27 – Demon Lord Route – Syncopation
The chasm leading to Yggdrasil’s heart stretched on for a long time with the only light from what little filtered in through the gap that Aultry made. Winding and continuously narrowing until I had to walk directly behind Aultry, it was a claustrophobic’s worst fear. The fact that the walls of countless roots pulsed with mana turned an already disturbing passageway into nightmare fuel. The walls felt like they could spring to life at any time and devour any trespassers whole, leaving them lost forever within the depths of Yggdrasil.
Most people would be on guard, tense from the dangerous atmosphere. Most people would be too worried to say anything at all, lest they disturb the living walls.
Aultry was not most people. “…And if that position bothers her, all you have to do is turn her around and-“
I sighed and did my best to ignore the elven king’s ramblings. Somehow, for the past fifteen minutes he had managed to jabber on about all the different ways that you could ‘pleasure’ a woman as well as other… relevant information.
It was under the guise of helpful advice, but I got the sense that he was trying to show off his bedroom exploits. Alvheim’s king really needed to get out more often…
Eventually, the narrowing walls began to widen again until I could walk side by side with Aultry. But before I could move to do so, a cold voice called out.
“Aultry, boy. What are you doing here?”
The elven king froze, causing me to almost run into him.
I managed to stop at the last second and frowned.
“Sir Hraesvelgr.” Aultry bowed. “I apologize for the disturbance, but I must request a meeting with Yggdrasil.”
Aultry’s actions allowed me to see who he was talking to.
A man with white hair stood in front of us, blocking the path. He possessed a massive frame rippling with muscles. The only piece of clothing covering his body was a pair of pants that looked to be made of gray feathers.
I stared at him and frowned. For some reason, he seemed vaguely familiar.
The man’s eyes, yellow and reminiscent of an eagle’s, stared into my own and he frowned as well. “Who is this?”
Aultry rose from his bow and gestured towards me. “This is our Benefactor, Lord Nazin. Not only did he save Alvheim from the invading humans, but he’s come to reinforce Yggdrasil’s defenses from newly developed threats.”
“Hmph. Is this why you request a meeting, Aultry boy?”
Aultry nodded. “Yes, Sir Hraesvelgr. Lord Nazin-“
Hraesvelgr continued staring at me and said, “You should know better than this, Aultry boy. That… thing beside you. It carries the stench of darkness and chaos, the stench of my fated opponent and the one prophesied to end Yggdrasil.”
“That’s…” Aultry trailed off and then turned towards me. “Not true. Right, Lord Nazin?”
I ignored Aultry and stared at Hraesvelgr.
He stared back.
“Are you going to bar my way no matter what?”
Hraesvelgr nodded. “Of course.”
“…Even if that ends with the Sword of Mana stolen?”
The air grew heavy and Hraesvelgr’s eagle eyes shimmered. “How do you know that?”
I shrugged. “Divine revelation? Providence?” I shook my head. “Even if I told you the truth, you wouldn’t believe me. But I’m not the only one with that information.”
Hraesvelgr narrowed his eyes. “Hmph. That may be, but I will be more than enough to protect Yggdrasil, creature of darkness and chaos.”
“Is that so? But what about when people slip past you? Can you guard what you cannot perceive?”
I thought about it. Hraesvelgr… why was he missing in the future? Did he perish protecting Yggdrasil, or did he pass his role to Aria? If not, why did he let her suffer so much?
Hraesvelgr scoffed. “As if a mere mortal can-“
I activated Information Concealment.
“-get past me?” The guardian’s yellow eyes widened and he said, “What sorcery is this!?”
Aultry glanced around the room. “Lord Nazin?”
I walked past them both.
Hraesvelgr’s eyes frantically scanned the surroundings but never landed on my position.
Arrogant. That person… he existed to guard Yggdrasil, and yet in the future that harsh duty fell on the shoulders of a feeble young woman.
I stood behind Hraesvelgr and tapped the nape of his neck. “If I wanted it, you would be dead right now. Now, do you still think-”
A surge of white light filled the passageway. Searing hot pain spread throughout my body and then, nothing.
“Lord Nazin!” Aultry cried out and then glared at Hraesvelgr. “Sir Hraesvelgr, you have doomed us all!”
“Hmph.” The guardian turned towards Aultry and scoffed. “Doom? Aultry boy, I eliminated a major threat to-“
Hraesvelgr’s eyes widened and he quickly turned back around.
My body felt like I’d stayed far too long under the sun, but I ignored it and smiled at the guardian of Yggdrasil.
The sensation of Holy Light has been memorized. The skill Light Affinity LVL 1 has been obtained.
Update. Due to compatibility, Light Affinity has evolved into Light’s Order LVL 1.
Hraesvelgr took a step back. “Impossible. A creature of chaos and darkness should have been obliterated by Light’s Order!”
“There’s a saying about assumptions where I’m from… but in any case, just because I use those attributes doesn’t mean that I’m a creature of those types.”
So I said, but I was confused as well. Considering my abilities, I thought I would have to time leap after building resistances from a fatal blow, but it seemed that it wouldn’t be necessary. Light and Order was the antithesis of my Darkness and Chaos affinities. Going by logic. it should have been cancelled out, leaving me obliterated like the guardian said.
Hraesvelgr stared at me for a moment and then muttered, “I see. So this is Yggdrasil’s will.”
The white-haired guardian shook his head. “It matters not.” He gestured towards the passageway leading deeper into Yggdrasil and said, “Go forward and meet with Yggdrasil. There, all will be revealed. Ah. But Aultry boy will stay here.”
The guardian crossed his arms and glared at Aultry. “Have you obtained a successor?”
“Then you stay there.”
I ignored the sudden comedy duo and continued advancing into the depths of Yggdrasil.
Aria opened the door to her house. Her house. The house belonging to her and Nowun. Well, there was that has-been lizard too but ultimately it was their house. Like a couple’s, and one that Yggdrasil provided herself, just like she did for the elves that had vowed to be lifelong partners.
The thought of it made Aria giddy.
“I still say that I got the better of you, girl.”
Aaand that giddiness went away.
Aria glanced towards Saphira and huffed. “As if, has-been.”
The fallen dragon stepped into the house and closed the door behind her. Although a mundane act, Saphira’s beauty and the simple but fitting black dress hugging her perfect body made it a work of art.
She must have caught Aria staring as Saphira smirked and tucked a strand of her silky black hair behind her ear. “Jealous?”
“Yeah right.” Aria crossed her arms, emphasizing her own assets beneath her dark violet dress. “I still have room to grow, unlike a certain lizard who’s reached her peak.” Aria scanned Saphira head to toe and smirked. “It’s only downhill from there, you know?”
“Y-You!” Saphira crossed her arms and took a step back. “W-Well, at least I have experience!”
“Whatever makes you feel better about yourself… has-been.”
Crimson lightning crackled around Saphira’s right hand and she aimed it at Aria. “I will END you.”
“Not in the house. Or do you want to be the one to explain why everything was destroyed?”
Saphira flinched and quickly dismissed her lightning.
Aria smiled. “I thought so.”
Saphira pouted. “…Stupid girl.”
Aria stuck out her tongue and then started walking deeper into the house. “Come on. I don’t think he’ll be out much longer, so let’s get the house ready before he gets back.”
“Hmph. Do not think I have forgotten this slight, girl. But you make a valid point.” Saphira followed after Aria.
Aria decided to head to her room first since it was, hopefully, where they would be spending most of their time. She grabbed the door knob, twisted it, and then pushed it open.
“Hm? Lord Nazin?” A feminine voice called out.
The beautiful woman with honey-colored hair seated at the table inside the room froze.
“…Tani?” Aria pushed the door open all the way and stepped into the room. As she did, she glanced around, noting the distinct woman’s touch that had been placed on everything. The sweet scent of vanilla and yellow freesia, the changed bed covers and pillow case, the stuffed animal… it was everything that used to be in her room near the inner sanctum.
Slowly, Aria turned her gaze to Titania.
The eldest princess of Alvheim sat behind a table stacked with papers. Catching Aria’s gaze, she flinched and stood up. “A-Ari! Wh-what are you doing here?”
Aria walked to the center of the room and made a show of looking around before turning back to Titania and saying, “I live here. With No-Nazin and Fi-ear.”
It was close, but Aria managed to catch herself at the last minute.
“Right!” Titania nodded. “That… is right. You live here. With… Lord Nazin. And his servant, Fear.”
Saphira stepped into the room and fixed her gaze on Titania as well. “Indeed. The girl and I live in this house with my Master. You, elf, are certainly not included in that number.”
Aria crossed her arms. “What she said. So what are you doing here, Tani? And when did all of this get here?”
Titania fidgeted with her ribbon and said, “Y-You see-“
“Wait.” Saphira stepped forward.
The fallen dragon sniffed the air and frowned before walking towards the eldest princess of Alvheim.
Titania froze, unable to react to the strange turn of events.
Saphira closed her eyes and leaned towards Titania, sniffing her. After she did, Saphira’s eyes snapped open. She took a step back and glared. “Why do you carry the scent of my Master?”
Aria’s gaze snapped towards Titania. “…Are you sure, Fear?”
Saphira scowled and nodded. “I am indeed, girl.”
Titania’s eyes widened and she raised her hands. “L-Listen Ari. I have an explanation for all of this-“
Saphira walked over to the door and closed it.
Titania flinched and instinctively took a step back. It caused her to bump into the table, knocking over the pile of papers. She looked down and frowned but quickly glanced back towards Aria and Saphira.
“Girl,” Saphira said. “This one time, I will cooperate.”
Aria nodded. “Good.” She turned her gaze on her sister and said, “So, Tani. Is there a reason why my darling’s scent might be lingering on your body?”
Saphira walked back towards Aria’s side and nodded. “Yes. I would like to know as well, elf. I smell traces of my Master’s mana and his blood upon your body… mixed with your own scent.”
Aria’s emerald eyes turned frosty and a cold wind stirred.
Sweat formed on Titania’s brow. “T-There is a very logical explanation for that. You see-“
The door creaked open.
Titania glanced towards it and smiled in relief. “Lord Nazin!”
Aria turned around.
A figure stood in the doorway. Wreathed in shadows and chaotic mana, it was familiar. At the same time, it was foreign.
Saphira reacted first, quickly pulling Aria behind her and facing the shadowy figure. “You are not my Master.”
The shadowy figure paused and then tilted its head. “ Yo…u. PoWerFul. ”
Aria flinched. The voice… it was eerie. Twisted and mangled.
The figure raised its right hand. Shadows dripped from it, plopping onto the ground like bits of rotting flesh. “ He. Hehe. HEhEHE. PoWER. ”
“Girl, hold on to me and your sister!” Saphira grabbed Aria with her right hand and blasted a hole in the wall with lightning in her left.
Meanwhile, Aria grabbed onto her sister and pulled her close. “Whatever you do, don’t let go Tani!”
“Ari, what are you-“
The dragon jumped through the window with the elf sisters. At the same time-
“ GIVE ME YOUR POWER! ”
-the shadowy figure roared and an explosion of chaotic darkness consumed the house along with its branch.