24 – Demon Lord Route – Dissonance
I opened my eyes.
Light streamed in from nearby, but my vision was too blurry to make out where.
What happened to me? I blinked, and my fuzzy mind began to clear, my senses sharpening once again.
A familiar room, a familiar scenario. Somehow, I ended up back in the bed I was in after attacking the Braves and collapsing in my house at Yggdrasil.
I got up and moved to sit at the edge of the bed. “Have I gone back in time?”
A splitting headache erupted.
I grimaced and clutched at my head with my left hand. “Gah, what is-“
A flash of memories. Aria’s body. My corpse. Darkness, flooding the surroundings. And blood. So much blood from-
I grit my teeth and smacked my head with my left hand. Somehow, it helped. The moment that my palm connected with my skull, the headache vanished. The flash of memories also disappeared.
“That…” I lowered my hand and frowned. “What was that?”
A scene that I didn’t remember. Standing before Aria’s dismembered corpse, covered in her blood.
Nausea welled up and my stomach churned.
I jumped off the bed and ran towards the door. I reached out and grabbed the handle.
The door opened.
A woman stood there. Long, honey-colored hair. Sharp features that gave off a cold beauty. Yet, those sharp features softened the moment she saw me.
My eyes widened and I tried to stop. But I was moving too fast.
I tumbled and fell to the ground, pinning Titania beneath me.
She flushed a deep red. Her crimson lips opened and shut, trying but unable to say any words.
A flash of another memory. Of failing to save Aria, her final words and wishes.
My stomach churned again and I forced myself to my feet, only barely remembering to avoid stepping on Titania.
“Y-You! Lord Nazin!”
I ignored Titania and moved towards the bathroom. Reaching the door, I threw it open and leaned over the toilet.
My stomach churned and I felt bile well up in my throat.
I gagged and retched.
My throat painfully constricted, preventing anything from coming out my mouth. At the same time, my stomach continued to churn, nausea twisting my insides.
I retched, and retched, and retched, and retched.
I didn’t know how long it was, but eventually I felt a soft hand on my shoulder.
“…Nazin?” Titania said. “Are you… alright?”
I grimaced and cleaned myself up with dark magic, eradicating the bile staining my lips. “I’m fine. Just… a bit nauseous is all.” I turned towards Titania and forced a smile. “Maybe I’m just hungry, haha? I don’t even remember the last thing I ate-“
As if to spite me, my mind brought up the memory of Black Steel Boar and the way its marbled meat glistened as it roasted. Slimy and savory, just like Aria’s-
Nausea welled up again and I quickly leaned over the toilet and retched.
Disgust, guilt, anger… emotions I didn’t know the source of roiled within me, amplifying my nausea.
“Spirits of nature, heed my call and lend me your strength.” Titania’s voice echoed. “Calm the mind of the one before me and settle his soul.”
An incantation that seemed like a prayer. After saying it, Titania placed her hands on the side of my head. The moment her fingertips made contact, I felt a calming chill spread through my body, starting from my head and passing down through my toes.
The emotional turmoil and nausea vanished.
I cleaned myself again and muttered, “Thanks, Titania.”
She moved her hands away and said, “Thanks are unnecessary, Lord Nazin. However, I would like an explanation.”
I stood up and turned to face Titania.
She crossed her arms and stared at me. While her lips were pursed, her eyes scanned my body as if checking for wounds.
My stomach rumbled.
Titania sighed. “Well, I suppose that explanation can wait until after you eat something proper.” She spun around, sending her honey-colored hair scattering, and said, “Meet me in the dining area when you have cleaned up.”
With those words said, Titania walked out of the bathroom and shut the door behind her.
Alone, I took a better look around the bathroom.
Whether due to the Goddess’s design or coincidence, it was surprisingly modern. A toilet, a sink to my side, and a shower area to my left. A window shone some light into the room, illuminating the room and revealing the endless blue sky. With a brief Analyze, it seemed that everything managed to operate as expected with the difference being that water and waste were managed by mana… sigils? Runes? Some sort of pattern woven into the material itself.
Also, everything was made of wood, being created by Yggdrasil for us to use.
A lot of information, but also a useful distraction to keep those memories at bay.
I shook my head and stepped into the shower area. Maybe some cold water would help clear my mind…
Titania placed a bowl in front of me and said, “Here. It is far from proper fare, but it should help ease your body and mind.” Then, she placed a wooden spoon into my hand. “Now eat.”
After my shower, I changed into a loose-fitting black t-shirt and pants for comfort. Then I headed to the house’s dining area. There, Titania had already finished preparing a meal for the two of us.
I stared into the bowl. It seemed to be a porridge of some sort and filled with colorful berries.
“What? Is it not to your liking?”
I shook my head. “It’s fine. Thank you for the meal.”
Titania nodded and began eating from her own bowl of porridge.
I took a bite. It was sweet and refreshing, reminding me a lot of oatmeal. The berries were new, but somewhat reminiscent of blueberries mixed with cherries.
Titania stirred her bowl with her spoon and muttered, “…If Ari were here, she could probably make something better. She always was the better cook.”
“Did you say something?”
Titania flushed. “O-Of course not! What made you think that?”
So she was planning to deny it. A typical… ‘tsundere’, was the word? No, not quite. It was more the up-stuck princess archetype than that.
“A-Anyway,” Titania said. “What happened to you this morning, Lord Nazin? Did your wounds get infected?”
“Then a fever, is it?”
I shook my head. “That’s not-“
“Oh no. Did your body reject Yggdrasil’s Dew? I should have known. A Demon Lord’s physique must be fundamentally different… perhaps the darkness in your soul was eroded by Yggdrasil’s light?” Titania tilted her head and stared at me.
I decided to ignore her barb and said, “I’m fine.”
“I’M FINE. I was just a bit dizzy after using so much mana.”
“…Ah.” Titania frowned. “…My apologies.”
Titania shook her head. “It is my fault after all. If Mitri had not suddenly attacked you…” She sighed and then looked at me. “It seems that I’ve been nothing but trouble for you and Ari, haven’t I?” The moment she said those words, Titania’s eyes widened and she said, “I-I mean that I have been a burden upon you two! And I apologize for the troubles, a-and-“
I decided to cut Titania off before she spiraled out of control. “It’s fine. It was mainly my fault for insisting on a tour throughout Alvheim.”
Titania paused and then said, “Right! You were the one who started all of this!” She pointed at me with her finger, her face flushed. “Y-You should take responsibility!”
“R-Right! For your sake, I punched my subordinate off Yggdrasil!” Suddenly realizing the extent of her actions, Titania’s skin turned a deep crimson and she buried her head into the table. “Aaahhh, what am I supposed to tell Father?”
This… Huh. I thought it might have been the case, but was Titania really just a big softie? The stern older sister type that was secretly as squishy as a marshmallow on the inside?
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “If anyone asks, just tell them that I made you do it. After all, both you and Aria are apparently under my spell.”
Titania snapped back to attention. “That! I forgot, but those ungrateful plebians dare to besmirch your name! After all you have done for us, they still dare to slander you!”
“Well, I’m not surprised. With the way you’re acting now, it’d be strange not to think you fell under a spell.” I sighed and said, “Where did the dignified Elven princess I meet disappear to?”
“…Meanie. You made me like this.”
I raised an eyebrow.
Titania coughed and said, “A-Anyway. What were we talking about again?”
“How long has it been since I was unconscious?”
With the conversation returning to normal topics, Titania’s complexion did as well, fading back to her usual pale skin. “Roughly a day has passed. After you collapsed, I brought you back here.”
Hearing that, I frowned and took a closer look at Titania. When I did, I saw signs I hadn’t earlier. Her clothes were the same as I remembered when we went out. Her long hair, while still orderly, looked slightly askew in places. And her eyes had a slight shadow beneath them, marring her beauty.
“…What is it, Lord Nazin? Is something on my face?”
“It’s nothing. Thank you for your hard work.”
Titania flushed and turned her head to the side. “W-What hard work? I simply did what was required of me.”
“Sure, sure. Whatever lets you sleep better at night, Tani.”
“Hmph. You… eat your food already. It’s going to get cold if you keep yapping.”
I smiled, but did as she said.
Across from me, while she tried to hide it, Titania smiled as well.
Like that, the two of us ate our food in a comfortable silence.
As I ate, my mind wandered towards what had happened before I woke up. More specifically, I remembered the slash across my chest.
It was gone now, healed by Regenerate, but the memory of it was still vivid in my mind, as well as the cause.
This body… wasn’t my original. No, that was wrong. In truth, it was my original body. And that was the reason why the wound appeared.
A ‘memory gambit’. I didn’t know all the details, but I knew bits and pieces. Something had gone wrong with whatever I tried to do, and ‘I’ ended up walking down a repulsive path.
Remembering that sent a wave of nausea through me, but I managed to calm it this time.
‘I’, no, ‘HE’ killed Aria. In cold blood after she saved him. All for power. And that power… for what?
“Hm?” Titania turned towards me. “Did you say something, Lord Nazin?”
I shook my head. “It’s nothing important. Just a thought.”
“I see. Well, if you have anything to say, I am all ears. Since my dear sister is still absent, I will reluctantly play her part as your confidant if you need me to.”
“…Are you sure you haven’t been charmed by my good looks?”
Titania blushed and threw her spoon at me.
I caught it and placed it on the table.
Titania’s blush deepened and she said, “I-I’ll be in the other room if you need me. I have… paper work. That’s right, paper work to do.” She stood up from her seat and quickly made her escape.
I smiled. “What a silly woman.” She was a such a pushover… like that, it was no wonder that Aria ended up so bright and naïve. Titania must have spoiled her, even though she didn’t intend to.
“…And I ended up corrupting that bright and naïve young girl, didn’t I?”
My smile vanished.
“Power, was it?”
For the sake of power, he killed Aria. For the sake of power, he hid himself from the Goddess’s gaze and used Information Concealment in a way that tricked the world itself.
“I’m not like you.”
Even though I had unlimited retries. Even though I had an infinite amount of time at my disposal. Even though I could have everyone die and then go back as if it never happened.
Aria. Saphira. Even the prickly Titania.
I had power now, and I didn’t need any more. What I needed to do was utilize it in the best way to keep everyone safe. To protect them from a world that didn’t care about them. To protect them from humans that wanted to exploit them.
The first step to that was making sure Alvheim could protect itself.
“Titania is a commander, right? She should be able to help me out.”
Countless ideas swirled in my mind that we could try out. Weapons, spells, items… I had those in spades. Alone, they were just ideas that I didn’t have any use for. After all, my strength and mana made most of it irrelevant. But I wasn’t fighting alone now.
I cleaned up my bowl and spoons and then left to get Titania.
In my haste, I never realized that my faithful companion had vanished, disappearing from my side.