20 – Demon Lord Route – VI
I opened my eyes.
Light streamed in from nearby, but my vision was too blurry to make out where.
What happened to me?
I tried to remember and, for the first time since I arrived in this world, couldn’t. But soon, like dripping water filling a bowl, bits and pieces gradually returned until I remembered everything. Specifically, I remembered how I collapsed after arriving at Yggdrasil in our house.
I blinked, and my fuzzy mind began to clear, my senses sharpening once again.
I was lying on a bed. To my left was a window, which explained the light. Somehow, I had been tucked in. Yet, I didn’t hear or sense either Aria or Saphira.
I sat up and immediately winced. Pain throbbed from everywhere in my body, the worst of it being at my chest. Glancing down, I saw that someone had bandaged me and cleaned my wounds. Also, instead of my clothes that had been turned into bloody rags from battling the Braves, I was now wearing a dark green robe.
I frowned, and slowly shifted to the side of the bed. That done, I muttered, “It seems like I’m going to need a new plan.”
Plan A, assassinating the Braves, was tossed out the window when I was caught in the middle of it. Plan B, running away failed when I was surrounded. And even Plan C, facing everyone in frontal combat, failed due to a combination of underestimating the extent of cheats the Braves had and my own abilities malfunctioning.
I had one piece left to play, but that would take time to develop. The pawn had to make its way across the board first before I could promote it to anything useful. But for now… the only thing I could do was rest.
My mana was depleted, and I couldn’t feel the usual strength coursing through my body from [Legend]. Whether that was the aftermath of using [Curse of ******] or suffering so many attacks, I didn’t know. Either way, I was vulnerable.
Lost in thought, my gaze drifted around the room. It was a fairly standard size, not too large but not too small either. My bed was in one corner of the room and lined up against the wall. On the wall to my right, there was a door leading to the other parts of the house. But before that, within arm’s reach, there was a table where my faithful companion (stick) lay.
Seeing that, I smiled and picked it up. Out of everyone and everything, at least I could count on my faithful companion to see things through.
As if sensing my thoughts, it warmed in my hands.
That reminded me… didn’t the goddess say something about my faithful companion? That it-
The sound of the door opening cut off my thoughts.
A woman entered the room, but it wasn’t either of the two I was expecting.
“…Titania. What brings you here?”
It was Aria’s eldest sister. Unlike the last time I saw her, she was wearing clothing fitting of a princess, or at least one of royalty. On her upper body, she wore a black shirt with white frills and a black bow in the center. Beneath that, she wore a skirt that matched, with a white lacy hem.
She held a bowl in her right hand, one filled with a clear glistening liquid.
Hearing my words, Titania frowned but didn’t say a word. Instead, she walked towards me and then held the bowl in front of me. “Here,” she said. “Drink it.”
I stared at the offered bowl and then at Titania. “…And if I don’t want to?”
Titania furrowed her brow. “It isn’t poison if that is your concern. Just drink it.”
I took the bowl with my left hand, but made sure to Analyze its contents.
Name: World Tree Dew
Summary: Morning dew collected from Yggdrasil, the world tree. It possesses miraculous restorative properties, but must be personally collected by a member of Alvheim’s royal family to take effect. A drop is said to be able to bring one back from the brink of death, though that is true only for average adventurers. For someone with vast vitality, it would take an equally vast quantity of World Tree Dew to be effective.
This dew was personally collected by Titania Sylvania as the sun’s morning rays struck Yggdrasil’s leaves.
After handing me the bowl, Titania waited. Her expression was neutral and, if not for the fact that she was tugging at a corner of her bow, she would have looked completely apathetic.
I took a sip from the bowl.
Sweet, refreshing, and… bubbly? The World Tree Dew had a strange flavor to it that I found hard to describe. It was almost like soda except that it didn’t burn or fizz.
Regardless of the dew’s taste, by the time I finished drinking it, the pain in my body slowly faded. While I could still sense it, the level had reduced to a dull ache rather than sharp pangs.
Titania took the bowl away from me when I was finished and set it down on the table. After that, she stared at me.
“…Is something wrong?”
Titania didn’t respond and kept staring. However, she slowly raised her right hand and began twirling the end of her bow within her fingers.
Seeing that she didn’t plan on speaking any time soon, I closed my eyes to do a thorough check of my body’s condition.
Running the little mana that I could through my body, I saw that most of my wounds had been healed. Every external wound was closed, the flesh completely mended. However, there were countless tiny wounds sealed within that the dew couldn’t treat. Likely, it was the result of that one spearman’s crimson mana running rampant throughout my body from his attack. My heart was at least back in working condition and I didn’t have a gaping hole in my chest though, so it was good enough.
Still, it was strange that I was so low on mana. After being bathed in Saphira’s blood in the past, it should have taken on the same characteristics. Considering that it was morning, I should have recovered at least a quarter of my mana pool. Yet, I was only left with a piddling amount, barely enough to play out the role of the Demon Lord-
I froze and then opened my eyes.
Titania was still there, staring at me. This time, I stared back.
After a while, the cold beauty opened her mouth and said, “You are human.”
It wasn’t a question, so I didn’t answer. Instead, I said, “You were the one who found me last night, weren’t you?”
Titania didn’t answer either. Instead, she waved her hand. Wooden tendrils sprung up from the floor and formed a chair. When it was completed, Titania took a seat.
“Where’s Aria and Saphira?” I asked.
“Training. Where, I do not know. However, my sister said that it would be a few more days before they returned.”
It was quiet again. It seemed like neither of us knew what to say to each other. Or rather, we knew what to say, but didn’t want to broach the topic.
Eventually, I said, “Thanks.”
Titania tilted her head. “For what?”
“You were the one who changed my clothes and dressed my wounds, weren’t you? I appreciate it, as well as you gathering the World Tree Dew for me.”
“Hmph.” Titania crossed her arms and turned her head to the side, sending her long honey-colored hair astray. “What did you expect? My sister would be heartbroken if you never returned. As the eldest sister, how could I allow her to experience such pain?” Despite those harsh words, the tips of Titania’s ears turned red, revealing her embarrassment.
I nodded. “As you say. Then… it’s about time I got going.” Saying those words, I stood up from the bed and slowly formed a dark miasma around me. At the same time, I activated Information Concealment… or tried to. For some reason, however, it still wasn’t working properly. Usually, I could sense it running, but that time I didn’t feel anything other than my dark miasma.
“Wait.” Titania called out to me. “Are you truly planning on leaving?”
“Of course. Demon Lord Nazin can’t simply lie around while the threat of the Northern Empire looms.”
And that was before taking into account the fact that the goddess was taking a more active approach in interfering with my actions. I didn’t forget how one of the Braves I fought the other day was serving as a direct channel to her, or how my abilities that had been working completely fine suddenly failed.
Titania stood up as well. “You are a fool.” She crossed her arms and stared directly into my eyes. “I know not what you fought against the other night to leave you on the brink of death, but if you think that I will allow you to leave and face it again after all the effort I spent healing you, Demon Lord, then you’re greatly mistaken.”
“Oh?” I flared my mana. “And what makes you think you can stop me?”
Titania stepped forward and poked my chest.
“Gah-“ I reflexively took a step back.
Pain coursed through my body, the dull ache suddenly turning back into burning needles. “You-“
Titania tucked a strand of her honey hair behind her ear. “You might not be aware of this, oh Demon Lord, but the dew of Yggdrasil’s healing powers relies upon the grace of the royal family member that collected it.” She smiled at me and said, “Now you tell me. What makes you think that you can leave if I do not allow it?”
I glared at her.
Titania simply kept smiling.
“If Aria were here, she would be terribly disappointed in you.”
Titania’s smile dimmed and she turned her head, staring out the window. “…Perhaps. However, I would rather disappoint her in this then have to console her after she lost her most cherished person.”
Hearing those melancholic words, I couldn’t say anything in response.
After a few moments, Titania turned back towards me and said, “Well, Lord Nazin. It would appear we are at an impasse. You wish to leave and I refuse to allow you to follow such a reckless course of action.”
“Hmph.” I crossed my arms. “You’re lucky that I’m weakened and neither Aria nor my servant is here. Such disrespect would never have been allowed otherwise. But I suppose you have a point. I am still recovering.”
Titania nodded. “Good. Then stay here and-“
“However, recovering does not mean disabled,” I said. “And I refuse to lay here like an invalid.”
Titania narrowed her eyes. “You need to rest.”
“And that rest would be better off done through exploring Alvheim. Proper circulation is necessary for proper recovery.”
Titania hesitated. “That… is true. But-“
“If you’re so concerned about it, then you can be my guide. I’ve seen the perimeter of Alvheim but I haven’t explored its interior yet.”
Titania frowned, tugging on the corner of her bow. Finally, she nodded. “Very well. I will guide you around Alvheim. However, the moment that I sense you performing anything strenuous, or the moment I deem it necessary that you rest, we are coming back here immediately.”
“As if that would happen… but whatever you say, Tani.”
Titania’s ears turned red and she turned her head. “…You are fortunate that Ari likes you.”
Titania didn’t respond, simply holding out her left hand from behind, as if reaching out to a toddler.
“…You can’t be serious, Titania.”
She turned her head back a bit to look at me and then quickly looked away. “…It isn’t like I want to do this either. However, the healing properties of Yggdrasil’s dew increases when the gatherer is in physical contact with the patient.”
Hm… it was still a mystery why my body hadn’t already memorized the effects of the dew, but Titania’s words made sense. It could be that I needed more time for the effect to sink in before I could gain something like ‘Regeneration’ from memorizing it. That meant having to hold hands with Titania.
Titania, the eldest princess of Alvheim. The cold beauty with sweet, honey-colored hair. The same beauty who spent most of her life devoted to the sword and to magical studies, creating an entirely new path for her people.
I could already tell that this wouldn’t end well. Trouble was definitely going to come my way by hanging around a person like her, especially if that time was spent walking hand in hand. Yet, the benefits for following through would be worth it. Regeneration would have been useful in the fight last night. Not only that, but I would be able to get a proper introduction to Alvheim and get hints to the room at the heart of Yggdrasil.
“W-Well? Did you change your mind already?” Titania turned her head slightly and looked at me in the corner of her eyes. “If you did-“
I placed my faithful companion (stick) in its rightful place at my side and then grabbed Titania’s hand.
She flinched and her face flushed. However, Titania managed to keep a neutral expression and she nodded. “Remember. This is all for the sake of your quick recovery so that my sister need not worry. I most definitely am not enjoying this, and you had better not get any ideas.”
I scoffed. “Don’t be so haughty, princess. Beauty alone is not enough to move me, and with your personality… well, it would be tough.”
Titania strengthened her grip on my hand and then started walking, pulling me along. “…I rather dislike you.”
“Funny. I was thinking the same thing.”