There is a field of flowers that stretches out as far as the eye can see.
Flowers of every color are in full bloom, as if glorifying this world’s spring.
There is an enormous lake of crystal-clear water nearby, reflecting the light of the large full moon on its surface.
The silhouette of a series of tall mountains can be seen in the distance, their summits covered in blankets of snow.
This scene is illuminated by the beautiful light from the large moon and the countless stars that share its sky.
「This place is...」
When Lily comes to her senses, she finds herself in such a place.
When she consults her memory, she clearly remembers that she and Fiona returned straight to the inn and crawled into bed after attacking the Church of White Light.
Then, this impossible scenery, this field of flowers with the blossoms of spring, summer and autumn all blooming together with no regard for the seasons. The bright light that clearly illuminates the scene despite the darkness of the night. The snow swirling about in the wind around the mountain range.
It is completely impossible for the snow, moon and flowers to be admired simultaneously. Then, this must be not the real world, but merely a dream –
「Welcome to my Fairy Garden.」
Lily hears a voice from behind her.
It is an elegant, unforgettable voice; its owner is surely a woman who would appear in one’s dreams every night after seeing her once.
As Lily turns, she sees a woman just as beautiful as she expected – no, even more so.
「Please have a seat. Let us have some tea and discuss matters leisurely.」
The woman, wearing a pure-white garment that looks almost like a wedding dress, sits in an antique-style chair and faces Lily.
There is a nearby table that matches the design of the chair she is sitting on, and a tea set is resting on the table’s surface.
However, there is something that draws the eye far, far more than that.
It is the three pairs of wings made of light emerging from her back – she has one pair of wings too many, but they are the unmistakable proof that she is a Fairy.
Lily has likely noticed that this other Fairy has the same blonde hair and green eyes as herself, but she is unable to observe that something about the unrivalled beauty of the Fairy’s face also closely resembles her own beauty.
Lily is currently in her true form, and anyone seeing these two together would make the assumption – that the two of them are mother and daughter.
Though unaware of their resemblance, the wise girl Lily understands who the other Fairy is and what kind of situation they are in.
「It is an honor to meet you, Queen Iris.」
One of the black gods of Pandora, the one that all Fairies believe in. Yes, she is the『Fairy Queen Iris.』
「Ufufu, you don’t need to be so formal; Fairies are meant to be free and unbound, after all. I will not take offense at trivial things like humans do.」
Under Iris’s gentle expression that seemed to pay attention to her every move, Lily’s movements seem a little nervous as she takes her seat.
Lily had thought for certain that some mysterious light would appear and the tea would be immediately prepared. But to her surprise, with well practised movements, Iris personally pours her a cup of tea.
As the sweet aroma of the tea tickles her nose, the smallest amount of Lily’s nervousness disappears.
「The reason I invited you here, Lily, is to grant you a divine protection.」
Lily had guessed that this was the case the moment she realized that the person in front of her was Iris.
This is an assumption that any inhabitant of Pandora would make if they saw a goddess appear in their dreams.
For Lily, the more surprising thing is that Iris said her name, as if it were perfectly natural for her to know it.
「Thank you very much. But I have not particularly overcome any trials?」
Indeed; she has not been actively seeking to gain a divine protection like Kurono and Fiona have, nor has she been praying.
If Lily has not been undergoing trials, prayer or training, just what has the goddess judged to be worthy of being granted her divine protection? This question is a matter of great interest to Lily.
「Because you have arrived at a truth.」
Iris elegantly raises her teacup to her lips to moisten her thin, white neck before continuing to speak.
「A prohibited area that must not be touched upon. You shed light on one part of it admirably. With no hesitation, restraint or even regret, only for the sake of love –」
Balls of light rise all around Lily – no, they are visions of scenes from the past.
Lily brings a needle of light down into the head of a brown-haired man who is leaning against a tree in a thicket.
Lily looks to be deep in thought about one thing or another, with a white ring in her hand.
In a dim basement, Lily applies the ring to dozens of men, one after another, with a serious expression.
Four men are tied to trees; Lily takes no notice of their desperate begging for their own lives as she indifferently places the rings on their heads.
And lastly, she places the rings on the nine giants with identical faces sleeping in coffins and finally arrives at the truth – the correct way to manipulate people’s minds.
Even the scene of her smiling at the honest mistake she made right afterwards appears.
The visions show a Fairy who made many sacrifices for the sole purpose of being useful to the man that she loves.
「Wonderful. I have been eagerly awaiting someone like you. Someone with the wisdom to arrive at a truth and the determination to accomplish this in the name of pure love. Ah, how truly wonderful.」
「Thank you very much.」
With a smile just as sweet as Iris’s, Lily bows her head a little.
「As long as you live for love, I will grant you my divine protection. Serve him well from now on, the beloved man that you yearn for.」
Lily realizes that she was right to believe in this goddess, the Fairy Queen Iris.
Until now, she thought that gods were nothing but natural phenomena, a system for bestowing power to people. These thoughts are confirmed as she is touched by what can only be called the love of a goddess.
From the beginning, this has always been the correct relationship between people and gods.
People believe in gods, and the gods answer that belief.
And now Iris is answering Lily with the power that she desires.
「Lily, I shall bestow upon you a power that I often used myself.」
Iris’s fingertips swim elegantly through the air like thin, white fish.
She draws a magic circle in the air that expands to become the same dimensional magic that Lily uses.
As expected, what comes from within is –
A single eyeball with a pupil as pitch-black as the overhead night sky.
Kurono’s left eye that was supposed to be preserved forever in the potion bottle has been summoned in front of Lily’s eyes.
「Ufufu, the man you love is also answering your efforts. Therefore, this is no longer something for you to merely enjoy gazing upon; its new name is –」
Kurono’s pupil begins to overflow with a black light.
It is not a shadow or darkness; it can only be described as a black-colored light. In an instant, this ominous light covers the entire eyeball.
The black light flashes strongly two, three times before subsiding.
What is left in the end is a transparent crystal resembling a black diamond.
The portion of it that was once the pupil is dyed in darkness that contrasts with the rest of the black crystal, as if it were some kind of hell that absorbs all light. It no longer resembles an eyeball at all.
「This is... an Artifact?」
Just like that, this eyeball has become a black jewel that strongly radiates mana; even Lily is unable to hide her surprise.
「Precisely; it is also possible for Artifacts to be created like this. Even the『Queen Beryl』you use is something I created in the past myself. As for how I created it... Ufufu, that is a secret.」
Iris presses her index finger against her lips with a wink even more masterfully than Lily does; this behavior is incredibly suitable for her.
「『Evil Eye』... Ah, to think that a part of Kurono has become my own power... I’m so happy.」
With a spellbound expression, Lily takes the eyeball-jewel that is exuding an overwhelming presence from the table and clutches it to her chest.
Looking upon her with an expression of affection, Iris continues speaking.
「The power that it grants is『the power to become one with the person you love.』What do you think? Lovely, isn’t it?」
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