did all of this just on a whim?! Don’t, don’t fuck with me!」(Sofia)
Sofia once again creates a sword in her hand, covers it in red light and moves to cut him down.
Root is wearing only a simple shirt, but despite the rain, it is completely dry. The moment Sofia realizes this is when gold-colored magic power prevents her attack from reaching his body.
「An imitation of Makoto-kun. Quite bothersome, isn’t it. My limit is about ten minutes, huh. For him to be able to maintain it continuously, just how much magic power does he have?」(Root)
「The absorption of all of the superior dragons, the thing that you were aiming for. That was once one of my foolish ambitions. Perhaps it’s my fault for carelessly speaking of the past when Lancer was a child.」(Root)
Root speaks as he places his hands on his own knees.
Sofia is unable to speak.
「The Tiamat project.」(Root)
Sofia was trembling ever so slightly.
Even so, it seems that Root sees it clearly.
「... Like I thought. Using my power, I will absorb all the superior dragons. I will understand the land, sky and seas better than the spirits themselves and divide the world in two with the goddess. That is the Tiamat project. You probably don’t know this, but Tiamat is the name of the god of good harvest, who has the nature of both a god and a dragon.」(Root)
「The god... of good harvest. There are gods other than the goddess?」(Sofia)
「Not in this world; not that I'd expect you to know.」(Root)
「This world? Then in a world separate from this one?」(Sofia)
Sofia is wearing an astonished expression.
It is as if she cannot completely comprehend Root’s words.
「Though in the end, I stopped thinking that it would be disadvantageous to carry out this plan with the goddess who had already gained a considerable amount of faith from the humans when I met my husband. Who would have thought that this poor-quality product that I made while killing time by combining a half-dead dragon and a weapon filled with hatred would result in a powerful dragon joining forces with it and lead to me being able to dust off this old plan? It’s a small world.」(Root)
Root continues to speak, not answering Sofia’s question.
「Poor-quality...? Just how much do you think my life was fucked up because of this power that I never asked for?!」(Sofia)
「This is an old saying, but there is no good and evil when it comes to power. You became twisted and killed many people, demons and dragons only because you were weak, right? It’s the same for Lancer. People, dragons and the strong will to remain in this world. Even if you could call him a miraculous creation and a superior dragon, he could have attained a great social position of power. But he wasn’t satisfied with that. In any case, he was just a loser who couldn’t control his greed and desire. That’s why I lost interest in you.」(Root)
Like the conductor of an orchestra.
Root raises his right hand high into the air.
「I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t wrong to hate you! Only you!」(Sofia)
As Sofia screams, she falls to her knees like a puppet whose strings have been cut.
In the instant Root bends his whole body forward towards her -
Sofia falls to her hands and knees. Red, blue, black and red-white spheres emerge from her body and gather in Root’s outstretched right hand.
「If your body loses the power of the dragon that you hold after you have already lost the divine protection of the goddess. You know whether or not you can stay alive, don’t you?」(Root)
「... This... To meet such an end...」(Sofia)
With her eyes wide open, Sofia whispers as her head bows down to the earth.
「It’s quite a normal way of dying for an adventurer, isn’t it? An unexpected, sudden death.」(Root)
A small golden sphere appears from Sofia’s body, and she falls silent.
As he looks at the various spheres, Root lets out a sigh.
「Superior dragons are reborn in an instant, aren’t they? I can’t bear to raise children, so I think I’ll leave that to someone else entirely. Oh yes, I think I’ll bother Makoto-kun with something, too. Since he’s basically just staying at home. Anyway, I might need an excuse in order to have him watch the world for me.」(Root)
Root lowers his right hand.
The spheres of light have changed, becoming glowing eggs.
They are floating lightly in the air.
「Lancer... Makoto-kun won’t like it, so maybe I’ll ask “Aunt” Sazanami. Since she’s giving her blessings to hyumans and also probably won’t ask to be reborn」(Root)
While deciding on how he will have the eggs taken care of, Root casually looks at Sofia’s corpse, which is being beaten by the rain.
Tear-like traces run from her eyes onto the earth; perhaps she had let them out in her dying moments.
Or perhaps it was simply the raindrops that flowed down her face. It is already impossible to distinguish the two, and her expression gives no hints.
Such trivial things do not cross Root’s mind.
「Now everything is according to Makoto-kun’s expectations, huh. As disadvantageous as it would be to keep her alive, Sofia is also quite pitiful... Hmm, if that’s the case, at least. I could just say that she was finished by Makoto-kun, but I can predict what his next request will be, so maybe I’ll return the favor.」(Root)
Root moves his left hand as he murmurs something.
Sofia’s corpse floats into the air.
Root has thought of something. His expression is not that of an absolutely powerful person that he was wearing until now. With the complacent smile that he often shows Makoto, he vanishes from this place.
Along with Sofia’s corpse.
At the sound of a loud knock, my eyes open.
I’m always very tired these days, so this is quite the rude awakening.
Still, it’s not a bad tiredness.
Surprisingly, it might suit me to be working until it’s dark and I have sweat on my brow.
The knocking continues.
「I’m awake, I’m awake. What is it? Come in.」(Makoto)
It’s so early in the morning.
I’m in Asora.
The four seasons were introduced just the other day.
They were implemented in some odd circumstances, but the uproar from that accident is settling down.
To be more specific: Spring, winter, summer and autumn are rotating in the north, south, east and west with the city area that we’re living in as the center.
Of course, there are also irregularities in the seasons everywhere, but we decided to just roughly classify them based on what we see.
That’s why we’re not being conspicuous by bringing people to academy city from here.
「Waka, I’m here to inform you of something. It’s a very serious matter.」(Tomoe)
No, Mio and Shiki are both with her.
The heads of each race have entered my room?!
I’m so glad that I at least put my clothes on before inviting them in.
I don’t have bed hair either; my appearance is at least somewhat proper.
「I can tell that something’s happened due to the fact that you’re all gathered in my room, but what do you mean by “serious matter”?」(Makoto)
A serious matter.
Considering that, everyone’s expression is confused, or maybe I should say bewildered.
So it might be a serious matter that’s not an immediate danger.
「That’s... It’s an intruder... or should I call it a visitor?」(Tomoe)
Tomoe’s words are blunt.
An intruder or a visitor, in other words, someone has come here?
「Wait, does that mean that Asora’s existence has been leaked to the hyumans?! Isn’t that really bad?!」(Makoto)
「No, it is not a hyuman.」(Tomoe)
「You’ve captured them for now, right? We have to ask how they got here, and what their objective is...」(Makoto)
「Waka, that is to say… We have not captured them.」(Tomoe)
「In any case, it seems you are awake, so please speak to them directly.」(Tomoe)
As I’m about to wonder how -
[Yo! Misumi Makoto! Morning!]
A loud voice echoes in my head.
It’s a voice I’ve never heard before.
But considering his impolite way of speaking, it’s a voice with a strange power that subconsciously makes me feel the need to speak politely.
I wonder if it’s telepathic communication.
It’s similar, yet I also get the feeling that it’s somehow different.
Because I don’t feel a connection to the other person.
I’m unsure if I’m supposed to just speak by thinking, but I try responding.
[Good… morning. Nice to meet you? It is the first time we are speaking, correct?] (Makoto)
[Yeah! My aniki* turns out to have caused a lot of trouble for you, sorry about that. I happened to be nearby so I tried boldly coming here, but you were asleep. So I just waited.] (Mysterious voice)
Then that means he’s someone’s younger brother.
Regarding asking about his name.
If his older brother is someone I know, I’d like to ask his full name.
[I apologize for being rude, but could I ask as to what your name is? If possible, your full name.] (Makoto)
[It’s long, so sorry for abbreviating it. The name’s Susanoo.] (Susanoo)
[That’s right.] (Susanoo)
Where does he abbreviate it, I wonder… Susanoo?
His older brother is someone I know?
Susanoo no Mikoto?!
[Y-y-y-you’re the younger brother of Tsukuyomi-sama, Susanoo no Mikoto?!] (Makoto)
I’m wide awake now!
It’s a famous god, isn’t it?!
Wait, it’s a god of destruction, isn’t it?!
The kind of big name that might cause a natural disaster if he’s in a bad mood!
He’s been waiting?
For ME to wake up?!
「Tomoe, why didn’t you wake me up straight away?!」(Makoto)
「Well, I did think that it was an enormous presence, but I thought I should be suspicious since he was not giving his name...」(Tomoe)
Suspicious or not, it’s a god who would be really bad to make angry!
H-he’s probably not angry, right?
It’s okay, right?
[My aniki made you a few requests, didn’t he? For now, I’m relieved that you seem alright. Well, we have come to this space that you’re in. I hope it wouldn’t be a problem for me to come closer?] (Susanoo)
[O-of course! Could it be that Tsukuyomi-sama is with you?!] (Makoto)
Tsukuyomi-sama is in a sleeping state, so there’s no way they could be together.
But he definitely said「we」just now.
[Aniki is still under medical care on the other side. The goddess here has some pears. I was just on my way back from that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell that idiot about this place. In fact, I’ll help you to keeping it hidden.] (Susanoo)
[I-I see. Well then, I will be waiting for you.] (Makoto)
He met the goddess.
That means that the visitor back at that time was him!
That goddess accepted a really amazing god as her guest, huh.
I can’t blame her for being impatient.
[Sorry, but I need to ask someone to guide me. I came here riding something quite big, you see. I want to land in a wide, flat area.] (Susanoo)
[I-I understand. I will prepare someone right away. Where might you be, currently?] (Makoto)
[You’ll see me right away if you look up at the sky. Well, I’ll see you in a bit.] (Susanoo)
So the conversation ends.
I know my mind is blank right now.
But I can’t just space out here.
I turn my head to the right and see my followers and everyone who is now conveniently gathered here.
「Mio. Quickly cook up all the ingredients you have. I think Japanese food is fine as long as you make everything that you think is tasty. You can round up everyone who’s rotated onto cooking duty. Hurry!」(Makoto)
「Ema, Shiki. Make preparations for a warm welcome. Once I ask them whether we’ll be speaking inside or outside, I’ll let you know, so start with gathering people and preparing the tools.」(Makoto)
「As you wish.」(Shiki)
「Tomoe, come out and greet them with me. For now, just come outside. He said that he wants to land in a wide area, so tell me where we can find a field where a large animal can land, as close to here as possible. Everyone else, divide yourselves into cooking or other things and follow Mio and Shiki’s lead!」(Makoto)
「A field, yes, I understand. Well then, I shall accompany you.」(Tomoe)
I give orders as I walk down the corridor.
I don’t know how I’m supposed to welcome a god!
I don’t know how, but...
I have to make all the preparations I can.
I step outside.
I’m in a place I can look up at the sky, but which part of the sky am I supposed to look at?
As I think that, I see it immediately.
There is something flying in the sky, about the size of an aeroplane.
It’s a bird.
A pitch-black bird.
「That’s it, huh. Tomoe, is the place you thought of suitable?」(Makoto)
「... Yes. Still, that thing is considerably enormous. A bird that rivals a dragon; no, surpasses it - I have never heard of such a thing.」(Tomoe)
「Common sense doesn’t apply to something that a god would ride. Anyway, mark the place where we want them to land so that they can see it from up there.」(Makoto)
「Ah, well… I’ll tell you about it afterwards. For now, hurry. So that we don’t show any discourtesy.」(Makoto)
「... That bird, it has three legs and its claws and beak are sharp. You are aware that it would be a problem if it goes wild?」(Tomoe)
「It’s still probably safer than the one riding it… Three legs?」(Makoto)
For it to appear as large as a plane from here, it has to be pretty huge, right?
Indeed, looking closely, I can see that it has three legs.
A black, three-legged bird.
Could it be… Yata-garasu?
I’m glad my eyes weren’t crushed.
I remember hearing once that “yata” means “large”, but… This is too huge, isn’t it…?
Just what kind of torii would it perch on?
「Waka, it seems they have seen the marker. They are descending at quite a speed.」(Tomoe)
「Ah, I see. Tell everyone not to stare at it too much. Well then, Tomoe. Let’s go.」(Makoto)
「... As you wish.」(Tomoe)
To think that I would meet two of the three Shinto gods in one lifetime.
I don’t know who he’s brought with him, but he also said that he met with the goddess earlier.
I think that this encounter might be good for me.
Even so, I’m nervous about meeting Susanoo-sama, who is known to be malevolent and is sometimes even called a god of destruction.