Though They are Moving, the Mazoku"s Objective Remains Unseen
A Mazoku Sighting in the City We Returned to
Passing Through the Palace, the Mazoku Gather
The Shadow of the One Who Sits at the Throne
Though They are Moving, the Mazoku"s Objective Remains Unseen
"Once, there was a battle, where gods and monsters and all living things were involved in the struggle. It traced back to a distant legend: Betting on the safety of the entire world, a God and a Dark Lord fought. The God had run out of power and left four pieces of himself behind. The Dark Lord then left five servants. He now rests in seven pieces, sealed away.
When the first piece of the Dark Lord was reborn, we were there, and with one piece of our God we challenged them to battle. People called it the Kouma War." This was told by Milgazia, an elder of the Dragon race. And this, is the revival of the Kouma war.
* * *
Just then, the rain started to pour, gaining force. Up until a moment ago, the ground had been dry, but now many puddles had formed. Villagers rushed to their homes, complaining as the water splashed up around them. In the corner of this small village, the door to a small restaurant opened with a creak.
"Waaaahhh. That was so sudden."
I headed for a table inside, raindrops falling from my cape as it flapped. The elf Memphy had said that the rain was coming, so for the time being we sought out a place where we could settle down and talk. That"s how we came to this village. Just as she had said, it suddenly started raining, and we basically had the choice of either entering the village, or not entering the village.
It was too late for lunch, and too early for dinner, so when we came in there weren"t any customers but the six of us. Of course, that made things convenient for us. Taking on a human form, Mr. Milgazia wore leather armor over his clothes, which was much better than the weird armor Memphy was wearing. There"s no doubt we"d stand out. And if there were other customers here, there"s no way we could get away with talking about things like Mazoku and the Kouma war. We all gathered around a table at the center of the shop. A waitress came to take the order of the four of us- Me and Gourry, Luke and Milina. And in between every little order she would prompt with "...and for you two?" Memphy and Milgazia stared at the menu and said in unison
"...You guys... are horrible customers." I cut in without sparing any time. The waitress, also looking a little disappointed, sunk away into the shop.
"Don"t mistake me for some human. I won"t partake in such savagery as killing other living things for food." Hearing what she said, Luke"s face turned blue.
"If you have an unbalanced diet, your father will worry about you."
"Ah! Mr. Milgazia, don"t you call me out on this!" When Mr. Milgazia pointed it out, she protested at a whisper.
...She really is an elf. Defending her preferences with ideological backing, but it still falls apart in the end...
"You say that, but didn"t you just order water?"
"As a member of the Dragon Race, after a certain age, I no longer require nourishment. I survive by absorbing the feelings of heaven and earth and that becomes my food." Mr. Milgazia answered Luke"s question.
"Dragon? Wait, you"re what?!"
Oh, right. I hadn"t told Luke or Milina about that yet.
"I guess we still need to introduce ourselves. Well then, let"s start things off easy by everyone giving a personal introduction, okay?" Luke, Milina, Gourry and I introduced ourselves as our turns came around. The waitress then came carrying our orders.
"I am Milgazia. I come from Dragon"s peak, overlooking the Kataart mountains. There, it is my duty to manage everything that goes on. I sense what you are thinking, I use transformative magic to temporarily hold this form."
"...I see...." After what Mr. Milgazia had said, Luke gave a little nod, then briefly glanced at Gourry. "So that"s what "Big lizard with too much free time" means."
"I may be repeating myself, but can you stop calling me a big lizard?"
"Uwah! My bad! My bad!"
Before you knew it, Mr. Milgazia had drawn himself very close to Luke, who retracted his slip-of-the-tongue.
"So..." completely ignoring the issue, Milina prompted the last person, Memphy, with a glance.
"Memphis. Memphis Linesword."
For a short while, silence hung in the air.
"....And?" I blurted out an invitation. But without even looking at me, she just said straightly "and what?"
"Uh, well... maybe you could tell us a little about yourself."
"You can tell by looking that I"m an elf. Do you need any more explanation than that?"
What a bitch!
"No, but... Look, Memphy, I thought we could share a little bit about ourselves for the sake of smoothing out our relationship. That"s the idea, isn"t it? Maybe you could say something like "My favorite pastime is wearing freaky-looking armor" or "I indulge myself by eating nothing but cabbage"" I said with a big grin on my face. Her face turned blue.
"It"s Memphis, not Memphy! I will not have some human calling me by something so overly-familiar! On that note, we"ve smoothed out our relationship quite a bit now."
"Have we now? Heheheheh."
"Even on moonless nights, we elves can function in the dark. Aren"t you curious about the kind of things I know?"
"Come on. Stop that, Memphy."
"But Mr. Milgazia..."
Ignoring Memphis" look of disappointment, Mr. Milgazia sighed and continued. "For a long time I have been close with this girl"s family. And now, the elves have sensed strange happenings and have begun investigating here and there. This girl is my partner in the investigation, which is why she"s here with me." From Milgazia"s nonchalant explanation, an unnecessary shadow spread over my heart.
"So that means... the elves are of the same opinion? That this chain of disturbances is related to the revival of the Kouma war?"
"..." At my question, Mr. Milgazia was silent for a while. And then he nodded.
And that"s how the tale started. The events of 1000 years ago.
* * *
The world was covered with an air of unrest. For several kingdoms, war preparations and the unseen arms build-up proceeded. Again and again there were repeated skirmish"s at the borders. And then those little skirmishes turned into all out war. But it was just a little thing, at least it wasn"t necessary for us to take action. Several kingdoms were dragged into the fighting that came about, and for a while nobody realized what was going on.
This was in the days when people still coexisted with elves. Amidst the fighting and madness, the Mazoku began to cause more suffering- gradually increasing the amount. By the time anyone realized it, it was too late. All of the countries were already facing ruin. Many of those who had been called heroes, were killed fighting in foreign lands- by other humans.
Large numbers of demon hordes started appearing out in the fields, and they would overrun those who survived the war. Countless lives had been lost. The dragons, as they watched the war on mankind, took onlooking for granted. At long last, we sensed the presence of something laying dormant in the background. If you think about it, even with all the kingdoms increasing their military power, it felt like whoever had the will to infiltrate to a kingdom could do so. Dragons, Elves, Dwarves, or even Humans. If all living things united, their combined power could wipe out the overflow of demons from the plains. But the demon hordes that appeared couldn"t even be shaken. While everyone was focusing on the fields, the five retainers of the Dark Lord gathered. At the time AquaLord Ragradia was residing on holy ground in the Kataart mountains. In a direct showdown, the retainers used their skills to ward off Aqualord, destroy the shrine, and killed the saint.
Gradually they transformed the Kataarts into mountains of death. The Mazoku"s aim was Aqualord. Sensing that, those who had allied themselves with the dragons headed to the Kataart mountains to lend their strength to Aqualord. And then, the Dark Lord appeared.
* * *
"Huh?" I blurted out like an idiot in the middle of Mr. Milgazia"s tale. "A-Appeared...? From where?"
At his flat answer, my eyes went small.
"No one knows what happened. Of those who happened to be present in the place he appeared, there wasn"t a single survivor. He must have been firmly concealing his presence and somehow the seal was broken. But anyhow, Ruby Eye Shabranigdu"s presence suddenly appeared in the Kataart mountains. We couldn"t win. Though Hellmaster Phibrizzo"s priest was destroyed, much of the dragon race was annihilated by the priest Xellos. Because of that, even an elite force of Humans, Dwarves and Elves working together wouldn"t be able to separate him. We somehow managed to put up a fight, but that said, under those circumstances, Shabranigdu would be reborn. Victory was already impossible. After that... it"s just as the legends say. Chaos Dragon Gaav was defeated, Hellmaster"s priest and Aqualord were destroyed, and the resurrected Shabranigdo was sealed in the ice of Aqualord. That"s how the battle was fought. But again, there were no surviving witnesses. Only the Gods and Dark Lords know."
All of us were already speechless. Excluding me and Gourry, everyone was so involved in the story that they hadn"t even touched their food.
"I had heard that the Kingdom of Dils was building up their military strength. And then most recently I heard about the appearance of demon hordes. Now that Hellmaster Phibrizzo has been destroyed, the Mazoku"s fighting power is down. That"s their first reason. That is, a counterattack against the Revival of the Kouma war. On that, the dragons and the elves are of the same opinion."
"And the Dwarves" opinion?" Milina asked from the side. It"s a legitimate question. Mr. Milgazia mentioned them in his story, and they certainly fought in the Kouma war.
At that question, he answered with a troubled face, "We haven"t been able to get in contact with them, not since the Kouma war. Up until now the dwarf population has been in decline. They didn"t want to get dragged into battle, and to be honest, even if we did have them participate in the fighting, they wouldn"t provide much force. I said that the dragons and elves were of the same opinion, but that"s not the complete truth... That"s what we were led to think. That said, we did think it through thoroughly. Consequently we, dragons and elves included, are now scattered far and wide for the sake of investigation. We sensed a great evil presence coming from Dils, so we came to investigate.
"And that"s where you met us?"
Mr. Milagazia gave a small nod. And then, as if he had just recalled something, "That"s right, around two years ago we also felt a strong evil presence..."
Memphis nodded at that. "Yes. We felt it as well. From it"s presence, the enemy must have been a considerably high ranked Mazoku. It grew violent but... before we could act, a day- not even that, had passed and the presence suddenly disappeared. What in the world was that?" She shook her head side to side and brought her cup to her lips.
"Hey Lina." Interrupting the story, Gourry looked to me with a question. I was wondering what kind of stupid thing he was going to ask because he wasn"t paying attention but...
"About two years ago... isn"t that around the time we defeated the dark lord Shabra-whatever?"
At Gourry"s words, Milgazia, Memphis, Luke and Milina all blurted out.
"Y-Yooouuuuuu! Don"t say things like that so casually!!!"
*cough cough hack*
Mr. Milgazia went into a coughing fit and next to him, Memphis fired off a bunch of w"s in rapid succession.
"H-Hey, there"s no way you mean...?! Ruby Eye Shabranigdu?! You shitting me?!"
"But... I don"t think he"s the type of person to lie..." Next to a completely baffled Luke, Milina pretended to keep her cool, with sweat collecting on her forehead. "W-Well... at least, I don"t think he"s intelligent enough to lie... But, how on earth did you defeat him?"
"Uhhh... well..." I threw a fleeting glance at Memphis and Mr. Milgazia who were paying close attention to me. While scratching my head, I said "The sword of light... that is, the Dark Star weapon Goln Nova, with a maybe a tiny bit of the imperfect Lord of Nightmares spell as an extra. Teehee <3!"
At those words, Memphis and Mr. Milgazia were completely and utterly petrified. But of course they were, since they should know about Dark Star and the Lord of Nightmares. But the other two... Not knowing what was going on around them, Luke and Milina just knit their brows.
"I have no idea what"s going on but.... Did you do something awesome?"
"Don"t just say "awesome" so easily!!!" Memphis screeched at the words Luke let slip. "And you! What the hell?! Do you understand what you did?! If you lost control of that it could"ve meant the end of the world!" Her voice completely changes when she gets excited like this.
"Well, no... at the time I really had no idea what I was doing..."
"You used an unknown spell without even knowing the consequences of using it?!! Only a human would...!"
"Yeah, well, that story"s way over anyway."
"You aren"t even going to contemplate what you did?!"
At my all-in-the-past attitude, Memphis became even more excited. To the side, Mr. Milgazia continued being petrified. Hm... I guess in this situation, I better not say something like "When I defeated Hellmaster, my body was being controlled by the Lord of Nightmares <3"
"But our current problem isn"t connected to that." Milina"s words were like cold water being poured on the overheated Memphis. "It"s important that we know what to do from here on out."
"C-Certainly. A-Anyway, Memphy, you can criticize her anytime. For now, more than that..."
"U-Understood... Mr. Milgazia."
Mr. Milgazia had finally regained consciousness, but with his voice still quivering. Memphis grudgingly nodded at him.
Mr. Milgazia took a look around at everyone. "You say you all defeated General Sherra. However, if we anticipate that the Mazoku"s objective is a revival of the Kouma war- that probably won"t stop their plans. If you could... I would like you humans to lend a hand.
* * *
The night air trembled with only the sound of falling rain. There was only one inn in the village, so I don"t know if the bar on the first floor just wasn"t prosperous or if it was the rain"s fault. It was still early evening, meaning there was a lull in people and the noise had disappeared. Even so, around dinner, it felt like other than us, there were almost no other customers.
Phew. I hung my cape up on a clotheshook, took a deep breath, plopped down on the bed and turned over onto my side.
What the hell... it feels like I"ve stuck my neck into another huge problem. I stared hazily at the lamp hanging from the ceiling and heaved a small sigh within my chest. At the end of the day, we agreed to lend a hand in Mr. Milgazia"s investigation without making any excuses.
Luke was grumbling about something like "No thanks, you"re just putting us to work." but then Mr.Milgazia told him "If a revival of the Kouma war, or something like it is executed, then the Dark Lord will be reborn. If that happens, life will be far from golden. All living things may very well disappear. Even you. Even your partner." With this persuasion, and sensing Milina"s gaze, he swung his neck up and down in agreement. That said, it isn"t entirely "just work." If we cooperate, the weapons developed by the dragons and the elves will be divided among us. And that"s how the story goes. Of course Memphis was making this sour face, so Mr.Milgazia told her "This is so we can boost our overall fighting power." In the end, she couldn"t say anything. So now, the weapons developed by the dragons and elves will be officially ours!
Come to think of it, those weapons are probably quite valuable. After all, in relation to humans, the knowledge and magical ability of the Dragons and Elves is completely unattainable. Combining their power, they could probably make something that could match them equally against the Mazoku! Out there, there are probably all sorts of Magic swords and Cursed blades, and other things that should be impossible to find, just lying at your feet! If I could get my hands on them, once this case is closed, I could thoroughly research them. And if they have no use, I can sell them for a high price!
That means I"ll have to wait for this case to be closed. But that"s the biggest problem.... There"s no doubt we"ll be facing a terrible enemy. This won"t be some small fry Mazoku. Any way you look at it, this is the kind of scheme where a big-shot Dynast General is running around as someone"s gofer. So then the enemy who is really leading this scheme is probably- One of the five retainers of the Dark Lord: Dynast Grausherra. No, in the worst case scenario, we would be surrounded by Mazoku, with the entire race as our enemy. And I think there"s a possibility of that happening. So our only salvation is not to defeat them, but to continue investigating to the bitter end.
In proceeding with the investigation, there"s no possibility of us having to go up against them. And yeah... thinking this way is a little reckless. But it"s just like Mr. Milgazia says, the day the Dark Lord is reborn, there won"t be much to joke about. Previously when we fought the Dark Lord, there were a few different factors piling up in our favor and we somehow defeated him, but next time shouldn"t work out so well. That considered, we must somehow prevent that situation from happening. But I can"t just forget how easy it would be to say "I know nothing. Well, Good luck, Mr.Milgazia! <3"
I don"t have to do this. I don"t want to do this. I don"t know how many times that thought had rolled around in my mind-
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of water trickling down. It wasn"t the same sound as the still pouring rain. The sound of water hitting the floor opposite the window- I could hear it from the hallway. It seemed like a roof leak. That"s not right. There"s no reason a roof leak would sound like it was slowly coming down the hallway. A strange premonition ran down my back.
I put my cape on again, took my short sword in one hand, and silently headed toward the door. I gently focused my ears. I couldn"t hear anything that sounded like footsteps, but the sound of trickling water was definitely closer. If by any chance there was something out there, it might not have anything to do with me. But conversely, there"s a probability that it does. And if it does, all I can do about it is try and make sure.
Drip... Drip... I concentrated my awareness on the falling water. Following the rhythm-
I threw open the door of my hotel room, and sprung out into the hallway.
...drip... A drop of water hit the floor.
Illuminated by dim orange lamps, looking down the hall I couldn"t see a definite figure, but...
Something moved in my field of vision. In the shadows cast by the lamp- The ceiling?! When I turned my gaze upward-
"Ughehehe?!" I automatically stepped back while trying to muffle my outcry. Slightly dirty with soot from the lamp, and partially concealed by the darkness, a girl"s head was hanging upside down from the ceiling.
Her long Black hair swayed a little. She had a handsome face, with cloudy, glazed-over eyes. From her partially opened lips, which had lost their color, water dripped out, flowed down her hair, and splashed on the floor of the hall.