The beginning of the end. The end is the beginning.
The Last Two Options ③
Author’s comments: Pope Dustin’s point of view
Upon moving from the collapsed building, we took refuge inside a church with particularly study defences. In the event of an enemy attack on the Holy Country of Aleius, it was built to be the last bastion during the siege. Given the opponents facing us, this level of defence wasn’t intended to provide much more than some peace of mind, but surely it is better than nothing.
Shurein-sama the Hero, his younger sister Suelecia-sama and the duke’s daughter Karnatia-sama. With these three included the refuge was complete, and right now we are waiting for the return of the two who left chasing the assailant. In addition, there is another woman here who has been guarding us. She might be a woman, but she’s sitting on a sofa in annoyance, with her arms draped over it. That is hardly the attitude you would expect from a guard. But, that is surely a sign of confidence of one with true power and the ability to deal with almost anything. In truth she is a dragon who is a subordinate of Black Dragon-sama. She is also an ancient dragon.
After a short wait, there was a knock at the door, and before I could answer she said “It’s open”. Then the door was opened in response.
「Nier. Keep it locked.」
A huge man admonishes her.
「It makes no difference whether it’s locked or not though.」
The woman casually replies with no regard for being ashamed.
「Please don’t fight.」
Soothing the huge man who seems about the burst a vein, is a genderless person.
「Was your hunt successful?」
For now, I prioritise confirming whether or not the assailant just now was brought down.
「No. She escaped.」
The huge man glares at the woman’s complaint, then the genderless person calmed things down.
「She vanished in the midst of the chase. Most likely, not Teleport. Perhaps that was Summoning. I’d guess Ariel summoned her to her side.」
「I see. In that case it is likely impossible to give chase.」
Summoning is a skill that makes it possible to use a Teleport like ability. While it is limited in that it is only possible to go to the summoner, depending upon the usage it is possible to use it to escape, like just now. If it is Ariel-sama who summoned her, then the destination would be the elf village. It is not possible to chase her to such a far-flung location.
「For Shurein-sama and friends, this should be your first meeting. Allow me to introduce you. These three are ancient dragons, subordinates of Black Dragon-sama.」
「Indeed. I am humanised right now, but my true form is that of a dragon. I am Guen the Fire Dragon. Best wishes for the future.」
「I am an Ice Dragon. Nier is my name.」
「I’m Reise the Darkness Dragon. The other ancient dragons have strong personalities, so if anything happens feel free to rely upon me.」
「Someone with such sinister looks shouldn’t be saying that.」
After hearing the ancient dragons introduce themselves, Shurein-sama and friends stand up.
「I am Shurein Zagan Anareich.」
「…… I’m Suelecia.」
「I am Karnatia Seri Anabald.」
After hearing Shurein-sama and friends introduce themselves, Guen-sama nods generously.
「Indeed. The Hero and his younger sister. And his wife.」
In response to Guen-sama’s last line, Karnatia-sama exclaims hysterically, and Suelecia-sama utters in a voice thick with bloodlust.
「Oh? That’s not the case?」
「……Yes. That’s not the case.」
Shurein-sama seems somewhat self-conscious as he says Karnatia-sama is not his wife. On the other hand, while Suelecia-sama looks satisfied, Karnatia-sama has a complicated expression that seems a little dissatisfied. I see. Shurein-sama seems to have the sort of personality that women can easily fall for. If this was not during an emergency I could have enjoyed myself watching over them, but unfortunately now is not the time for that.
「We have completed the self-introductions, so now we should talk about the future.」
Guen-sama is standing with his arms folded, prepared to listen to the conversation like that. Reise-sama leaned against the wall near the door. Those two are likely on guard against a second attack. The member of Ariel-sama’s family who attacked me earlier was called Ael, a type of monster known as a Puppet Taratekt, so if it is true that she has been summoned back to where Ariel-sama is, then I cannot imagine there being any further attacks. However, there is no harm in being vigilant. Since it is now the case that I cannot afford to die.
「Now then. I think we should discuss the situation since we have split into two factions and are fighting against each other. For convenience, since Ariel-sama and co are taking action in order to save the Goddess, let us call them the Goddess Faction. Since we are taking action in order to save humanity, let us call ourselves the Humanity Faction. There are two major aspects to the battle between the Goddess Faction and the Humanity Faction. The first involves Black Dragon-sama and Shiro-sama, though perhaps it would be easier for you to understand if I called her Wakaba-sama. There is the battle between those two. We cannot intervene in a battle between those two since they are gods.」
In the first place, not only is it not possible to go to the pocket dimension where those two are fighting, there is such a great difference in power that we would only get in the way. So in spite of the fact that the winner of the battle between them is important enough to decide the winner of the battle between the Goddess Faction and Humanity Faction, we have no means to intervene.
「However, we cannot just sit and watch. There is the other important aspect, namely to prevent the collapse of the System.」
Shiro-sama is attempting to cause the System to collapse. In order for her to achieve that, it is necessary to revoke the keys, namely the Ruler authority. To cause the collapse of the System, a self-destruction switch as it were. In order to press that switch, the Ruler authority of all 14 Ruler skills is required. Of course, so long as I have one of them, it is impossible for her to gain all of them. However, it appears that Shiro-sama has forcibly broken through this.
「However, the legitimate key is still in my possession. That being the case, it is possible to lock it properly again.」
In short, if you can lock it properly again, you can prevent the collapse of the System that the Goddess Faction is trying to achieve. My very own body with its Ruler authority, is our trump card against the Goddess Faction.
Due to the power of the skill of Temperance, even if I die it is possible to retain my memories on reincarnating. Thus, I have not been afraid of death in a long time. Perhaps I have not felt the pressure of being unable to afford to die since the Divine Word Religion was stabilised as an organisation. I would have never expected that I of all people would again face the threat of being afraid of death. If I die now, then everything that I have built up will be lost. To save the human race. I have been working hard just for that. For it all to end without it being achieved – that is the one thing that I cannot accept.
「I shall now make preparations to go lock the key. Most likely, the more keys that can be locked, the better our chances that we can prevent the collapse of the System.」
「In other words, you want me follow you as well?」
I shake my head in response to Shurein-sama’s words.
「That would be ideal. However, this is not a matter that should be decided lightly. Most likely, it will require strong intent from the individual to lock the key. So if Shurein-sama does not desire it, the key will likely not respond.」
Of course I have no confirmation of this. However, I had a hunch that the key would not lock without resolute determination.
「Therefore, whether you come together with me or not rests upon your judgement, Shurein-sama.」
Upon hearing my words, Shurein-sama hung his head. He suddenly became involved in the fate of the world. It is not possible to answer that immediately. Or rather, I do not want you to give an answer without thinking it through. The fate of this world is not something so light that a snap judgement can be made about it.
「I am sure you will not come to a conclusion right away. My preparations will not be done soon either. In the meantime, I want you to gather your thoughts. However, please consider that you have at most a few days to decide.」
While I do not want you to give me an answer right away, I also cannot give you that much time to worry over it. At this very moment, Black Dragon-sama is fighting for us after all.
「We will head for the lowest layer of the Elro Great Labyrinth. Specifically the innermost place. The area where the Goddess is sealed away.」
Whatever answer Shurein-sama gives, that area will become the final battleground.
Reminder that the pope uses a very humble and dignified tone at all times. The various ancient dragons each have their own little speaking quirks but all use older forms of Japanese. It’s not really possible to get the nuance across – or rather, I don’t have the skills to do so without it being heavy-handed. Essentially, if they read a bit weird it’s likely intentional.